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U.S. Coronavirus Cases Total More Than The Population Of 21 States; Florida Reports 10,000-Plus New Coronavirus Cases; Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) Is Interviewed About The Coronavirus Pandemic; Trump On Defense After Commuting Roger Stones' 40-Month Sentence; Trump Says He'll Wear Mask On Visit To Walter Reed Medical Center; Inside An Overwhelmed California Hospital At U.S.-Mexico Border. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for staying with me. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And across the United States right now, the number of people infected, in hospitals and dying from the coronavirus is not going down. In fact, it is on the rise. The total number of U.S. cases, 3.2 million, that's more than the population of 21 states. Think about that.

And this is where new cases of the virus are shooting up. In some states, significantly.

And this just into CNN. The CDC is updating its estimate of how many people infected with the coronavirus have no symptoms at all. About 40 percent of people with the virus are not physically sick, according to the CDC. That's up from their estimate of 35 percent back in May.

Researchers also saying they believe half of all COVID-19 cases are transmitted before people show signs of being sick. With so many states reporting record infection rates and hospitals struggling to treat the surge of new patients, President Trump is shrugging off this alarming spread of the virus as a minor setback.


INTERVIEWER: Is the United States losing the war against COVID?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, we're winning the war, and we have areas that flamed up and they're going to be fine over a period of time.


CABRERA: It kind of gives new meaning to being sick of winning.

The president was on the golf course in Virginia earlier today ahead of a visit to Walter Reed Military Medical Center where CNN has learned he is expected to be photographed wearing a mask after aides pleaded with him to do the photo op. More on that in just a bit. But we want to begin in Florida, a state reporting another 10,000 new

cases. CNN's Randi Kaye joins us from Riviera Beach, Florida.

And, Randi, Dr. Anthony Fauci argues that state jumped over checkpoints in reopening. Governor DeSantis pushing back, saying there was just no justification not to move forward at the time.

So, what happened?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot happened, Ana. I mean, he does -- he does point to increased testing, the governor here likes to point to increased testing for those higher positivity rates and the higher number of cases, but the governor early on refused to shut down the state and a lot of people just took it upon themselves to self- isolate. Cell phone data that has been tracked shows that Floridians just stayed home. They tried to play it safe.

So, there was a lot of thinking that Florida would escape the worst of it, but somehow, here in Florida, things went terribly wrong.


KAYE (voice-over): On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order, hoping to contain the coronavirus. Weeks later, while visiting the White House, the governor took a victory lap for how he managed things back home.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened. We had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted but also did less damage to our state going forward.

KAYE: That turned out not to be the case at all. Trouble started in early May when DeSantis rushed to reopen before many other states. Restaurants, gyms, barbershops and beaches were first to reopen in most parts of the state.

After Memorial Day, the virus was starting to rage. By July 1st, there were more than 9,000 new cases reported in one day statewide. And recently, new daily cases topped 11,000.

But if you listen to DeSantis, there's a disconnect.

DESANTIS: I think we've stabilized it where we're at.

KAYE: That's just not true. And the data proves it. Since reopening, Florida's average number of daily new cases has jumped more than 1,200 percent, and dozens of hospitals throughout the state have run out of ICU beds. In the last two weeks in hard-hit Miami-Dade County, the need for ICU beds has increased 88 percent, and ventilator use jumped 123 percent. The state's positivity rate is hovering close to 30 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the midst of a very, very vicious spike in our community in Miami-Dade county and you know, one thing you can't have is for a governor or a president trying to down play it as if it's not an urgent thing we need to pay attention to.

KAYE: So while the governor continues to defend his move to reopen the state, the fact is, more than 4,100 Floridians are dead, and the message from the governor, still coming up short.

DESANTIS: There's no need to really be fearful about it.


KAYE: And for weeks now, reporters have been trying to get the full picture from the governor, from the state of the hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 in the state.


Finally, after weeks of pressing him, we got those numbers late yesterday, and as of now, we have about 7,100 people hospitalized in this state with COVID. Five hundred of those people are hospitalized in Orange County where Orlando is, where Disney World is opening today. The governor said he predicted a safe opening for the theme parks, even though people will get their temperatures checked there.

