Return to Transcripts main page


Coronavirus Cases Continue To Increase In 35 States Across U.S.; White House Tries To Discredit Dr. Fauci As COVID-19 Pandemic Worsens; Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) On Her Family's Battle With Coronavirus. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Has reported since the start of the pandemic in total, the whole country, over six months combined. This morning, 35 states, all the states you are seeing there in red are seeing new cases, an increase in new cases of coronavirus. Many hospitals in Texas we are told are now nearing capacity this morning. Some counties there are asking for refrigeration trucks as the morgues begin to fill up. Officials in Houston, top officials, are now calling for a new lockdown there.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And as hospitals reach capacity, the Trump administration is trying to damage the reputation of the country's top doctors and scientists. Moments ago, as John said, the president retweeted, then deleted, a comment from game show host Chuck Woolery filled with all kinds of madness.

The Trump administration also has released a list of negative research on Dr. Anthony Fauci, in other words, they are using oppo research against their top expert as if he were a political opponent.

Meanwhile, the president's education secretary could not answer a basic question about whether schools should follow the CDC's guidelines to reopen. This morning, a source close to the Coronavirus Task Force tells Dr. Sanjay Gupta a lot of schools probably should not open.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, I know you spoke to Dr. Fauci over the weekend. He has read these attacks, this opposition research put out by the White House on him. What is his reaction?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very dispiriting for him. I think, most of all, he's a public servant. He's been doing that for 40 years. He has seen things change over the last few weeks. Obviously, the briefing is going away. And then really a kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind sort of thing. Not that anybody is necessarily mad at him but that they just don't want to see him because he reminds them of this problem.

But that has transitioned, as you point out, to these now much more overt attacks, and trying to go back and find interviews that's done in the past and say hey, this is where he got it wrong. This is where he got it wrong. That's whereat they're spending their time doing right now as opposed to actually dealing with the numbers on the right side of the screen.

If I can, let me just give you one quick example. I don't know if we have this still of some of these, like an interview that they wanted to show, the White House wanted to show about Dr. Fauci to show that he got it wrong, but they selectively cut it. Let me show you at least what the White House has put out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we be changing or habits?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: No, right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you're doing on a day-by-day basis.


GUPTA: So that's what they put out and they say, look, here is an example. Dr. Fauci back end of February said no need to do anything, no need to change anything on a day-by-day basis. But what they don't show you, and this is true over and over again with some of this opposition research, is the complete context of what he said. So let me show you the rest of that.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Now the risk is still low, but this could change. I've said that many times, even on this program. You've got to watch out, because although the risk is low now, you don't need to change anything you're doing. When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread.


GUPTA: We learned all along new things with regard to this virus. It's a novel coronavirus. But I think that even back then, again, this is the end of February, if we see community spread, here are the things that then need to happen. If we have this idea of wanting to reopen states, here are the criteria that need to be followed. So all these things that needed to be done, that if had they been done we'd be having a different conversation right now, were not done.

And I think "dispiriting" is probably the right word, because here we are focusing on these things, I'm having this conversation with you today about this opposition research to Dr. Fauci, as opposed to real plans going forward, which exist and have been demonstrated in countries around the world. Florida had more cases yesterday than South Korea had throughout this entire pandemic. It's possible to be in a very different place. We need to get there.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, Sanjay, we don't even need to look to other countries. Look at the states in this country that have done it well. New York, this weekend, New York City reported not a single death. So what used to be the place where hospitals were overrun, where every day we were dealing with so much death, zero.

Connecticut on Friday as well as last Tuesday reported zero deaths. So again, even in our own country, places that have gone from being hot spots to now we could follow the model. And because I live there, I can tell what you the model is. You are looked at, you are eyed with alarm if you walk out without a mask on in Connecticut or New York right now.


I'm not saying that people -- people don't like shout you down, but you definitely see alarm in their eyes. So everybody is wearing a mask right now. There are responsible models that we could follow right now.

GUPTA: Yes. It becomes the norm, and it works. That's the other thing. As gloomy as the news is, as frightening as this virus is, we know that ultimately, it's just a small strand of RNA that could be easily contained by a mask, can't jump that far, and by doing these basic public health measures, you could be having a very different conversation.

We could be talking about sports this fall, we could be talking about schools reopening in a very safe way that makes sense across the country this fall. We're not able to have that conversation, because the very idea, the very notion of possibly having to shut down again is something nobody wants. But at the same time, in many of those places, people aren't doing the things to prevent that from happening.

