Return to Transcripts main page


Record Number of New Cases Reported to W.H.O. in a Single Day; Growing Rift Between White House and Dr. Anthony Fauci; White House Aggressively Pushing to Reopen Schools; Surgeon General Says Virus Can Be Turned Around in Weeks; Large Number of U.S. Marines Test Positive in Japan; W.H.O. Team in China Investigation COVID-19 Origins; Deadly Floods Strike Areas Along China's Yangtze River; Violent Protests Erupt in Serbia as COVID-19 Spreads. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Setting records for all the wrong reasons. Coronavirus cases surge in the United States and reach new highs around the world.

Plus, the White House faces off yet again with America's top infectious disease expert. This hour a doctor tells me why President Trump shouldn't be playing politics with a pandemic.

And U.S. Marines in Japan test positive for the virus as their movements are restricted in an effort to control the disease. We will have a live report.

Glad you could join us and we begin with a record number of new coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization. The W.H.O. says over 230,000 new infections were reported around the globe Sunday, the most in a single day. Many of those are the United States where numbers are surging relentlessly. Florida shattered the single day case record reached by any state Sunday with more than 15,000 new infections. There are more than 7,500 hospitalized patients leading to concern about capacity in parts of the state, but numbers are increasing from coast to coast.

See those dark red states on the map? They've all seen increases of 50 percent or more. Also Sunday, Michigan health authorities have issued an advisory telling party goers at this Independence Day celebration to get tested. At least one of them now has the virus.

Well meanwhile, the rift between the U.S. President and the country's top infectious disease expert is deepening. Dr. Anthony Fauci has reportedly not met face to face with President Donald Trump in weeks and Mr. Trump has publicly criticized the doctor who has worked for six U.S. Presidents. Over the weekend the White House released a statement that describes so-called mistakes made by the doctor.

It reads in part. Several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things. So let's dig deeper into the administration's astonishing mid pandemic

push against Dr. Fauci. For that we turn to correspond department Kristin Holmes in Washington, D.C.


KRISTIN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would be extraordinary to see this sort of broad siding of one of the top health officials by the White House in any situation, but it's particularly striking given that it's happening during a pandemic. We had seen this tension between Dr. Fauci and President Trump really start to boil up in public kind of lashing out at one another. At one-point Dr. Fauci openly disagreeing with President Trump. He said that the government's response wasn't really that great to coronavirus. He also talked about how he wasn't sure where President Trump had gotten certain information. And then you have President Trump saying that Dr. Fauci was a nice man but had made a lot of mistakes.

Now in an official statement from a White House official, when asked about this relationship between the two, between the White House and this leading health expert.

They said, a White House official saying, several White House officials are concerned about the number of times that Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things and then they presented a list here that looks almost like opposition research that we would get if they were talking about someone like Joe Biden or a political opponent listing out early comments that Dr. Fauci made talking about the pandemic. That you didn't need to wear a mask or that the epidemic is not driven by asymptomatic carriers. Things that we heard not from just Dr. Fauci but from many medical experts early on when we're still figuring out what was going on with the pandemic.

But, again, the broader picture here is that during this pandemic you're seeing a White House that is actively lashing out at one of the nation's top officials, someone who is supposedly an advisor to President Trump. He was a member of the coronavirus task force here. So it's very striking to see something like this going on at a time when these cases just continue to surge.

Kristin Holmes, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: U.S. House Democrat Adam Schiff of California had harsh words for the President and the attacks on Dr. Fauci. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee called Mr. Trump's behavior atrocious.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Dr. Fauci is the most respected voice in the country on how we ought to be dealing with this pandemic, and to be trying to sideline him, or diminish him, or discredit him is just atrocious but it is so characteristic of Donald Trump. He can't stand that the American people trust Dr. Fauci and they don't trust Donald Trump. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: I'm joined now by Dr. Anne Rimoin. She is a professor In the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA Doctor, always good to talk to you.



CHURCH: So we are seeing President Trump wear a mask at last, which is a move in the right direction, but tension between the White House and top infectious disease Dr. Anthony Fauci is escalating in the middle of this pandemic because he openly disagreed with the President in favor of science. What is your reaction to this level of tension between politics and medicine when the country goes through this massive health crisis?