We'll also have -- everybody will be wearing masks. They'll have to social distance, Ana, and they'll also -- they won't be able to get too up close and personal with the characters. Everybody there, including the characters, keeping their distance.

CABRERA: OK, Randi Kaye in Riviera Beach, Florida, thank you.

Joining us now is Democratic congressman and former governor of Florida, Charlie Crist.

Congressman, we heard in Randi's piece there, the governor says there's no reason to be fearful right now, but are you afraid for your state?

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): I'm very concerned about the future for the citizens of Florida, because you just explained what the numbers are. They're rising. They're rising dramatically. They're not going in the right direction. The trend is bad.

And what we need is leadership that understands that and can appreciate what the truth is and what the facts are. Facts are stubborn things and when you have the kind of rise in the number of cases as well as deaths, you've got to pay attention and you have to adjust and adapt and do what's right for the people of the state.

And it's obvious to me that what Dr. Fauci said the other day about, you know, not necessarily stopping reopening but pausing it in states that are having the kind of challenge Florida is right now, that only seems prudent and smart. And I would hope that that's what's going to happen soon.

CABRERA: And Dr. Fauci actually singled out Florida as reopening too early and skipping a few steps while the governor said there was no justification not to move forward with reopening. In your assessment, what went wrong? How did your state end up in this spot?

CRIST: Well, I think that was reopening was a little hasty and, you know, we want -- we want to reopen, but we want to reopen correctly. We want to do it right. We want to be smart about how this is done and utilize common sense, as well as the information you can glean from people like Dr. Fauci, medical professionals, physicians that really understand what the healthcare risks are here.

And so, you know, people in public service need to be good listeners. They need to take in this kind of data that is valuable, that is important, that is life-saving, and make sure that we're paying attention to it every single day.

I mean, people have described this as, you know, trying to build a plane as you're flying it. Well, we've been flying this plane for a while now. And we ought to be learning a lot more than we are and become more wise as we learn those things that are -- that are coming to light.

And what I think needs to happen is that those things need to be paid attention to. God forbid that if we continue on this track, and we have continuing rising cases, continuing rising death, that's not what the people deserve. We need to have somebody that understands what's happening on the ground throughout the state of Florida -- frankly, throughout the country -- and it seems like we're just not getting that right now. And it breaks my heart.


CABRERA: We keep hearing an optimistic tone from the governor of Florida regarding the situation on the ground there. Do you think he's taking it seriously enough?

CRIST: It doesn't look like that to me, no. You know, I'm an optimistic, and I believe in optimism and giving people hope. I think that's extremely important.

But we also have to face the facts and deal with reality and it looks like we aren't right now. I mean, you know, you and I have talked about this mask and how important it is to wear a mask. I'm not wearing it right now in the studio. I'm not even closer than six feet to anybody.

But the fact of the matter is, the governor's not calling for people statewide to wear masks in public. I don't understand that. I don't know what the rationale is behind it.

But I think what we need to do is we need to face reality. We need to put politics aside. We need to do what's right and what is smart and what is in the best interest of the people of the state of Florida.

CABRERA: Vice President Mike Pence praised the president's ramp-up of healthcare supplies and ventilators, but then he said this about PPE supplies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: PPE, we hear, remains very strong, but we're encouraging healthcare workers to begin now to use some of the best practices that we learned in other parts of the country to preserve and to reuse the PPE supplies.


CABRERA: He's asking hospitals to reuse PPE. How is that possible? We are four months into this pandemic, and supplies are still an issue?

CRIST: Yeah, well, that's quite disturbing. I don't know how you reuse something that somebody else has already used and maybe contaminated. That just defies logic to me to be (VIDEO GAP) done our job.

You know, we passed (AUDIO GAP) CARES 2 (ph) to provide more funding for the kind of (AUDIO GAP) people need around the country.

The Senate needs to act. Mitch McConnell and his fellow senators need to go ahead and put this bill up for a vote. I don't know what they're waiting for.


