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Interview With Florida Doctor Bernard Ashby; White House Orders Hospital COVID-19 Information Sent To HHS; CNN Correspondents Contrast Testing Wait Times In U.S. And Germany. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 15, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello, it's the top of the hour and I'm Brianna Keilar.

The White House is denying any efforts to undermine or discredit the nation's top infectious disease expert but today, in a scathing op-ed, top White House trade advisor Peter Navarro is attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, writing that he listens to Fauci's advice with skepticism and caution.

An official tells CNN the White House did not sign off on the op-ed. Here's what the president said about it, moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Didn't change for me. I -- look, they're all on the same team, we're all on the same team including Dr. Fauci. I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.

And we're all on the same team. We want to get rid of this mess that China sent us, so everybody's working on the same line and we're doing very well. We're doing well in a lot of ways, and our country's coming back very strong.

When you look at those job numbers, we've never had job numbers like we have right now. So it's coming back very strong, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Navarro's gone (ph) rogue?

TRUMP: Well, he made a statement representing himself, he shouldn't be doing that.

No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony. Thank you very much, thank you.


KEILAR: But Dr. Fauci, who has earned the trust of millions of Americans during this pandemic, is staying focused on the science. Here's what he had to say about his relationship with the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you update us on your relationship with the president?

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, the scene has changed a bit because back then, when we were having daily press conferences -- in fact, there was a period of intensity, you recall, when we were meeting with the task force, seven days a week. And we were having frequent press briefings, so I had the opportunity, on a personal, one-on-one, to talk to the president.

That's changed a bit now, I haven't done that in a while. But what has not changed -- and I think, you know, in credit to the vice president, who he's been very heavily involved in this -- and we -- we don't have as many task force meetings, it's not every day but we do have it, you know, two or three times a week. And the physicians and public health people meet even more frequently.

So I can say a day does not go by that I am not in contact with Debbie Birx or with Bob Redfield or Steve Hahn and others, so we do that, and we go down. And my input to the president is now a bit indirect, it goes through the vice president.


KEILAR: I'm joined now by Miami cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby. And, Dr. Ashby, what's your reaction when you hear these attacks on Dr. Fauci and, really, what it means for the big picture as this nation is trying to confront this pandemic?

BERNARD ASHBY, CARDIOLOGIST WITH ICU AT CAPACITY: So, Brooke, thanks a lot for having me here, giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of my community, my patients and the medical health care professionals out there, fighting hard on the frontlines.

So, in a word, disappointed. I mean, the fact that we're in the midst of a pandemic, I'd like to say -- you know, I'm a Florida boy -- so we're in the midst of a hurricane right now, especially down here in Miami. And the fact that we're having these conversations at this particular time is just disappointing, to say the least.

KEILAR: And so you're -- tell us about what's going on on the ground for you there, in Florida at your hospital.

ASHBY: So a number of things. One, the ICUs are starting to reach capacity, including my ICU. We're at 100 percent capacity. There are about 54 other ICUs that are at 100 percent capacity, another 40 that are at almost capacity, 90 percent-plus.

And so we are starting to see an increase in hospitalizations, increase in the deaths as expected from the uptick in the virus spread in the state of Florida. So this is not a big surprise, unfortunately.

And you know, me, representing on behalf of the medical profession, we feel like our leadership just doesn't have our back, so we're kind of doing what we need to do and we've actually made quite a few advances and our patients are having better outcomes, but the leadership doesn't have our back and again, very disappointing.

KEILAR: What do you need from your leadership? What do you need from the governor?

ASHBY: So basically, I'm not going to get into the weeds of it. Just get the virus under control. However you do it, just do it. And so there's a lot of prescriptions out there but what I want to focus on is outcomes, so just get the virus under control. We said that this was going to happen, it's happening. And now what are you going to do about it?

And at this particular point in Florida, we're just not doing enough to get the virus under control. And I'm worried about my patients, I'm worried about my community so we've got to handle this.

