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Pandemic Rages As U.S. Again Sets Single-Day Case Record; Florida In Crisis, Hospitals On Brink As ICUs Hit Capacity; Florida State Lawmaker, Residents Sue Over Mask Mandate. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 15, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Matt Viser, I appreciate your reporting on this. I'd say I appreciate your time today as well, this busy news day. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere, a busy news day. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome viewers here in the U.S. and the around the world.

Nearly six months after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, this nation is no closer to containing the virus. Instead it is setting records for new infections. More than 67,000 new cases were confirmed yesterday, the highest single-day total since this all began.

One highly influential model now projects 224,000 Americans will die by November 1st. This is 16,000 more than it predicted just last week. And the new numbers are tied to the surge that we're seeing in multiple states right now.

At least 27 states have either paused or have rolled back their reopening plans. California now setting stricter guidelines on who can get tested all because of the surge in demand and also delays in results that we're seeing. And in Oklahoma, the governor announcing today he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Big business is also taking action. Walmart, world's largest retailer, joining Best Buy, Starbucks and Costco requiring all customers to wear a masks starting Monday.

And in Alabama, Republican Governor Kay Ivey announcing that the state is requires masks while in public.

This all comes just today after the head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, said this.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I do think fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably the most difficult times that we've experienced in American public health. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: There is still no real plan coming from the White House. The president is holding campaign-style rallies in the rose garden and traveling the country in a bid to shore up his re-election and his top officials are picking fights on and off social media with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The latest is Trade Adviser Peter Navarro, who is attacking Fauci in an op-ed, saying that the nation's top infectious disease expert, quote, has been wrong about everything the two have discussed. The White House, which denied an effort to discredit Fauci earlier this week said it hasn't happened, claims that Navarro went rogue with his column, went around proper protocols for that.

We'll have more on the White House fight with Dr. Fauci here in a moment.

First though, we want to dig in on the crisis that is unfolding in Florida. Fifty-four hospitals in the state have reached capacity when it comes to their ICUs. That means there are no ICU beds available, period. Another 40 hospitals have 10 percent capacity or less. And now, one study shows that of the 20 U.S. metro areas with the highest daily growth rate, nearly half of them are in Florida.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live for us in Miami Beach. And, Rosa, the statewide numbers are alarming. What more can you tell us?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are alarming. The Florida Department of Health reporting more than 10,000 cases today, Brianna. That brings total for the State of Florida to more than 300,000.

The epicenter is right here where I am in Miami-Dade County, accounting for 24 percent of all infections. And the situation is only getting worse. City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said yesterday he is being pressured to shut down in the next week or two, and that, quite frankly, they have between one week and four weeks to turn this around.

Here is the reality on the ground. The positivity rate in Miami-Dade County, according Miami-Dade, is 31 percent. Process that for just a moment. It's a third. When it comes to hospitalizations in the past 13 days, those are up 56 percent, ICUs, 65 percent, and ventilators, 92 percent.

Jackson Health is reporting a 226 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in just the past month. And when you look at hospitals across the state, 54 ICU hospitals say that they have zero capacity. This is a according to state data. Ten of those are right here in Miami-Dade County, the epicenter of this crisis.

So what is driving the surge right now? According to officials, it's still young people. But they are starting to an uptick in cases and hospitalizations of individuals who are 65 and up. The mayors here at Miami-Dade County had a roundtable discussion with Governor Ron DeSantis yesterday, Brianna. They asked for more resources, for more contact tracers, for a more unified message, but most of all, Brianna, they were wanting information, data that can help them make decisions to save lives. Brianna?

KEILAR: Rosa, thank you so much, Rosa Flores live from Miami Beach, Florida.

Another day, another White House attack on the nation's top infectious disease expert.


Top Trade Adviser Peter Navarro today claiming in a new op-ed Dr. Anthony Fauci has been consistently wrong on how to handle the coronavirus. The White House has repeatedly denied that there are any efforts to undermine the scientific experts. Dr. Fauci earning the trust of millions of Americans for his straightforward comments on the pandemic refusing to play politics with American lives.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: This is a pandemic. Keep reminding yourself and your peers that this is something in which it doesn't matter who you are or what you are. You're Republican, democrat, anybody else, we're all in this together.