It seems to me that it's irresponsible. It's not right. They need to move forward and the people are going to demand it, and they're going to hear about it come November if they don't.

CABRERA: The governor says Florida is getting a new shipment of remdesivir. Does that give you hope?

CRIST: That does give me hope. In fact, I led a letter by the Florida delegation to HHS that we needed that, that it was being held back for whatever reason, we weren't getting it.

Apparently, later that night, the secretary made a call with the Florida Hospital Association, said, we understand there's a problem. We're going to try to get some to you. Thank God they finally came through and heeded our call. And so I'm grateful for that.

But the same should happen with PPE and other things that we need in order to stem this tide of this coronavirus. And that's just not happening right now. We need the Senate to act. We need the administration in Washington and Tallahassee to utilize common sense, listen to the experts, do the right thing, and make sure that our people can stay healthy.

CABRERA: I want to get your thoughts on something every parent is thinking about, schools. And this week, Florida ordered schools to reopen this fall. The governor said this.


DESANTIS: If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools. I want our kids to be able to minimize this education gap that I think has developed. It should not be a political issue. It should be based on the facts,

and if we see that this is very low-risk and we see, I think, overwhelmingly, in every study, that the school kids are not vectors of transmission.


CABRERA: I mean, that last point is still, I think, under study. We know NIH is doing a study, in fact, on that very issue. But do you think if Walmart and Home Depot are open, schools should be too?

CRIST: I don't think -- I don't get the analogy between a shopping center and a school. You know, when kids go to school, they're there for, you know, five, six hours a day. Usually when you go shopping, you're there for a half hour, maybe 45 minutes. And to make that kind of analogy doesn't make sense to me.

What does make sense to me is to make sure that when schools do open, they do so safely. You know, we need to get this right. And I think it's important to also provide the option for parents and children to continue to online educate if they so desire and feel it's in the best interest of their child. You know, there are many children across the country that have additional medical issues and are more at risk if they actually are forced to go to the classroom.

I mean, that our secretary of education said that, you know, all schools have to reopen next month, I think it really ought to be left to, number one, the parents' decision, obviously, who cares more about these children than the parent themselves, but number two, the local school boards.

I'm in Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and they came out with a good plan, in my humble opinion, yesterday, where they said they would continue to have online as an option for children. They would open schools also but they would have appropriate social spacing. They would wear masks. They would make sure that it was a healthy environment for those children.

And I think those kinds of options, to parents, is exactly what they deserve. Government shouldn't be telling people exactly what to do all the time. This has to be something where it's more localized a decision and, you know, people in Washington or even in Tallahassee ought to listen to those that are in the communities all over the state of Florida and all over the United States of America for that matter.

CABRERA: Congressman Charlie Crist, it's good to have your voice. Thank you very much for joining us.

CRIST: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: The surge in coronavirus cases in some states is straining already taxed hospitals. I'll speak with a doctor from a hospital in a hard-hit region of Arizona who says he's already having to make difficult decisions about resources.

Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: The coronavirus pandemic surging in Arizona. That state has the country's highest positivity rate at more than 27 percent. And it has led the nation for over a month now with the highest 7-day average of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.

Let's bring in Evan McMorris-Santoro. He's at the Grand Canyon for us.

And, Evan, the Grand Canyon is open for tourists. What are you seeing there?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is the Grand Canyon. Nearly a mile deep and 8 to 10 miles wide, depending on where you're standing, a place where it should be easy to social distance.

But it's also the south rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the most important tourist sites in Arizona. So that's a place where people come to stay, eat, and gather, a place where people have to be careful about social distancing. I asked the superintendent of the park earlier today about keeping it open and how he's keeping people safe here.


ED KEABLE, SUPERINTENDENT, GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK: The Park Service is paying attention to all the White House, CDC, state and local public health advisories about the pandemic as we make decisions about how to operate the parks and since I have been the superintendent, it's been a little over two months now, I've been making decisions about how to open up the park, and we're doing it in a way that I believe is safe and responsible following all those guidelines.