KEILAR: So you say you don't want to get into it. And I'm actually -- I'm really curious why that is, because I know, you know, when you're talking about the things that the leaders have at their disposal, it would be things like a mask mandate, which Florida doesn't have even though, you know, today, Alabama, with the Republican governor next door, is putting one in place. Things like maybe reducing sort of rolling back or pausing on some of the reopening.


But it just becomes, you know, to say those things, it puts you -- I mean, in a position where it's almost like taking a political position. Is it difficult to be in a position where you're saying, Get this under control. But in order to kind of talk about common-sense solutions, it puts you in -- sort of makes you a target of criticism?

ASHBY: Exactly, exactly. I mean, the whole situation to me is (INAUDIBLE) because you know, we have to have leadership doing their job, we have to have the medical profession doing their job. We have to protect our community. This is a public health crisis, therefore we need to handle it from that perspective.

There's a lot of folks talking who are saying a lot of things, who don't have the expertise and you know, basically what my comment is, is stay in your lane, do your job, let us do our job and let's take care of our community. Let's take care of our patients, let's take care of our country.

I mean, this doesn't need to be a political issue. Get the virus under control, period, that's it.

KEILAR: Doctor, thank you for joining us, Dr. Bernard Ashby. And good luck, we know that you are right in the middle of all of this, and we appreciate you talking to us.

ASHBY: I appreciate you for having me. Thanks.

KEILAR: So all of this is coming as the U.S. has reached a new daily high for coronavirus cases in the United States, more than 67,000 new cases confirmed yesterday, which is a record. Thirty-eight states are reporting double-digit increases compared to a week ago. One of them, Alabama, just announcing that masks are now going to be required statewide. And in another, Oklahoma, the governor says he has tested positive for coronavirus. One highly influential model is now projecting 224,000 Americans will die by November 1st. And this is why that number's important, because it is 16,000 more than was predicted just last week. Things are getting worse, projections are getting worse.

And as the numbers skyrocket, what you know about the extent of this virus could soon be limited. That is actually because the White House is now ordering hospitals to send all information on their patients, on PPE, on ventilators directly to HHS instead of the Centers for Disease Control, which is seen as more independent.

The Health and Human Services Department says this will allow the data to be streamlined. But one former CDC director tells CNN it is another example of the agency being sidelined -- the CDC, that is -- and a step back in the nation's response.

We have CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles on this. And, Nick, in California and other places, officials are really struggling to gain control over this outbreak.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are. Listen, and just in the last hour, we've heard from the San Francisco School District, it's going to be online only when schools go back in the fall. Pasadena, they have just cancelled their world-famous Rose Parade, which is New Year's Day 2021. In Riverside County, a federal team will soon be on the way -- medical, military personnel -- to help in a hospital where they say the ICU is reaching capacity.

Hospitalizations here in California, focused here in Los Angeles where this line behind me is for testing at Dodgers Stadium.


WATT (voice-over): More theme parks opening up today in Florida, just as the positivity rate on tests in Miami-Dade passes a staggering 30 percent, which means the virus is spreading fast, and ICUs are already full in 54 Florida hospitals.

CARLOS MIGOYA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM: The biggest issue is that we have a lot of aggressive noncompliant people, people that just do not believe that masking is the right thing to do, that don't believe this. And frankly, a lot of the young people are saying, So what if I get it? If I get it, it doesn't mean anything.

WATT (voice-over): More Americans are being infected with this virus now, six months in, than ever before.

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Right now, the southern U.S. accounts for about a quarter of the world's cases of COVID-19. Think about that, just the southern half of the U.S.

WATT (voice-over): Nineteen states are now -- now -- seeing their highest average daily case counts ever, and 14 states have more COVID patients in hospitals now than ever before. QUINN SNYDER, ER PHYSICIAN IN PHOENIX: We could end up in a position where we're going to have to start making decisions like who gets a ventilator and who doesn't.

