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THE SITUATION ROOM
Texas COVID Numbers; Interview With Mayor Steve Adler (D) Austin, Texas; Arizona Tourist Sites; Star Yankees Closer Tests Positive; Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) Is Interviewed About Coronavirus Cases In Arizona; Trump Commutes Sentence Of Former Adviser Roger Stone; Arizona Adds 4,000-Plus New COVID Cases In Single Day; Brazil Surpasses 1.8 Million Cases, Tops 71,000 Deaths. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 11, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): This virus kind of has a mind of its own and it doesn't recognize borders. So people travel from one state to another, we're very much watching it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Pete Muntean, CNN, College Park, Maryland.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
A striking image today of the president of the United States doing what many Americans have been doing now for months, simply wearing a mask during a visit to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., in Bethesda, Maryland. The president has, until today, resisted pressure to wear a mask, at least in public, for an extended period of time.
Also today, from the CDC, a new estimate of how many people may be infected with the Coronavirus while experiencing no symptoms at all. The CDC says as many as 40 percent, 40 percent positive for the virus but not sick, showing no symptoms. The CDC also estimates about half the COVID-19 transmissions happen between people before they get sick.
Across the United States, look how many states are now reporting a rise in Coronavirus cases. In some areas, the rise is significant. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and, today, we're hearing Texas, all reporting record or near record high numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections in a single day. This sharp upward trend of new Coronavirus cases and soaring hospitalizations drawing this dire warning from one of the nation's leading public health experts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: What we're looking at is what I think is going to be one of the most unstable times in the history of our country, unless we figure out a way to do something, unless we implement a federal plan. And we still can do this, but we need a president engaged. We need a White House engaged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just days after the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, told television station KRIV that COVID-19 numbers would look worse going into next week. The latest numbers are backing up that ominous warning.
The state today broke its all-time record for new cases in a single day. And for the second time in this pandemic, the number is crossing the 10,000 mark. Texas just topped a quarter of a million cases in all, and the numbers have taken off since mid-June.
Joining us now, the mayor of Austin Texas, Steve Adler. Mayor Adler, thank you so much for joining us. We see things are bad. And, apparently, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, getting a whole lot worse in Texas right now. Tell us, first of all, what's happening in Austin, Texas?
MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: Well, our numbers are going up and it is precarious and we're on the edge. Our ICUs are getting more stressed. We're looking at horizons that scare us, but we're also now beginning to get calls from other parts of the state that are -- that are hit harder even than we are, asking if we can take folks. It's a -- it's a scary time.
You know, we had a community here in Austin that took this warning probably about three weeks ago, started more religiously wearing face coverings, really serious about distancing. And we can see the impact on numbers. I mean, if anybody still wants to suggest that masks don't make a difference, they just have to come to Austin and look and see what's happened in the last three weeks.
The question for us is going to be, did we do it soon enough to be able to avert what's going to be just -- what would be a horrible situation.
BLITZER: Certainly horrible, indeed. I understand, Mayor, that the Austin Convention Center is now being set up to have a field hospital inside that can serve up to 1,500 patients. It reminds me of what a couple of days ago they were doing in New York City. The Javits Convention Center was turned into a field hospital as well. But it won't open for, I understand, for about nine more days. Is that right?
ADLER: That's right. You know, it's set -- we had to make that -- it's a four-week startup to open up a facility like that. And where we were four weeks ago is we were just on a trajectory that was just screaming upwards. We made the call then to open it. It will be available for us I think on July 20th, 22nd. My fingers are still crossed my fingers are still crossed that we're not going to need it.
But, again, we are on the edge. What makes this hard is that you have to act now to impact numbers in two and three weeks. It's not anything you can impact overnight.
BLITZER: Well, as of right now do you have enough hospital beds, potentially, to make it that long until the convention center field hospital is ready?
ADLER: We can make it until the field hospital is available, yes. And I'm OK tonight. But when I look at the trajectories, there are a lot of scenarios that have us immediately in the situation where we can't.
ADLER: And that's why the discipline that the community began to show about two and a half weeks ago, with respect to masking and distancing, is critical. You know, I'm watching what's happening in cities around the country that have gotten their numbers low and now they're relaxing. And it looks like too many of them are going to try to redo what we did in Texas when we opened. And Austin, again, is a cautionary tale. Cities cannot open in any way that looks like what they used to do before the pandemic.