RIMOIN: Rosemary, this is a huge problem. We're letting politics dictate our public health agenda here, and it is just not acceptable. We need to be led by science. This is a virus. We know how this virus spreads. We know now so much more about how to be able to attack this.

And what we need is our top scientists to be advising the President and to have policy enacted as such. You know, the whole idea that we see Donald Trump wearing a mask for the first time going into a military hospital should not be something to celebrate. I mean, he should have been wearing a mask from the very beginning. There is no downside to wearing a mask, none.

CHURCH: And, doctor, currently 33 states are reporting increases in new coronavirus cases. Florida just shattered the single day infectious record with 15,300 new cases and yet the U.S. President is still threatening to cut funds to any schools that refuse to open their doors to students next month. Now we all want our schools to open but we want that to be done safely. How can we do that?

RIMOIN: You know, we needed to have started talking about this months ago. But because we're not going to -- we can't go back from where we are right now. We have to get really serious about what we are going to be doing going forward. And the first thing we really need to do is we need to tamp down the spread of disease. And that is where we need to be doing our very best, everyone across the country, to stamp out infection here. And that will likely include going back to phase one.

We need to make sure that the virus is at the lowest possible rate of transmission and then we can get back to, you know, reopening but with very stringent controls, including wearing masks and social distancing. The other thing that's going to be very important for opening schools is the funding to be able to make the social distancing possible. To make sure that the ventilation systems are appropriate. To make sure that the teachers and that everybody is trained in how to be able to manage this new normal in COVID.

CHURCH: And doctor, the U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, she wouldn't say on CNN Sunday if schools should listen to CDC guidelines, but she wouldn't offer her own plan. And we know that President Trump thinks the current CDC guidelines are too tough and impractical.

So let's just bring those up. Because we have some of those points listed there. You refer to them. Wearing masks, stay home when appropriate, keeping that distance, that social distance of six feet apart. But a lot of schools are incapable of doing that. But do you feel these guidelines which the CDC now says it will not water down for the President. Do you think those that stand right now will be sufficient to open schools safely?

RIMOIN: The first thing we need to be able to open schools safely is to have a very serious reduction in the rate of viral transmission, of community transmission of this virus. So if we can get to a very -- to an acceptable level of community transmission, then, yes, I think that those guidelines are appropriate. You cannot be relying on hopes that the transmission rate will go down or that hopes that schools will be able to find funding to be able to do what they need to do and hopes that we'll have enough testing and contact tracing. I mean, we need to make this happen.

CHURCH: And, doctor, just finally, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, said this about masks. Let's just take a quick listen.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The disease course is about two to three weeks. So just as we've seen cases skyrocket, we can turn this thing around in two to three weeks if we can get a critical mass of people wearing face coverings, practicing at least six feet of social distancing. Doing the things that we know are effective. And it's important for the American people to understand, when we're talking about the fall, we have the ability to turn this around very quickly if people will do the right thing.



CHURCH: Doctor, do you think that's possible, that time frame, two to three weeks if people wear masks and keep social distance?

RIMOIN: Well, I think that in two to three weeks we can do a lot and that is certainly true. Anything that we can do is important. But that being said, two to three weeks from now we'll just be seeing the infections that were happening right now and those infections are not just going to disappear. Those people will be able to infect other people. So we need to be looking at a good, you know, six to eight weeks of really doubling down and making sure that we are stopping transmission of this disease, not only for one cycle but at least two.

You know, it's really important to remember that whatever we're seeing today is because of exposures that we had two to three weeks ago. And these kind of lagging indicators are what get us into trouble every time. Just when we think everything might be OK, remember everything that happened just a few weeks back is what is going to come to bear, you know, two to three weeks later.

CHURCH: Let's hope this country can do it. Dr. Anne Rimoin, thank you so much. Some sobering points raised there.

And in Japan, a large number of U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa have tested positive for the coronavirus -- that's according to officials. The base has not released details on the number of Marines infected. Citing operational security. But all personnel have had movements restricted in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading further.

And here to discuss more is journalist Kaori Enjoji. She joins us live from Tokyo. Good to see you Kaori. So residents are concerned and the governor is shocked by the number of cases. What is going on here?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, there is growing anger, Rosemary, among government officials of Okinawa, the residents of the island about the total, 62 cases, that were confirmed among U.S. military personnel and their families in three different bases on the island of Okinawa. And they're concerned because it took days and a lot of prodding to get even that number out from the U.S. officials and they were counted over a period of five days last week.