I'm confident that we've got a really good, healthy, safe operating environment here at the park.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, an important thing about Arizona and the way this pandemic is working here, and this is one of the epicenters, is that rules vary depending on where you are. Here at the Grand Canyon National Park, if you're inside a building, you're asked to wear a mask. If you're outside, you're asked to use your best judgment to wear one when you feel like that's the right thing to do. Other parts of Arizona have mask rules. Some parts don't. Some things are closed. Some things like indoor dining are not closed.

That's led to a clash between the governor and local elected officials here.

[16:20:02] The governor says he's doing enough to help the curve -- to help bring the curve down on this growing pandemic here. Local officials, some of them, say he's not -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you for all the information.

Surges in coronavirus cases are putting significant pressure on healthcare workers who have been on the front lines of this fight for months.

Joining us now from Phoenix is Dr. Murtaza Akhter. He is an emergency physician at Valleywise Health Medical Center there in Phoenix.

Dr. Akhter, thank you for taking time with us. I can only imagine how exhausted you must be, but I think that information you have for us is so important.

Arizona has been leading in the number of cases per capita for the last month. What does that mean for you and your colleagues? What are you experiencing there?


Yeah, more than exhausted right now. I'm angry, honestly. But you know, a lot of my colleagues have felt the same way. I appreciate your getting the message out, but a lot of us are very upset and some of my colleagues at other hospitals are even more upset. Actually, that's been one of the most demoralizing things, is to see how bad it is here and yet to see how many people treat it as if -- as if there's nothing happening.

A lot of people are doing the right things but clearly, as you just heard in the previous report, many people aren't wearing masks, they're not distancing. I don't understand what more they need to hear.

I mean, we're angry as medical physicians. I'm not sure what (ph) more to do (ph) honestly. It's a very frustrating and also disheartening.

CABRERA: Where do you think the disconnect is?

AKHTER: You know, I wish I knew. I feel like we've been saying this for months, you know, to wash your hands, to distance. I don't know why it's become so political.

One of the things that maybe is even a disconnect for me is listen, just a couple years ago, my mom and I were driving and an ambulance came by and we pulled over to the side and after the ambulance went their way, people started getting back on the road and my mom said, what a miracle this country is, that when an ambulance goes by, everybody pulls over.

And I was shocked. I took it for granted. I said, what do you mean America? What else would you do? And she's an immigrant. She said, where I grew up, it wasn't like

that. The ambulance got stuck in traffic, and if somebody died, the person died. But over here, people pulled over. What a miracle.

And it was that moment, something I took for granted for me to realize, there are some things that we as a country do really well. You don't say, is the patient a Democrat or a Republican? If an ambulance is on the road, you don't say, it's my right to be on the road, who is this ambulance to tell me to pull over? Everybody pulls over, whether you're red or blue, when you see the red and blue of the signs, you pull over for a stranger.

So imagine how ironic it is for her, for her to see the miracle of this country, for people to see also, that people also just can't wear masks. I mean, it's a mask. How can you make this political? It's so easy to do.

CABRERA: So true. You said earlier this week, you were having to make tough decisions because of lack of beds and lack of personnel to take on this surge happening in your state. What is the status of all of that?

AKHTER: So, you know, we're a public safety net hospital. We've gotten pretty used to making creative decisions with limited resources. I think that's part of the reasons we've actually done as well as we have compared to other hospitals in the valley, but there's only so creative you can get when there are no beds and it's hard to get somebody a bed when he's sick.

Remember, the other diseases haven't gone away. Heart disease hasn't gone away, sickle cell hasn't gone away. People still get gall bladder infections.

How good do you think the care will be for your loved one if she or he gets sick, and there's no beds available? It's very frustrating for me. Imagine how upsetting it will be for you if your loved one got sick.

CABRERA: Do you have enough ICU beds right now?

AKHTER: That's a -- always a moving number. You know, people throw this 90 percent number out, makes it seem like we have 10 percent. Let me tell you, when we need an ICU bed, it gets very difficult.

For COVID patients, we have a surge line in the state, and that gives us some flexibility to be able to transfer them to other hospitals but there are plenty of people who need the ICU who don't have COVID and it's very difficult, very difficult to find them a bed.

