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Georgia Megachurch Suspends In-Person Services; Walmart to Require Masks; Administration Official Attacks Dr. Fauci. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired July 15, 2020 - 15:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: More states, more records, more rollbacks, and more Americans sick with the coronavirus.

There are a lot of new numbers coming in. They are getting bigger by the day. So, let's just focus in on a critical few that we see today. There are now 14 states that are reporting a record number of people admitted to the hospital because they are so ill with COVID.

Across the country, there was another record, more than 67,000 new infections reported just yesterday, 67,000. Take one state, Florida. It's reported more than 10,000 new infections yesterday. Compare that number to the entire country of South Korea, which is relevant, because the United States and South Korea recorded their first cases of COVID around the very same time, and South Korea has recorded just over 13,000 cases total over many months, and 10,000, over 10,000, just yesterday in Florida.

Now, we just got an announcement that the governor of Oklahoma, he has tested positive. He's believed to be the first governor in the country to contract the virus.

And just a little while ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, put out another critical message about the outbreak. And it is important for all of us to listen, even though it is clear that the White House does not want you to.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: When you look at the numbers, obviously, we have got to do better. We have got to almost reset this and say, OK, let's stop this nonsense and figure out, how can we get our control over this now?

And looking forward, how can we make sure that, next month, we don't have another example of California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona, because those are the hot zones now? And I'm looking at the map, saying, we got to make sure it doesn't happen in other states.

So, rather than these games people are playing, let's focus on that.


BOLDUAN: The president today is trying to change the subject. He's in Atlanta, not focusing on the virus, which is spiking there, too. He is not -- also not visiting the CDC headquarters, which is right there.

He's trying to make it infrastructure week once again.

Let's start at the White House.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is standing by. She's joining me right now.

Kaitlan, what is the president saying about this really unbelievable piece written by one of his top advisers going after Dr. Fauci, this time not anonymous sources, very much in public?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, about as public as you can get, Kate, with this op-ed written by Peter Navarro and published last night, directly going after Dr. Fauci and saying that Peter Navarro only listens to him with skepticism and caution.

And the president was asked today twice, did he approve of this op-ed by Navarro? And in the first instance, he insisted that he wasn't aware of the op-ed. He said it was Peter's statement. And then, later, he criticized Navarro for publishing that op-ed as he was leaving the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

Well, he made a statement representing himself. He shouldn't be doing that. No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony.


COLLINS: So, he said that he has a good relationship with Dr. Fauci, who we should note they have not spoken in about six weeks still to this day. They instead communicate indirectly through the vice president.

And we should note that, when it comes to Navarro, the White House said that he did not go through the clearance process when it came to publishing that op-ed. He's not someone who really ever has played by those kinds of rules. He is seen as someone who is definitely an outsider in the administration, and often just goes directly to the president when he has something, like he did with those memos that he had written months ago warning about the pandemic.

But for Dr. Fauci and this relationship with Peter Navarro, something that has certainly been tense for several months, I want you to listen to how Navarro -- or to how Dr. Fauci responded to these attacks, not only from Navarro in this op-ed, but also from that anonymous memo by the White House that was circulated over the weekend questioning Dr. Fauci's judgment.


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, that's life in the fast lane -- it is a bit bizarre. I don't really fully understand it.

I think that would happen with that list that came out, I think, if you sit down and talk to the people who are involved in that, they are really, I think, taken aback by what a big mistake that was.

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


COLLINS: So, Kate, you heard really no words there for Peter Navarro.

We should note Dr. Fauci was at the White House today for that Coronavirus Task Force meeting. CNN cameras saw him arriving. It was just around the same time that the president was boarding Marine One to go to Atlanta, so not likely that they crossed paths today.


BOLDUAN: Not today, not for several weeks at this point.

Kaitlan, thank you very much.

All right. Joining me right now is Dr. Tom Inglesby. He's director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It's great to see you again, Dr. Inglesby. Thank you for being here.

From your perspective, when you hear Dr. Fauci saying today that we -- essentially, we need to hit a reset button in terms of trying to get control of the situation, so next month doesn't look like there's another Texas happening or another Florida, what does that look like, from your perspective?


