Return to Transcripts main page


California Says Schools Won't Open in Fall; Trump Says Those Talking Not Opening School Are Trying to Hurt His Reelection; States Roll Back Reopenings as Virus Rages Across U.S.; Florida Becomes Epicenter for Virus in U.S.; 48 Florida Hospitals Report No ICU Beds Available; Carrie Rodriguez, National Parents Union President, Discusses New Poll Showing Majority of Parents Disagree with Trump on Sending Kids Back to Class; Former A.G. Sessions Faces Off Against Trump-Backed Tuberville in Alabama Senate Primary; Trump Falsely Compares U.S. to E.U. on Reopening Schools. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

We are again at a coronavirus crossroads. A back-in-time moment that should give us all pause. The nation's most populous state is reinstating stricter stop-the-spread restrictions. And its two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, say the numbers are so bad the children will need to learn at home this fall.

Because of its size and diversity California is often a first alert. And our state-by-state coronavirus tracking makes it clear right now that a lot of places at this moment are trending in the wrong direction.

The president won't acknowledge this. In fact, he flat-out ignores it, saying those talking about slowing the reopening or keeping students at home are trying to hurt his re-election chances by hyping the coronavirus risk.

Once again, though, as the president's own adviser is making clear, he is out of touch with reality. Listen closely.


ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We all know that kids need to be back in school physically for all the reasons we talk about, social and emotional health, nutritional health, eye screening, discovery of child abuse. All those things that are very important.

But we have to get the virus under control. And if we get the virus under better control, clearly kids can get back into school safely. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The "but" and the "if," right there, are quite telling. Unlike his boss, Admiral Giroir is willing to acknowledge the science and acknowledge the obvious. The virus is not under control today. And if things don't improve considerably, back to school in many places will just not be safe.

The admiral does say he does see some light at end of the tunnel. How far off is that light?

Well, the mayor of Philadelphia just today making clear he sees a long road ahead. The city today, Philadelphia again, says all large public events like festivals, parades are prohibited, get this, through February 2021, seven months from now.

The judge leading the coronavirus response in Houston says if you want a better new normal any time soon, Americans need to put on a mask, stay out of bars and think about others.


LINA HIDALGO, (D), JUDGE, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: We have to bring that curve down. And the more we buckle down, the faster it will come down and the faster we'll be able to drop our kids off to school and ask them about their day and get on with the economy. Not fully open until there's a treatment or vaccine but a new normal.


KING: The numbers in our map tell us the challenge is as great as ever. Let's take a look.

And let's just start with a number, a number. Look at this right now had. The seven-day average of new coronavirus base cases here in the United States now above 60,000. That's never happened. This is the first time our seven-day average of new cases is above 60,000.

You can see the current average just shy of 61,000. You go back in time in the middle of April when we thought we might be at the peak, it was 30,000 back on April 26th, the seven-day average of new cases. That's April, April, 30,000. Here we are today, over 60,000. The summer surge is with us.

Let's look as we go through to the trend map right now. This map is just plain ugly. There's no other way to describe it. And 37 states have their cases going up this week compared to last week. Seven of those states, a 50 percent higher rate of growth than their cases this week. That's the darkest red. You can see it there.

Seven states, the beige, holding steady. Six, six going down. You see the lighter green states out there. Those are the six going down. But 37 states heading in the wrong direction.

This is also a warning sign here, these states. Look at the is positivity rate, South Carolina 17 percent-plus and Florida almost 19 percent. The same in Mississippi, 17 percent. In Texas, more than 26 percent.

That means, yes, there's a lot of testing. The people in those states taking the tests, high positivity rate turning back. That means they do not have the virus under control.

If you look at Arizona, perhaps, perhaps, and let's hope a glimmer of hope here, seven-day moving average starting to trickle back down in the last couple of days. Let's hope that continues. Perhaps Arizona is starting to reflatten the curve there.

Hospitalizations, too. You can see the rise in June and into July. Some indication in recent days that that might be flattening, so perhaps Arizona starting to flatten. We'll keep an eye on that.

Florida has been a point of conversation for month, but especially in recent days as it sets daily, daily records.

The seven-day moving average still trending up in Florida. Yesterday's case numbers, not as high as the day before. So we'll keep an eye on this. But the seven-day average, which is how you track it. It's best to track averages heading up.

Which is why we start with CNN's Rosa Flores live in Miami.

Rosa, every day at the top of the program we've had some numbing numbers. Where are we today?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're waiting for the Florida Department of Health to post those numbers.