Whatever the numbers you're seeing on the news, our experience on the ground is that it's very difficult to get them a bed.

CABRERA: We know Florida has secured 100,000 nurses as cases surge there. The governor of Michigan has requested the National Guard be extended through December to assist with testing and supplies, distribution among other things. Your governor announced yesterday plans to limit indoor dining to 50 percent capacity and to pause reopening the state any further.

What more do you want to see from your governor there in Arizona?

AKHTER: Well, you know, the interesting thing is when Governor Ducey had the lockdown in place or the stay-at-home orders in place in April, we did really well. I thought I was proud of Arizonans and Phoenicians for staying at home, the volumes in the ER were done. So much of it we thought, people are staying home too aggressively.

Unfortunately, maybe he didn't expect it, because I know I didn't, as soon as the stay-at-home orders were released, people treated it like, what I say, like a rebound relationship, where they just decided they needed to make up for having been at home for so long and, boy, did that disease spread.

Listen, if people aren't going to distance, you know, I'm not a constitutional scholar, but this is an emergency and the executive branch has the ability to declare emergencies. If people aren't going to distance, aren't going to wear masks, maybe they have to be told that they need to.

And this goes on both sides of the aisle. Our mayor is a Democrat, and she -- you know, we have a mask ordinance, but she explicitly said she's not going to enforce it.


I mean, imagine telling somebody, you've got to pay your taxes but if you don't, the IRS won't enforce it. Who would pay their taxes?

So, it's not a Republican or Democrat issue. If things aren't enforced, I don't know how you expect people to distance or to wear masks.

CABRERA: Well, Dr. Murtaza Akhter, I'd love to keep in touch with you and thank you. Thank you for all that you do and your colleagues as well, sending you strength. Keep it up. Thank you.

AKHTER: I appreciate it, Ana. Thank you for getting the message out. I hope people listen.

CABRERA: Yep, me too.

Coming up here in the NEWSROOM, it has been something the president has avoided since the pandemic began, a picture of him wearing a mask. But he is expected to wear one this afternoon when he visits Walter Reed Medical Center. What impact will that have?

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: President Trump is on defense today following his decision last night to commute the prison sentence of long-time friend and convicted felon, Roger Stone. The president took to Twitter to falsely claim Stone was targeted by a, quote, "illegal witch hunt."

Stone, who was scheduled to begin serving his 40-month prison sentence this coming week, was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and other charges related to the Russia investigation. Convicted on seven charges total by a jury.

The outrage about Trump's action has been bipartisan, including from GOP Senators Pat Toomey and Mitt Romney. Romney calling in "unprecedented, historic corruption."

CNN's Kristen Holmes is at the White House.

And, Kristen, what are we hearing from the White House today about all this?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we did get a statement from the press secretary reacting to Romney and essentially she just turned this against the Obama administration.

However, this evening was riddled with falsehoods and mischaracterizations, which would take our entire time together to explain line by line. So instead, I think we should focus on who Roger Stone is and why this is important, why does anyone care.

Stone, as you said, is a long-time friend, a confidante and ally, a bulldog of President Trump's. He's been by his side, really, for decades.

He was found guilty by a jury of lying to Congress, obstructing justice. And this was all related to this 2017 testimony he made in front of the House Intelligence Committee when they were investigating the Russian interference into the 2016 election. Stone was sentenced to three years and four months.

So why does it matter that President Trump granted him clemency? Well, first of all, he went against his own Department of Justice to do this.

Two, you're seeing many people lashing out at this, Democrats and Republicans. As you said, Pat Toomey saying this was a bad idea. Because they believe that this was not the right play.

Others saying that this undermines President Trump's latest effort to undermine the Russia investigation, which consumed so much of his tenure in office so far.

And lastly, this is just the latest in a long line of controversial pardons and commutations that the president has made. He's really gone around the traditional system here to focus more on celebrity cases and friends like Rob Blagojevich or Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

CABRERA: I don't understand how this doesn't undermine his law-and- order message that he has been touting and hammering home in recent weeks.

