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School Reopening Safety Debate Continues; President Trump Raises Race Questions in New Interview; Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Spreads COVID-19 Mistruths. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 15, 2020 - 10:30   ET




KEITH EVANS, HEADMASTER, THE WESTMINSTER SCHOOLS: But no school was designed to have students six feet apart, you know, anywhere.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many other schools don't have that kind of space. And truth is, that problem alone, in classrooms, hallways, on buses may prove too much for some schools to open this fall.

But perhaps even more vexing is that more than six months after the first U.S. cases of coronavirus, we still can't definitively say what role do kids play in transmission? One study found children carry just as much virus as adults and may be just as infectious.

But others have found differently. In one French study, a nine-year- old boy with symptoms of COVID-19 exposed over 80 classmates at three schools. None of those children contracted it.

In New South Wales, nine infected students and nine staff across 15 schools exposed a total of 735 students and 128 staff to COVID-19. Only two secondary infections resulted, one possibly transmitted by an adult to a child.

BENJAMIN LEE, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE, UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT: With this virus, we now have lots of evidence that suggests that children are not drivers of the pandemic. They are far less susceptible to getting infected with the virus and when they are infected, they're less likely to pass it along.

GUPTA (voice-over): Enough evidence to persuade pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Benjamin Lee to coauthor this commentary in the journal "Pediatrics."

LEE: The likelihood of children spreading the virus or transmitting it are still relatively low. However, in areas where there is a lot of transmission in the community, that could potentially increase the likelihood that an infected adult could step into the school setting.

GUPTA (voice-over): Exposure from wherever is a concern for many teachers. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, nearly a quarter of all teachers in the United States have health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

EVANS: We're planning for all of that as opposed to staying focused on students, who have a more narrow band of risk in this. And so what it has meant was, that from the very beginning we -- we maximized kind of the safety protocols. We said, We're going to do the absolute limit of distancing, masking, sanitizing and so forth.

GUPTA (voice-over): There are plenty of examples around the world where schools appear to have reopened safely: Germany, Norway. But there's also reminders that when social distancing restrictions were lifted early, like in Israel, large outbreaks followed the return to class.

In the end, it is a balance. No doubt, closing schools can help curb this pandemic. How much? One model said closing schools would reduce COVID-related deaths by two to four percent in the U.K. That's a lot or a little, depending on how much virus is already in the community.

LEE: We need to move the conversation not towards whether schools should open or not, but towards how can we open the schools to ensure that they can open and remain open?

GUPTA (voice-over): How to do that is a challenge.

EVANS: We are planning -- and we're moving toward a particular end, but we're also eyes wide open, ears wide open, understanding how this is evolving. And we understand the -- you know, next week, everything could change.


GUPTA: Give you an idea of how quickly things change, even since that interview just a couple days ago, Atlanta public schools have now said, at least for the first nine weeks, they're going to go to virtual online learning, and then sort of reassess things after that.

Over the weekend, I really wanted to get a sense of what are school districts going to use to decide, because there is patchwork, there is no national strategy. That's a problem, as we've been talking about. Rough guidance is that if you have five days of increased community spread, that is probably an indicator that it is not yet time to open up schools. But we'll see what happens across the country.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: That's the key. It's such a smart point, right? Depends on the state of the outbreak in that community before you make that decision.

GUPTA: That's right.

SCIUTTO: And as you said, I mean, that's straight-up the CDC guidance, has been form the beginning.

GUPTA: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, great to have you on.

GUPTA: You got it, thank you.

SCIUTTO: As coronavirus cases spike, a new CNN global town hall. Join Dr. Gupta and Anderson Cooper along with special guest former CDC Director Tom Frieden for "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS" -- emphasis there -- "AND FEARS," live tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern time.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, the president is digging in and defending the Confederate flag, saying something about it much different than he said when he was running for office. We'll have more on that, ahead.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. This morning, President Trump is pushing back against those who say the Confederate flag is a divisive symbol with no place in American society. Have a listen.


CATHERINE HERRIDGE, CBS NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You understand why the flag is a painful symbol for many people because it's a reminder of slavery?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, people love it and I don't view -- I know people that like the Confederate flag, and they're not thinking about slavery. I look at NASCAR, you go to NASCAR, you had those flags all over the place, they stopped it. I just think it's freedom of speech, whether it's Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about, it's freedom of speech.