But, John, we're also learning about a new concern in Florida, the need for medical professionals. We're learning from Jackson Health this morning that 200 of their employees are out for COVID-19, meaning they will be out for 10 to 12 days.


The positivity rate of all of the employees they tested is 23 percent. Governor Ron DeSantis will up the number of medical professionals who will be deployed across the state from 1,000, which he announced last week, to 3,000, which he said yesterday.

An infectious disease expert here in Miami-Dade County calling Miami- Dade the epicenter, comparing it to Wuhan, China.

Here's the reality on the ground. The positivity rate up to 28 percent yesterday, according to county data, which also shows, in the past 13 days, the number of hospitalizations has increased by 68 percent. The number of ICU units up by 69 percent and the number of ventilators up by 109 percent.

Which begs the question: How much time does Miami-Dade have? How long is it going to take before leaders here shut down?

Here is Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.


DAN GELBER, (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: I suspect if, in a week or two, this has not changed in any way, then we're all going to do it. And whether or not the governor wants us to do it or not, we'll do it, the county will do it and lots of the cities will do it. It will just be a shelter-in-place again.


FLORES: And, John, we checked across the state, and 48 ICU hospitals are at capacity. That means there are no more ICU beds. Eight of those are right here in Miami-Dade County -- John?

KING: Rosa Flores, again, important reporting on the ground for us in Florida. Rosa, thanks so much.

And when you listen the mayor saying a week or so. He may not have that long to wait.

Let's dig deeper on the numbers and the trends. Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist.

Dr. Gounder, I want to start with the headline number we were showing. We thought back in March when we were doing 30,000 plus cases a day we were at the top of the hill. We're going up a new hill, at about 6,000 cases a day.

What does that tell you? I don't know how to describe it. If you're on a racetrack, give me the best indicator that a lay person can understand, where are we in terms of controlling the spread of this virus?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right now, John, we're losing the race. The epidemic is accelerating in many parts of the United States. If you look at some of those curves, they are very much curves spiking up, not flattening or going down.

And I think, big picture, if we really want to go back to life as normal, if we want kids to go back to school, we need to do the work to get there.

We've been puttering around for months now, not scaling up testing, not scaling up contact tracing, not wearing masks, not doing the work that we needed to do.

You know, where is that American toughness and resolve? It's been missing for months now.

KING: Well, part of the missing, I would suspect you would agree, is the department of mixed messages, as I call it. That until he finally wore a mask this weekend, the president was saying I don't think they are all that effective. And a lot of his supporters were saying it was some effort by the government to tell them what to do, not about public health.

I want to read to you, Dr. Anthony Fauci said this this morning. "It's almost as if we should say everybody should assume that you are an asymptomatic infected person and that's the reason why you should wear a mask."

Dr. Fauci says that. But as you're well aware, not to mix politics and health care, Dr. Fauci is under attack from his own colleagues in the Trump administration. They say he's too candid and too alarmist.

GOUNDER: Well, unfortunately, public health in particular tends to be very political because it's about how do you prioritize and allocate resources, so there's really no way to steer clear of that.

Unfortunately, we're dealing with an administration that is making this even more partisan and political than it needs to be. But the science is very clear.

You know, it's just kind of like universal precautions in the hospital. I wear gloves when I draw blood or do anything involving bodily fluids on every single patient because I have to assume every single patient might have HIV or other blood-borne disease.

Similarly, we, out in public with other people, should assume that everyone else including ourselves could have asymptomatic COVID infection and we need to behave accordingly.

KING: Listen to Admiral Giroir, who, this morning, in an interview -- thought it was quite candid -- he says we have to get the virus under control and if we get the virus under control, it would be safe to get kids back to school, under better control, you're not going to completely contain it.

Listen to his take where we are with the troubling numbers.


GIROIR: But we're still very concerned because, as hospitalizations go up, we would expect deaths to also go up. Even though we're turning the corner on the current outbreak, and it looks -- all indications are that we have that, we won't see the benefit in hospitalizations and deaths for at least another couple of weeks.


KING: Sadly, we've had these conversations for months, that there are lagging indicators. Hospitalizations follow cases. Deaths follow hospitalizations.

When you hear the admiral lay it out there, do you share his optimism? He says he does see -- he's very candid about the current threat today and we don't have it under control. But he says he can see some light at end of the tunnel. Can you?


GOUNDER: Frankly, John, I am not quite sure what he's reading into those numbers. To me, they are still very alarming. And I don't really see a sustained decrease of 14 days-plus in any of the indicators, which is really what we need to be looking for.