So it's really getting to be a source of frustration, I think, amongst just about everyone I talk to. I spent all weekend talking to public health officials in many states around the country, saying give me some good news. Give me something that I can sink my teeth into here. And the good news is that there is a way out. We're not dealing with some complex equation here that no one has quite solved yet. We've solved it. Just got to implement it now.

BERMAN: There is a way out. The way out isn't to attack Dr. Fauci with opposition research or quote Chuck Woolery. It's clear that's not the way out. Sanjay, I spoke to Mayor Francis Suarez in Miami earlier today who said a couple things that were really interesting. Number one, he said it's not in control, the pandemic is must not in control in Miami-Dade County, which is alarming, this morning.

And I also asked him about his considerations on new stay-at-home orders. What would the tipping point be? And he said when the hospitals are overrun, when they don't have any more capacity, and we're starting to see some ICU hospitals in Miami-Dade, seven of them have reached capacity.

GUPTA: I watched the interview. I think he's being very thoughtful. But I still have to say that, look, you get behind the curve on this and you wait for the hospitals to reach capacity, and you've waited too long at that point, because then you're going to run into the crisis situation where people who otherwise would benefit from care, benefit from being in a hospital, won't be able to get one, get a hospital bed.

So I understand where he's going with that and I've heard similar sentiments from other mayors in Texas and Arizona. The problem is that that is sort of waiting too late. If you want to start to put data on it and go back and look at some of the original evidence in terms of the way this needs to be handled, if you have a five day in a row increase, the same increase of community spread, that should be a signal at that point that you probably have to dial things back. Maybe not necessarily close things down again, but you have to dial things back, maybe closing some things down again.

So it's a tough thing to say hey, look, we're going to wait until we basically have gone over our hospital capacity and then start to make a difference, because there's so much inertia in terms of the virus that's built up in the community at that point, I think it becomes very hard to dial it back, and you're going to have just very tragic stories, some of which we saw in northern Italy just a few months ago where people could not get into the hospital that would have been saved who otherwise died. So we just can't run into that situation here.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I just want to go back to Dr. Fauci again for a second, because he's going to the White House today. So we just got word that there are meetings that's going to the White House for. And I know you spoke to him over the weekend. Over the weekend, Dr. Fauci I think also said the most unvarnished thing yet about why he hasn't been on television much.

He said he has the reputation for speaking the truth, which may be why he hasn't been on TV lately. And look, his approval ratings are probably, are almost three times as high as President Trump's who Americans trust, and I just wonder, does he fear at all if he might lose his job?

GUPTA: I think it's a very fair question. I think that he very much wants to stay in the job, and I'm purposely being careful here, because it is one of these situations now, right, where I think -- I do believe I think just as a citizen that having a guy of his scientific experience and capabilities and the job is really important for us, I'm talking about from a humanity sort of standpoint.

So I think the idea the national academies and all these big medical organizations are rushing to his defense says something here. They're speaking with one voice.

Public health community doesn't always speak with one voice, but with regard to Fauci, they are. I think that the meetings at the White House are a signal that he does very much want to stay on the job and say hey, what gives here, guys? How is this going to play out going forward?

[08:10:00] So he's going to have meetings with people. That's coming from outside reporting. I knew that. But I think his desire is not to try and leave the job. It's to stay in it and figure out the best way to do that.

BERMAN: Sanjay, we heard Betsy DeVos not answering questions from Dana Bash over the weekend here on CNN about how schools will reopen. You've done some reporting from people inside the U.S. government give you their sense of when and only when schools should be reopening.

GUPTA: Yes. What has become increasingly clear, and I talked to administration officials about this also over the weekend, because we interviewed Dr. Redfield this past week, I saw the interview with Education Secretary DeVos over the weekend. The idea is what is it really going to mean. It's very vague and nebulous right now.

We know the basics, we've seen the basics in terms of try and keep kids six feet apart, which is very, very challenging in some of these school districts that don't have the square footage, masks, hand washing stations, some testing available onsite. But what's it going to take within the community to understand whether or not schools should open, because every community is different.

And what we're hearing, and this, again goes back to the evidence that was presented a few months ago was that you'd like to have these communities already have demonstrated a 14-day downward trend. And I know that that maybe just makes people's eyes glaze over at this point.

