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Florida Governor Continues To Attribute Case Surge To Increased Testing; Gov. DeSantis: New Shipments Of Remdesivir Arriving In Florida Today; Trump Says He'll Wear Mask On Visit To Walter Reed Medical Center; Retail Trade Group Asks Trump To Institute Federal Mask Guidelines; Schools Battle With Reopening Plans As New Cases Surge; Dr. Chad Gestson, Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent, Discusses Continuing Virtual Learning & Trump Threatening To Cut Funding If Schools Don't Fully Open. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 13:00   ET



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): But this is a pretty dramatic, I think picture of showing how this virus operate and who tends to bear the brunt when they get infected. And to do that 25 to 34, if we were going back six weeks, it would not have been anything special on this map in terms of how many tests.

I mean, they had been positive test there for sure. That's been a real dramatic increase in terms of the number of positive cases in that age group. And if you look, I mean, far and away now they're the number one age cohort that 25 to 30, 34-year-old. And if you look to see each individual age, how many there were still 21 is still the number one age that has the most cases, obviously 21, you know, absent a signal -- likely to be an asymptomatic or mild illness.

So one of the things you do, you know, when we look at these cases and I know a lot of people like to -- like to talk, it gets reported, but when cases are reported to the state, you know, that's a positive test that could have been taken seven days ago, eight days ago. I mean, there's all these companies that do it, they report it, when that infection occurred is not even clear, some of these infections may have occurred two weeks ago when a test finally gets reported from a private lab.

So, one of the things that you look at his, OK, I can get a certain amount of test results reported today then next week, and there's all kinds of ways you can look at that. And there's all kinds of ways that the data, you know, may not always, you know, come in and kind of a coherent fashion but when you look at like E.D. visits for people showing up to the E.D. because they have either influenza like or COVID-like illness.

I mean, that is just evidence of what's going on. And the more people that are doing that, you know, the more prevalence that you have. So if you look at kind of what we've seen over the last few weeks, throughout the month of May, you know, it was very flat. I mean, statewide, we were under 500 visits a day, which were state of 21-1/2 million people is, you know, just small number of visits. Influenza-like illness 250 or below, pretty much for weeks and weeks. And then even as we got into June, it was still very low, you start to see it in shop as we get into that third -- when we get into the 614. It goes up, you start to see more visits, and then the following week, it escalates more, and then at the end of June, it escalated to where we were seeing more than 2000 E.D. visits a day for COVID-like illness.

Now going to the E.D., that mean, you're going to be admitted to the hospital but it means you're showing up and if you're symptomatic, a lot of times they are testing you. You know, now we have seen statewide, you know, this start to trend downward. But, you know, you look at a couple days and sometimes that can be more noise than signal. So we want to continue to look at that. I think they'll talk about here.

The E.D. visits have skewed younger and kind of that 35-year-old range which obviously is a different kind of clinical cohort than the -- than the 65 and up. But that the syndromic surveillance and looking to see that is very instructive in terms of what we're doing, or what's going on in the State of Florida. So protecting the vulnerable, you see the fatalities, skew 65 and plus and really 75 and plus when you think about it.

So this is something that's a priority. Given that you see more prevalence of this in the community today than we did, you know, say in the middle of May. You know, it is important for those in the -- in crowds and minimize the close contact with people who they don't live with. Now, of course, if you're in a multigenerational living arrangement, you know, there's definitely risk with that.

And we've seen that in different parts of Florida, where you have some of the multigenerational housing, a lot of crowded housing, lead to more outbreaks. But, you know, obviously, there's only so much, you know, that you can do when, when those are your living arrangements, and we understand that but there is the risk in this 63. And then underlying conditions, obviously, if you're 65 and not even elevated risk.

But really any age that has some of these conditions, you need to take similar steps and avoid the crowds minimize close contact outside the home. One of the things when you have folks are 65 or really even under 50. You know, the ones that have things like diabetes, morbid obesity, you know, those are the ones that typically have a much harder time with the coronavirus.

And so just understand that and take whatever precautions that you can. But we talked before coming out here about long-term care facility. A really significant component of this.