BLITZER: We've seen people waiting -- you know, waiting outside in long lines for COVID-19 testing in Austin. Now, we're showing our viewers some video of that. What, I understand it topped 100 degrees there today. Are people still waiting in those long lines even on these very hot days? Sometimes they have to wait for hours and hours and hours.
ADLER: People are waiting because they have to take the tests. But I'll tell you right now, there are so many people that want to take tests. We don't have the number of tests we want. The labs are not returning the tests quickly enough to make the information as usable as it should be. We're not finding out that someone's affected early enough so that they can isolate so that we can better contact trace. We, again, are in such a precarious place here right now in Texas.
BLITZER: Governor Abbott, the Texas governor, is now ordering most Texans to wear a mask, finally. It wasn't long ago you and other mayors were simply begging for that authority and he said, no. Does this mask rule of his come too late right now?
ADLER: I don't think we know the answer to that question. I mean, I'm real happy that it came. You know, we were going to our community and saying, don't pay attention to what the governor's doing or not doing. We have to do it here anyhow. But it's a huge difference when the -- when the state leader or when the president conveys to their jurisdictions that it's not only something that's advisable but it's necessary and it's mandatory.
There's a huge difference in the messaging. And, right now, the messaging coming out of D.C., the messaging that we had in Texas that while it was good, it wasn't required, is one of the hardest things that you're dealing with locally because masks make a difference. You just have to look and see what's happened in our city in the last two weeks.
BLITZER: And as the CDC now says, 40 percent of the people who have Coronavirus are totally asymptomatic. They don't know they have it but they can certainly spread the disease and to their parents, their grandparents, their friends, their neighbors and it potentially could be very deadly.
Mayor Adler, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Austin.
ADLER: All right. Wolf, thank you. Be safe.
BLITZER: You too.
Meantime in Arizona, right now, health officials are reporting a critical shortage of in-patient hospital beds, as doctors there are fighting the Coronavirus pandemic. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in Arizona near the Grand Canyon for us. Evan, I understand the public health emergency is ongoing there. Definitely far, far from over. What are people telling you as the state's tourist attractions are now open for visitors?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. The situation in Arizona is pretty dire. The seven-day average per capita new caseload here has been the highest in the country since June 7th. So, it's a very serious time here in Arizona. But places like the Grand Canyon, the South Rim where I am, a very important tourist destination in Arizona, is open.
Park officials tell me they're seeing a lower group -- a lower crowd than they usually see, about half of what they usually see. We've been here all day. We've seen people all day. Vacationing is happening. This is the kind of place that you can do it, if you can get out off the Rim and into the park where you can, obviously, social distance with the Canyon back there.
I actually want to talk to two people who I met who have left New York and been traveling around the country and they're traveling during this pandemic. This is Devin (?) and Zach (?).
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Hi, how are you?
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, tell me, what is the secret to traveling during this pandemic?
ZACH: Disperse camping.
DEVIN: Yes, do your part. Sterilize. Stick to the forest.
ZACH: Yes, stick to the forest. Don't go to any other sites. Just be by yourselves in the woods.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, it's a different kind of trip. You're not really going to the places people gather. You're sticking to yourselves.
DEVIN: Yes, as little as we can. But you still got to see the Canyon when you're here, I guess.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, you've been around the country and you've seen a bunch of places. What do you know -- see about people who are traveling? Maybe some people are wearing masks. Some people are not wearing masks. What do you see about that? What do you -- what do you -- what's your take on how people are adapting to the social distancing around the country?
ZACH: I mean, it's kind of like 50-50 between people wearing masks and, you know, just entire families going around uncovered. Just willy-nilly.
DEVIN: Depends where you go, too, you know?
DEVIN: Some people have, like, higher cases. Some people have green areas and no cases. But Deer Park, bring your gear.
ZACH: You've got to. Where your mask and sanitizer. That's it.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Yes, great.
Now, Wolf, here at the Grand Canyon there are mask rules when you're inside the buildings here. But if you're in the park walking around, they say use your best judgment.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And we've been out today and some people are wearing them and some aren't -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Best judgment is to simply wear a mask. Very easy to do. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, long lines of cars at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles today. Two reasons for that. One, some signs of light for Major League Baseball, but also a critical health care mission is happening right outside Dodgers Stadium.