HARLOW: LZ Granderson is here, sports and culture columnist for the "Los Angeles Times." LZ, he certainly didn't feel like it was freedom of speech when it came to taking a knee for Colin Kaepernick.

LZ GRANDERSON, SPORTS AND CULTURE COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: No. No, of course he didn't. But we know what this is, right, Poppy? Like, at this point, we kind of know the game he likes to play, particularly when he's under duress for something that is really significant like his handling of the pandemic, he likes to deflect.

And you know, this notion that it was freedom so speech but when you have protestors peacefully gathered -- as the First Amendment gives you the right to do -- in front of the White House, he dispersed them with tear gas for a photo op. So we know what this is.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And, by the way, he called Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate, right? You know, in that same vein.

I want to ask you just for your reaction to the president of the United States claiming when people wave the Confederate flag, they're not thinking about slavery. How would he know that, and tell us your reaction to that comment.

GRANDERSON: Well, again, you know, he's moving the goalposts. You know, he himself have said perhaps it should be in a museum, when he was Candidate Trump. And as president who's under duress, who's been impeached, who's mishandled this pandemic that's killing people -- almost 10,000 people have died since he says 99 percent of coronavirus victims is harmless.

So he's trying to deflect, and the reality is, is that this isn't -- should not be a conversation no longer about him and his words, despite being the president, but rather the people who support him. You know, particularly those who know better, whether they're elected officials or whether they're, you know, big, deep-pocketed sort of donors, you are supporting someone who can't even denounce the flag of treason of the United States.

That's what this is about. The Confederate flag is the flag of treason and you can't even denounce that.

HARLOW: LZ, a statement that was striking to me, when the CBS reporter asked him a very appropriate, important, relevant question yesterday about black people dying at the hands of police still. His response was striking, here it is.


HERRIDGE: Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

TRUMP: And so are white people, so are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way, more white people.


HARLOW: OK, but there are more white people in this country. He totally misses the point that it's disproportionate as it relates to the percentage of the population, and that black victims -- according to federal data -- are more likely to be unarmed when they're killed by police?

GRANDERSON: Poppy, I wouldn't say that he missed the point. I would say he's not interested in the point. What he just did is the equivalent of All Lives Matter. What he just did was the equivalent of Yeah, Chicago.

And you know with those groups of people who look at issues of systemic racism and retort things like All Lives Matter or What About Chicago, they're not interested in the people dying in Chicago and they're not really interested in all lives. What they're interested in is changing the subject. And that was his attempt to change the subject.

Again, the facts are the facts. And as you mentioned, it's about the proportion, not the sheer numbers. But he's not interested in that discussion. If he was interested in the discussion, he would have had a more substantive answer to that question. What he wants to do is signal to people that all lives matter because he doesn't want to become engaged in that conversation. And it's harmful and it's disappointing, but it's par for the course for him.

SCIUTTO: It appears to be part of a political decision as well, does it not? I mean, the president even finds himself on the opposite side as the Pentagon on renaming bases, military bases named after Confederate generals. Of course, as you note, generals who fought against their own country in support of the cause of slavery.

I just wonder, you remember that the president has made claims during his administration that he was better for black Americans than even Barack Obama. Where does that stand right now?

GRANDERSON: Look, I don't want to sit here and just berate him for things we already know, Jim. We know that he truly does not really care particularly about helping black and brown bodies, let alone much of any kind of body outside of his own interest.

So, again, I just go back to his supporters, particularly those who know better. You know what the Confederacy was, you know why people had those statues erected, why bases were named, why flags were hung. It was to intimidate black people, it was to appease racism and he's playing on that.

So the question really isn't about what President Trump is saying. It's those who are still supporting him, what exactly is it about racism and treason that you find appealing? Is it the tax breaks, is it the notion that maybe you can get a Supreme Court justice? He's supporting treason, he's supporting racism, and you're still trying to find justification to support him. Why?


HARLOW: How worried are you, LZ -- we have 30 seconds left -- about where the conversation on police reform in the middle of all this -- right? -- what was supposed to be a monumental change moment, where that's gone?

GRANDERSON: Well, I'm encouraged, Poppy.