Meantime, let me also ask you about his visit to Walter Reed medical hospital. Today, CNN has learned he's going to actually wear a mask?

HOLMES: That's right. That is what we are told by officials, by President Trump himself. Now, this comes after begging and pleading from aides and advisors who believed it was time for President Trump to wear a mask.

Remember, Ana, we have seen Republican leader after Republican leader over the last several weeks come out and endorse wearing a mask, but still, President Trump has not.

Now, he did make this decision before he traveled to Florida yesterday where I was with him where he didn't wear a mask at all.

Now, the reason being that now they're saying it's because of the setting.

Listen to what he said in an interview when he asked if it was hard for him to wear 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: You've worn them and --


TRUMP: I've had them on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you see you wearing--


TRUMP: If you'd like to.



HOLMES: Ana, just to raise one point here, if the effort here is to show President Trump endorses mask, it's unclear this message will get through in such a limited way, saying, essentially saying he's only wearing a mask because he's going to a hospital, when we know CDC guidelines are asking people to wear masks all the time in everyday life.

CABRERA: Will we actually see him wearing a mask, though, Kristen? Isn't it supposed to be closed press when he goes to the hospital?

HOLMES: Absolutely. It is a closed-press event as of now. However, we do expect some kind of visual here, not sure what it's going to look like. If we do get pictures, and it remains closed press, those would be

pictures coming out of the White House. So clearly a photo opportunity there if this message is being driven by the White House.

But this could all change. We know these things ebb and flow, constant evolution, so we'll see if they end up opening that up to the press.

CABRERA: One thing we always have discovered about this president is he's very unpredictable.

Kristen Holmes, thank you.

Joining us now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University. He also advised the Bush White House.

Dr. Reiner, CNN's reporting is that aides had to practically beg the president to do this photo op. And they believe so many Americans take their cues from the president so they hope that this will send the right message.

Do you think seeing the president finally in a mask could encourage others to wear one as well?



But what I want to hear from the president is something very simple. I would love for the president to come out to a microphone wearing a mask and say this simple phrase: My fellow Americans, it's your patriotic duty to wear a mask whenever you go out in public. Do what I do. Wear a mask. And then to model the behavior afterwards.

You know, wearing a mask in the hospital is really a hollow gesture. We wear masks all day long in the hospital. And in some ways, the hospital is like a holy place, and coming to the hospital and not wearing a mask would be akin to going to a mosque and not taking your shoes off or a synagogue and not wearing a yarmulke. How disrespectful would that be to the caregivers in the hospital?

The bigger public health message has to be all Americans in public should wear a mask. Period. He needs to say that. It's not so hard. If he says that, it will have tremendous public health implications.

CABRERA: Is it time for the president to issue a nationwide mask mandate? Are we at that point?

REINER: I would love to see that. We're way past that. For so many reasons.

About a week ago, Goldman-Sachs issued a report. They estimated that a nationwide mask policy would increase by about 15 percent the number of Americans actually wearing a mask out in public all the time. And that would translate into about a trillion dollars saved by this economy.

That's about 5 percent of the GDP for states having -- preventing states going forward from having to close their economies down.

So if the president doesn't get the mortality benefit, maybe he gets the economic benefit.

Either way, it would be an enormous benefit, even though it's super late, for the president to unequivocally say all Americans should wear masks, period.

CABRERA: You talk about saving the economy. The latest modeling also shows it could save tens of thousands of lives. In fact, it was 45,000 fewer deaths by November if most Americans wear masks, according to the modeling that came out this week.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, we're short on time today but you're back with me tomorrow. Thank you very much for taking the time. Talk to you soon.

REINER: My pleasure. Sure.

Coming up, coronavirus patients in California are being treated in tents in triple-degree heat as hospitals there are overwhelmed. We'll take you inside a COVID-19 unit next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: It is a dire situation unfolding in one hospital on the California/Mexico border. Patients are now being treated in tents in triple-digit temperatures.