DESANTIS: When we started this in March, we obviously knew that the nursing homes were going to be ground zero because you have the most vulnerable population there. So we did things like we prohibited visitors. So you've been had visitors in nursing homes since the middle of March. That's a tough thing for a lot of people. But we feared that that they would see more introduction of the virus, if you allow that.

We also prohibited hospitals from discharging COVID positive patients back into the nursing homes, I think when that was done in other states, and that really had negative consequences. When we felt that that was the better course of action. We required PPE like N95 mask, we sent 10 million mass plus to long-term care facilities, face shields, gowns, gloves, all that and so we required them to use the PPE but we provided the PPE because we understood that that was important to try to minimize within those facilities.

But we also understood as we started to get into -- that, you know, even with doing all those precautions, I mean, you would still have it get in with a staff member, maybe not wearing the PPE right, maybe just that PPE wasn't as effective as we wanted it to be. But -- so you would see cases there, we sent the National Guard to do a lot of testing in the nursing homes, because we understood that we needed to identify cases before they could spread like wildfire.

And so, we understood that there was a need for some of these folks who if you do test positive in your residence or long-term care facility, that you had to be isolated appropriately, so that you didn't spread in other residents. And some of these nursing homes, long-term care facilities. They're just not set up to do appropriate isolation. And so, we said you need to transfer those folks.

Now, some of that was just sending them to the hospital where they're basically just boarding because they are medically stable. So we felt that that wasn't probably the best use of hospital resources if we could help it. And so we've now established 13 COVID-dedicated nursing facilities in the State of Florida. So these are nursing facilities that all their patients are COVID positive.

So if you have somebody who test positive in a nursing home in Manatee County, you know, you can send them to Carrington place in Pinellas or Polk or Charlotte, we're working on bringing on a couple more of these facilities, but this way they're able to be isolated and not spread it into their home facilities. We started the Pan American or the Miami Dade Center last week.

We think that that's going to be filled probably within a couple of days. And we have a number of in South Florida, Central Florida. We're also working on I know the Tampa Bay area, they've dealt with a lot of nursing home outbreaks, particularly in Pinellas County. And that's been a concern. And so while this Carrington place is good, you know, we want to see if there's ways that we can expand the footprint.

But this is an important tool to protect residents of long-term care facilities who are the most vulnerable. But also, you know, not needing to say if someone is stable or asymptomatic, you know, having a place where they can go where they're not going to infect other people, and they can be cared for. So I want to thank Secretary Mary Mayhew for really working hard on that. And we talked about the new facilities and the additional beds -- every day for this. And just to show why this is important. So here in Manatee County, they've had, I think, as of yesterday, or as of this morning, maybe 138 COVID-related deaths. 91 of them have been related to long-term care facilities. So that's 66 percent of the CORONA-related fatalities have been linked to long-term care facilities. And so that's not only just saying 65 and up, but just 65 and up and then residents of these facilities.

Sarasota County, close by, you know, they've had 100 CORONA-related fatalities. 65 of them were related to residents of long-term care facilities. So again, 65 percent. So this is really, really a significant part of this fight. Social distancing, we have a much better idea now than in March about, you know, what the virus likes and doesn't like and, you know, close spaces and I think you're seeing a lot of this activity and throughout the entire sunbelt.

And some people have said it's because when it's hot people would rather be, you know, inside and enclosed air-conditioned spaces. And, you know, the point is that if you're in an area where you have a crowd of people in indoors, you know, in a party or something like that and with the air conditioning, you know, it is going to be a better vector for transmission. There's just no doubt about it.


DESANTIS: People's homes, obviously most people get infected from family members or friends and especially in the air conditioning, that's going to be something that's going to be a good vector. The outdoor transmission has not been as significant. The sunshine, the heat and humidity are generally your friend, when it comes to -- when it comes to this virus. Virus doesn't typically like that would prefer to be in the enclosed environments.

You know, big crowds obviously provide more risk and then the close contact settings and when you're in sustained close contact with people, you don't even need to cough or sneeze. You know, we think at this point, if you're -- if you're talking repeatedly and you're there for a long time, do it. So really, the social distancing is very, very significant. You know, if you maintain appropriate social distancing, you're not going to probably infect anyone or get infected.

You know, facial covering, if you can't do that, there's a way that could mitigate some of -- some of the particles that you may cough or sneeze or talk with and could reduce some of the transmission. So if you're not in a situation where you can avoid the three C's, or where you can -- where you can appropriately social distance, you know, wearing the face covering will help you.

