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Fauci & Trump Spoke Wednesday, First Time in More than a Month; Savannah Mayor: Georgia Governor "Does Not Give a Damn About Us"; Coronavirus Surging Across Country. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 16:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: That starts this Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.

Thank you all so much for being with me. I'm Kate Bolduan.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with the health lead.

This afternoon, the U.S. cross 3.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, as the death toll now tops 137,000. Right now, there are only two states in the United States, Delaware and Maine, that are seeing a decrease in infections.

Dozens of hospitals throughout the country are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. A hotel is now being converted into a health care facility in Laredo, Texas, the situation so dire that some counties in Arizona and Texas are being compelled to bring in refrigerated trucks because the morgues there are, sadly, filling up.

And yet it was only one month ago today, June 16, when Vice President Pence wrote this "Wall Street Journal" op-ed titled: "There Isn't a Coronavirus Second Wave," the vice president boasting about case numbers in decline that have since exploded.

The vice president attacking the media for -- quote -- "fear- mongering," the vice president falsely claiming -- quote -- "We have slowed the spread' and -- quote -- "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy."

Take a look at this graph. Does it look like winning to you? The only way one could regard this as winning is if one were the coronavirus. There are more than a million new infections since the vice president wrote that op-ed, averaging nearly double the daily cases from the previous peak in April.

And, still, the cry from health care experts for an aggressive nationwide testing and contact tracing program, to say nothing of an education program for those who continue to refuse to wear a mask in public, those go ignored by President Trump.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan today the latest Republican to sound the alarm about the lack of presidential leadership, writing in a new op- ed in "The Washington Post" -- quote -- "It was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation's response was hopeless. If we in Maryland delayed any longer, we'd be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death" -- unquote.

Now, one of the few parts of that Pence op-ed from a month ago that withstands the scrutiny of one month of time passing is the idea that we are where we are because of -- quote -- "the leadership of President Trump."

That's true. The vice president ended that op-ed saying that their work is -- quote -- "a cause for celebration, not the media's fear- mongering" -- unquote.

Celebration, he said. That's not just embarrassing. That's an outrage.

As we now, sadly, know, after a surge in cases, which we saw weeks ago, comes a surge in hospitalizations, and after that comes a surge in American deaths, which, as CNN's Erica Hill reports, is now happening in more than a dozen states.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Confirmed cases in the state of Florida, more than 315,000, now outpace France and China combined.

Miami's hospitals are at 95 percent capacity, ICU beds pushed to the limit.

FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA: You cannot allow your hospital system to get overwhelmed, because then what will happen is what happened, unfortunately, in New York, where people were literally dying in the hallways.

HILL: As cases surge in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signing an executive order extending the public health state of emergency and banning local officials from mandating masks.

KELLY GIRTZ (D), MAYOR OF ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY, GEORGIA: I'm deeply frustrated today. We believe our local orders can stand, and so we're going to fight this.

HILL: Arkansas and Colorado adding mask mandates today. At least 38 states now require face coverings in public. Target, CVS and Publix the latest businesses to require them for customers nationwide.

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: The science at this point is very clear. Wearing a mask can reduce your chance of transmitting COVID-19 and acquiring it by five times.

HILL: Thirty-nine states are now moving in the wrong direction; 16 are reporting record hospitalizations, all but two of those seeing a rise in deaths.

DR. ALI KHAN, FORMER CDC OFFICIAL: And even places that think they're doing quite well right now, they're not.

HILL: In Texas, Austin's Convention Center and this Laredo hotel now being prepped for non-ICU COVID-19 patients. Two counties are sharing a refrigerated trailer, as morgues there reach capacity.

MARIO MARTINEZ, SAN ANTONIO METRO HEALTH: These individuals are our family members and friends.

HILL: New analysis from the CDC finds the travel bans for China and Europe came too late, especially from New York City. The virus was already here.

The Northeast, hit hard at the start, has been holding steady over the past month. New cases in the Midwest, declining in mid-June, have now more than doubled. The West seeing a similar spike, while the South has exploded, more than tripling its daily case count.


WEN: Unlike other countries, we never got COVID-19 under control here. Basically, we gave up


HILL: Look, there's a lot of concern too about what could happen in areas like New York state, like New York City, where I am, that are doing well.

