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Student Visas Will Not Be Denied for Online-Only Classes; Rice University Purchases Tents for Use as Outdoor Classrooms; CDC Chief Says Fall and Winter to Be One of the Most Difficult Times in History; Florida Reports 132 Deaths in One Day; Jeff Sessions Battles Trump Backed Tuberville in Senate Runoff. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 14, 2020 - 15:30   ET



DAVID LEEBRON, PRESIDENT, RICE UNIVERSITY: And I'm grateful for the reversal of the government position on this.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And in that amicus brief, that Rice University filed, you even talk about some of the students that would impacted here, some of the foreign students, what they're researching, what they're contributing, what they're already doing here in the United States? You do have to wonder, Shimon, my colleague posed this question, I'd like to get your take on what the administration was thinking to begin with in putting this directive in place?

LEEBRON: Well, I'm, of course, not sure. There was a suggestion that they really wanted to put pressure on the universities like K through 12 to be open in the fall. Our current plans are to be open in a very careful way. So that's one possibility. But I think it's also an illustration that when you have a kind of xenophobic attitude, it spreads and ultimately it results in things that make absolutely no sense at all in terms of good government policy.

And I think that's what we've seen here. And it's good to see it withdrawn. I would like to see really much more proactive approach to welcoming people to this country and particularly to welcoming our international students.

BOLDUAN: So, it will be a welcome, welcome, welcome announcement to many students at Rice University and far beyond. You talked about how you are planning to reopen in a careful fashion come the fall. Rice is literally trying to -- trying a very unique way, a solution to kind of the biggest problem is, how do you bring people back on campus to teach in person and keep them socially distanced. You're going to be putting up, I was seeing, an open-sided tent on campus to try to teach students in the safest way possible which is classrooms outdoors. How is this going to work?

LEEBRON: So we're constructing nine kind of tents on our campus for our what we call them semi-permanent, they'll actually probably be up for a period of years, that creates larger spaces, spaces that we do -- can accommodate larger groups. We won't be allowing classes of more than 25 at this point or gatherings of more than 50 and we'll constantly review that guidance at Rice.

I think for the open-sided tents, as it were, that creates, of course, a lot of air flowing through, all the scientific research that we've seen suggests that one factor in creating a safer environment. And all of this is about, you know, as you said, the physical distancing of our students, having students and other people, all people on the campus wear a mask, having them not engage in unnecessary contact and where possible being outdoors.

And if you put all of measures together, we believe that we can maintain a safe environment for our students and faculty. That said, we're also giving people a choice and so we're planning what we call "dual delivery" or some call it "hybrid delivery" and so students can choose. Do they want to be on campus going to classes or do they prefer to take them remotely?

BOLDUAN: How does what's happening in the broader community in Houston impact your decisions on schools? Because we know that the Mayor of Houston is saying that the city needs to be shutting down for two weeks. The state really does. And you just look at our screen, you can see the numbers of cases that are just being hit just Monday in the Houston area and in Texas. Which were breaking records. How does what's happening in Houston impact what is happening in a university in Houston in Rice?

LEEBRON: Well we have to pay close attention to that in two different respects. One, we have to pay close attention to what the risks on our campus. We think we've adopted policies which include testing, making sure we have available adequate quarantining and isolation facilities. And so, we have to make sure our students follow the rules and that we can maintain the safety on our campus and so we'll constantly evaluate that.

But the second aspect is making sure that medical care is available. And so we're following very closely the occupancy of the hospital beds in the Texas Medical Center and right now that seems to be under a fair amount of control but we have concerns as the numbers have been increasing lately and we'll continue to watch that closely as we approach the fall.

BOLDUAN: Yes, having to be flexible and nimble is unfortunately an absolute necessity at this moment. As you were jumping on in the breaking news to get on with us early, I really appreciate it. David, thank you very much for your time. Good luck in the fall.

LEEBRON: Great. Thank you so much. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

So, it is the summer of COVID. The summer of protests. And now a summertime surge in crime. What happens in America when the police and the people both come under fire? Don Lemon is hosting a special edition of CNN TONIGHT with an in depth look at crime, policing and your safety. That is 10:00 p.m. Eastern this evening.

[15:35:00] Coming up still for us, if you've had COVID, are you immune? A new study finds immunity after COVID may be fleeting. What does this mean for you? Your family? For all of us? We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: This just into CNN, the head of the CDC offering a very bleak outlook for the fall and winter in the fight against the coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redford saying the following in a webinar just now.