And again, low risk versus high risk. This is pretty well, I think, well-documented at this point. When we talked about flattening the curve back in March, part of the main reason was to make sure that the hospital system could cope with whatever happens in terms of the effects of the coronavirus. And in March, this was a very new virus. And, you know, we kind of knew in January it was out there in Florida.

We were testing people as they came back from Asia, most -- almost all of them were negative throughout February. I think we got our first case at the very end of February. You know, we now know that it was, you know, much more widespread than we thought. I think it was the testing criteria that was very limited. But there was problems with PPE, there was problems with testing, there were all the views.

And so now we're in a situation where, you know, we've got a lot of test sites around the State of Florida, the hospitals are all testing private companies that are testing, CVSs are testing. So -- very difficult to figure out how to test now it's a little easier, which is -- which is a good thing for people. And of course, we have drive- through sites, walk up sites. We've got all kinds of different ways people can test.

Federal Government just did three sites in Duval County, they're doing 3000 tests a day, and they're not going to do it for very long. They're kind of moving around the country doing different things, but that's been good. We now have free antibody testing at five of our drive-through sites too in Miami. That Hard Rock Stadium, Marlins Stadium, the one in Jacksonville at the -- at the Jaguar Stadium, Orlando Convention Center, and then the West Palm Beach site, we're at the spring training complex.

So if you're somebody who is not symptomatic, but you think you may have gotten this, you know, the antibody testing, maybe better because if you got it a month ago, you'll pop -- most likely pop for the antibodies. And then at least you'll know that you have it, the PCR test you, you know, you could have been infected a month ago and still pop positive would no longer be infectious.

So take advantage of the antibody. It's not as easy as the PCR because it is a blood draw. And it takes a little bit more time. But you get the result in -- I think 15 minutes and it's a -- and it's instructive because if you have the antibody that's important to know. The PPE situation is much improved. You know, we speak with hospitals every day. I'm not at any one say PPE is an issue anymore.

And the Florida Department of Emergency Management has sent a huge amount of PPE, particularly to the long-term care facilities but also around the state. And that's very, very significant. We -- I mentioned the Remdesivir that is -- we didn't have any of that in March. We now have Remdesivir. They're using this dexamethasone steroid. Some of the doctors think that that's been good.

The convalescent plasma has gotten good reviews. So these are all things, these are all now tools in the toolbox so that if somebody comes in -- and be treated for this and then hopefully improve their success. Another issue that we're working on are these lab reagents, that chemicals that are go involved when you test the stuff. The problem is, you know, the U.S. is testing more on a daily basis than any country by far.

And it just the lab resources are backed up some of these turnaround times and they're supposed to be 48 hours. Some of the big commercial labs are running three or four days behind that. Some of the supplies are starting to run low.


DESANTIS: And so, I'm working with the White House to try to get some more reagents down for our hospitals. I've spoken to a number of them that are concerned about this, you know, part of the reason, I mean, we're testing a lot of asymptomatic and a lot of healthy people. And, you know, those numbers add up very quickly. And I think the consequence of that is that you've seen some of these supplies dwindle across the country.

So the lab reagents are something that we're really -- we're really concerned about. And we're thinking about it. I've mentioned before and hopefully we'll have an announcement at the beginning of the week. We are sensitive to getting these test results back as quickly as possible. When we did our contracts with all these private labs, they were guaranteeing a 48-hour turnaround, well, that's a -- that's just not in the cards really anywhere in the country for what we're seeing.

We do though, have some companies that have the ability for us to do self-swab tests and then they can turn it around. And, you know, they say 36 to 72 hours. That's what we're doing with our long-term care testing. So we -- once we tested all the residents of long-term care facilities, we tested the staff. We said, OK, going forward, we need to just test the staff every two weeks, because if they're asymptomatic, they bring it in, they infect. It can spread in these -- in these long-term care facilities. And we've seen that happen.

So we have an arrangement where we're we do these tests. Now every two weeks. So far, they've sent in about 130,000 tests, we have 86,000 test results, and only a 2.8 percent positivity rate for staff and long-term care facilities, which is a little surprising because if you see the prevalence in other parts of the state, some places you're at 15, 20 percent prevalence and PCR testing.