Let's go there. CNN's Paul Vercammen is joining us. Paul, show us what's happening where you are.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was an intersection of two big stories today, Wolf. And if you look behind me at Dodgers Stadium, we'll look at some earlier video, we had this testing site that the city of L.A. says is the largest in the nation. A capacity of 6,500 people per day. Six lanes of cars. This after L.A. County announced 57 new deaths and more than 2,900 new cases of Coronavirus. So, this testing was going along swimmingly.
And then, inside the stadium, we'll call it a dress rehearsal, they're getting ready to start Major League Baseball in less than two weeks. The Dodgers held an intersquad game and you could see evidently all the rules are being put in place. One of them, and we didn't see anybody spitting, you're not supposed to spit tobacco anymore or sunflower seeds.
The players are to be tested every other day. They're to have their temperatures taken twice a day. If they exceed 100.4 degrees, they're not allowed to enter the facility. They will be fed in individual containers. No more of these going to the buffet-style lines.
We understand one of the players who wasn't here today, David Price, he has opted out for the season. And now, some developing news here. The New York Yankees pitcher, Aroldis Chapman, the closer, he has tested positive for COVID-19. Here's what his manager had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AARON BOONE, MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES: Obviously, this virus does not discriminate. You know, it's -- It can get to anyone at any point. So, it's obviously just another reminder that we have to be vigilant, as far as wearing our masks when possible, the distance, the decisions we're making away from the field, to as best we can stay out of harm's way. Those are all just constant reminders. And, by the way, not that anyone that has been in here hasn't done that, including Chappy. But it's just important that, you know, it can strike at any time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERCAMMEN: And also at Dodgers Stadium, one of the new rules, don't go up to that umpire and start arguing in his face. It's a great way to get ejected or even more. Back to you now, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Paul Vercammen, thanks very much. I hope the Washington Nationals are going to do great again this shortened season. Appreciate it very much.
With cases surging across many states like Texas, Arizona and Florida, the new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says, get this, 40 percent of those infected with Coronavirus show absolutely no symptoms. We'll have details on how that complicates the fight against this deadly virus. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: It's truly a very chilling statistic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that 40 percent, 40 percent of the people here in the United States infected with the Coronavirus show absolutely no symptoms. That's a stunning number and only adds a lot of confusion to battling this pandemic.
Joining us now with more, Dr. Esther Choo, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. Also with us, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Seema Yasmin. Dr. Choo, help us understand. If someone is asymptomatic, does that mean they could be as contagious as people who have symptoms yet they never realize they have the virus at all?
DR. ESTHER CHOO, PROFESSOR OR EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's been one of the really genius things about the virus. I mean, for a microorganism that's motivated to spread, one of the most devious things you can do is give people enough of a viral load to transmit it to other people while they barely feel anything or don't feel anything at all.
And so, when we first met this virus, we were hoping that most people who spread it would look ill, you know, as they do in flu. Would have fever. Would be coughing and sneezing. But, as time goes on, we're finding that this virus is able to spread either when people have no symptoms or when the symptoms are so mild they don't really consider themselves to be too ill to go out.
And that's why it's so important to wear masks, because we cannot judge for ourselves whether we are spreading the virus. We could be spreading it all around, while we still feel well enough to be doing regular daily activities.
BLTIZER: Yes, that's really so important. It's so confusing, Dr. Yasmine. Some people, including a lot of young people out there who don't seem to have contributing health factors, have become seriously ill and even some of them have died from COVID. Others don't even know that they have it. So, why does this virus hit some people so much harder than others? Is it a matter of age? If you're older you will have symptoms but if you're younger you won't?
DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNNMEDICAL ANALYST: So, I think we did a good job early on, Wolf, of driving home this message that proportionately it's older people and people with some chronic conditions who seem most at risk of developing severe disease and are most likely to die. But that may have given many younger people a false sense of security that they are invincible, that they are somehow immune to this infection.
That's certainly not the case. We've seen people in their teens, 20s and 30s die from COVID-19. Just today, Wolf, I learned that a 30-year- old man in Texas died from COVID-19 after attending a COVID party. This is a party where party goers went there to purposefully get infected with COVID-19, believing that it would be a walk in the park for them because they're young.
We've also have seen Broadway star, Nick Cordero, die at the age of 41, with no underlying chronic conditions.