Mayor Bill de Blasio today saying a move into phase four, which was expected to come on Monday, he said they're really moving cautiously at this point.

Anything that would involve indoor spaces, including dining, likely not going to get the green light, this as the governor said that, here in New York state, and specifically in New York City, he's putting in a three strikes and you're closed rule for restaurants and bars that are not abiding by social distancing and the COVID-19 measures that have been put in place.

Egregious violations will result in an immediate loss of their liquor license, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in New York, thank you so much.

With me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to talk about this.

Sanjay, I want you to take a listen to what House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had to say just a few minutes ago about some schools going to online learning and how some studies show the risk of COVID- 19 for children is low, and that not being back in school can damage their development. Take a listen.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And the president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open. And when he says open, he means open and full kids, being able to attend each and every day at their school.

The science should not stand in the way of this. The science is on our side here. And we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.


TAPPER: Where is the science on this? Because I know some of the studies -- one of -- the "JAMA" study that she referred to.

What's your reaction as a physician and parent of three children?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I don't think you ever want to say the science should not stand in the way of this. I mean, I don't know exactly what she was referring to by that or if she was just misspeaking.

That sounded like an alternative facts sort of moment there.


TAPPER: Well, I think she was trying to argue -- if I could just say, Sanjay, I think she was just trying to say that the science shouldn't stand in the way because the science is on our side.

I don't know that all of the science is on their side. And certainly this White House, their respect for science knows bounds. Let's put it that way. But I think that's what she was getting at.

GUPTA: Yes, look, if you look at their own criteria, the criteria that was released by the task force in terms of making these decisions, it becomes increasingly clear.

I mean, I want my kids in school as well. Everyone always says that as a preface. And it's without a doubt. People want their kids to go back to school, if possible. The issue, Jake, is, we know that kids aren't as likely to get sick from this coronavirus.

That data seems to have held up. What is still unclear -- and I read the pediatrics commentary. We did a piece on it yesterday. I know the study she's talking about. It's still unclear exactly what the role of transmission is with kids. How much do they transmit? There's stories where they don't seem to have transmitted very much.

We saw what happened in Israel. I don't know if we can show that graphic or not. But we saw what happened in a place after schools opened up, if the outbreak is not under control. Take a look. I mean, these data, they mean something. This is the evidence, this is the data.

Here's the here's the major point, Jake, I think, so this doesn't feel vague and nebulous to people. If you live in a community where the community spread has been increasing five days in a row, that's probably an indication that you need to phase things back, probably can't be inside buildings with 10 or more people. Obviously, schools would fit that bill.

And you have to wait for a 14-day downward trend again. I know people's eyes sort of glaze over when you actually talk about the numbers that are necessary, the criteria that needs to be met, but that's their own criteria.

So I have looked at this data. We have been following this closely. I happen to live in a city now where the numbers would not qualify for opening up schools. And I know these are tough decisions, but that's what the science is showing.

Each community is a little bit different, but the United States as a whole right now pretty much, most places, is heading in the wrong direction.

TAPPER: But just to be clear, when -- I think when Kayleigh McEnany cites that "JAMA" study, she's saying that the risk to children is minimal, and also that the risk that the children would spread it is minimal, according to that one study.

And I get that the White House regard for science is very much about cherry-picking what they like, and not about consensus. And, obviously, they have benched a lot of experts and not listened to a lot of warnings.

But is that true? Is the risk to children very, very low, and is the risk that children will spread it also very low? It doesn't seem like you're saying that, according to that Israel graph.

GUPTA: Right.

So I think the risk of children getting very sick, the data has sort of been pretty consistent on this. It can happen. We hear obviously sad stories of kids getting very sick, even dying, but that is rare, to be fair.

I think the question about how much transmission actually occurs as a result of children, I think, is still an open question. It could be that they transmit less, but, as a result of being in school, they have more contacts, so it becomes a bit of a wash.


You obviously also have lots of other people in schools in an indoor setting that aren't children, you know, the faculty members, the teachers. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about a quarter of those faculty and teachers would be considered vulnerable, either because of their age or because of preexisting conditions.

So whether or not the children are then potentially infecting adults or children are potentially infecting their household contacts, it's still a bit of an open question. Jake, keep in mind, your kids, my kids, my guess is, since middle of March, have largely been at home. So we don't have a lot of data on this, right? I mean, even if you look at studies of 4,000 or 5,000 people, typically, it includes 40 or 50 children in those studies. So we don't have a lot of data.