I think we do need a reset. The majority of states in the country are seeing an increase in cases, and, as you said, a number of them reaching all time highs. I think a reset looks like really clear communication from the top of government. It's very consistent actions.

It's leaders wearing masks from the national government, state government, local leaders. It's political leaders working hand in hand with their top scientists, and not undercutting them, like what's been happening in the last week. And it's people making sensible choices around the country. I think -- I think it's not complicated what we need to do. We just

need to get on the same page and do it.

BOLDUAN: It actually is just what you're saying. It is not complicated. It's quite simple.

But it seems, I fear, almost impossible that it's going to happen. Clear leadership and clear messaging from the top is something that I know you would have liked to have seen from the very beginning of this pandemic.

I mean, I want to play something else that Dr. Fauci just said about getting to this point you're making, getting to how he communicates, or really does not at this point, with the president.

Let me play this.


FAUCI: My input to the president is now a bit indirect. It goes through the vice president. But, clearly, the vice president literally every day is listening to what we have to say. There's no doubt about that.


BOLDUAN: It's great that the vice president is listening, but it may sound like a small thing that it needs to go -- that it's now indirectly going to the president, but we're talking about Dr. Anthony Fauci's expert advice in the midst of a pandemic, where it is getting worse in this country and more people are dying.

Is this normal? Does this concern you?

INGLESBY: Oh, it really concerns me.

I think, like, take the example of New Zealand. New Zealand has done extremely well with their epidemic, leading the world. And one of the things that people say there, that leaders say there is that the relationship between their political leadership and their scientific leadership has been extremely strong and very close, and the public sees that.

And they have used that to succeed. They have used that to really control the virus. People are back at work. They're doing sports again. They're going back to schools.

But here we are, with our numbers rising. We can't fight science and fight facts and do well against this epidemic. The virus is going to do what it's going to do. And we need leaders like Dr. Fauci to be able to speak the truth, really guide us with facts, harness the science of the country.

Our country leads the world in science and technology, but we're not using it to fight this virus strongly enough. And we need to turn that around. BOLDUAN: Immediately, like yesterday, like two months ago. I mean,


INGLESBY: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure you're kind of frustrated and exasperated at this point that you're having to say this at this moment.

And what do you do with this? Most people, most Americans don't know who Peter Navarro is. But the fact that a White House official is publicly, very publicly, going after the person who -- the expert, the top scientist that we have, the top doctor we have to get us through a pandemic, in the midst of a pandemic, what is the impact of that?

How much harder does that make the public health message that you think is central to getting the country to reset?

INGLESBY: So, first of all, I have been working on issues around epidemics, infectious disease crisis. In 20 years, I have never seen anything like it. I have never seen a president or his people undercut the scientific leadership.

And I think it's really -- it's demoralizing for scientists, but, much more importantly, it's confusing for people. If the public sees that political leadership is not supporting science, it begins to wonder about the science.

It really is -- it's a terrible leadership message. And I think the good news about it, if there is any good news, is that it's reversible. It's possible to change this, if the president and his leadership team decided that they would get behind the science, that they would kind of reengage, reset. I think it's possible to do this.

But there has to be a decision to do that.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting.

This may sound technical for folks, but you are the perfect person to ask about this, this announcement from the administration that they are now ordering hospitals to go around the CDC in reporting COVID patient information, instead of send -- instead now sending it straight to the HHS.

The stated reason is to -- for the change is just to make the data collection faster and more complete. But it is concerning a lot of health experts.


Hopkins is one of the places that we all turn for collecting and disseminating this kind of information, for these case counts, these trends, these changes. You understand how important this full picture, transparency in this information is.

What is your reaction to this change? INGLESBY: Well, I don't know enough about the details of the -- of

what's actually happening within the -- within HHS and CDC. I don't think it's ever a good idea to bypass CDC.

At a minimum, CDC should be completely in the loop. Perhaps there's an efficiency that they're making in some way. But I think what my bigger concern is that a substantial amount of data is collected every day within the government that's not made public.