WATT (voice-over): He's in Arizona, where NFL-style misters are now deployed in one district to disinfect. Kids will be back in these classrooms in a little over two weeks.

COLLEEN KRAFT, ASSOCIATE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Schools are going to be hotspots. Kids are a vector for viruses. If you remember pandemic H1N1 in 2009, as soon as schools reopened, there was a huge spike.

WATT (voice-over): In surging California, those who are asymptomatic but believe they have a risk of being actively infected, for now, cannot be tested because the state is trying to dip demand to speed up the turnaround time.


WILL HUMBLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIZONA PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: You've got to have a fast turnaround time if the contact tracing is going to work, which is, after masks, the single most important return on investment intervention that we have.

WATT (voice-over): Until, of course, we get a vaccine.

FAUCI: And I hope that that time will be reasonably soon. And when I say soon, I say within the next year to year and a half.

WATT (voice-over): So we'll likely have a fall and winter without one.


WATT: And, Brianna, you just mentioned that Alabama just triggered a mask mandate, that now exists in 36 states and in any Walmart store you want to go into.

But interestingly, the governor of Oklahoma, who you just said has just admitted -- not admitted, that's completely the wrong word to say -- has just said that he is COVID-positive. About masks, he said he is not thinking about a mask mandate at all because different communities have different needs -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Let's hope he is wearing one. Nick Watt, thank you so much, really appreciate it.

Just in, we have some more details on the drama that's unfolding inside the White House as the president's top trade advisor publicly attacks Dr. Anthony Fauci. Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta is joining us now to talk about this.

Tell us what you're hearing, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. White House officials are telling me and my colleague Betsy Kline that Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, is not happy with the White House trade advisor Peter Navarro after that scathing op-ed that Navarro put out, attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Just talked to this official a few moments ago, who said that Navarro had been warned by the chief of staff, as well as other staffers inside the White House, to de-escalate the situation between the White House and Dr. Fauci. And that Navarro, quote, "violated those instructions."

And so at this point, it's unclear whether or not this is going to lead to Peter Navarro being fired or something like that. But Mark Meadows, the new chief of staff who has been trying to get things under control since coming on board, you know, in charge of the staff here at the White House, he is not happy about this.

The other thing that makes all of this interesting, Brianna, as you'll recall, a couple of days ago, when White House officials were anonymously trashing Dr. Fauci with those talking points that were critical of the infectious diseases expert, part of the reason why Navarro is in so much hot water now with the White House chief of staff is that Meadows was trying to lower the temperature after that talking point's flap.

Clearly, that backfired in the faces of people over here at the White House, and Meadows wanted to put a stop to it. And then that didn't happen when Peter Navarro put out that op-ed, so clearly the chief of staff has his hands full with Peter Navarro.

Because you can't have -- as you know, Brianna, you covered the White House -- you just can't have top White House officials going rogue like that and publishing op-eds and not going through the communications team over here at the White House. It makes it look as if -- that people here at the White House are all over the place on this issue, which of course they have been.

KEILAR: Yes. And let's listen, Jim, to Dr. Fauci himself. He called the attacks on him bizarre.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officials have distributed what essentially is oppo research. And you are the government's top health advisor. And the government you're trying to advise is actively trying to discredit you. How do you work like that?

FAUCI: Well, that is a bit bizarre. And I have to tell you, I think if I sit here and just shrug my shoulders and say, Well, you know, that's life in the fast lane -- no, it is a bit bizarre. I don't really fully understand it.

You know, I think that what happened with that list that came out, I think if you sit down and talk to the people who were involved in that, they really, I think, taken aback by what a bit mistake that was. And I think if you talk to reasonable people in the White House, they realize that was a major mistake on their part because it doesn't do anything but reflect poorly on them. And I don't think that that was their intention. I don't know, I

cannot figure out, in my wildest dreams, why they would want to do that. But, I mean, I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do because it's only reflecting negatively on them.