But we do see anecdotally what happens in places like Israel. So, in addition to sort of understanding what's happening in your community, these schools have to have a plan. What if they start to see sudden outbreaks or some increase in numbers?


GUPTA: How are they going to handle that? And that's got to be what -- they have got to rely on the science to make those plans.

TAPPER: And there's a new study out today, Sanjay, showing that hydroxychloroquine did not help non-hospitalized coronavirus patients.

This is obviously the drug that the president claimed he took. He has often touted it. Tell us more about the study and its significance.

GUPTA: Well, this is another level one evidence study, meaning that it was prospective, it was randomized, it was controlled.

People may not know what all those terms mean. But you look for a certain level of evidence when you're trying to evaluate these studies. So there's been three -- there has been several studies, but three studies now that have looked at using hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic, giving it to healthy people, using hydroxychloroquine early in someone's course of illness, and using hydroxychloroquine when someone is hospitalized.

And in all three of those cases, with level one evidence, it has not been shown to be beneficial. In some of those situations, it's been shown to potentially cause harm.

Now, it's confusing, I get, for people, because, recently, Jake, there was a study that came out of the Henry Ford health care system in Michigan that said, from an observational standpoint, there seemed to be benefit to hydroxychloroquine. And a lot of people said, well, there's the data.

An observational study means, you're going back and you're looking at patients, as opposed to following them going forward in time. In that particular study, for example, when you went back and looked at it, you realize that the patients who were getting hydroxychloroquine were -- 80 percent of them, roughly, were also receiving a steroid medication, which has been shown to be beneficial.

So the reason observational studies aren't that useful is then now you're left asking, hey, look, was it the hydroxychloroquine or was it the steroid, right? Observational studies are done to basically give you a signal, hey, we need to do a better study now.

The better studies have been done, Jake, and they don't show benefit. I mean, the FDA has revoked or rescinded its emergency use authorization. The NIH has said this medication should not be used outside of trials anymore. Same thing in the U.K.

We're talking about this one medication a lot. I think it's become a waste of time, frankly.

TAPPER: Yes, that's because President Trump keeps hyping it, and as well as his Praetorian Guard in the right-wing media.

Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it.

TAPPER: Be sure to tune in tonight for a CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears," hosted by Sanjay and, of course, our own Anderson Cooper, their guest, former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. That's tonight at 8:00 p.m., only on CNN. Be sure to watch.

Coming up: breaking the ice. President Trump and Dr. Fauci have now spoken, we're told, after more than a month of silence, but that doesn't mean, of course, President Trump is taking a stronger approach to the pandemic. We will discuss.

Plus: "Some of us are going to die" -- that's what one teacher says she fears if schools resume in-person classes, as the president is demanding.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke for the first time in over a month, something that is ridiculous to even to say as news, they should be talking every day. But tension between the White House and its own public health experts has hit a boiling point this week. President Trump has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in months, we're told.

And instead, he's focused on fighting bizarre culture wars, including this photo on his Instagram account, of him hawking beans on the Resolute Desk. It's an apparent attempt to boost his reelection campaign chances.

Now, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, the president is hoping that firing his campaign manager and hiring a new one will be the solution to his sinking poll numbers.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the U.S. reporting its second highest day of new cases, the White House is insisting President Trump is focused on the pandemic, despite having no public events focused on it.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's routinely focused on the coronavirus.

COLLINS: Though public health experts and data are in high demand, the Trump administration has taken several steps to undermine both. After the administration told hospitals to bypass the CDC and send their COVID-19 data directly to Washington, some of that data disappeared from the CDC's website.

Facing criticism for shielding data from public view, the Department of Health and Human Services reversed course and told the CDC to put the numbers back online.

After days of sustained attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci by the president's own staff, CNN has learned Trump finally spoke to Fauci for the first time in weeks.

Fauci told "In Style Magazine": I don't like conflict. I'm an apolitical person. I don't like to be pitted against the president. It's pretty tough walking a tightrope while trying to get your message out.

Fauci added: Sometimes you say things that are not widely accepted in the White House and that's just a fact of life.

Today, a Republican governor is calling out Trump's response to coronavirus.