And it's good data. It's data about testing. It's data about disease. It's data about hospitalizations. My view on this is that all the data that we collect should be made public. It should just be a public good. People could make better decisions. The public could understand what the disease looks like in their own communities.

So my own view is that we should move towards complete transparency about the data that's being collected around the country.

BOLDUAN: Especially on this, especially how you put it. You really synthesize it perfectly.

I see nothing but downside in holding back information. There's no benefit to holding just data collection from the American public, when you have brilliant minds like yourself who can help us understand what it actually means.

Dr. Inglesby, thank you for coming in again. I appreciate it.

INGLESBY: (AUDIO GAP) Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us: a new announcement from the biggest retailer in the world. What Walmart does, will other retailers follow?

And a difficult decision for one of the country's largest megachurches. We're going to talk to the pastor who says that he is not confident that they can keep the congregation safe, and so what they're having to do.



BOLDUAN: Walmart announced today that it will require customers at all of its U.S. stores to wear masks beginning next week.

This announcement is sure to get a lot of attention, as Walmart is the world's largest retailer. How is Walmart planning to enforce this policy? Well, they say they have created a new position. They're going to be called health ambassadors stationed near the entrance -- I wonder if it's like the Walmart greeter -- to remind customers of this change. We will see how that goes. It begins next week.

Another big announcement, this time out of Georgia. One of the largest megachurches in the country, North Point Ministries, has just said that it is suspending all-in person worship for the rest of the year. This is a church with seven locations in and around Atlanta ministering to more than 30,000 people every Sunday.

Joining me right now is the pastor of North Point Church, Pastor Andy Stanley.

Pastor, thank you for being here.

It does not go unnoticed when a pastor of -- with your reach says that he can't keep his congregation safe. What are you seeing that led you to this decision?

PASTOR ANDY STANLEY, NORTH POINT COMMUNITY CHURCH: Well, first, Kate, thanks for having me on.

This really was -- the context of our decision was, we want to love our neighbors. We want to be a good neighbor. And we want to love our neighborhoods. And we're for our communities, and we don't want to accidentally do something to our communities.

And you understand this. Your viewers understand this. We have to go to the grocery store. We have to go to the drugstore. We have to go to work. We don't have to go to church.

So, we have chosen to bring church to the people in our community, actually people all over the world. And this is a temporary shutdown, but the church is not shut down. It's just our Sunday morning services. So this really was about the health of our congregation, but not just our congregation.

This was about the health of our entire community.

BOLDUAN: I have heard other faith leaders, early on in the pandemic especially, saying that churches are essential services, they must -- you must have Sunday worship, the doors, your doors must stay open.


BOLDUAN: What do you say to those faith leaders?

STANLEY: Well, a church is an essential service. But a one-hour worship service with hundreds of people, or, in our case, thousands of people all crammed into a room is not an essential service.

And that's one of the things people need to understand. Our church and our staff are actually busier maybe than we have ever been, because we have reallocated assets, personnel to serving in the community.

In fact -- and we're not the only church doing this. Lots of large churches have -- are very outward-facing. So we're not closed. But a one-hour worship service, hey, we can do that at home. And as everybody listening understands, we can worship wherever we choose to worship.

So this is -- the worship service is one facet of a healthy church. And we have just decided to suspend that one facet of our local churches.

BOLDUAN: That's a good -- it's a -- this is a good reminder of that, that it's just one facet.

What would you need to see to feel comfortable opening back up for Sunday service?

STANLEY: Well, I don't know the answer to that question, to be honest, obviously a vaccine or herd immunity or the kinds of things that we're all becoming more familiar with.

But I really would trust the CDC. I would trust what doctors are telling us. An interesting thing, Kate, when we made this decision, about 85 percent of the response from our churches was positive. About 15 percent was negative, as you might imagine, that we have given into a political agenda or we're basing this decision out of fear, which is not the case.

But the group that was the most outspoken in favor of this decision was the medical community. And, as you mentioned, we're a very large church. We have all kinds of people from all around the city of Atlanta, which is a very diverse city.

The medical community immediately came out and applauded this decision. They said, hey, Andy -- and people don't call me Pastor Andy, just Andy. They say, Andy, we know this was a difficult decision, but, for the protection of not just the church, but the communities around the church, this was the right decision.


