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Jason Esteves, Atlanta Board of Education Chairman, Discusses Atlanta Public Schools Begin School Year Online Only, Pushing Back School Start Date;; Dr. Ashish Jha Discusses CDC Director Claiming Southern Spike Caused by Northern Visitors; Sources: Esper to Announce Ban on Divisive Symbols; Corporate Earnings Season Kicks Off as Coronavirus Cases Rise. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 15, 2020 - 11:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: This is the conversation everywhere, not just in Fulton County, but all across Georgia and all across the country and all across economic perspectives and livelihoods in the sense.

If you have a child -- I have a rising fourth grader and she's dealing with this.

In the "Atlanta Constitution," there's a piece today about an Atlanta school board member saying she's received hundreds of e-mails from parents with questions about the reopening plan.

It goes on to talk about it's very much a struggle for working parents across the city. They don't feel capable of being there and teaching their kids.

This is complicated, I know, and you wrestle with it every day. How do you help the working parents who can't be home and now their children are home for nine weeks at the start of the new year or maybe they can be home but they're working from home and they don't feel they can give the time and resources necessary?

JASON ESTEVES, CHAIRMAN, ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION: Well, look, I am one of those working parents. My wife and I work full time and we have a kindergartner that's coming into Atlanta public schools this year. So I feel for those parents.

And no decision that we could have made at this point would have satisfied everyone. But what the district is doing is that we are working with our community, working with partners to provide our family with resources.

And not only that, but the superintendent, Dr. Lisa Herring, recommended that we push back the start date to August 24th and the board approved that recommendation on first read on Monday.

And that's going to allow our teachers time to plan and to develop professionally in anticipation of a virtual start. But it's also going to allow the school district to focus on the students and families. Assess them and provide them with resources and train parents on virtual learning.

And, John, one of the critical things that we'll be providing for our students during that time are the basic resources that we know that they rely on schools for, like food. Our food program starts on August 10th even though school doesn't start until August 24th.

KING: Schools are a local decision. You're making a decision for Atlanta. You have other school boards around the state making decisions in their communities. This is a big national conversation. The federal government his more resources financially and access to the data.

And I want you to listen to the president and to two of his top scientists. They sound different when they talk about the issue of schools.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATED: We have to get the schools open. We have to get everything open. A lot of people don't want to do that for political reasons and not for other reasons.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We should try as a default to get the kids to stay in school.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Let's all work together and find out how we can find common ground to get these schools open.


KING: Are you getting help? The CDC is right there in your hometown. Are you getting help, whether it's scientific data, whether it's other research, whether it's guidelines for safety in the schools or suggestions from the Education Department about how to improve the remote learning the last few months?

Are you getting anything from Washington or do you feel you're on your own?

ESTEVES: Well, look, at the end of the day, every school district is different. Every city is experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 differently. And each local school system should make a decision that's best for their constituents.

And in Atlanta, we are in substantial spread. If it was a situation where we were low or moderate spread, the decision and the recommendation from the superintendent would have been different.

But at the end of the day, the governor in Georgia has supported local decision making. And Atlanta public schools have to place the safety of our students, our teachers and their families first. And that's what we're doing in Atlanta.

KING: Of the many, many countless coronavirus challenges, you are dealing with one of the most important, our children.

Jason Estevez, we appreciate your time and insights. Best of luck as you go through this in the weeks ahead. We really appreciate your time.

ESTEVES: Thank you so much for having me.


KING: Thank you.

Up next for us, the CDC director offers up a theory on what is causing that spike in southern states but does the data back up that theory?



KING: The Trump team, or at least one leading member, trying to change the narrative, trying to take the blame away from reopenings in the spike we see in coronavirus cases across the south.

The CDC director instead trying to shift the blame to northerners coming from states like New York.

Here's Dr. Robert Redfield.


REDFIELD: If you look at the south, everything happened around June 12th to June 16th. It all simultaneously kind of popped. So independent of whether you reopened, didn't reopen, and when you reopen.

So we're of the view that there was something else that was the driver. Maybe the Memorial Day -- not weekend, but Memorial Day week where a lot of northerners decided to go south for vacations.


KING: Dr. Ashish Jha joins us. He's the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr. Jha, good to see you, my friend.

You had a very animated Twitter thread after watching the CDC director yesterday about this because, god forbid, you actually rely on data and context.