So to see the 2.A, that was a, quite frankly, somewhat of a surprise. But we're going to be getting in 190,000, roughly, you know, test results every two weeks, just from staff of long-term care facilities. This has been a good model. We want to be able to try to figure out how we can get people their results back as quickly as possible. We're focusing that on symptomatic people. I mean, most of the people that are coming to test don't necessarily have simple kindness want to know if they have it.

Well, if somebody has symptoms, we're going to work on dedicating some of the drive-through lanes for those people and then having them do the self-swab sending it to some of the companies that may be able to turn it around a little quicker. I think that is something that would really make a difference. And, you know, the thing about like testing the asymptomatic people was, OK, well, if you're asymptomatic, you can spread it.

So get tested that if you're asymptomatic, you can isolate. The problem is you don't get your results back for seven days. I mean, what are you supposed to do people just isolating when they're not positive. Most people probably aren't doing that. And so it made sense in theory, but just given the resources with what we're seeing with commercial labs, and then the contact tracing, you know, if you -- if you're asymptomatic and you get a result back in seven days, you know, it's going to be a lot harder than to go back and contact trace who you were with, you know, two weeks ago.

It's a lot different if you click result, and then you can say, yes, two days ago, I was here. So, but the lab reagents are running down because of just the total massive amount of testing that's being done on a daily basis, just not in Florida. That is -- that is nationwide. So I want to thank everyone for coming and we're going to pass it around, folks can make some comments, then we're going to have a little bit of a discussion and then we'll open it up to some questions. So (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Governor and welcome to (INAUDIBLE) Florida, Manatee County. We really appreciate you being here. Thank you, Dr. Chari, and CEO (INAUDIBLE) for having us here at Blake Medical Center this morning. You know, I remember very clearly it was several months ago I -- we were in session and you Governor call me and said, Bill, guess what we have our first recorded cases of COVID-19 here in the State of Florida.

And one of those (INAUDIBLE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: All right, well, the Republican governor of Florida Ron DeSantis speaking to reporters in Bradenton, Florida. This on a day when his state has reported a huge number of new infections more than 10,300 new infections in the State of Florida. Governor DeSantis they're talking about and really praising the state's ability to as -- he say -- as he said carry out a massive amount of testing.

He said that so forth -- so far 2.4 million Floridians have been tested. That is one out of nine Floridians.

MARQUARDT: And he emphasized that many of the cases are actually coming from a younger population.


MARQUARDT: Those who are under 55 years old. I want to get to our experts. We have CNN's Randi Kaye in Florida, we also have Dr. Anne Rimoin, she is an epidemiologist.

Randi, I want to go straight to you first. You've been covering this so carefully. You've been covering Florida very carefully. The state I understand has revised its death toll that was reported earlier today, which was a record.

Now, they've revised that. And also what did you hear from the governor there that really stood out to you?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alex, let me first address that revision from the state. The Department of Health had released that there were 188 deaths in the last 24 hours. And then a short time after that after we had reported that as well, they came back and said we -- they were mistaken. They had combined July 10th and July 11th. So the actual number of deaths in the last 24 hours is now 95, not 188.

So certainly, our hearts go out to those families. But again, down from that 188. In terms of what I heard; I heard a lot of the same from the governor today. He did point out that there were 400,000 people tested this week. But once again, he does pin those higher positivity rates, which are certainly too high in this state on expanded testing. He did say that the positivity rate is manageable.

He talked about what we saw here in in mid-June which is about 9.6 percent. And it went up to about 12 percent. And now in some areas, it's about 14 percent. But he did say that it is now plateauing. But if you look at the numbers, we saw 1200 percent increase in the average number of new daily cases since the state reopened on May 4th. And in terms of it plateauing, we saw a 28 percent positivity rate in Miami Dade County.

So while it may be plateauing in some areas of the state, it's certainly not enough, Alex, for everyone. The governor would like to see that positivity rate down to about four percent. But on a bright note, he did say we're getting more Remdesivir which helps treat COVID-19. We spoke to Jackson Health in Miami Dade. They were running low. They said they had enough. But they really didn't want to wait until the end of the month.

