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U.S. Sets Another Record For New Cases In 38 States See Spike; Arizona Officials Grapple With How To Reopen Schools Safely. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired July 15, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


In just 24 hours, the U.S. hits yet another record, more than 67,000 new cases of coronavirus. And now the director of the CDC is offering a dire warning for the months ahead. Listen to this.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times that we've experienced in American public health. Keeping the healthcare system from being overstretched, I think, is really going to be important.


HARLOW: An updated model projects, look at that, 224,000 U.S. deaths from coronavirus by November.

SCIUTTO: Another 90,000 people. As it stands, 38 states are battling increases in new cases. 27 states as a result are now push, pausing or rolling back the re-openings, and this virus shows no signs of slowing down, in fact, the opposite.

Our teams are across the country monitoring this pandemic from multiple points on the map. We'll begin in Miami Beach with CNN's Rosa Flores.

So, Rosa, this is a key number, the positivity rate. That is the number of people -- the percentage of people who test positive for the infection. In that county, those numbers are startling.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. That's 31 percent, Jim, and it's not getting any better. And mayors here in Miami-Dade County are very frustrated. There was a roundtable yesterday by mayors and the governor here in Miami-Dade and these mayors were asking for more resources, for more contact tracing. They were asking for a unified message.

The mayor from the city of Miami, Francis Suarez, put it like this. He said, look, he is going to be pressured and he is being pressured to shut down in the next week or two. He says time is running out, that they have about a month, one to four weeks to turn this around. Now, the obvious question, of course, is, okay, so what is causing this surge?

Now, we learned yesterday from these officials that, yes, a lot of young people are still the most infected, but they're starting to see a change. They're starting to see more individuals, 65 and over being infected, more individuals 65 and over being hospitalized. That is exactly why these mayors are asking for more resources. They need more contact tracers. They need more information, in their words, so that they can make the proper decisions to save lives.

Here is the reality on the ground in Miami-Dade County right now. The positivity rate is 31 percent. The goal for the county is not to exceed 10 percent. They've exceeded that for the past 14 days. It's been at the lowest, 22 percent.

When it comes to hospitalizations in the past 13 days, those are up by 56 percent, ICUs by 65 percent and ventilators by 92 percent.

Poppy, these mayors saying time is running out. It's not getting any better. Poppy?

HARLOW: It's getting worse. It's getting worse by the day. Rosa, important reporting, thank you very much.

U.S. military medical units are arriving in Texas as the state records a record breaking 10,745 new cases just yesterday.

Ed Lavandera joins us this morning in Dallas. He's following the latest.

So I remember, I think it was just last weekend when it was like 50 military members going to help one city. Now, it's much more broad.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right. I was being focused on San Antonio. But now, those military medical personnel are being shipped across the state to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso. This is a clear sign that many of the hospital systems across the state simply overwhelmed by the number of coronavirus patients showing up.

As you mentioned that number of 10,700 cases reported yesterday, that's a single-day high. And we focus a lot on the positive infection rate because that is one of the key medical data points that state officials here in Texas were looking at back at the end of April and early May as to one of the reasons that they pointed to, that they felt comfortable opening up the economy.

At the end of May, that positive infection rate was at 4.2 percent. Yesterday, here in Texas, it was reported at nearly 17 percent. It has more than, quote, roughly quadrupled in just the last month-and-a- half.

And the ramifications of this, Poppy and Jim, we're starting to see the effects of right now because school district, a number of school districts across the state, are beginning to announce that they are going to delay in-person classroom settings and going to school online to begin the school year.


And perhaps here in the coming days and weeks, we'll begin to hear more of that, unless the medical data here drastically changes. Jim?

SCIUTT: Yes. Although other schools are making plans to reopen. I mean, it's a real debate around the country. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Let's go to CNN's Stephanie Elam. She is in Los Angeles, where local health officials are blaming a spike in recent coronavirus infections on people not wearing masks or following social distance guidelines. Simple things, folks. Stephanie, what more are you learning?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDEN: Yes, very simple, but apparently that has not been happening like we've seen through much of the country. But here in Los Angeles County, we are seeing a new record number. We're looking at more than 4,200 new cases and also hospitalizations now standing at more than 2,100.