So, yes, you might see little blips up and down, but that, to me, is white noise. That's not really a strong signal of improvement. And we really need to commit to doing what needs to be done if we want to get this under control.

KING: Doctor Celine Gounder, as always, grateful for your time and insights. More importantly, grateful for your work every day. Thank you.

GOUNDER: Thanks.

KING: Up next, the president wants the kids back in school. A new poll tells us whether most parents agree or disagree.



KING: Three of the nation's largest school districts say the new academic year will begin with remote learning. Los Angeles, San Diego and Atlanta say it's simply not safe to bring students back into the classroom just yet.

That, despite President Trump's wish that all schools open and despite talk in the White House about trying to tie some federal aid to whether classes are back in session or not. The mixed messages can leave parents confused and frustrated.

Carrie Rodriguez is co-founder and president of the National Parents Union.

Thank you, Carrie, for being with us today.

I want you to start by letting you listen to the president of the United States because he says anyone who says let's be careful, let's not open schools or let's leave the question open are trying to hurt his re-election chances. Listen.


TRUMP: The schools should be opened. Schools should be opened. Kids want to go to school. You're losing a lot of lives by keeping things closed.

I think there's a lot of politics going along. I think they think they will do better if they can keep the schools closed in the election.


KING: In your experience, where you live in Massachusetts and when you talk to your friends and colleagues and associates around the country, are people engaged in this debate? Do they want to keep schools closed to hurt the president or are they having the conversation to keep their kids safe? CARRIE RODRIGUEZ, CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARENTS UNION:

Frankly, I think the president has nothing to do with it. And our national polling shows that.

We have done constant polling across the country, thousands of parents, and frankly, only 5 percent of American families trust Donald Trump to make the call on reopening schools.

So even in a poll where 35 percent of folks identify themselves as Republicans and Trump supporters, only 5 percent of them want to hear from Donald Trump on this issue.

Parents are interested in hearing from public health officials. Frankly, they are not even interested in hearing from superintendents and heads of school. They are not experts in infectious disease.

This is a deadly virus that's circulating throughout society. And, frankly, in schools where we have not been able to trust that there are functioning bathrooms, running water, soap to wash your hands during pre-COVID times, the idea that now we're going to trust the same system is just, frankly, pretty ludicrous.

KING: You see that in numbers. This from an Axios poll published this morning. Do you feel safe? Do you see risk? Do you see risk in sending your children back to school?

Nearly nine in 10 African-Americans parents and 86 percent of Hispanic parents. And 71 percent of parents, more than seven in 10 parents across the country say they see risk.

Now you're seeing risk and then accepting risk, which are two different things, which is back to your point about trust. Are we having the right conversation about whether kids should go back to school?

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely not, because we have so politicized this situation.

We're not stupid. Families understand the fact that you cannot reopen the economy without us.

Parents need to go to work for the economy to work. Parents cannot go to work unless schools are open. Unless we do a drastic accommodation for what is going to be expected of us at home, if we even have the luxury of doing that.

The majority of parents that I work with and we represent in the National Parents Union, we -- we don't have the luxury. We're the front-line workers out there doing the essential jobs every single day.

But the fact of the matter is we see Donald Trump coming a mile away. He wants to reopen the economy by any means necessary. And that means putting our kids at risk.

The fact of the matter is, just because you're poor, black and brown doesn't mean you're stupid. And it doesn't mean our kids are not valuable. We are just as valuable. And our children are not going to be used as guinea pigs.

KING: Carrie Rodriguez, appreciate your time and your insights today. And best of luck as the country goes through this conversation over the next couple of weeks and beyond.


KING: That's a tough one. Thank you, Carrie. Thank you so much.


Still ahead, the White House giving mixed messages on the very point we were just talking about, opening schools.



KING: It is primary day today in three states, Alabama, Maine and Texas. The most watched of the three states is Alabama.

We can show you some video just into us. Look right there. Wearing the mask, that's Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama Senator, the former attorney general, voting just a short time ago in Mobile.

He's facing the former Auburn University football coach, Tommy Tuberville, who has a very important endorsement, the president of the United States, who once employed Jeff Sessions.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is watching the race for us.

Jeff, as we watch Jeff Sessions today. That's the biggest test today, not to downplay the races in the other states. This is a grudge match. The president of the United States trying to keep Jeff Sessions from coming back to Washington.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question, John. Look, Jeff Sessions gave up that job as Senator of Alabama, which he has successfully run four times before, often not having an opponent. Gave it up to be attorney general and lost that job. And he's now running for his old job back.