YASMIN: Now, when we see a disease do this, cause such a wide variety of symptoms and different levels of severity, we start to think about why some people are more susceptible. Also looking more at the immune system as a culprit, that maybe it's going into overdrive causing more harm than it is doing good.
But we are only seven months into studying this virus, so a lot remains to be learned, Wolf. For example, why are thousands of Americans who became infected in March still suffering symptoms right now in July? We don't have an answer for that. We still don't understand why is it that some young people die?
In the meantime, we need everyone to assume they are susceptible. And we really need people not to go to COVID parties which I keep hearing about.
BLITZER: Yes, even Dr. Fauci says there's so much we're still learning about this virus. Dr. Choo, "The New York Times" reports have actually obtained a 69-page CDC internal document that says fully reopening schools and universities, in their words, remains the highest risk for the spread of Coronavirus. Give us some perspective, Dr. Choo, on what's going on, because everyone wants their kids to go back to school.
CHOO: Yes, we all want our kids to go back to school. And I will tell you, this fall, I have four school-aged children. I do not think there's anyone who wants their kids to go back to school more than I do, so I'm heavily invested in this question.
But the truth is there really -- I mean, there are two main components. One is what are schools going to do to prepare for the return of their -- of the children? And there are a lot of things involved there. Making sure that they transform the physical space so kids that can go back have testing and isolation and contact tracing protocols. Making sure that they know exactly what they're going to do if case numbers start to rise, have protocols for dismissing their students if that is the case.
And also, have provisions in place for the non-educational needs of children, like nutrition and social support for children who can never make it back because of chronic illness also need to have strong support. And then, also when school is dismissed and if they need to go back to a virtual setting, that we make sure that every student has the resources so that their education is not interrupted this year. It's a huge challenge and we need to support our schools. They will need billions of dollars of support at the federal level, much more than they've gotten to make this a reality.
But the other part of it is actually what's happening in the community. If we want schools to open in our neighborhoods, then we need to be acting now to lower our community transmission rates. And I think, everywhere, if we are not doing the basic things we need to bring those numbers down and those rates down, we cannot look our teachers and our staff in the eye and ask them to go back in. We will need to protect these frontline workers before they can go in and feel comfortable teaching our children again.
BLITZER: Yes, these are life and death decisions. So much at stake right now. Dr. Esther Choo, Dr. Seema Yasmin, thanks to both of you for joining us. Thanks for all of the important work both of you are doing as well. Really appreciate it.
CHOO: Thank you.
YASMIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the Coronavirus pandemic just ahead. But we're also covering another big story tonight. The former special counsel, Robert Mueller, he's making a rare public statement, strongly defending his prosecution of Roger Stone. That's because Stone's loyalty to the president may have just saved him from a lengthy prison sentence. We'll discuss that and much more when we come back.
BLITZER: We'll have much more on all the late breaking developments on the Coronavirus pandemic shortly. But there's another major story we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Two Republicans senators, Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey, have now broken ranks with President Trump after he commuted the sentence of his long-time friend and ally, Roger Stone.
This afternoon the president doubled down in his defense of Stone who was convicted of seven felonies, contrasting with what his own attorney general, Bill Barr, said about the Stone case just a few days ago. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Roger Stone was treated horribly. Roger Stone was treated very unfairly. Roger Stone was brought into this witch hunt, this whole political witch hunt and the Mueller scam. It's a scam because it's been proven false. And he was treated very unfairly. What I did -- what I did -- I will tell you this. People are extremely happy because in this country, they want justice. And Roger Stone was not treated properly.
BILL BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as you know, the Stone case was prosecuted while I was attorney general, and I supported it. I think it was established, he was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering, and I thought that was a righteous prosecution. And I was happy that he was convicted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Stone was only days away from starting a 40-month prison sentence for crimes including witness tampering and lying to Congress. So, joining us now, CNN's Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, and CNN Legal Analyst Elie Honig.
Elie, tonight, Robert Mueller, the former special counsel of the Russia investigation, made a very rare public statement reacting to all of this. Writing in "The Washington Post," and I'm quoting him now, "I feel compelled to respond to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office. The Russia investigation was of paramount importance.
Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."
So, what's your reaction to all of these developments, Elie?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, last night, Donald Trump gave us an ugly abuse of power. And tonight, Robert Mueller stood up for the truth and for the rule of law. And I think the most powerful thing that Robert Mueller does, in his op-ed, is he reminds us of basic principles, basic truths. The Russia investigation was both legitimate and necessary.
