Return to Transcripts main page


COVID-19 Situation Worsens in Many Parts of the U.S.; Interview with Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher; Interview with Trump 2020 National Press Secretary Hogan Gidley. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hour two, I'm Brianna Keilar. And the U.S. health system is being pushed to its limits as officials struggle to get control of the coronavirus. That burden, falling largely to the nation's governors, to mayors, school administrators and even big business in the absence of leadership from Washington.

Right now, the majority of the country, trending in the wrong direction. They're racking up new cases. And in some states, record numbers of deaths.

CVS and Target are becoming the latest retailers -- you can see who they're joining there -- to try to stop the spread of coronavirus by requiring all customers to wear masks. And in the face of this crisis, President Trump has largely been out of touch with the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. That is, until yesterday, when the two men spoke on the phone for the first time in a month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, blasting the president's actions:


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We know that testing, tracing, treating, distancing, masking, sanitation can stop the spread of this virus. And yet the president continues to go down the wrong path, and refuses to ask for directions from scientists, who know better than any of us.


KEILAR: CNN's Erica Hill is in New York. And, Erica, you have more on what is happening nationwide. Tell us.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. One of the things that we're learning is the travel bans that went into effect, they happened too late to really help, Brianna. So as we know, that travel ban for travel being restricted from China went into effect February 2nd, but it wasn't until more than a month later, March 13th, that we saw a similar ban for travel from Europe. Here in New York City, the virus was already circulating at least five

days before that ban went into effect. And just a couple of days after the restrictions for travel from Europe, there was already community spread.


HILL (voice-over): Miami's hospitals are at 95 percent capacity as the virus continues to spread.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: You can't rule out a stay- at-home order, you cannot allow your hospital system to get overwhelmed because then what'll happen is what happened unfortunately in New York, where people were literally dying in the hallways.

HILL (voice-over): Cases, also surging in Georgia. Governor Brian Kemp, signing an executive order, extending the public health state of emergency but banning local officials from mandating masks. Atlanta's mayor says her order is still in effect. The mayor of Savannah, tweeting, "Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us... we will continue to keep the faith and follow the science."

LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: 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 if everyone in the community wears it.

HILL (voice-over): At least 36 states now require face coverings in public. Target and CVS, the latest businesses to require them for customers nationwide as the number of states moving in the wrong direction rises to 39. Sixteen are reporting record hospitalizations. All but two of those, also seeing a rise in deaths.

TOM INGLESBY, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY AT JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We've had a real acceleration of the epidemic across the country, in many places. And I think it's time to get very serious, and things are getting worse.

HILL (voice-over): In Laredo, Texas, this hotel is being converted to a field hospital for non-ICU COVID-19 patients. Two Texas counties are sharing a refrigerated trailer as morgues reach capacity.

MARIO MARTINEZ, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, METRO HEALTH CITY OF SAN ANTONIO: These individuals are family members and friends.

HILL (voice-over): Arizona's Maricopa County, which has the most cases in the state, has also ordered portable coolers.

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

HILL (voice-over): 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 since mid-June. [14:05:05]

JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It doesn't have to be this way. Closing down the hottest parts of the United States, and a national mandate for wearing masks will go a long way to put this fire out.

HILL (voice-over): Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, slamming the president's lack of leadership in a scathing "Washington Post" op-ed, writing, "Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation's response was hopeless. If we delayed any longer, we'd be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death."


HILL: Brianna, as we all know, this virus does not respect borders, does not respect state lines. Here in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio says he's still thinking about what phase four will look like. There had been a lot of talk about the city moving into phase four on Monday, but both the city and the state are evaluating. They are expected to give us an update, maybe later today, maybe tomorrow.

But Mayor de Blasio, saying today, as he looks at what's happening around the country, that is what's giving him pause. Some of the outdoor activities, like sports without spectators, those will likely get the green light, Monday. It's the indoor activities that has him concerned, things like indoor dining likely will not be approved.

KEILAR: All right, Erica, thank you for bringing that to us.

We have some breaking news, a significant new clinical trial shows hydroxychloroquine has no benefit over placebos. That is, of course, the drug that the president took and touted despite medical warnings.

Dr. David Satcher is a former CDC director who served as surgeon general under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and he's also the founding director and senior advisor of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

So, Dr. Satcher, tell us about your reaction to this news about hydroxychloroquine, considering that the president has repeatedly pushed this, and so have those around him?

DAVID SATCHER, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL AND FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Well, I'm not sure it's news any more. I don't think there have been studies showing that hydroxychloroquine was that beneficial in dealing with this virus. So even though this is a new study, it is consistent with other studies that have been done.

KEILAR: Yes, it's kind of telling us more of what we already knew, but maybe it's just the more you hear, the more definitive it is.

And --

SATCHER: This confirms (ph). KEILAR: -- I want to talk -- it confirms it.

So, look, you gave the federal government a C for its response to the pandemic. Tell us about that. You know, you actually talk about why it didn't get a lower grade. And tell us what has been the biggest issue for the Trump administration that garnered it a low grade in your view.

SATCHER: Well, my main concern is that we are not using the science that we have. We spend a lot of our time developing new science through research. But then when we have science showing us what works and what does not work, and we don't use it, I think that gets you a C or less in terms of how you operate.