CNN's Kyung Lah takes us inside for an exclusive look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She can't even get out of bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When folks say, hey, it's a war zone, well, a war zone of what? A war zone of us trying to combat the COVID-19.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The front- line in this battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just craziness still.

LAH: Southern California's El Centro Regional Medical Center.


LAH: CEO Adolphe Edward is a former Air Force officer and Iraq War vet. ADOLPHE EDWARD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, EL CENTRO REGIONAL MEDICAL

CENTER: I have seen this then, actually deployed with me when we were in Bilad, when we were in Iraq.

LAH: Now he's built them on American soil to handle a crush of COVID cases his hospital no longer has room for.

Air-conditioned tents in the triple-digit desert heat to handle patient after patient.

El Centro is in Imperial County. It sits at the U.S.-Mexico border. This rural community is 85 percent Latino. One in four live in poverty. Per capita, it has three times as many COVID cases as Los Angeles. And the death rate is the highest in California.

(on camera): Is it crazy to you that you are physician working in a tent in America?

DR. JORGE ROBLES, FAMILY MEDICINE SPECIALIST, EL CENTRO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Yes. It's incredible, isn't it. Yes. We'll make it through.

LAH (voice-over): Inside the hospital --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is exhausting.

LAH: -- we visit the sickest patients in the ICU.

(on camera): These are your patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, these are transferred from the regular floor.

LAH (voice-over): Every single patient in this 12-bed ICU have COVID. Eleven of them survive with ventilators.

(on camera): Can you explain what you're wearing?

AMBER MAREZ, NURSE, EL CENTRO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Well, it's a device that helps keep everything, you know, kind of like close so we're not exposed to anything.

LAH (voice-over): It's what nurse, Amber Marez, needs to wear to stay safe while helping her 40-year-old patient?

(on camera): How sick is he?

MAREZ: He's really sick and he's really young. So we're trying to do everything we can before we intubate him.

LAH: What is that suggesting to you as a nurse, that the age is dropping?

MAREZ: I think that a lot of people aren't honoring like the stay at home. You know, a lot of people aren't doing the social distancing.

(SIREN) LAH (voice-over): That's what the El Centro Fire Department sees on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: El Centro Fire Department.

LAH: The battalion chief says, in this town of 50,000 people, every single hour it is this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a possible COVID patient on scene so at this point our personnel are gearing up for a COVID patient.

LAH: In a full hazmat suit, Captain Chad Whitlock revives an unconscious patient. It's a stifling 110 degrees.

CAPT. CHAD WHITLOCK, EL CENTRO FIRE DEPARTMENT: You have to de-con on all of the equipment and remove all the uniforms and take a shower and put a different uniform on for the rest of the day.

LAH (on camera): You're dripping.

WHITLOCK: Yes, ma'am. We're inundated. Everybody's really tired. And nobody's -- you can see it in my face. You know, we're frustrated.

LAH (voice-over): That patient Captain Whitlock saved arrives at El Centro medical's emergency room.

ANDREW LAFREE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT, EL CENTRO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: We've hit capacity. We've transferred out two or three times the normal amount of patients that we're sending out. I think in the last two months, we've sent out something like 500 patients.


LAH: Some to nearby San Diego, others as far away as northern California. This helicopter is here to pick up another patient.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it started in there because they're here for him.

LAH: E.R. doctors and nurses intubate under this blue drape to limit particle exposure. Stabilized, the patient heads out.

(on camera): Why is it happening so badly here in Imperial County?

LAFREE: There are a lot of U.S. nationals that live in Mexicali. They had a really bad outbreak there. There's a lot of people that cross the border here for work that live in Mexicali and then come and work here.

LAH (voice-over): The fields in Imperial County send produce across the country. And even in a pandemic, some 20,000 Mexican day workers enter legally every morning to provide the labor.


LAH: No work, no money for food, says 65-year-old farmworker, Jacinto Moreno. Four of his fellow farmworkers have died of COVID, he says.

LUIS OLMEDO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMITE CIVICO DEL VALLE, INC: We cannot win a war on COVID in the emergency room. Look at the big picture. We need to fight the war on COVID where it's breeding, and that's in our neighborhoods.