So hang in there. Do your thing, and don't get involved in any of the political nonsense. That's a waste of time and a distraction.


KEILAR: CNN Reporter and our fact checker, Daniel Dale, is with us now.

So, Daniel, Navarro makes a lot of claims in this opinion piece. He contrast himself with Dr. Fauci. For example, Navarro suggests that Fauci was misleading the public back in February. Run us through this. What's the truth here?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: So, Fauci did say in February that the risk of Americans contracting the coronavirus at that point was low. But every time he said this, Brianna, he emphasized that he was talking about the present moment. For example, he told USA Today editorial board, Yes, it's low but we have to be prepared for this changing, if becoming a pandemic and my advice changes.

So, yes, he did play down the risk at that moment but always emphasized that that advice might not be permanent.

KEILAR: Okay. And so he also he claims Navarro does, that he was right and Fauci was wrong about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine.

DALE: Yes. This is such a weird attempt by Navarro to dunk on Fauci for two reasons. Number one, evidence was indisputably anecdotal, as Fauci kept saying at the time. Navarro says Fauci shouldn't have been saying it was anecdotal.

And number two, the subsequent evidence that we've gotten from better studies has been negative for the most part, mixed at very best. Most of the studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine has not been effective against coronavirus to the point that the U.S. FDA discontinued its emergency use authorization for the hospital use of this drug. So why Navarro thinks that his advice on hydroxychloroquine was an early triumph is mysterious to me.

KEILAR: Yes, it's very mysterious, period.

And Navarro also claims Fauci fought against Trump's travel restrictions on China. Tell us about this.

DALE: Two things here. So, one, the story is more nuanced than Navarro was portraying. We had reporting and others have had reporting that Fauci was initially opposed in internal discussions to this idea of travel restrictions on China but then came around to supporting it once he got more evidence about the asymptomatic spread of the virus in China. So, yes, initially opposed, not always opposed.

But number two, it's important to remember, the virus was already here and spreading by the time those China restrictions came into effect in early February. So Trump portrays them as this dramatic step that dramatically thwarted the introduction of the virus into the U.S. but it was here and it was going around the country for weeks before these travel restrictions came into effect.

KEILAR: Yes, and it was coming from Europe as well. Daniel, thank you so much. I really appreciate the report.

Joining me now is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She is Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. Thank you so much for being with us, Doctor.

And I want to get your reaction to this latest attack on Dr. Fauci.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, Brianna. Thanks for having me.

You know, he is our most trusted adviser. He can synthesize the evidence. He has access to the evidence. And he has been delivering it with honesty and in a timely fashion. What we are learning scientifically about this virus has been evolving so very quickly and he is completely on top of it at every step.

I know Navarro commented on the hydroxychloroquine study. I just want to be clear, this was a study that came out later than the other studies that had already suggested that we shouldn't be using it. This later study suggested maybe there was some benefit.

There are a lot of challenges with that study. And one of them actually was that most of the patients who were getting hydroxychloroquine were also getting corticosteroids, which we now know actually do have a mortality benefit. So I think there were challenges with that study, and while Dr. Fauci's credentials are in medicine and science and research, Navarro's are not in that space.

KEILAR: No, they are not.

And let's talk about what appears to be a change here that hospital data on coronavirus patients is now going to go through HHS instead of the CDC. Do you have concerns with that?

WALENSKY: I think there are a lot of challenges with that. This was a shock to many of us. This happened sort of in the wee hours of last evening, and 10:00 P.M., there was this announcement.


Here is what I think is important to understand. First is that there have been challenges with the data and reporting of this disease, and those challenges have been real. They have represented challenges in access to remdesivir. So all of those hospitals in Florida are not getting the remdesivir they need. So the reporting of these data are really critical for central access for PPE, for remdesivir and other things and that has not been smooth.

I am all for quickly reporting the data and expeditiously reporting data and making sure it can get to the places that it's needed. But it's not entirely clear how this new policy would change things.

My understanding is that the data is currently, as of yesterday, was being sent to departments of public health in the states to the CDC and to the HHS. My understanding of this announcement is that it just deleted the CDC as a reporting site, and it's not entirely clear how that deletion to me will make it better.