But President Trump is heavily invested in this. In fact, he wanted to go to Alabama over the weekend in the final days of this campaign to a campaign rally for Tommy Tuberville. The state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, said, please, do not come. We have a rising spike of coronavirus cases here.


But that's not kept the president out of this race. In fact, just last evening, he held a phone call, a robo call, with Tuberville and his supporters and made a promise here that, if elected, he would have his Senator. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP (voice-over): Tommy Tuberville is going to do a job like you haven't seen. He's going to take over and he's going to be representing you and representing you well. He's going to have -- he's going to a call and direct line into my office.


ZELENY: So the president there promising that Tommy Tuberville, if elected, would have a direct line into the White House, into the Oval Office. I mean, the reality is most Republican Senators have a line to the White House, but the president has been deeply engaged in this.

John, when you watch the advertising back and forth, Tuberville spending more than $1 million in ads. Outside groups also are flooding in with advertising spending.

President Trump is at the center of this race. But Jeff Sessions, after voting just a few moments ago, he had this to say.


JEFF SESSIONS, (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE, FORMER ALABAMA SENATOR & FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The ultimate decision for the Senate depends on the people of Alabama.

In the last three and a half weeks three, Congressional candidates that President Trump supported did not win. And if you look at those three races, you'll see something common in all three. In all three, the candidate who actually won was a stronger supporter of the Trump agenda than the candidate who lost.


ZELENY: Sessions also accused Tuberville of hiding out, saying he's simply not been campaigning.

So when you talk to Republican officials on the ground and here in Washington, they do believe that Sessions is the underdog for the first time in this race.

But, John, let's wait until the votes are counted this evening because there are a lot of absentee votes, as well as people voting today. But in the middle of a summer in a pandemic in a GOP runoff, we do not know what the turnout is going to be here. So a fascinating race.

And, of course, Doug Jones, the Democrat is watching all of this with great interest. It's going to be a tough race for him in the fall as well.

KING: The most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent, Doug Jones, waiting to see whether it will be Tuberville or Sessions.

We'll stay up and count those votes. Very much worth watching.

Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it.

Fantastic race in Alabama. We'll bring you the results when we get them.

Maybe the president isn't doing his homework or maybe he's betting you won't take the time to do yours.


TRUMP: Germany, Norway, so many countries right now, they are open. The schools are open. And they are doing just fine. And they are opening in the fall. So we have to get our schools open. Denmark, Sweden. We have to get our schools open and stop this political nonsense. And it's only political nonsense. It's politics.


KING: Politics, the president says. But just a little bit of study time, just a little bit, offers an alternative theory. The European countries the president just mentioned, they are more free to reopen their schools because they have done a much, much, much better job controlling the virus.

Take a look, the European Union and the United States started up the coronavirus hill at about the same time. But look at where things stand now. The E.U. is the pink line, down the hill and flat. The United States is the green line, still climbing, still not contained.


GIROIR: We have to get the virus under control. And if we get it under better control, clearly, kids can get back into school safely. There's no such thing as no danger. There's no such thing as a free lunch. But the risks to children are very, very small.


KING: Olivier Knox is chief Washington correspondent with SiriusXM Radio and Seung Min Kim is the Washington reporter from the "Washington Post."

Seung, let me start with you.

At times, I raise the point. Is the president hoping people don't study this or does he not do the homework himself? You cannot compare the conversation about schools in the U.S. with conversation about schools in the European Union. Because they have contained the coronavirus, we have not

SEUNG MIN KIM, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM RADIO: Exactly. You can't compare the situations. I mean, we have heard a lot of comparisons between how, for example, how South Korea has handled the coronavirus and, here in the United States, it's night and day. And you can't kind of transpose the situation from other countries and believe that you can open up again. But remember that the president just really wants things to go back to

normal. Clearly, his -- the pandemic. And clearly, his handling of the pandemic has come under serious scrutiny. Has really -- has really damaged his kind of cheap message for being re-elected this fall and that's the economy.

That's why you saw -- that's partly why you saw this aggressive campaign, led by the president, the vice president, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week, to re-open the schools.

But there's significant confusion on how that can happen. There are piecemeal guidelines. We saw the conflicting guidelines from the -- from the president conflicting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.


And also the question of funding. These schools are going to need a lot of extra help to get all those materials, to get the extra staff, the extra resources to be able to reopen up again.