As he detailed his struggle to get supplies in an op-ed in "The Washington Post," Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan accused Trump of leaving states to fend for themselves.

After Trump said this on a governor's call in March --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't heard about testing in weeks.

COLLINS: Hogan said he had a one-word response: Really?

The White House pushed back on Governor Hogan today.

MCENANY: This is revisionist story by Governor Hogan and it stands in stark contrast to what he said on March 19th.

COLLINS: Instead of changing his behavior because several polls show Americans don't approve of his coronavirus response, the president is changing campaign managers. He announced overnight that he's demoting Brad Parscale and putting deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien in his place. The move was widely seen as acknowledgement of Trump's diminished standing, though the White House insisted otherwise.

MCENANY: We believe this president has great approval in this country. His historic COVID response speaks for itself.

COLLINS: Parscale's only response has been this ominous tweet citing the Book of Roman. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.


COLLINS: Now, Jack -- excuse me, Jake, commenting on Brad's departure, a senior White House official told CNN, Brad's not the one going off message, Brad's not the one refusing to wear a mask. He's not focused, referring to the president. Everyone has told him that, nothing has changed.

Now, when asked today why the president has not been doing coronavirus-focused events, Kayleigh McEnany said the president has a lot of other things to focus on. He's working on other things as well, but she did say he will be doing more on that next week. So, stand by to see if that actually comes to fruition, Jake.

TAPPER: Any more plans with the Goya beans? Any more focus on that? We -- we really -- in the middle of a pandemic, it's very important that the president pose for cans -- pose with cans of Goya beans.

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, it's something that when you talk to White House officials or even campaign officials as they're talking about what's going to happen going forward, Jake, it's something that kind of perplexes them but that is something that the president himself wanted to do. And that's why they spent the time putting those cans of beans in the Oval Office so the president could take that picture and tweet it.

TAPPER: Really an important thing for us to focus on with 137,000 dead Americans.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the mayor of Savannah, Georgia, is going to join us. Why he says the governor of his state, quote, does not give a damn about us, unquote.



TAPPER: In our national lead today, immediate backlash after Georgia's Republican Governor Brian Kemp banned cities in his state from mandating the wearing of masks in public.

The mayor of Savannah tweeted, quote: It is officially official, Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us. Every man or woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can, unquote.

Governor Kemp characteristically declined our invitation to complain why he is keeping mayor in the state from taking this action to try to save the lives of their citizens.

But that Savannah mayor, Van Johnson, joins me now live.

We should point out, Savannah is in Chatham County which just reported the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations since this pandemic began.

Mayor Johnson, thanks -- thanks for joining us.

Beyond that tweet, what was your reaction when you heard the decision from Governor Kemp?

MAYOR VAN JOHNSON (D) SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: I was furious. I was absolutely at a loss for words, because here we are fighting to get in front of the coronavirus. We're doing the best that we can, day in and day out, and gets increasing odds. And then not only are we fighting coronavirus on one hand, it appears as if we're fighting our state on the other hand.

It made absolutely no sense to me that in a time where our corporate giants are mandating masks, where the state of Alabama is mandating masks, where the state of Florida, about 120 miles south of us is the hot spot of the nation, that our governor would not only do an emergency order, but specifically stop cities across the state of Georgia from doing what we can to be able to protect our folks. It just didn't make sense to me.

TAPPER: So, the mayor of Athens, Clark County, says he's going to try to fight this order from the government in court, presumably, will you join him? Will you try to fight it?

JOHNSON: Oh, our order still stands. We're going to do what we can to protect Savannahians. This is a fight for our lives, Jake. This is a fight for our businesses. This is a fight for our future. This is too important, and all of the sides says that wearing masks slow the spread of COVID-19.

We're going to do all we can to make sure that we protect our citizens. This is what this is all about. It has nothing to do with politics. I mean, it's about protecting our folks.

TAPPER: Yeah, the governor is encouraging people to wear masks. He's just not allowing you to mandate it. Has he explained it at all?

I mean, why shouldn't you be allowed to do what 36 states have done, including Alabama, mandating masks in public, so as to protect people?

JOHNSON: From guidance that was given by the CDC, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The reality of it for us, Jake, is that, you know, it makes perfectly good sense. On July 1st, Savannah was the first city in Georgia to mandate masks.