I think the thing that has most of us most concerned is that the reporting of these data is now no longer going to be publicly accessible. It will not be accessible to researchers. It will not be accessible to the public or to scientists and I think -- and hospitals.

I think that's critically important to understand, because in the context of the fact we're now undercutting Dr. Fauci, who is our most trusted adviser and delivery of the science, now we don't actually have access to the data either.

I logged on this morning to the COVID exit strategy website, which one of the sites many of us use to follow this pandemic, and it said right up front, we no longer have access to ICU and hospital occupancy data, which I think will be really concerning.

KEILAR: Yes, that's very alarming. Dr. Walensky, thank you so much for really showing us how these changes are affecting you in practice, live for us from Boston.

A Florida lawmaker is joining residents in a lawsuit over mask requirements. He will join me live. Plus, more on our breaking news, the governor of Oklahoma tested positive for coronavirus, but the state says it's not related to President Trump's rally there.

And Dr. Fauci speaking live in just moments as the White House publicly attacks him as the pandemic worsens.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: Just moments ago, the Republican governor of Alabama issued a statewide mask mandate. This is the 36th state now to require face coverings for people while in public. Face masks, even cloth ones, help stop the spread of coronavirus, which is according to many, many studies.

And it's the assessment by three top CDC officials published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But in neighboring Florida, the new epicenter of the pandemic, does not have a statewide mask mandate. Its public health advisory recommends the use of face masks and social distancing.

And with more than 300,000 cases and more than 4,500 deaths, there is still pushback in Florida on wearing masks, including from Republican Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini, who is with us now. He has been filing lawsuits against cities and counties with laws that require people to wearing masks, and he's joining us now.

So, Representative, tell us, you say it's unconstitutional. Why?

STATE REP. ANTHONY SABATINI (R-FL): Well, it is unconstitutional. First, let me say something about your introduction. There's a difference between wanting to wear a mask are and passing a law mandating that people wear masks, and that's what we're concerned with, the actual punishment the government wants to assign people who don't wear masks.

But we do believe it's unconstitutional mostly because it violates the Florida Constitution. We have a very robust privacy clause here in the State of Florida in our state Constitution. And it's suppose to protect all sorts of private information and liberty when it comes to a person. And we think it really violates this clause because this is something government's never done before.

We've never had government tell you what you have to do with your own face. This is truly a novel move for government and we think that it violates the bodily and facial autonomy sort of implied parts of the Florida privacy clause.

And in addition to that, we think it violates the due process clause because it's an arbitrary and irrational law.

KEILAR: Okay. Well, seat belts, are they unconstitutional?

SABATINI: No, and it's a great analogy, because seat belts, of course, are something that are assigned for people to wear in very highly regulated areas of public domain, namely, highways. When you go to a highway, you're very driving fast, you're operating a piece of technology. And so the state has an interest in governing what happens in those very specific arenas.

But what you find with these mask mandates is they, literally, are -- everywhere you go all day everywhere. If you take Key West, for example, Key West passed their twos day ago. People assigned, people are governed by in ordinance that says you have to wear a mask 12 to 14 hours a day everywhere you go outside your own home. If you step outside your car in a grocery --

KEILAR: Okay. But you filed lawsuit and a case where it's just masks inside of businesses, okay? And you're in a state where 20 metro areas that are hardest hit in the country, almost half in your state, and how cars work, right, is that people go from place to place. You're very aware of that.

SABATINI: well, I can't fact check you on the metro part but I do know outside of South Florida, most of my state is doing just fine. I lived in the suburbs of Orlando --

KEILAR: I'd like to put up a map up, sir. I hope you can see it.

SABATINI: Sure. Unfortunately I can't.

KEILAR: This is a map of your state so that you can see. All right, you can't see it.

Okay. So all along throughout Florida's entirety, I mean, all throughout Florida, these are the top metro areas in the country, and you guys have about half of them.


So that just flies in the face of what you're saying.

SABATINI: Well, Brianna, I think what you're doing is what a lot of folks in the media have done, which is harp exclusively on one metric, namely the cases, cases, cases, cases. The media is almost exclusively focused on this one number versus the two most important numbers, obviously, hospitalizations and fatalities, where in most parts of the state flat-lined or gone down, especially in mine.