So now the governor says it will be coming here much sooner. And if I could just touch on the number of hospitalizations in the state as well, Alex, because we are just getting that starting last night. The governor first began to release that information. He had been pressed certainly by CNN reporters and by others for the state to release those numbers. They'd never done that statewide.

Now we understand there are more than 7200 people hospitalized in the State of Florida with COVID-19 including more than 1600 in Miami Dade and more than 560 in Orange County where Orlando is -- where Disney is opening today. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes, the governor they're essentially echoing what we've heard from the President and that the number of infections goes up with the more people that you test. Thanks to you, Randi. Dr. Rimoin, to you, when you hear these testing figures, is that where Florida should be right now, do you think?

ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well, you know, the problem with these testing numbers are that people are having to wait days for results. So we don't actually know where we stand right now. We know that these lags in in reporting of testing results are even up to a week in certain places. So what we're talking about today is really a reflection of what has happened several days previously.

So, you know, I feel like these kind of results that we're hearing from the governor are really just kind of cherry picked data, nicely presented to put a spin on where things stand when the fact of the matter is, is that there are places in Florida that are -- that have positivity rates that are -- that are totally unacceptable. Miami Dade being one of them. You know, the bottom line is we don't have borders between any of these places and people are continuing to do things like opening up Disney land or Disney World, excuse me, where you are encouraging people to be mixing when we have high rates of virus in Florida.

It's the epicenter for essentially the world since we here in the United States, our, you know, we have more cases than anybody else in Florida has more than anyone here right now. So I really think that what the governor should be talking about is how we're going to be able to get these numbers down. And the way that we get these numbers down are social distancing, wearing masks hand hygiene.

I mean, I think that that really needs to be. What we need to be talking about right now is how we are going to be getting these numbers down. We don't need any positive spins on data, we need to be forcing these numbers down.

MARQUARDT: Yes. And the governor also emphasizing that even if I bet that with young people, younger people I should say, resulting in most of the cases there, he said that that the fatality rate means that that will be lower, of course that completely ignores the fact that younger people can still suffer greatly from this horrific virus.


MARQUARDT: Randi Kaye and Dr. Anne Miroin, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining me. We will continue to monitor Governor DeSantis' news conference and may bring you any new updates as they come in as news warrants.

Now in the meantime, despite the skyrocketing number of cases there in Florida, Disney World, as you heard the doctor mentioned there is welcoming fans back to Orlando today for the first time in 116 days. CNN's Natasha Chen joins me now. CNN -- sorry, Natasha, what can Disney visitors expect as they go into the park today?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, it's a whole different experience. In fact, Josh tomorrow the president of Chairman rather of Disney parks, resorts and experiences spoke to my colleague Frank Pallotta today about the fact that it is a new world out there and they have been aggressively training all their employees on how to welcome the guests back.

And he feels safe and ready to do so. As a reminder, he points out that Disney was one of the first to close its parks in the beginning and now one of the last to reopen. So in the Orlando area, other theme parks have all been open for about a month now. And Disney is the last large set of theme parks to reopen this week. So what guests can expect is that it's not so easy to just walk in anymore.

In order to reduce the capacity significantly, Disney is requiring that even if you have a ticket, you have to reserve your attendance to let them know what day you're coming so they can keep the numbers low. And then when people arrive, they're going to be met with a temperature check those with 100.4-degree fever or above are not invited in. And then of course, people have to be wearing face masks.

Not just the Gator bandana type, but a facemask that has loops around the ears. Of course, their social distance throughout the park, hand washing and sanitizing stations, people being loaded into ride vehicles separate from other parties. Here is a local resident, the producer of a Disney fan blog, talking about how he feels going into Disney versus going into any other establishment in the Orlando area.


CRAIG WILLIAMS, PRODUCER, THE DIS UNPLUGGED PODCAST NETWORK: We feel safer at theme parks than we do at any other normal store or restaurant. It's -- whether it's universal or going to Walt Disney World to Disney Springs it just -- it feels safer at the theme parks because they're putting in that extra effort. So while cases are spiking and continuing to rise it -- it's like we have these little bubbles that are entertaining and have plenty of enjoyment and plenty of good dining and shopping and it's a safe space.

So it is something that I feel like we're all attracted to right now because it does feel like a perfectly safe area.