Russia, in fact, interfered in the 2016 election. The Trump campaign knew about that interference. They welcomed it, and they expected to benefit and Roger Stone lied to Congress to try to cover that up and protect the president.
So, Wolf, there will be spend, there will be efforts to distract but those are the truths. Those are the facts, they will not change. Kudos to Robert Mueller for reminding us.
BLITZER: Friday's, Elie, official White House statement downplayed Stones crimes as what they call process base. What do you say to that distinction?
HONIG: Yes, that's a meaningless distinction. That's nonsense. Remember what Roger Stone did. He went into Congress under oath and he lied. He lied about the Trump campaign's efforts to connect through him with WikiLeaks. This is key stuff he lied in order to protect the president. I worked in the justice system, Wolf. False statements, perjury, obstruction of justice, if those go unchecked, they will tear down our system.
To call them to just try to dismiss them as process crimes, I think is completely unwarranted.
BLITZER: You know, Nia, what do you make of the divergence we have now seen between the President and his own attorney general, on this case, the Attorney General Bill Barr, when it comes to Roger Stone seems to be on the same case as -- the same side as Robert Mueller?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. Very, very surprising, because remember, I mean, Bill Barr is somebody who people will essentially say is somebody who's in place in protecting the president. The President didn't like Jeff Sessions. He brought him on Barr. And so far, they've been in lockstep in many instances. In this instance, that's not the case. You heard Bill Barr there say that this was a righteous prosecution and that he was happy with the sentencing as well.
Listen, we haven't heard much from other Republicans in terms of what do they feel about this. We heard from Mitt Romney. He says this is evidence of corruption. Pat Toomey also are not pleased with what the President has done here. But, by and large, a lot of silence.
We do know that inside the White House, there is some disagreement about what the President did here. And I think we do know that the President doesn't necessarily think there is a great deal of a political upside to doing what he did by commuting this sentence, because he did it on a Friday, right. It's a news dump on a Friday.
That's typically what administration's do to get bad news out that might be politically damaging. So it's not clear that this President thinks that, you know, there's necessarily anything to be gained with his base or with voters by making this decision.
But we do know that this is a decision that is a long time and coming, he has telegraphed it and talked about it for months and months, as this case unfolded and the sentencing came down to be does it or right before Roger Stone is supposed to report for this 40 months sentence next week.
BLITZER: What do you think, Elie, about the president clearly on a very different page than his own attorney general when it comes to Roger Stone?
HONIG: Yes. Well, first of all, it's good to see William Barr stand up for the rule of law. I don't think he's -- he did that in the way he handled the earlier portions of the Roger Stone case. I don't think he's doing that with respect to the Michael Flynn case, but good that he took a stand. I think he deserves credit for that.
Look, this just shows you how far out on a whim the president is here. How willing he is to give Roger Stone a pass and you have to ask the question, what's at stake here? Because remember, Donald Trump tweeted praising Roger Stone for staying quiet during the investigation.
He said Roger Stone has guts. And Roger Stone said yesterday that he could have turned on the president and that's one of the reasons he was expecting some sort of commutation or pardon.
So let's keep that in mind as we try to figure out what the President's motivation might have been here.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think the -- we're, what, four months away from the election in November, is this going to have legs? Is this going to be an issue at all? Are people going to forget about it within a few days?
HENDERSON: You know, probably the overarching things that people will be thinking about when they go into the voting booth will be COVID, which this President obviously isn't focusing on at this point, even though he wore the mask today when he went to go see those veterans at Walter Reed.
So I don't think this will necessarily have legs. I think it'll underscore for a lot of voters who don't like this president or reason why they don't like this president. He's essentially picking and choosing his friends and interfering in the justice system to do his pals a favor somebody who was obviously acting to project to this President when he lied to Congress and obstructed Congress as well.
So listen, I think voters, by and large, made their minds up about this president over the last three and a half years. And what they've seen over these last many months with the way he has handled COVID and handled it poorly, according to most voters at this point.
But listen, this is something that we know that the President wanted to do and we'll see going further, does he do this with other people, right? You think about Paul Manafort. He's someone that the President has talked about it and tweeted about, saying that he felt like Paul Manafort was also treated unfairly. So is this something else that the President feels like he wants to do in the way that he acted to protect his friend, Roger Stone? Does he do the same in the coming weeks or months with Paul Manafort?