GRANDERSON: I just did a story yesterday about the 11 professional sports teams in Southern California that have formed a group called The Alliance. So all the rivals in the area are pooling their money together because they have decided that they have had enough, and that they want to try to help things.

And I see elements of this all over the country. So while President Trump certainly holds the highest seat in the land, it's not the only seat. And I have seen evidence on top of evidence of people continuing to move forward despite his attempts to deflect from his poor handling of the pandemic and the fact that he's an impeached president who is doing very poorly in the polls.

SCIUTTO: Well, thanks, LZ, there, for highlight a grassroots effort --


SCIUTTO: -- to make real change here. We try to do that on this broadcast when we can. And we appreciate you coming on.

GRANDERSON: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Well, the president of Brazil who himself is battling COVID- 19, refuses to say if he's been re-tested for the virus a cases in that country -- a country where the president has denied its seriousness -- soar. We're going to take you there, next.



HARLOW: Well, another very grim day in Brazil as the health ministry there reports more than 41,000 new COVID infections yesterday alone.

SCIUTTO: This as Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, refuses to say if he has been tested again for COVID-19. CNN's Bill Weir joins us now with more.

So, Bill, the president there, he says he's feeling good. Of course, he's someone who repeatedly denied the seriousness of this outbreak. What do we know about his test, and then of course the broader outbreak there?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, we're sort of getting a Brazilian lesson in how the worst thing in a pandemic is an epidemic of mistrust coming from the people in charge. Those who cover the presidential palace here in Brasilia are used to this, much like White House reporters are.

So here's the timeline. A couple days ago, the president got on the phone with CNN Brazil and said, I'm going crazy, I hate this quarantine, I want to get out, get back to work. And I'm going to take another test. That didn't make a lot of sense to health professionals unless he believed it was a false positive in some way.

But we have sources close to one of his doctors who says he never even requested that test yesterday. And usually, in order for it to happen, he would have to do that. He's got a team of doctors in there, he's got his own personal ICU and it never came through.

And this is just the latest in a long drumbeat of proven mistruths. The palace officially refuses to confirm or deny that he's had this, but it is just in keeping with this attitude about this whole thing, all the way around.

Meanwhile, he has his military and actually some nationalized health care facilities doubling down on production of these anti-malarial drugs that he's so fond of at the expense of other medicines, at the expense of painkillers and whatnot.

And meanwhile, protestors have called for the 51st time, have put to basically the house of representatives of Brazil, a request for impeachment. Fifty-one requests. And they say, though, that is a political decision and that in the middle of this pandemic, it wouldn't make sense, it would only make things worse.

But President Jair Bolsonaro, not helping things with his public statements -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, the parallels between the disinformation there and here, remarkable. Bill Weir, always good to have you on the ground.

Mexico is now extending U.S. border restrictions through late August as the nation reports its second-highest one-day increase in new infections since the pandemic began.

HARLOW: Our Matt Rivers joins us from Mexico City this morning. Good morning, Matt, what is the situation on the ground there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and Poppy, what we're seeing with these new border restrictions is really an extension of border closures that have been in place both at the U.S. and Canada border and the U.S.-Mexico border since March 21st. Basically, all non-essential personnel are not allowed to cross the land borders between these two countries. Certain people can still cross, commerce can still flow back and forth. But largely, people are stopped from going across the land border.

However, you can still fly. So, for example, I flew from the United States back here to Mexico City just yesterday without any problem. Of course, there are sanitary measures in place at the airports, but that's kind of the loophole in this border closures.

But in terms of why this is happening, it's not really a surprise that this was extended because things are still really bad. Canada, yes, its outbreak is largely under control. But look at here in Mexico, for example, you've got more than 310,000 cases, you're nearing 40,000 deaths and when you look at a seven-day moving average, you know, it just continues to go up.

That is the reason. That, in conjunction with what we're seeing in the United States, is the reason why these borders will remain closed through at least August 21st if not longer -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Matt, thanks a lot for that reporting. We'll talk to you very soon.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. We will see you back here tomorrow. I'm Poppy Harlow.


SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with John King will start right after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Another daily record in the coronavirus case count, and this is what you get from your government, a fight over who to believe and who on the president's team can be trusted. A top economic advisor to the president says Dr. Anthony Fauci is just about always wrong, and that you shouldn't listen to his advice.