CHEN: The Orange County health officer said Thursday during a press conference he's actually less concerned about open spaces and theme parks like Disney right now that have careful plans for this and are enforcing those plans versus what he's observed in places like indoor gyms, where in the Orlando area, they say they've observed people not following CDC guidance at all, and that is their focus of concern right now.

MARQUARDT: All right. Natasha Chen down there in Atlanta, Disney World open after 116 days. Thanks so much for bringing us that report.

Now coming up, the mixed messaging on masks, you would think it'd be very simple. What the President is saying about wearing one today on his trip to Walter Reed Medical Center that's coming up.



MARQUARDT: So as the U.S. is reporting a record number of new coronavirus cases today, the president spent the morning golfing at his own course in Virginia. And this marks his 276th day at one of his golf clubs during his almost four years in office.

The president is expected to visit with wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed hospital where he says he will be wearing a mask.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it's not difficult at all. In fact, I'll be going to Walter Reed, I believe, tomorrow. And I think when you're in a hospital, you should definitely wear a mask. Wouldn't be difficult at all for me.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will we see you wearing one?

TRUMP: Yes, if you'd like to.



MARQUARDT: Joining me to discuss this is Ron Brownstein, a CNN political analyst and a senior editor for "The Atlantic," and Francesca Chambers, a White House correspondent for McClatchy.

Thank you both for joining me today.

Francesca, let's start with you.

We understand the White House staffers around the president had to plead with him for months to wear a mask. And particularly for this visit to Walter Reed Medical Center.

Why do you think it took so long to follow his own administration's guidance, the CDC guidelines?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, we still haven't actually seen the president wear a mask. He said he will wear it later.

But it's important to know how this visit is going to go down. It is closed press which means reporters will not be allowed inside. And unless he opens that up, which we do not expect, we wouldn't even see him wearing a mask inside. The White House would have to send out pictures of their own of that or unless he was wearing it on his way outside inside.

That would be critical as to whether or not he wears it in a place where reporters can see it or the White House distributes photos after the fact of the president wearing a mask.

MARQUARDT: Yes, that's a very good point. He is visiting a hospital, so it's very easy for him to say he did have to wear a mask in that circumstance but perhaps not elsewhere.

Ron, to you, there's a retail trade group that asked President Trump to institute federal, so nationwide mask guidelines at stores across the country as the country continues to re-open. Experts are saying masks do save thousands of lives in the coming months.


Do you see a scenario in which, any chance in which the president would issue a federal mandate on that?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the short answer is no. And the answer is now for a revealing reason. He is in a trap of his own construction on coronavirus.

We talk about all the time about how President Trump's base is bonded to him, immovably. He's also bonded to the base in the other direction that he is very reluctant to get out crosswise with a base that includes the kind of people that showed up at the Michigan capital to protest lockdown without wearing masks and waving Confederate flags and carrying automatic weapons.

On all of these issues, he has -- he plays -- as someone said to me, he is playing to the short side of the field because he is so reluctant to get out away from the portion of the Republican base that views all of this either as a hoax or as an infringement on their liberty.

When you poll, three-quarters of Americans say they support mask wearing. I suspect there will be a majority of support when people start asking if there should be a national mandate, especially with what we're seeing in the states.

It's worth noting his words and deeds on this not only affect the national policy but, if you look at states like South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona, you have enormous outbreaks, 30,000 cases alone yesterday, and governors who refuse to mandate masks, in part, because they don't want to get out in a different position than President Trump.

MARQUARDT: And saying they want to leave it up to the localities.

We are seeing --

BROWNSTEIN: Local, right.

MARQUARDT: We're seeing Vice President Mike Pence set to travel to Florida today, in fact, to give a speech after President Trump traveled to that state yesterday.

Francesca, when you look at the travel plans by the president and vice president, does it seem to you that they're sending the right message in this moment?

CHAMBERS: Well, the president is keeping -- has kept his events relatively small, which speaks to the fact that there's even a concern about the president being in large groups in a state like Florida, which has experienced a surge of the coronavirus.

There were very limited people around him. People have to get tested before he was -- before they were allowed to be around him.

But it also spoke to the fact that he very much wanted to get back to Florida, a state critical to his ability to win re-election.