When you look at the state as a whole, another record there for hospitalizations and also ICU admissions. They're casing for the entire state almost 346,000 and the number of deaths above 7,200 here.

Obviously, things are going the wrong way. Hospitalizations, the news ones, up from day-to-day, ICU patients that are being admitted, that also rising as well. And most of those hospitalizations happening in Los Angeles County, which is the epicenter of this.

And it's worth noting that while you're seeing this here and thus positivity rate at about 7 percent over the last 14 days, this is showing you that there are issues because the

state has decided that they're going to go into a four-tier process of figuring out who should be tested, starting off of people who have symptoms in the hospital down to.

Next, their contact tracing, so the people who were probably near those people for an extended period of time, and then down to the people who are on the frontlines working and so forth. That is because getting all of the materials needed to do this testing has becoming difficult across the country and they want to make sure that the people who need to be prioritized are and so that they can get those results back and make sure that they can get those people isolated and quarantined as necessary.

Also interesting to note that in Riverside County, there's one hospital there that is looking to get federal medical staff to come in. They're supposed to get there tomorrow and that is because they're saying they're being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and they also said their staff is about 100 percent right now. So they need more help. And so this is showing you that things here in this region, especially Southern California, are changing and going in the wrong direction, Poppy.

HARLOW: They certainly are, Stephanie. We appreciate the reporting this morning.

Also happening this morning, officials are saying, no, the White House did not sign off on top Trade Adviser Peter Navarro's op-ed attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci today in USA Today, but questions about that, right, Jim?

SCIUTTO: CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood. So what are we to believe here? Navarro is, as you know, one of the president's most trusted public defenders here. He writes an op-ed in a national newspaper. The White House says, no, we didn't okay it, but, I mean, they were distributing oppo research on him this weekend willingly. Dan Scavino was tweeting out an anti-Fauci cartoon. What are folks at home supposed to believe what's going on?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can see what's been going on. As you indicated, Jim, the White House was distributing negative talking points about Anthony Fauci a few days ago after the president having, in essence, sidelined Fauci from a public role. You have the Scavino post with that cartoon.

Now, the White House is saying that Peter Navarro's op-ed, which, of course, was published with his name on it in USA Today, did not go through normal White House processes, which begs the question what are normal processes in this White House.

The president the other day re-tweeted a former game show host discrediting the Centers for Disease Control in his own administration during a pandemic that's claimed 136,000 American lives. So the president was asked in a CBS interview yesterday to explain why exactly he did that and he gives an inside peek of what those processes really are.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I reposted a tweet that a lot of people feel, but all I'm doing is making a comment. I'm just putting somebody's voice out there. There are many voices. There are many people that think we shouldn't do this kind of testing because all we do, it's a trap.


HARWOOD: Now, there you go. White House process is the president with his phone repeating an impulse that he says many people feel. And it happens to be an impulse, which is completely disconnected from reality.

Testing is a vital method for discovering the scope of this pandemic and figuring out what to do about it. The president doesn't accept that. Why? Because more testing is showing the country surging with coronavirus cases and that makes him look bad.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's how you find people are sick so you could treat them. I mean, it's in total disregard for the science and the health, facts.


John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much.

The director of the CDC, by the way, someone who knows something about outbreaks, is warning this fall and winter, will be, quote, one of the most difficult times we've experienced in American public health.

But, something to look out for, there is some potential good news in the coronavirus fight going forward.

HARLOW: Yes, we'll talk about that.

Also, the president just dismissing weeks of calls for police reform and racial equality. Hear how he compared the confederate flag to the Black Lives Matter movement, next.


HARLOW: Well, as the United States once again sets a record with new COVID cases, the head of the CDC is warning that the worst of this pandemic could still be to come.


It could hit us in just a few months.

There is though some good news in the effort to find a vaccine.