And so if we focus on the two more relevant metrics, Florida is doing just fine.

KEILAR: Okay. We focus on case positivity and we just did a report on the metrics that you cited, perhaps you didn't hear it. But you had actually, in Leon County, a circuit judge who said -- and, look, we checked, representative, we checked the constitutional experts who said, and this is what the court judge said and this is what the circuit judge said and constitutional experts agree with this, the ordinance, because you lost in Leon County.

The ordinance has a, quote, valid basis to protect public health, because, I mean, you talk about this being an extraordinary circumstance, but we are in an extraordinary circumstance. We're in a pandemic. And Florida is not doing just fine.

SABATINI: No, they are. But on the judge issue, there's about 800 circuit court judges in the State of Florida.

KEILAR: No. You think Florida is doing fine right now?

SABATINI: Absolutely. I think the governor's response has been on point and I think that the metrics that matter the most we're doing very well. And if you're counting cases, you're going to scare people. But what they won't realize is that cases are far less --

KEILAR: Deaths, 4,521, total cases, 301,000.

SABATINI: Last week in Florida, we had --

KEILAR: Hospitalizations increasing, 19,234. 54 hospital ICUs have reached capacity in Florida. Another 40 hospitals show that ICUs at 10 percent or less availability and you say you're doing fine?

SABATINI: We're the nation's third largest state. So out of the 70,000 new cases we had last week, we had about 100 more people go to the hospital. That is an extremely small number when you're looking at the fact that we have 21.5 million people, certainly not the sort of numbers that would drive people to shut down the economy.

KEILAR: Sir, you're the epicenter of a global pandemic and you can't eve admit that?

SABATINI: That's actually a false assessment entirely. I don't even know what you mean by epicenter. The whole world is dealing with this issue right now. There's going to be a lot of cases in places of high population. Florida has 21.5 million people, cases are going up. Everybody knew they were going to go up. When you open an economy, cases go up. Does that mean higher risk? Absolutely not.

KEILAR: Well, let me ask you about that. You want to reopen the economy, right?

SABATINI: Correct. It should be 100 percent open.

KEILAR: So then why not have masks, because you have a lot of people who are following the science on this? They look at all of these studies that show that mask-wearing saves lives and they're more likely to participate in the economy?

You have Walmart. And today, you know, today, Walmart, Sam's Club and Alabama, the Republican governor in Alabama, putting in place mask mandates. They disagree with you. They think that this is constitutional and they think it's good business. What do you say to that? SABATINI: Well, the governor of Alabama has done a horrible job and I think the voters are going to throw her out of office. But more importantly, when you look at the mandate versus a voluntary mask- wearing suggestion where government actually incentivizes and says, hey, listen, we'd like you to wear a mask, here are free masks, et cetera. I'm okay with that.

A government wants to incentivize and recommend masks, as they've done in many places, that's going to get a lot of compliance, period. But that's a big, big different -- that's a very different role the government is playing versus actually penalizing people with 60 days in jail. It's out of control. We don't need government putting people in jail in the middle of a big economic recession. It's --

KEILAR: Okay. To be clear, these are monetary fines that we're talking about. But do you wear a mask?

SABATINI: In the case -- let me be specific about that. In the case that it is a monetary fine, some of the fines are quite high. St. Augustine, another one of my cases, $500 per occurrence, but a lot of the largest urban areas, including Orange County or Orlando, my backyard, it's actually a secondary misdemeanor. That's out of control.

But to answer your question on the masks, if I went to a hospital, like the president did, or I went to a place that would be considered medically sensitive, absolutely.

KEILAR: Do you wear one at the grocery store?

SABATINI: Absolutely not. I've maintained social distance though.

KEILAR: Okay. But you know that a new study, a good study out of Japan shows that indoor transmission is almost 20 times higher than it is outdoors. So when you go into a grocery store and you're not wearing a mask, you're comfortable putting workers who work there and other patrons at risk by not wearing a mask?

SABATINI: The studies I have seen, the studies that have been most popular over the last 100 days of this crisis have said mask or social distancing. So if you're maintaining basic social distancing, like I do, there's no reason to have an additional mask on top of that.