I want to put up on the screen, first, the south versus the northeast, the trend line. Dr. Redfield is right, there's been, and we've been showing every day, a spike in cases across the south.


However, your point is -- his point is, aha, look at late June when it really starts to jump. Your point is, no, sir, it doesn't work that way.

Go back, go to the left of June 8th and it starts to go up right around Memorial Day and immediately after. And it doesn't percolate that quickly.

This was already under way, correct?


Thanks for having me on.

I was surprised to see the CDC director say that. And I went back and looked at the data because I thought maybe I'd missed something. And the data is very clear that states had opened up, they started seeing, not all of them, but most of them, started seeing increases by about June 1st.

And not just the south, but also in places like Idaho, Alaska and Oregon. And so northern vacationers were not seeding cases all around the country. That's not consistent with the data or the facts.

KING: I want to show those states, Alaska and Oregon and Idaho to back up your point for the people who say we're trying to cause trouble, we're trying to question the Trump administration. Because, again, the data supports what you're saying.

I don't think a lot of people from New York are going to vacation in Alaska, Oregon and Idaho in these days. Some might have been, but you see the jumps there as it goes up.

The bigger question here is why. Why? We're in the middle of this pandemic. And we talk frequently of the president saying we only have more cases because we're testing. I don't want to get into that conversation right now but it's ridiculous.

I want to show, here is where we were on Memorial Day. We have the 50- state map, using the Johns Hopkins data. And on Memorial Day, we had a much better situation.

Seventeen states were heading up. That's the orange and the red. And that's the wrong direction. Thirteen were holding steady and 20 were going down. A lot of us thought maybe we're starting to come down the hill here.

Here's where we are today, 38 states heading up, nine down, three steady.

I'm a lay person. You have helped me immensely in the last few months. I don't need a science background to know that's bad.

Your point -- the reason you got mad about this is your point is we need answers, solutions and fixes, not distractions and scapegoating?

JHA: Yes. You know, I think -- I don't know what motivated Dr. Redfield to say that. He's a pretty smart guy and he has access to the same data I have and probably even more robust data. And I don't understand why he's misinterpreting the data the way he is.

One worries that, because Dr. Fauci, the day before, had said what is true, which is that states open up not just too early, but too aggressively, that somehow was meant as a way to contradict that. I don't know, and I shouldn't speculate.

At the end of the day, the bottom line, John, we still are early in this pandemic and we have a long way to go. And if we distract ourselves with stories like northern vacationers are going to Arizona in June and setting off large outbreaks, we're not going to get through this very well.

We have to get through the facts. We have to do good analysis. And we have to act on that. And I am frustrated by the distractions.

KING: In the middle of this conversation, I've been told the Republican governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, has tested positive for coronavirus. We'll find out if they can do the contact tracing and do that, the Trump rally in Tulsa is one of the things people raise a lot of questions about back in the day.

I want to read this. This is a long twitter threat question on why the CDC director would do this. And this is the point you're trying to make. "Northern vacationers are not the cause of big national outbreaks. We have to do better at managing the pandemic, drawing wrong lessons is harmful to that goal."

We've had the conversation, sadly, for five months now about inconsistent messages, mixed messages, contradictory messages, sometimes from the president, as far away from the science as you can get. Why? Why?

I know you don't want to read minds. But you mentioned Dr. Fauci and you assumed Dr. Redfield, knowing the CDC is being sidelined at the moment, is trying to carry favor?

JHA: I don't understand it. Again, it's always hard for me to speculate what's motivating people.

What - it's one thing, by the way, I think all Americans can say, well, politicians say what they say. But the scientists? The head of the CDC?

We want him to be fact based. We need for him to be fact based.

And that, to me, is what really upset me about this, was I hear all sorts of crazy stuff from politicians and I largely try to ignore them. But when I hear it from fellow scientists and public health leaders, it really does upset me because it makes it harder for us to control the virus.

And the consequence, John, is that hundreds and thousands of people are dying in America today because we are distracted by issues that are not the central ones to controlling this virus.

We've got to get our act together. And we need Dr. Redfield to be a part of that solution.

KING: I recommend people go to your Twitter feed and give it a look. Whether you agree or disagree, we're all learning through this. It's a good read. It makes you study. It makes you do your homework. And it makes you follow the actual numbers and the data.

Dr. Jha, appreciate you hustling in here and giving us your insights and perspective. Thank you so much.