But if you have a 14-day downward trend, that means you probably got to a low enough absolute number of cases per day in your community that it's manageable, that you can then test, isolate, trace, all the things that we've been talking about.

And on the flipside of that is that if you have a five-day increasing trend of cases that, probably means you need to revert back to earlier phase. Schools probably won't reopen, or they'll have to close if they've already reopened.

This is just the basic data, and it's data that has been out there for some time and data, these sorts of guidelines that have worked in other countries around the world. Other countries have had these stutter starts, where they started opening schools then had to close them down again because they were following this data, and as a result they've been able to keep their case counts low.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. We really appreciate all of the information, Sanjay.

GUPTA: You got it, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Why is President Trump going after Dr. Fauci and the CDC? What is the president's plan as the virus gallops through 35 states this morning? We discuss with John Harwood at the White House, next.



BERMAN: At this hour, more than 135,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. More than 3.3 million cases in the U.S. and counting.

As the pandemic worsens, the White House is taking aim at discrediting Dr. Anthony Fauci and the President is promoting statements from Chuck Woolery, the game show host that the C.D.C. is lying about the pandemic.

Joining us now is CNN White House correspondent, John Harwood. And John, I have to be honest here, I am trying to figure out a strategy and bear with me here, it's almost like this is the Mel Brooks film "The Producers" where they're trying to produce a Broadway flop here.

They are going out of their way to make a failing response to the pandemic and politically speaking going after Dr. Fauci and promoting Chuck Woolery seems to me to be the version of "Springtime for Hitler" that was in "The Producers" movie. What is the strategy? Why? Why are they doing this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is no strategy, John. This all stems from the impulses, the pathologies of the President of the United States. To say that Donald Trump is trying to discredit Anthony Fauci with respect to coronavirus is sort of like me saying I'm going to it discredit LeBron James on the basketball court. It's not possible.

What we have here, the difference between Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci is this, and yes, both of them have said different things at different times about the coronavirus. Anthony Fauci has changed his position on some things like mask wearing and whether people needed to change their behavior. We've been watching the clips all morning.

But it's the difference between someone who is experienced, who is capable, who is public spirited, who is adjusting his views in response to the facts for the benefit of his fellow citizens, with someone, I'm talking about the President now, who doesn't know what he is doing, who is not honest and who cares about no one else other than himself.

If you look at the results in the United States as compared to other countries, which also had a terrible problem, but then have crushed the virus, there's no other conclusion you can reach, but that the incompetence of the Trump White House has lit the country on fire and what the President is doing is retweeting a game show host saying the C.D.C. is lying and talking about how Joe Biden's ratings are down.

He had his economic adviser on the television show yesterday saying, well, it's the Chinese communists who have done this to us.

It is madness, but what we're seeing in the polling and the evaluations of the President and his match-ups against Joe Biden is that a significant majority of the country is now recognizing that it's madness.

CAMEROTA: So John, what's the President's plan? What is the President or the White House's plan to get hospitalizations under control? Get deaths under control? Get those 35 states that are spiking this morning under control?

HARWOOD: Wait, is that a serious question, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes, John, it is. I am truly asking -- I mean, okay, forget the President. How about the White House? Do they have any plans?

HARWOOD: You know that he has no plan.

CAMEROTA: Does the White House have a plan?

HARWOOD: Look -- well, what we have is a situation where a large percentage of the government is trying to work around the president as if he's not there.

So yes, the C.D.C., despite the President tweeting a game show host smears against it is trying to do its job. It put out guidelines on reopening schools, although we saw the President's Education Secretary yesterday would not embrace in any serious way those guidelines.

You have Anthony Fauci trying to do his job at N.I.H. and in the Infectious Disease Division of N.I.H. So yes, there are people who are working very hard, members of the Taskforce, to try to get information, to try to coordinate with states, to try to remedy some of the holes in the administration's response.


HARWOOD: But we've seen that the problem is, if you do not have coordinated leadership from the top, it is very difficult to be effective, and clearly the Federal government has not been effective, and states which follow the lead of this President have also not been effective.

So it is a very difficult situation. It's not clear exactly how we get out of it, other than the fact that you do have local officials and state officials who do have a connection, a close connection to their constituents, and at the end of the day, are going to have to take actions that reflect the reality of the situation they find themselves in.