And look at the types of events he had yesterday. He had a fundraiser and he had a round table with Venezuelans-Americans or Venezuelans who live in south Florida, which has very large population of Venezuelans.

So that is, again, showing that he's trying to find ways to get to Florida, the state that is very huge in the election in an official capacity at the very least.

But he can't have the large campaign events that would not be advisable by many experts at this time.

MARQUARDT: Yes, campaigning in a time of COVID, extremely complicated.

Francesca Chambers, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much for joining me and breaking it all down.


MARQUARDT: Now just ahead, the debate over the return to school is getting more confusing and heated by the day. Where do things stand now? That's coming up next.



MARQUARDT: Educators and officials across the country are trying to find a way to get students back in the classrooms safely. How to do that and what it will look like are the key questions that remain unanswered.

Here's CNN's Bianna Golodryga.


ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I think there's commonality in the schools and the school leadership and the teachers and the administrators that we all want to protect the safety of the children that are in schools.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (VO): The CDC director on CNN's coronavirus town hall attempting to clear up the mass confusion caused by the president's shocking threat to withhold federal funding for schools that do not fully re-open, something he does not have the legal authority to do on his own.

As well as his rebuke of the CDC guidelines.

REDFIELD: We stand by our guidance. We think it's an important strategy for helping these schools re-open.

GOLODRYGA: For months, school districts nationwide have been scrambling, trying to figure out just how to re-open safely, as the acting superintendent of the Houston Independent School District showed CNN back in May.

GRENITA LATHAN, ACTING SUPERINTENDENT, HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: If you think about students at a table, possibly two students per table or, ideally, one student per table as we think about having just 11 students in a classroom at a time.

GOLODRYGA: Since then, more districts have announced similar plans. Most recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio telling New York City's more than one million public schoolchildren they should only spend one to three day a week inside the classroom. The other school days will be held online.

BILL DE BLASIO, (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Some points in the week, you're learning in person in the classroom. At other points in the week, you're learning remotely.

GOLODRYGA: Local officials have relied on guidelines issued by state and federal health authorities as well as the CDC. One of its top recommendations has been to maintain social distancing among students.

The hybrid model where children, would be divided into smaller groups rotating hours and days this class, seems to be among the most feasible.

But after months of inaction, the Trump administration is now pushing hard for schools to re-open full time in the fall, an endeavor made even more challenging as numerous states continue to see spikes in cases.

In Florida, the education commissioner issued an emergency order this week requiring all schools to open at least five days per week for all students.

RON DESANTIS, (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR: If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.


GOLODRYGA: But some educators in the state are now saying they won't follow the order if cases don't start to go down.



CARVALHO: -- with positivity cases increasing, with restaurants just this week being shut down again, for us to pack up schools.

GOLODRYGA: In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said schools would offer more flexibility.

In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey announced that in-person classes will be delayed until at least August 17th.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom saying that schools will re-open when the data says it's safe to do so.

Experts say it didn't have to be this frustrating but there still is time to get it right. JOSEPH ALLEN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC

HEALTH: The time to plan is absolutely right now. In particular, when we think about building strategies, schools have to be paying attention to and looking at their mechanical and ventilation system right now. This is not something that can be started in early August.

GOLODRYGA: Bianna Golodryga, CNN, New York.


MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Bianna Golodryga.

Some schools will continue virtual learning into the fall. We'll talk about that and more with the Phoenix Union High School District superintendent who will join me live next.



MARQUARDT: President Trump is doubling down on his threat to pull federal funding from schools that don't fully reopen this fall. And he's doing it as educators across the country are scrambling to try to find a way to bring back more than 50 million children into the classroom safely. And they're getting few clear answers about how to do that.

The head of the Atlanta public school system is recommending virtual learning to start the year.

Which is a decision that has already been made by the Phoenix Union High School District.

Dr. Chad Gestson is district superintendent.

Dr. Gestson, thank you so much for joining me today.

Let's start with that news. What led you to this conclusion, this decision already, as others are still trying to figure out what they're going to do, that you cannot start the school year in person, that you're going to continue this virtually?

DR. CHAD GESTSON, SUPERINTENDENT, PHOENIX UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT: We made a commitment to our community a while back that we will not open until it's safe and reasonable and responsible to do so.