JHA: Thank you.


KING: Thank you.

When we come back, the Pentagon charts a very different course from the president on the question of race and sensitivity.


KING: The Pentagon today setting a very different course from the commander-in-chief on the question of racial symbols and sensitivity. The president, as we know, wants to protect statues and military bases honoring Confederate leaders.

Listen as he again defends flying the Confederate flag.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: You understand why the flag is a painful symbol for many people because it's a reminder of slavery?

TRUMP: People love it. And I don't -- I know people that like the Confederate flag and they're not thinking about slavery. I look at NASCAR. At 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, Black Lives Matter, or anything else you want to talk about, it's freedom of speech.


KING: America's military leadership thinks quite differently.

CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, what's happening on this issue here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, as soon as this week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to issue a new policy aimed at barring racially, culturally divisive symbols.

The big question at the Pentagon, will the secretary of defense actually mention the Confederate flag. He's very well aware of what the president thinks. Or will he just set a broad policy and allow his senior commanders to implement it?

Either way, top commanders are already well down the road of banning the Confederate flag in public spaces on military installations.

We have now already seen the commandant of the Marine Corps do it, the head of U.S. forces in Korea, two extremely respected four-star generals.

And now we know the head of U.S. forces in Japan has also issued a memo banning the Confederate flag on U.S. military at installations in Japan, Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider.

I want to read a bit of the memo he put out, which is similar to what other commanders have done. He talks about the fact "many may see it as a cultural symbol. He's aware of that.

But then he goes on and says, "Many others in our force see it as a painful reminder of the history of hate, bigotry, treason and devaluation of humanity that it represents."

Why is it so important to U.S. military commanders to take this fight on, even knowing the president doesn't want to? It is all about cohesiveness of a fighting force.

What they know is, if there are symbols of divisiveness inside a unit and that unit has to go into battle, they can't win if they've got divisions within their own unit. They have to have a fighting force that is cohesive and moves ahead.

They now see the Confederate flag as a major indicator that that may be a real problem.

We know that the heads of the other military services, the head of the Air Force, Army, and the other services, are also waiting to put out similar memos banning the flag.

They are waiting to see what the defense secretary does, waiting to see if he actually takes on the president. And will the president take on the Joint Chiefs and his top commanders over this issue -- John?

KING: Wording will matter, the specificity. We'll circle back as we learn more.

Barbara Starr, grateful for the reporting. Thank you so much.

STARR: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us, some money matters. That delayed tax deadline is here today. And more corporate earnings tell us more about the coronavirus economic damage.



KING: The CDC recommends now you wear a mask. Guess what? U.S. retailers making wearing a mask mandatory. Walmart, Starbucks and Best Buy saying, if you want to shop, you'll have to wear a mask. The new rule coming out over this week. Costco instituted a mask policy in May.

Meanwhile, it's tax day. Supposed to be in April. Deadline is today. Second-quarter earnings also under way.

Christine Romans now reporting on the fallout the coronavirus impact is having on the economy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, tax day is here in July. Taxpayers were granted a three-month extension to deal with the coronavirus shutdown.

Not ready to file? Individual taxpayers who need more time can request an automatic extension instead to file by October 15th. Taxpayers have until midnight tonight to file for that extension.

In a way, that tax filing reflects a completely different world. Before coronavirus, the jobless rate was the lowest in half a century and the economy strong. Since then, almost 50 million people have filed for the first time for jobless benefits. Bankruptcies are rising. The economy has crashed.

That crash evident in second-quarter earnings for corporate America. Banks have set aside billions to prepare for the possibility of loans going bust with consumers and companies. And bank executives warn of greater pain ahead.

Against that backdrop of Main Street pain, though, you have Wall Street flying high riding a wave of record stimulus from Congress and the Fed.

Booming markets meant a strong second quarter for Goldman Sachs. Second-best quarterly revenue in history, and record investment banking results.

Still, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon acknowledged a challenging environment, saying the economic outlook remains uncertain.

The big week for corporate profits continues this week with Bank of America, Charles Schwab, Johnson & Johnson and Netflix -- John?

KING: Christine Romans, thanks so much for that update.

Don't forget, for latest stock market news and strategy for portfolio, check out "MARKETS NOW," streaming live at 12:45 p.m. Eastern only at CNN Business.


Top of the hour. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King, in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.