So, that's kind of the leader -- the leading indicator. So I don't know a date. I couldn't give you the specifics. But when we feel like it is safe to bring thousands of people back into our auditoriums, we will open.

But, in the meantime, we will continue to serve our community.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned that your staff is busier than ever.

And it gets to something I think about quite a lot, is that this entire experience that the country and the world is going through, which has been -- now been going on for months, is really testing people's faith in a way that many have not experienced, especially kind of all collectively at the same time.


BOLDUAN: People are isolated. People are scared. I'm sure you have faced many questions about this.

What do you tell people who feel like they're losing faith, and in these really hard moments?

STANLEY: That's a great question.

And I don't have a super short answer for that, but I will try to keep it short. The interesting thing about difficult times is, people instinctively,

not 100 percent, but people instinctively look up. More people come to faith in difficult times than in the wrinkle-free days. I think we -- I mean, just about everybody we know that is a Jesus follower or somebody who has a sincere faith, part of their story was not, things were so perfect, I put my faith in God.

It's generally, things were so difficult, I finally looked up, and God brought someone into my life that helped me understand the broader context and the purpose of my life.

So people are buying more Bibles than -- not ever before, but it's more than in a long time. People -- I think, when we open the churches, and it's safe, I think a lot of people are going to come back, maybe for the first time in a long time.

But that depends, I'm convinced, on what the church does in the meantime. And if we become insider-focused as churches, and just try to take care of our own, not only is that a huge mistake. It is certainly not an indicator that we are following Jesus.

So I think this is -- as difficult as this is for most people, it is also an opportunity for the church. And we're not going to get it perfect, but we're going to certainly do our best to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities.

And part of that, as strange as it sounds, is suspending our worship services on Sunday morning.

BOLDUAN: Strange, but strange times.

Pastor Andy, thank you very much for being here.

STANLEY: Thank you, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very, very much. It's been a pleasure.

Still ahead for us: In Florida, so many people are seriously ill with COVID that there are more than 50 hospitals now that have filled their intensive care units to capacity. We're going to go there.



BOLDUAN: President Trump is touching down in Atlanta, Georgia, this afternoon.

We're expecting to see him step off of Air Force One really any moment now, as you see the camera getting set up there, ahead of a speech that he's going to be giving about infrastructure, yes, infrastructure.

At this point, it is likely not surprising that his main focus here as he's landing in Atlanta is not the pandemic and the spikes that that state is seeing, like so many other states are seeing, but, still, he's talking about infrastructure there today.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is outside the event where the president is headed.

Dianne, what are you hearing and saying there about this?


So, Kate, we're waiting for the president to come out here to the UPS Hapeville Airport Hub in the -- right outside of the Atlanta Airport. Essentially, what we're told is that the president's going to announce this rollback for the National Environmental Policy Act that will basically expedite the review process for federal projects, like mines and gas pipelines and highways.

And that's why he's here, because this facility, we're told, will benefit from an expanded highway project and an expedited review of that. Now, environmental groups have said that this is just another example of the Trump administration essentially dismantling conservation safeguards that protect people and the environment from pollution and point out that it will be minority citizens that will be affected most by this.

Minority citizens also in Georgia affected disproportionately by COVID-19. We just got the numbers from Georgia, and they have gone up once again, Kate, just in the past few moments. The president not expected to address the pandemic, but nearly 3,900 new cases, according to the Department of Health, 37 deaths.

And the number of new hospitalizations is double what we reported from yesterday. Now, Governor Brian Kemp said that they are working to deal with a surge in hospitals because of this increase that Georgia is dealing with here.

They had a record number of cases just last week. And we have been hovering around that in the state of Georgia for a couple weeks now. Now, the governor even flew around the entire state, asking people to wear masks, but has stopped short and said that he's not going to issue a mask mandate.

Even when the mayor of Atlanta said she wanted a mask mandate, he retorted by saying it was unenforceable for her to do so.

Now, there is an executive order from the governor that expires at midnight tonight that sort of has those last restrictions in place. It limits the number of people who can gather in public places to 50.