I can't explain Peter Navarro. He's in a world by himself, so I don't even want to go there.


KEILAR: I mean, that was pretty interesting. And, Jim, it was worth noting that Fauci says his input now goes through the vice president, not the president.

ACOSTA: That's true. I mean, there's no question about it, the president and Dr. Fauci have not been on good terms for some time now. The president says he has a good relationship with Dr. Fauci; there hasn't been much of a relationship, the two haven't spoken as far as I know for many, many weeks.

And the other thing we should point out about Peter Navarro, I mean, remember, it was months ago when Dr. Anthony Fauci and Peter Navarro had this big altercation inside one of the White House Task Force meetings over hydroxychloroquine.


Peter Navarro, according to what we're told, came into this meeting, threw down a stack of articles, saying, See? Hydroxychloroquine works.

And Dr. Fauci, at that point, was saying, What are you talking about, Peter? That has not been established, that is an unproven treatment. And we've seen studies showing at best mixed results in all of this, and many top scientists -- including Fauci -- are not convinced about it.

But putting all that to the side, I will tell you, you know, I tried to reach out to Dr. Fauci this morning about this, and he really didn't want to engage all that much with the situation with Peter Navarro. He said he wants to focus on what's important, like the development of a vaccine and all.

But you get the sense, from talking to him -- and you talk to people who know how he thinks, Brianna, that he is kind of exasperated with all of this and taken aback, because he's worked with -- as you know, Brianna -- Democratic and Republican presidents, going back decades. He's never had to deal with a situation like this before -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. And on hydroxychloroquine, I mean, they actually stopped, for hydroxychloroquine, a study because they didn't feel it was ethical to continue, that's the issue that they were having, in terms of it posing a safety risk --

ACOSTA: Right.

KEILAR: -- to people. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you so much.

ACOSTA: That's right.

KEILAR: And next, we have a personal look at the disparities in testing in the U.S. versus the rest of the world, it is staggering. Our own CNN correspondents will share their wildly different experiences.

Plus, I'll speak to an official in Orange County, California, where the Board of Education approved a measure, recommended that schools go back into session without masks, without social distancing and schools are not listening.



KEILAR: To face down this surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, experts agree the U.S. needs more testing. And right now, the director of the CDC says the U.S. is conducting about 800,000 tests each day, but admits that we need much more.


ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I think many of us believe we need to get to about three to five million tests a day to be where we need to be as a nation so that everyone has readily access or timely results. And all I can say is we're continuing to push forward.


KEILAR: Now, Dr. Redfield also says that in order for tests to be useful, results need to be coming back in 48 to 72 hours. But just take a look at this tweet from one of my colleagues, shared between two of my colleagues here at CNN.

Correspondent Fred Pleitgen in Berlin responded to anchor Victor Blackwell's tweet that he was still waiting for results 12 days after his COVID test in Georgia. Pleitgen said he got his results the same day in Germany. And they are both joining me now to discuss this.

Thank you so much to both of you for coming on and talking about your wildly varying experiences here. Victor, to you first, 12 days?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, today is day 13 and I still don't have the result. This started back on June 30th, when I was experiencing some shortness of breath. Nothing dramatic, no other symptoms, so I thought it would make sense, in this environment, to get a coronavirus test.

I couldn't find anything through the minute clinic, CVS circuit near my home. I was going to be near Augusta for the Fourth of July, so I got one 150 miles away, July 2nd, 10:30 in the morning. By the time that came, I was no longer having the shortness of breath but I got the test anyway. I was told I'd have results in two to four days. Well, that went by, I

went and checked the portal where the results were supposed to have been posted, and there's an alert that says because of the backlog, it'll be six to 10 days.

Well, yesterday, on day 12, I called the toll-free number and it took several attempts to be able to get through the automated system. And after I did, I waited on hold for 30 minutes and it dropped my call.

So I don't know if they botched my results or if they are coming, but results two weeks after the test, they're no good to me or anyone else.