SCIUTTO: Let's bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, you and I have spoken many times about the president's deliberate disinformation on this virus, so let's set that aside for a moment. Let's talk about some good news.

Progress on Moderna's vaccine in the peer-reviewed medical journal and that's a key the standard here, how far along with this and where does this put your timeline -- your hoped timeline for a vaccine being available broadly?


First of all, it is a peer-reviewed medical journal of a U.S. vaccine, which we haven't seen up until now, just to make that clear. We've been basing a lot of our reporting on press releases and pre-prints, so this is a big deal.

Still early days, we have phase one data now, which looks promising. it was 45 patients, healthy, 18 to 55. They got two shots separated by about a month. And what they saw was that they were able to generate the type of antibodies that you'd like to see that will hopefully fight the virus.

the only way to know that for sure is to actually now do the next phase of study where you would actually be able to see, is this, in fact, protecting a large segment of the population.

Two caveats, and, again, this are early days. One is that there were side effects to the vaccine in this sort of middle-range dosing. Everyone in the group did develop some sort of side effect. But they were transient. They were things like muscle ache, fever, headache, things like that, and they went away, which is good. There were not side effects that were significant enough to stop the trial. But these were healthy volunteers so we'll see how that plays out with older people, younger people, people with pre-existing conditions.

And also, we -- again, we have to make sure this actually works. Even though this looks promising, I'd give it a six or seven out of ten in terms of promise, we still have got to make sure it works in large segments of the population, which is what's going to start happening on July 27th. That's when those trials begin in earnest.

HARLOW: Sanjay, we heard and we read Dr. Redfield's op-ed today about masks and calling for everyone to wear masks. This comes when there is no national mandate and you still have a number of governors not requiring a statewide mandate for mask.

We just saw that Walmart, which is the world's largest retailer, is mandating masks now. Starbucks said they were going to Best Buy, et cetera.

I just wonder what you think about what seems to be the private sector stepping in here with a mandate that is not coming from politicians.

GUPTA: This is so surprising, I think, in some ways, if you look at what should have been done since the beginning of this pandemic, and what has been done in places around the world.

Now, communities, the private sector, large organizations, like Walmart, having to step up because even despite the numbers you see on the right side of the screen and the trajectory of this pandemic, our government -- our national government still has not created a strategy to deal with what is the biggest public health crisis of our lifetime. I cannot believe I'm saying that, but that is the case.

Now, in part, these organizations are doing it because they feel like they have to, right? I mean, they want to be maybe good citizens, but, in part, they have to. People are getting sick in their communities. People are being hospitalized. People are dying. So part of this is trying to make sure that they can take care of the health of their customers, but also not get sued or whatever the case may be as they start to do contact tracing and stuff. So, some of this is being forced upon us.

What strikes me, and again,, this is a tough conversation to have is that we still seem to have some sense of control as human beings over this virus in terms of how we react. Pretty soon, we're not going to have that control. The virus has been making all these decisions for us given how much this is continuing to grow.

SCIUTTO: As Dr. Fauci said from the beginning, the virus sets the timeline. We don't set the timeline.

GUPTA: That's right.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about data because -- and this is relevant to it because the president has deliberately attacked the data and continues to. HHS, which, of course, comes under the White House, has confirmed that data on coronavirus patients will now be re-routed directly to the Trump administration instead of to the CDC, which its name is the Centers for Disease Control. That's their job here.

Is there any justification for that and are you concerned about what that means about access to accurate information?

GUPTA: Well, let me put it this way. I think I've read what the justifications are in terms of trying to modernize the data flow and can the CDC keep up. The problem is, at this point, six, seven months repoting on this, you can't take any of these things in a vacuum. We need this data and to the extent that this may be getting done for us to make it harder to access the data, I think, we have to consider that now as a possibility, sadly.

It should be going to the CDC.


They are the best epidemiologists in the world. I talked to Rich Besser about this, who used to run the CDC. He says that he is very concerned about the lack of transparency and the opaqueness this is going to add to it.