They have no other details to share with us, and the government wants more detail. The governor wants to know whether any of these 62 people were among those partying, in his words, on the Fourth of July on the beaches and the towns of Okinawa. Because they need that kind of information for contact tracing. I mean, 62 may not seem like much, but you have to remember that Okinawa, there were no new cases of COVID-19 for more than two months until last week. Even during an entire period of the pandemic they only counted 145 local Japanese cases. So they are very concerned about this.

And I think it just highlights the very uneasy truce that has been around for years between the residents of Okinawa and the government there and the U.S. military that is stationed there. On the one hand they know that the economy depends on the bases, the security alliance depends -- is very dependent on the U.S. and is the bedrock of their security policy.

But at the same time, whenever there is an incident or accident that truce is tested time and time again. And this time it is being tested by the pandemic. The residents I spoke to say they are particularly worried this time of year because they know that a lot of families on the bases like to move in and out before September, which is when the U.S. academic year starts and school starts.

And they also know the explosive number of cases we're seeing in the U.S. and they wish that that migration of families would be delayed a little bit this time around. So there is concern and anger almost at the lack of disclosure and the timeliness of the disclosure and the uncertainty about what's going to happen going forward, especially at a time when across Japan, not just Okinawa, is seeing a new resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

CHURCH: All right, Kaori Enjoji joining us live from Tokyo. Many thanks.

Well a dramatic scene off the coast of San Diego in California after an explosion and fire broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard. At least 17 sailors and four civilians were injured. The U.S. warship was docked when the fire broke out with roughly 160 sailors on board. The Navy says none of the injuries were life threatening and the blaze is under investigation. During a press conference Rear Admiral Philip Sobeck praised the soldiers who worked to save the ship.


REAR ADM. PHILIP SOBECK, COMMANDER, U.S. EXPEDITIONARY STRIKE GROUP 3: You know, sailors across this waterfront are absolutely doing a magnificent job to save the USS Bonhomme Richard. They are fighting their ship and they are saving their ship. And the resiliency of the sailors and certainly the team around them, we're seeing just incredible results.



CHURCH: Well, there has been months of speculation over how the coronavirus pandemic began. Now a team from the World Health Organization is on the ground in China trying to uncover the facts. We'll have that on the other side of the break. Stay with us.


CHURCH: Well, so many questions still remain about how the coronavirus pandemic started. Now the World Health Organization is investigating the origin of the virus by sending a team to China. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong. She joins us now live. Good to see you, Kristie. So how difficult will it be for this W.H.O. team to get access to the data they need to find out the origin of the virus?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, that is one of the critical questions as we are monitoring this story. As you reported, the World Health Organization has sent this two-member advance team to China to set up a probe to look into the origins of the novel coronavirus. And the W.H.O. has confirmed to CNN that the team is in China but did not specify where. But this is what we know.

This team that consists of two individuals, an expert in animal health and as well as an epidemiologist.


This is again, and advanced team. So they're out to determine the scope, the scale and the agenda of a broader future investigation. So this process is still very much in its early days.

While in China this two-member team will also attempt to answer two key questions. Number one, we know the virus exists in bats but was there an intermediate species involved? Did it go through another animal host. And number two, how did it make the jump from animals to humans? The World Health Organization has under a lot of pressure because of its relationship to China. And this team inside of China is under a lot of pressure to see if they can get access to files, samples, data from Chinese scientists and authorities. And also ultimately answers about the origins of this devastating pandemic which as of today has taken the lives of over 560,000 people -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, the world wants answers so they can stop it from happening again, of course. And, Kristie, Hong Kong is now dealing with a new surge in cases. Its third wave. What is the latest on that?

STOUT: That's right. We are still waiting for additional data today say to come out from the Hong Kong government. But Sunday, the Hong Kong government announced 38 additional COVID-19 cases of which 30 were locally transmitted. This is part of what's being called, as you said, this third wave of infections. And this is why I'm working from home and reporting live from my home study.