That's why you see people like Governor Greg Abbott of Texas having reversed some of the reopenings, Ron DeSantis in Florida who is a very Trump-y governor, who followed the President's lead about reopening quickly, now paying a big price for it, but he is reacting.

So, ultimately politicians have to respond to their constituents, the closer they are to the ground the more responsive they are.

BERMAN: So, you know, we've all covered presidential campaigns before -- political campaigns before. Usually when opposition research is dumped, it's done anonymously. In this case, the White House, again, this isn't the President, this is a coordinated effort.

The White House wanted us to know that they were attacking Anthony Fauci. That's one part of it I still can't get my arms around there, John. They wanted us to know they were attacking Fauci. Why?

HARWOOD: I can't figure out why they would want to do that. The President has obviously tried to sort of play both sides on this, and diminish the prominence of Fauci without openly going to war with him, but the problem is, the facts are so at odds with what the President is saying that he doesn't have much choice, but to go to war against the science, go to war against the truth, go to war against the facts, and try to hope that in all the confusion and fog that that creates, that people have difficulty ascribing who is actually at fault.

Again, the country is on fire. The President is sort of waving his arms around and casting blame in various places. Whether or not people are going to be confused by that, I suppose is an open question, but they haven't been confused so far.

CAMEROTA: John Harwood, thank you for trying to tackle all of our questions.

BERMAN: Is that a serious question? Wait. Are you go being serious?

CAMEROTA: Yes, the plan, just the plan, yes, that was the question.

BERMAN: All right, so a battle over how to deal with a soaring number of new coronavirus cases in Georgia. The Mayor of Atlanta joins us next.



CAMEROTA: One of the first states to reopen was Georgia in late April. Today, the state faces a soaring number of new cases shattering a record over the weekend and more than 3,000 people there have died.

Joining us now is Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us.

First, let's just start with you. I mean, how are you and your husband and your family doing after testing positive?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Thank you for having me and thank you for asking. We are doing so much better. My husband really was the one who had the most severe symptoms and he is feeling a lot better, just still very fatigued, but this -- we are a good example of how quickly this virus spreads.

We have one child in the house who is asymptomatic. I was also asymptomatic and my husband doesn't have any underlying health conditions and this has hit him really hard.

CAMEROTA: I mean, so he is on the mend? I understand he lost an alarming amount of weight.

BOTTOMS: Twenty pounds in less than a week, and I've never seen someone sleep as much as he slept, which was the alarming sign for me at some point, I realized that he was sleeping nonstop, and once we were tested again, because we were getting routine testing, we realized that three of us were positive.

It took us eight days to get our testing -- our previous testing. At that point, we had an asymptomatic child in the house and certainly had we known that we had someone in the house who was asymptomatic, we would have taken all due precautions, but this is the issue that we are having across this country, and it's the reason we cannot get to the other side of this virus.

CAMEROTA: Mayor, you, as the Mayor of Atlanta, had to wait eight days for your test results?

BOTTOMS: I did. And I checked every single day, and at some point, again, when I realized that my husband was sleeping quite a bit, I decided to get us tested again, and the only reason I had been tested was because I had attended another large funeral and I just made a commitment that I would get tested each time I was in a larger gathering, although I was still wearing a facemask.

And if it took my family eight days to get its results, I can only imagine what's happening with people across this country.

CAMEROTA: And Mayor, when your husband was sleeping so much, that must have been scary. I mean, was there a time when you worried that you might have to go to the hospital?

BOTTOMS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was even scarier because he said he couldn't even articulate what was wrong. He just didn't feel well, and he literally couldn't complete a conversation without dozing back off, falling asleep, and my husband is not one to lay down easily.

And so that's when I knew that something was off, and that's why I got us -- and thankfully, we were able to get tested again through Emery University able to receive our test results on the same day.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, I mean, your family has just become Exhibit "A" as you say of what so many families around the country are having to endure in terms of lack of information and then getting sick, and so I mean, it's just, as you said in your tweet, it hit home for you.

And you of course are still trying to figure out what to do with Atlanta.

And so on Wednesday, you issued an executive order for a mask mandate which of course stands to reason, we've seen it work at other places.

But the governor's spokesperson said like all of the local mask mandates, Mayor Bottoms' order is unenforceable. We continue to encourage Georgians to do the right thing and wear a mask voluntarily.

Why is your order of a mask unenforceable?