KEILAR: Yes, but results, Fred, the same day? I mean, that's great.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is great. And it's been really easy. I mean, I've gotten two corona tests also, I think, pretty much in the same time period that Victor's actually still waiting for his results.

Because I got this second test at the local city hall here, I basically walked up, they had a mobile truck there. They took the swabs for the PCR test, and then I had the results, I think it was about 11 hours later. I got an e-mail from the company that did it, they said the test was negative.

If it would have been positive, I obviously would have had to report to the German authorities. And Victor's absolutely right, that's something that needs to happen really, really quickly because only through that contact tracing can you actually help beat the virus back.

And in fact if my test would have been positive, I would have put it on this thing -- we have this coronavirus app, here in Germany. This one's actually telling me right now that I haven't had any contact with anyone who's high risk. But I would have had to put that into that app to make sure other people who have been in contact with me, know whether or not my test would have been positive. So that's something that they've had here in Germany for a while.

I actually had a second test -- or my first test, it was -- in I think it was mid-June, actually. And there, I was having a regular checkup at my dermatologist's office, and we sort of got to talking. I said, you know, in the past I might have contact with someone. And they said, Well, let's do a PCR test real quick. And I got those results, also, in about two working days.

So I can't imagine that 12 or 13 days that it -- seems like that kind of defeats the purpose of getting a test.

KEILAR: And Victor, are you thinking what I'm thinking, as Fred is holding up his little -- he's got his app. And I'm just thinking, Wouldn't it be nice to have something like that, right? You could get a hold on what people are experiencing.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we are just kind of floating around blindly now. I mean, if I take a test July 2nd, and I'm waiting for results, let's say they come back positive. Consider all of the people and places I have been in that time, and now if I take a test today, am I supposed to wait another week, week and a half to get whatever today's result is?

I mean, when the president says that we've got the best testing in the world, I'm on day 13. Fred has had two tests and results in that time frame. We need to ramp some stuff up because how do we get to the other side if this is a common story?

There's a lot of commiserating after that post that I put on Twitter, of people putting five days, eight days, still waiting for results after a week and a half. And we're not going to get to the point where we need to be to mitigate this virus if people have to wait this long.

KEILAR: Victor, Fred, thank you --


PLEITGEN: And if I could -- if I could just --

KEILAR: Yes, go on, Fred.

PLEITGEN: Yes. I mean, I think that that's really key, what Victor is saying there. Because one of the things the German government has said -- and they've been pretty good so far, I have to say, as far as dealing with the coronavirus is concerned.

They said, First of all, obviously, a lot of testing is very important, was even more important, here in Germany, when the virus was rampant. But now, their strategy really is if they sort of localized outbreaks -- because we don't have that much coronavirus here in Germany any more -- is test people quickly, get them results quickly to try and get that all sort of -- get these people fenced off, make sure that they're not giving the coronavirus to other people.

There have been some localized outbreaks, but because of the contact tracing, they've really been able to push that back. And I looked at our results for Germany today, they had 350 new cases throughout the entire country, which is a country of 82 million, in one day. And only three deaths. And we've been in the single-digit death toll for, you know, a good couple weeks now.

So I think that this contact tracing -- this is something that Angela Merkel, our chancellor, says again and again -- the contact tracing is absolutely essential. Of course, an efficient testing scheme is definitely key to that.

KEILAR: Yes. It's like two different worlds. But thank you guys so much for talking about this with us, it's really showing us the difference between not just the testing, but that contact tracing and that informing. It's so important. Fred, Victor, stay well both of you. You look great, you look healthy and I hope you stay that way. Thank you guys.

As the president demands schools reopen, new reports of a cluster at a high school in Illinois.

Plus, the Board of Education in Orange County, California votes to return to school with no social distancing or masks.


And more on our breaking news, Dr. Fauci, calling the White House's attacks on him bizarre, and the op-ed against him a major mistake. Stand by.