I will tell you two things. One is journalist since the very beginning of this story. We were going straight to the Departments of Health of the various dates and collecting the data ourselves. And if that's what needs to be done, we'll start doing that again to be able to get this data and best be able to analyze this ourselves. Because I'm worried, given how things have transpired that we may not be getting a full picture as a result of this change of this data going straight to HHS instead of CDC.

I hate to say that because I have a lot of friends who work at HHS, but we have to consider that a real possibility at this point.

SCIUTTO: I mean, other countries attempting to do that, Russia, China, Brazil in the past, not the U.S.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, please stay with us because this is question I know a lot of folks watching here want to this about. A closer question a lot when it comes to sending kids back to school, when is it safe and how easily can children spread the virus. That's coming up right after this break.



SCIUTTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci says that Arizona is one state to watch now. This as schools are preparing classrooms to reopen in just weeks.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Evan McMorris-Santoro. He joins us from Rio Rico, Arizona.

Education officials are doing a lot of creative attempts at solutions here to get kids in the building but keep them and teachers safe, right?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. You can see behind me, you have Eric here from Power Breezer, and this is a power breezer. This is usually seen on the NFL sidelines

But the school district here in Rio Rico bought a few of these to bring into classrooms when students aren't here to spray disinfectant throughout the classroom.

Now, students will be returning to school. Some students will be returning to school in Rio Rico just in the a few weeks. August 30th is when they're playing to having them in.

And you could this classroom, this middle school math classroom, is set up for what it will look like in the fall. Usually 28 desks, now there's 14 desks. The plan is to have kids to come to school two days a week on an alternating schedule to keep the social distancing going.

I talked about to the superintendent about his reopening plans and just why where other states are debating whether or not to open schools, here in Rio Rico, they've got to open.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And in Arizona, right, as a superintendent, you have no choice but to invite students back into class this year, right?

DAVID VERDUGO, SUPERINTENDENT, SANTA CRUZ VALLEY UNITED SCHOOL DISTRICT: That's for us to receive funding beginning on August 17th to meet the -- that we've been given the opportunity to only have our budget reduce by 2 percent if we meet requirements, and that includes having schools open.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, part of the reopening process here in Rio Rico and in other schools across the country, something you're seeing anywhere across the country, is a component of some kids can come back if they want, and if parents feel uncomfortable with it, they can keep their kids in an online school run by the district here.

Their early results of trying to ask parents what they want to do, according to administrators, is about 30 to 40 percent of parents say they do not want to send their kids back to school, they want to keep them online. That's a number that I've heard from other places as well and could be a big factor when we look at what schools actually are going to look like this fall, Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: So many more questions than answers on this, Evan. We are glad you're there doing the reporting. Thank you a lot.

Let's go to Atlanta, where our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta toured the school of his daughters to see what they're doing to try to make it safe. Watch.


KEITH EVANS, HEADMASTER, THE WESTMINSTER SCHOOLS: So it's going to feel and look different for the kids when they get back.

GUPTA: It is.

When it comes to reopening the country, there is probably no single issue that is more controversial right now than schools.

EVANS: So, are you looking forward to the first day of school?

GUPTA: I am.

EVANS: We have a group of students out there that are eager to get back to see one another.

GUPTA: I don't relish the decisions that headmasters like Keith Evans have to make about his 535 faculty and staff members and nearly 1,900 students at this school, which includes my three daughters.

The cafeteria is going to feel very different as well.

EVANS: The cafeteria is going to absolutely feel different. And this will be students who will come in and they will grab lunch and go and eat in their classrooms and that kind of thing where we can maintain distancing.

GUPTA: No surprise, physical distancing, a key part of the CDC guidance. Also recommended, wearing masks, teaching good hand hygiene and not sharing supplies, like books and pencils.

If you could have anything you wanted that you don't have right now, what would it be? What would you like to have?

EVANS: We are really blessed with some great buildings and square footage here. That is the constraining factor, I think, in every school space. If you can get the social distancing right and fit your program into it, it feels more normal and it works feels better.


But no school was designed to have students six feet apart anywhere.

GUPTA: Many other schools don't have that kind of space.