Over the weekend we heard from the Dr. Fauci of Hong Kong. She is the head of communicable disease in Hong Kong and what she said was quite worrying. She said that the situation is quite serious and that the situation was worse than the second wave, than the situation back in March. And the reason why is because, number one, the number of locally transmitted cases. Number two, they have not been able to contact trace the origin of this latest spike in cases.

Now some social distancing measures are in place and their schools are closed again here in Hong Kong. Summer camps have been shut down. The Hong Kong book fair announced that it was canceled the last minute. That announcement came out today. But these measures really pale in comparison to the far stricter measures that are placed in March. I mean, gyms are still open, tutoring centers are still open. You go to shopping malls or the beaches might (INAUDIBLE) and they're crammed with people. Concerns are rising and we're waiting to hear the government's latest response --Rosemary.

CHURCH: And yet Hong Kong had done such a great job at the start. We'll keep an eye on this. It is a wake-up call to the United States most definitely in other countries around the world. Kristie Lu Stout, joining us live from Hong Kong, many thanks.

Well, China has raised its flood emergency response to the second highest level in areas along the Yangtze River. Days of rain have impacted nearly 38 million people. And state media is reporting at least 141 people have died or are missing due to the flooding. CNN's David Culver is in Beijing. He joins us live to talk more about this. So, David, what is the latest on this widespread flooding?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Devastating and deadly, Rosemary. This is happening in central China for the most part. You mentioned the Yangtze River. This is what flows really from the western portions of China east out into the sea. And along that stretch, which includes Hubei Province and its capital, Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, all impacted here. We're told roughly 27 provinces, cities and regions are feeling the effects of this deadly flooding.

As you mentioned, 141 people is the total listed right now as missing or presumed dead, but the number impacted far more than that. Some 37 million people are affected here, and we've been told roughly 2 million people have been evacuated from their homes. So you've got to put this in the context of battling two things in particular. One being, now these rising flood waters, the other the novel coronavirus. And the outbreak is under control according to government officials there.

But if you look at some of the images, one thing that has stood out to me is that many of the rescuers, a lot of the folks who are impacted aren't thinking about putting masks on. In fact, their faces are bare and really their bodies are wet as they're wading through in some cases water that's up to their chest. And so, it is devastating. Already some 28,000 homes have been wiped out. Roadways have been cut off. And we're told that at least as of today some $12 billion in damage has been assessed. Disaster relief, of course, is on its way. But for the folks down there, it can't come soon enough -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, if the flooding is not bad enough, they're vulnerable in the midst of this pandemic. David Culver bringing us up to date --

CULVER: Absolutely.

CHURCH: -- live from Beijing. Appreciate it.

Well, I want to turn to Serbia now where heated protests are taking place in cities around the country. Protestors there accuse the President and his government of letting the coronavirus spin out of control for political reasons. CNN's Melina Veselinovic joins us or has our report at least from London.



MELINA VESELINOVIC, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For days protesters have taken to the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities in protest against the leadership of the country's president, Aleksandar Vucic. Initially protesters started on Tuesday when President Vucic announced plans for a curfew that weekend because of a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections in the country.

Now after two days of violent protests the government was forced to scrap that plan. However, protests continued morphing into general dissent over the country's leadership and the state of democracy in the country. Many protestors allege that the reason why the virus is surging now is because Serbia's government lifted restrictions too soon in early May in order to facilitate a Parliamentary election in June. It was the first national vote taking place in Europe during this pandemic and it was won by the party of President Vucic, while most of the opposition boycotted the vote.

Now Serbia did go from a fairly strict lockdown almost overnight to bars and restaurants and clubs working at full capacity. Thousands of people attending football matches and campaign rallies. President Vucic denies that this was his motivation. He says he lifted restrictions because the virus situation at that time was favorable and he's blaming his political opponents and what he called foreign agencies for staging the protests. Now Serbia is struggling under the weight of rising coronavirus

infections. On Friday it suffered its highest daily death toll from the virus since the pandemic began. Authorities say that the health system is about to burst and the minister of health has called for these protests to stop because they could make an already critical coronavirus situation even worse. But what some protesters are asking is why these warnings weren't given when thousands of people attended political rallies and other large gatherings in the run up to the elections.

Melina Veselinovic, CNN, London.


CHURCH: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accuses the Trump administration of messing with the health of children as the White House pushes for schools to reopen in the coming weeks. We'll have more on the debate just ahead.