BLITZER: Nia-Malika Henderson, Elie Honig, guys, than you very much. We'll continue to follow this story.
Meanwhile, tonight, Arizona is one of the epicenters for the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. And as the number of new cases continues to shoot-up, hospitals there are getting overwhelmed. So what can we be done to turn the tide? U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego, he's standing by live. We'll discuss right after this.
BLITZER: Arizona remains one of the nation's epicenters for the coronavirus right now with more than 4,000 new cases in a single day. But another very disturbing trend is how hospitals, over there in Arizona are overwhelmed. There are less than 1,000 inpatient hospital bells -- beds available right now, for a state of more than seven million people.
Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego represents much of Phoenix. He's joining us now Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. You may have seen --
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: -- images of an ICU nurse in Phoenix standing up to protesters who simply refuse to wear a mask. This was back in April. She gave CNN an update this week on how bad things are. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUREN LEANDER, ARIZONA ICU NURSE: After Memorial Day weekend, we really felt things start to ramp up. And now we're kind of at the point where we are stretched so thin. We're at the point of compromising patient safety. You know, we're working with ventilators left with single digits of ventilators left. We have triple patient assignments now. We have three COVID ICUs that are completely full. And on top of that, we have COVID patients holding critical care patients, holding in the ER and other units waiting for a bed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Congressman, why is this happening? GALLEGO: This is happening because of bad leadership, bad leadership at the White House and bad leadership at the governor's office. The reason why this brave nurse was protesting back a few months ago is because there was no leadership by this governor. I was now encouraging people to socially distance, had not shut down the easing economy to stop the spread of coronavirus was basically taking the cues from the -- from the president.
And then when we finally did, the heroic people of Arizona actually did shut down. We shut down our businesses, we turned around the spread of this infection, but we opened up too early. The reason we opened up too early here is because we had a governor that wanted to appease Donald Trump, and now we're paying for it. We're severely paying for it.
Around Memorial Day, as she mentioned, we had thousands of young men and women that were crowding into clubs and bars as if there was no pandemic happening. And this governor did nothing until it was too late. And even then, he still has not done anything. Much like this president, this governor has taken very little action, only try to make excuses. And at the end of the day, it's going to cost a lot of lives because of his inaction and lack of leadership.
BLITZER: We heard that nurses firsthand perspective. But, Congressman, what are you seeing in Phoenix? What are you seeing around Phoenix for that matter, as well? And how is this affecting you and your family?
GALLEGO: Well, you know, less than half a mile from my house is Southland Community College. Right now, there's averages of eight hour waits to get to COVID testing. And that's really, you know, obviously heartbreaking. These are largely working-class Latino families that have no insurance. So they're trying to get free tests.
They're the essential workers of the state, though, they were forced to go back to work to basically feed the state, and now they're suffering the consequences. My own personal life, you know, I've taken my son out of daycare. He's not going back to daycare. You know, I don't want him to get sick. I don't want him also to bring the sickness back to my family or to his mother's family who has something that's immunocompromised, so we're not taking those chances.
And I'm lucky, you know, I'm an American that has a really good paying flexible job. There's a lot of people don't have that choice. And more importantly, they don't see any real choices or any real leadership coming from their government, and that's a very sad statement.
BLITZER: So what's the most important thing that you and your fellow members of Congress should be doing right now? Is there time for more stimulus money, other kind of help?
GALLEGO: Well, we should do it. Yes, on the federal side is more stimulus money to encourage social distancing. We need to go back and renew the unemployment benefits. Arizona has the worst unemployment benefits in the country. We don't want people to go out there and work to survive and accidentally spread the infection. We need to go back and expand on -- the PP program to keep our businesses open. We also need to bring in more resources into Arizona right now. We're asking for medical volunteers to come from all over the country. I'd like to see the military come in and offer some of their professional medical services. I'd asked the governor to actually make that ask to Secretary Esper, I think that would go a long way.
And, you know, we as a delegation are asking this governor to take some leadership, impose more issues -- actually proposed more mandates when it comes to social distancing and post some statewide mandate when it comes to masks. And start a true contact tracing program so we can actually contain the spread of this virus.
BLITZER: Congressman Gallego, good luck to you. Good luck to your family. Good luck to everyone in Arizona. Right now, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you so much for joining us.