LAH: In this binational County, COVID is not the disease. It's the symptom.

OLMEDO: They experience social determinants of health, like putting food on the table, like having to work in dangerous conditions, like not having a mask.

We are the poster of those inequities and the reason why we are not able to control COVID.

LAH: The hospital here is bracing for what's yet to come. This empty tent is the future COVID ward.

(on camera): Is this tent a sign that this pandemic is here to stay?

ADOLPHE EDWARD, CEO, EL CENTRO REGIONAL CENTER: Yes. So I keep telling folks, look, now it's a pandemic. Eventually, it will be an endemic. So is this really how we want to take care of our communities? And the answer is no.


CABRERA: Kyung Lah reporting there.

Up next, the NBA is back. Players are now in the bubble in Orlando, Florida, as they prepare for the start of the NBA season at the end of the month. There's a lot riding on the bubble working. That's next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: The NBA hopes to shield the rest of its season from COVID-19 by keeping players and staff inside an isolation bubble. The teams will live, practice, and play in Orlando without outside visitors or fans. Now, we're not talking about a literal bubble, of course.

But Philadelphia player, Joel Embiid, isn't taking any chances. Here he is arriving for his flight in full protective gear. You see him putting it on head to toe.

The players are practicing before resuming the season at the end of the month.

And CNN's Coy Wire joins us.

Coy, this NBA bubble sounds nice in theory. But what happens if the bubble bursts? COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, Ana, good to see you. And I'm not

sure where you get a seven-foot hazmat suit but Joel Embiid found one.

Now NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he thinks their bubble experiment could be a model that other businesses could use to return to work as well.

But he did say earlier this week that if there's what he called a hole in that bubble, and there's significant spread, it could cause another complete shutdown.

All 22 NBA teams scheduled to practice inside that bubble today. Opening night for the season restart just 19 days away.

Several players have opted out over concerns about spreading COVID-19. One player that didn't go told me, Ana, that, yes, he made a commitment to help his team make a title run but he has young kids at home and with everything going on in the country right now, he doesn't want to leave them or his wife.

Orlando Magic Forward Aaron Gordon sharing similar concerns from the bubble this week. Here's what he said.


AARON GORDON, ORLANDO MAGIC FORWARD: Extremely hard to get motivated. Extremely hard, especially with all the circumstances going on in America, all the different injustice, the pandemic, the health crisis.

There's a lot of things that were preventing me from being motivated to get back on the court.

But I'm here to tell you guys, I'm not here to do it for myself. You know, that's the only motivation that I have. I'm not here to do it for myself. I'm here to do it for my team.


WIRE: Now, Ana, players have also voiced concerns about how tough it will be to be isolated for so long. But they're hoping they can make the most of the so-called happiest place on earth there inside that Disney bubble.

Lots of players posting videos on social media, Ana, huge swimming pools, stacks of video games. They've packed for what is potentially a three-month road trip.

CABRERA: This is another experiment just about to become.

Coy, coronavirus is pushing some colleges to cancel athletic programs in the fall. Are you here to bring bad news to college football fans?

WIRE: Yes, Ana, as a former NFL player and Stanford Cardinal football alum, it hurts to say that the college football season has taken another major blow. The PAC-12 announcing yesterday it's canceling all nonconference

events for all club sports, including football. The PAC-12 is the second conference in as many days to do that, joining the Big 10.

They will only play conference games. And for PAC-12 football, that means just nine games instead of 12.

Conference commissioner, Larry Scott, who himself tested positive for COVID-19, last night, saying, in part, that the conference needs to be flexible and delay its return to play.


CABRERA: OK, Coy Wire, we know you are going to be all over it. And keep us posted on new developments because they will continue to roll in as we go down this next part of the journey.

Thank you.

A quick programming note for everyone. W. Kamau Bell is taking on injustice and inequality across America, from the farms of Oklahoma to the beaches of Miami. An all new season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with W. Kamau Bell starts Sunday, July 19th -- that's already next weekend -- at 10:00 p.m., only on CNN.