KEILAR: Everyone should wear a cloth cover, according to the CDC in public settings and when around people who don't live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. It doesn't say just when they are not. This is the CDC. This is government guidance based on science.

But then let me -- I'm just curious. Why wouldn't you wear a mask in a grocery store? What is it about the mask that you don't like?

SABATINI: Well, to be actually quite honest, I hardly ever go to the grocery store. I like to eat that and do it a lot more often so am not in a position to be asked --

KEILAR: Okay. Well, you've talked about being in the grocery store. So you said you don't wear a mask in a grocery store. Why would you not wear a mask in a grocery store? What is it that is a problem with a mask for you?

SABATINI: So I'll repeat my point. If you're basically keeping social distance from people, you're not getting too close, you're fine. You don't need to wear a mask on top of that.

KEILAR: That's not true. Why is it -- do you find it uncomfortable? You said it's annoying, right? Publicly, you said it's annoying and it's hard to breathe.

SABATINI: Yes, it is. I mean, obviously, a lot of my clients are people with asthmatic conditions and it's extremely difficult.

Listen, this is Florida. It's about 100 degrees outside.

KEILAR: You know -- Representative, you know there's exceptions for people who have conditions that make it hard for them to breathe if they choose to not wear a mask. You know that.

SABATINI: And if you read the legal complaint of the lawsuit, what you'll find is that those exceptions are written in such a vague way that essentially most businesses and government itself are in a position to immediately want to deny it.

So when you walk into a store and say, listen, I have an illness or asthma, what's happening is you're getting actually bullied and harassed by businesses and government officials to wear a mask. They actually aren't trained, most code enforcement law officers are not trained on spotting your illness or subjective sensory disability. And so they're pushing you to wear a mask.

So, really, these masks are actually creating even more havoc than violating the Constitution but actually causing direct harm on people's lives incentivizing bullying and harassment. It's terrible.

KEILAR: Do you know anyone who has died from COVID?

SABATINI: I am aware of people who have. No one very close or firsthand basis.

KEILAR: Who? Who are you aware of who has died?

SABATINI: Because I'm a state representative, I hear about the names of people in my community who die and sometimes people do know them, that I know.

KEILAR: It's proven that masks save lives. Wouldn't you want to see their lives saved?

SABATINI: I think the importance of masks -- there is some importance to masks. I think that the media has grossly exaggerated their effectiveness in certain circumstances to the point where people literally think if they have a mask, they're not going to get COVID, when, really, it's just a drop in the bucket in terms of precautions you can take. So it is --

KEILAR: The media -- media is repeating what public health experts are saying. I mean, just to be clear, you are not a doctor and you're not a public health expert, right?

SABATINI: Well, don't forget that just two months ago --

KEILAR: Are you? Are you --

SABATINI: -- these health experts -- well, let me say this. Two months ago, these exact same public experts that you are --

KEILAR: You're not. I'll just answer it for you. But go on.

SABATINI: -- citing with authorities say do not wear a masks. What do you say about that?

KEILAR: What do I -- I say that at the time they said they were protecting healthcare workers and I say there's been a lot of discussion about that initial recommendation, as there should be, Representative. But that does not -- that's not mutually exclusive with what you are saying here.

SABATINI: Yes. No, listen, the CDC is going to recommend a whole lot of things. People should take those things with great interest. But they should not make those things something that if you don't listen to, you're going to be punished in the eyes of government. You're actually going to be sent to jail, arrested, hit with civil fines. That's really what the lawsuits revolve around the world government.

KEILAR: Okay. And just to point so far in your cases, we're monitoring one loss at this point of a county that disagrees with you. You are not a doctor, you're not a scientist. Anthony Sabatini, thank you for coming on.

SABATINI: We had two wins though. We can --

KEILAR: And some concerns about tonight's NASCAR race, as up to 30,000 fans are expected to attend.

Plus, I'll speak with a Texas pharmacist who survived coronavirus after being put on a ventilator. Hear about the hallucinations that he suffered.

And Dr. Fauci speaking in just moments as the White House publicly attacks him as the virus worsens.

Stay with us.