And two things are really pressing for us. One, you're hopefully very aware that, here in Arizona, we have a massive increase in COVID-19 cases.

But we're also a little unique in that school in Arizona does not start in September. We start in October. And we are just three weeks away from the start of the school year.

And our parents and our community and our staff were really clear that they don't want week-by-week decisions. So we made an announcement to start school remote and we will go

through remote learning all the way through October, at the earliest, so that our community can plan better for childcare, employment and our teachers can be more prepared to serve our kids.

MARQUARDT: I don't know if you saw it today, but there's a pretty powerful op-ed in the "New York Times," an editorial, rather, saying that "schools need to get creative," as they said, "to find ways to get kids back into the classroom."

They say what is needed to reopen is not just a lot more funding, but also creating the space to do it, using other facilities like gyms, cafeterias, open-air spaces for classrooms.

So even with more money, which is obviously far from a foregone conclusion and hard to come by, how practical of a solution is it for school districts like yours to simply look for other spaces to use as classrooms?

GESTSON: We actually spent the last couple of months working on four innovative models for our community, a virtual model, an in-person that's much safer for our students, a hybrid model, even evening school for our students that need to work during the day.

We had nine task forces working on making sure all of those models were safe. We realized over the last couple of weeks that we were spending so much time on how many kids fit in a bus, how would we do temperature checks for tens and of thousands, we got away from the core of our work, which is teaching and learning and wellness of our community.

We decided we were ignoring the inevitable, as we see cases rise across our country but certainly here, that it was time for us, despite these calls for innovation and a lack of funding, that it was time for us to focus on remote learning so we could support and serve our community as best as possible.

MARQUARDT: You've put a ton of time and thought and resources into figuring out what is safe and what is not.

When you hear Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis saying, if you can do Home Depot and Walmart, then you can do schools, what is your reaction?

GESTSON: Well, not many people are going to Home Depot for eight hours a day, five straight days a week.

When we talk about open air, it's going to be 120 degrees here in Arizona pretty soon. So we don't have many spaces here where we're going to be able to accommodate our students.

And we have to remember that there are schools across our nation and here in Arizona that have 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 students.

Again, it's not just about students. We have staff members and those staff members have families and we need to be able to protect our entire community.

MARQUARDT: We're going to have here on CNN tomorrow morning Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She'll be on "STATE OF THE UNION."

What do you need to hear from her? What do you need in terms of resources from her to get students back safely in school?

GESTSON: The reality is, pre-COVID, school systems across our nation were underfunded. When we talk about the innovation of these models -- and we heard today, even on your show, that class sizes might need to be smaller, run A and B schedules, and at the same time, send kids home for remote learning. And that requires laptops and hot spots.


There's a crippling digital divide in our nation. So our nation's leaders, like Betsy DeVos, need to understand that innovation is also costly, important, but costly.

So as we talk about the launch of school, it shouldn't be about threats of a lack of funding or pulling funding. In fact, there should be support for more funding so that our school systems can spend more time worrying about teaching and learning than we are the school system funding across the country.

MARQUARDT: How would your school system be affected if that federal funding is pulled as the president has threatened to do to places that don't open in the fall?

GESTSON: Federal funding for a system like ours is millions of dollars, and so it could have a crippling effect.

But I've been really clear with our local community that I'm more worried about funerals than I am funding.

And at the end of the day, we are called not just to educate our children, but we're called to protect our kids, our staff and our broader community. So safety and wellness have to come first.

MARQUARDT: Dr. Chad Gestson, I'm wishing you all the best. Thanks so much for joining me this afternoon.

GESTSON: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me on.

MARQUARDT: Now the uncertainty around whether or not schools will reopen is inducing all sorts of anxiety among parents, teachers, the students themselves. How will they safely reopen? Is that even an option? Is it possible? Your top questions will be answered today at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.


MARQUARDT: Hello. Thanks for joining me. I'm Alex Marquardt, in today for Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with the U.S. once again seeing new coronavirus cases soaring. Johns Hopkins University now reporting more than 66,000 new cases across the country, setting a new single-day record.


The U.S. now with more than 3.1 million total infections, by far, the highest of any country in the world, another big point of concern, the rising number of deaths and hospitalizations.