I do think the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021 are probably going to be one of the most difficult times we experience in American public health.

A frightening projection for sure. But also, a very good wake-up call in this moment. We're listening into Dr. Robert Redfield. We'll bring you more of the headlines that come out as they do come.

But there's also this. Something you have absolutely heard before. I can't get it again because I already had COVID. We've heard people say things like this but is it at all true when it comes to Covid-19?

That is a major question right now. Listen to what the World Health Organization has said about this just yesterday.


DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, HEAD OF W.H.O.'S EMERGING DISEASES AND ZOONOSIS UNIT: And what we don't know is how strong that protection is and for how long that protection will last. And so, there are a number of studies that are underway that are trying to answer these questions.


BOLDUAN: This comes as a new study out of the U.K. suggests immunity to this virus might be short and might be temporary. Researchers finding a steep drop off within three months of antibodies present in people who had recovered from COVID-19. Antibodies, of course, are the proteins that the body makes to fight off infections.

I saw this, and again, I had a lot of questions. So, let me bring in right now Dr. Mala Maini. She's a professor of viral immunology at University College, London. She's reviewed these findings in this study. Doctor, thank you for being here.

This wasn't a big study but it's getting attention as it joins which is a growing body of evidence that natural immunity to this virus does not last as long as we hoped. What sticks out to you here?

DR. MALA MAINI, PROFESSOR OF VIRAL IMMUNOLOGY, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Well, this is the first study to look for this length of time, 90 days after infection. And to start to give us some more information about the duration of immunity. Up until now most studies have only looked up to about a month or so.

And what is showing is that in patients who had a severe illness with COVID, they mount a stronger anti-body response that's been shown by a number of studies already.

They then have stockpiled a greater arsenal of these weapons, and so they seem to last for longer. And so, the good news is that people who had a bad outcome with this infection, if they survive, they will have longer lasting immune responses, the majority had still good detectible antibodies at 90 days.

But what they found in the donors who had very mild infection, like a lot of people do, it's much more similar to the common cold coronavirus infections where the antibodies do seem to weigh in quite quickly and by 90 days, the neutralizing antibodies, the ones that are important for blocking the entry of the virus were becoming undetectable in quite a few of those donors.

BOLDUAN: And this has really raised a lot of questions in my mind about antibody testing. So if you get an antibody test now, and the results that are negative, telling you that you don't have antibodies present, what does that actually tell you now and what does it not?

MAINI: Yes, I mean this is really focusing this study on a particular type of antibody, the neutralizing antibody, which is the one that seems to be waning to undetectable levels. It may be that other antibodies are still detectable in the majority of people. But they may actually with longer follow up, also those antibodies might become undetectable. So, it means that just because you had a negative test say in a month's time, you can't look back and say, OK, I definitely haven't had COVID.

It won't be a totally reliable diagnostic test for looking at the prevalence of the infection. And I think a better way perhaps which we need to look into a lot more now is whether T-cells might be a more sensitive way of picking out people who've had the infection.

So, T-cells are another type of way of fighting viruses which are very important for helping us to make good antibody responses, but also for directly recognizing the cells once they get infected with the virus. An infected cell puts up little flags on its surface which tell T- cells that they can kill that cell safely and not kill the healthy cells. So, another really important part of our immune response.

And we know from SARS-1 infection that happened in 2003 that there are still T-cell detectable in those people up to 17 years later, whereas the antibody response tends to have become undetectable within a couple of years.

So, looking at who's, you know, how many people have been exposed and also at their potential memory immune response, I think looking at the T-cells is going to be very important.

BOLDUAN: This is fascinating and something obviously that requires more research and requires more brilliant minds like yours but I find it fascinating. Also reminding me that if you get an antibody test, it doesn't tell you nearly as much as you might actually want it to at this point.


Dr. Maini, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.

Still ahead for us, turbulent times for the airlines. Delta reporting a $5.7 billion loss. How travelers are going -- how travelers are going to be the ones to pay the price.


BOLDUAN: Miami, Florida is now being called the epicenter of the pandemic. One infectious disease expert even comparing the city to where Wuhan, China was six months ago. Let's begin there and check in with our correspondents all over the country.



ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rosa Flores in Miami. The State of Florida break another COVID-19 record reporting 132 deaths in just one day. This as we learn about another concern in the state, the need for medical professionals. Governor Ron DeSantis announcing yesterday that he is upping the number of medical professionals that will be deployed across the state from a thousand to 3,000.