GALLEGO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Brazil, meanwhile, has reported nearly 40,000, 40,000 new cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,000 deaths from the virus just today alone. We're going there live when we come back.
BLITZER: We'll have much more in the coronavirus pandemic in just a moment. But first, there's breaking news out of Texas right now. Two police officers in McAllen were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Authority say the suspect shot both officers as they approach the door of the residence. The police chief saying they never stood a chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF VICTOR RODRIGUEZ, MCALLEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: The officers never had a chance to suspect deadly assault on them much less death than momentum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The victims have been identified as Officer Edelmiro Garza Jr. and Officer Ismael Chavez. According to the police, the suspect shot himself when two additional officers arrived and try to approach him.
In Brazil, meanwhile, nearly 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported and more than 1,000 deaths just today alone. The Brazilian Health Ministry says that total cases now exceed 1.8 million and the country's death toll is now more than 71,000 people.
Brazil is second only to the United States in the number of coronavirus cases and you can see how steep its curve is right now.
CNN's Bill Weir is joining us from Central Brazil right now. Bill, there's a lot of blame for the president, Jair Bolsonaro, who's tested positive of himself. He hasn't routinely worn a mask, even after a judge there ordered him to do so in public spaces. So, what are the Brazilian people saying about where they are right now?
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. We are, yes, in the geographical center of Brazil, a small town here, Barra do Garcas, that is really a home to agricultural communities, and there's indigenous communities here as well.
And I met a doctor today who had COVID-19 and was intensive care for 10 days, his supervisor is now in intensive care. And I asked him about the President's prescription of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, these anti-malarial drugs, he says, he took those when he was sick. It did not help at all. But he's giving it to his patients, because he says, what's my alternative? Giving them water? There is no treatment really proven until somebody in this world finds a vaccine.
And so that leads to social distancing, and mask wearing and hand washing like we're all doing. And as you said there, the president defied a judge's order in the capital state of Brasilia, and would leave and go to a different state and huge crowds, even after 108 people in the presidential offices tested positive. He continued to meet without masks and without any sense of social distancing right there, and that sets the tone, as we've seen in the United States.
And so the tests that we know about, the 1.8 million people that we know about, is probably woefully underreported, because testing here, you know, just for point of comparison for every million Americans, we're getting about 120,000 tests. Here in Brazil, it's 20,000 tests. So one sixth, the amount of testing and they're afraid that that curve is just going to keep going up.
BLITZER: Despite those numbers going up by President Bolsonaro. Bill, he's urging the mayors, the governors throughout Brazil to quickly reopen the economy. So what's been the local response?
WEIR: Again, same question to the same doctor, he says, you know, a lot of my patients, the alternative to COVID-19. While they're afraid of it, the alternative is starvation. So it doesn't take a lot of urging from the president in a country that was suffering economically, even before the pandemic hit to get back to work. They feel like they have no other choice.
In this part of the -- of the country, the infection was originally brought in by a truck driver delivering soybeans in this big agricultural belt here, and all of those trucks are still rolling. And so it's really, you know, with no restricted movement within the country, it becomes a political struggle in different places, as bars and gyms and beauty salons just opened in the capital where they're seeing a spike, even though they were among the first to lock down.
So it's the same old human nature we're seeing around the world. Even after 30, 60 days in self-quarantine people get antsy to get back out there, but the vax or the virus does not care, it just spreads.
BLITZER: It certainly does. What travel restrictions, Bill, are in place for the people of Brazil?
WEIR: Very similar to the U.S., Wolf, there's no restrictions internally. They did close the borders with the neighboring countries, almost all of them with the exception of Uruguay back in March. It's tough to travel in or out of this country given the way things are.
I mean, right now an American passport will only get you in a couple dozen countries around the world and it's sort of the same for Brazil. So again, that that speaks to the difficulty of clamping down without a sense of unity and discipline in a country of 210 million people. It pops up in various states. You can quiet it down in one place, it pops up somewhere else.
BLITZER: Bill Weir reporting for us from Brazil. Bill, be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch. Appreciate your excellent, excellent reporting. Thank you very much.
A quick programming note to our viewers. 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 10:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.
The president today doing something many Americans have diligently done for months, wearing a mask. So will that be enough to get more Americans to start wearing masks and saving lives? We'll discuss in the next hour of our special SITUATION ROOM.