Here in Miami-Dade County, the positivity rate yesterday, 28 percent. When you look at the number of hospitalizations in the past 13 days, those are up 68 percent, ICUs 69 percent, ventilators 109 percent. And as we look across the state, 48 ICU hospitals are at capacity. Eight of them right here in Miami-Dade County.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Newton in Ottawa, where Canadian officials tell CNN that the U.S./Canada border is likely to remain closed until at least August 21st.

It has been closed since March. It is only open for essential traffic. That means health care workers, truck drivers, flight crews. But also significant is that Canadian public health officials tell CNN that they will be putting extra personnel at those border crossings to make sure that anybody going back and forth is COVID-symptom free and that they are abiding by a very strict 14-day quarantine when coming into Canada.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Evan McMorris-Santoro in Rio Rico, Arizona. The latest figures show just how bad this pandemic is here. More than 4,200 new cases, 92 deaths. There are fewer than 1,200 total medical beds available in Arizona. And fewer than 200 intensive care unit beds. All figures that add up to a medical system and a state in crisis.

PETE MONTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Pete Montean in Washington and we're getting a new window into how bad this crisis is for commercial airlines. Delta Airlines was considered one of the most financially well off leading into this pandemic. Now it's reporting its worst loss since 2008 burning $27 million in cash each day. Airlines were pulling for a quick recovery after passenger traffic bottomed out this spring.

Now they're describing something much more turbulent as coronavirus cases begin to rise across the country, demand for travel began to taper off. Delta was planning to fly a 1,000 flights each day in August, now it's scaled that plan back to only half.


BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much, we really appreciate it.

Up next for us, Jeff Sessions is trying to win back his old Senate seat. Can he get past today's Republican runoff though? And can he get past President Trump?



BOLDUAN: A wild race is happening today in Alabama. Jeff Sessions is trying to make a political comeback. Donald Trump is not on the ballot, but he might as well be when you look at how this election is shaping up.

Sessions is fighting for his old Senate seat against former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. It's a runoff election for the Republican nomination and it's getting heated in no small measure because President Trump is not trying to help out his former Attorney General, the exact opposite.

Just listen to this robo call that Trump recorded for Tommy Tuberville.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. And he's going to have -- he's going to have a cold direct line into my office.


BOLDUAN: A cold direct line to my office. Jeff Zeleny is following all of this, Jeff, what is going on with this race?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, there's no question the President made the decision to insert himself directly into this race. He still is carrying a grudge against Jeff Sessions. He has called it the worst decision of his presidency to appoint him Attorney General, of course, because Jeff Sessions recused himself in the Russia investigation as he was advised to do by the lawyers at the Justice Department.

But President Trump has never gotten over that. So as Jeff Sessions went back to Alabama trying to get his old job back, he has run for that seat four times before. Usually does not have any opposition at all. This time he's running against, of course, Tommy Tuberville which should be hard enough, and President Trump as well. But earlier today after voting, Jeff Sessions had this to say about who's controlling this race.


JEFF SESSIONS (R) U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE, ALABAMA: Well, the President has a right to speak up. But the President is not on the ballot. He will be on the ballot in November, and Alabama is going to vote for him, and I will be voting for him. But Tommy Tuberville is on the ballot. The people of Alabama are going to choose who their Senator is.


ZELENY: And that certainly is the hope of Jeff Sessions, the people of Alabama choose this. But the reality is in deep red Alabama, President Trump does carry some sway.

But, Kate, this will be a key test of how much sway he indeed carries in this race. Watching all this is Doug Jones, the most imperiled Democrat. He of course won the special election a couple years ago in Alabama. So, a critical race here. We'll find out the outcome.

BOLDUAN: Right, but I cannot let you go without asking about, did Donald Trump commit the cardinal sin in Alabama and how even what he called Nick Saban?

ZELENY: Nick Saban or Lou Saban? On that call last night with Tommy Tuberville, he talked about Lou Saban, what a great coach, Lou Saban was in Alabama.

Of course, it's Nick Saban. Everyone in Alabama knows that for sure but that's just it, the football here underlying Auburn, Alabama, archrivals. So, we'll see how those Alabama fans do. Maybe they'll pull this out for Jeff Sessions. We'll find out tonight.

BOLDUAN: Well, right, that's a tough thing. Are Alabama fans going to vote for Tommy Tuberville to begin with because of his Auburn ties? I mean this is all -- this gets very complicated, as does it always, when it comes to football.