Communication has been a problem also, as you know, between the political components and the scientific components. So -- and that's another thing that would certainly bring your grade down to a C or below.

I'm not casting negative dispersions on people, I'm trying to say that we can do better as a nation. We can do that much better than what we're doing now. And therefore, now we'd get a C.

KEILAR: So just two states at this point are showing a decline in new infections. Are states and cities on their own when it comes to fighting this virus? And if you think that, what's your advice to the nation's governors and mayors?

SATCHER: Well, to a great extent, many states and cities have been on their own. My advice would be that we ought to continue to develop science, and we should follow where the science leads us. We are very fortunate, when we're able to do research and we're able to come up with answers about what works and what doesn't work, as you did earlier.

But the question is, are we going to use that science to save lives? And science can and has, in many cases, saved lives. Even in this pandemic --


KEILAR: You were in --

SATCHER: -- if you look at all those countries, you -- there's -- there are examples of science saving lives.

KEILAR: Yes, no, we're seeing that. That's why folks like you are calling for more of it, right? As sort of the foundation of everything that follows --


KEILAR: -- from that.

So you are in Atlanta, it's worth noting. And you're aware the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, extended an emergency order but he specifically banned local governments from mandating masks. So he overturned, essentially, these mask mandates that were in a lot of these cities and counties.


This was even though he wore one yesterday, when he met with President Trump. And he's been urging Georgians to wear them while he's been on a recent tour of the state.


KEILAR: Some mixed signals there form the top official in your state. What is the impact on everyday Georgians?

SATCHER: Well, I think it's unfortunate. I think everyday Georgians need clarity about what works and what doesn't work, and they need leadership in terms of what we need to do at this time in our history.

So I think it's sad that we can't speak with one voice about the importance of wearing masks because it's very clear that masks work. They significantly reduce the spread of this virus. I can't think of a reason why we wouldn't be pushing that for everybody.

KEILAR: Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the subject of a smear campaign by the Trump White House here recently. This is one that reached new levels when the president's top trade advisor, Peter Navarro, wrote in an op-ed that Fauci has been wrong on everything that they have discussed.

Dr. Fauci calls the attacks against him bizarre. How do you see it?

SATCHER: Well, I have two responses. Number one, I go back to the importance of listening to the science. Number two, I have known Tony Fauci for a long time. When I was surgeon general and I was staying on the NIH's campus, I had a lot of interaction with him, person of great integrity and who really cares about people. He's not just doing this as a scientist, he cares about people and what works best for people. So I'm a strong supporter of him.

I support the Office of the President, I want to make that clear too. I'm not here to say negative things about the Office of the President. It's a very important office. I've enjoyed the opportunity to work with it. But Tony Fauci is one of our best scientists and one of our best people, to tell you the truth, in terms of my interaction with him.

KEILAR: All right. Dr. Satcher, the former U.S. surgeon general, thank you for being with us.

SATCHER: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: We have some breaking news from the CDC. A new study shows that the U.S. travel ban came too late for New York City as the virus spread there in March.

Plus, another study shows what COVID patients all have in common when it comes to symptoms.

And as sports leagues are getting ready to return, we're getting some word how many NFL players have tested positive so far.



KEILAR: We have some breaking news from the CDC. While President Trump often brags that he shut down travel from China early, saying that he saved lives, there's a new study that finds the U.S. travel ban on Europe, it actually came too late for New York City.

Here's the timeline here. The U.S. began its China ban on February 2nd, but did not restrict travel from Europe for more than another month. That was in March, March 13th. Well, the CDC says that New York City was already seeing community transmission by March 15th, so that ban was too little, too late.

Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency room physician, joining us now. And you know, this is a fascinating study of how they did this, Dr. Davidson. They actually looked at the genetic makeup of the virus so they could tell, really, what mutation, where this came from, whether it was coming from Europe, whether it was coming from China. What is your take on this new CDC finding?

ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I think it's critically important to look back as we look forward, to know what we have to do and what we know didn't happen during that time, when the president bragged about travel restrictions from China. And then later from Europe, as you said, as he wasn't preparing us to handle this virus, he wasn't taking it seriously, he wasn't telling people it was a serious disease. He was dismissing it, wishing it away, thinking it would be gone very quickly.

And he wasn't preparing us for the massive amount of tests that we would need, that we still need, he wasn't preparing to get the right amount of PPE to people on the frontlines, taking care of patients. And we saw over 300 health care workers die in the early part of the first wave of this virus. So it's extremely frustrating to find out that the only thing he can claim that he did do, now turns out actually probably did almost nothing.

KEILAR: There's another study out from the CDC that has new information about the symptoms that most COVID patients are experiencing. So in addition to the usual fever, cough, shortness of breath that we hear about, which is something that nearly all experienced -- one of those, right? -- the CDC is adding chills, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, and then gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea. Is that what you're seeing?

DAVIDSON: We are. And in fact, it's making the job of taking care of patients in the emergency department challenging because those symptoms are pretty vague. You know, they happen in a lot of different illnesses. So if someone comes in with some nausea or fatigue, you know, body

aches from any number of illnesses, we are putting them in severe respiratory precautions, we are donning our -- you know, effective PPE and treating them as if they have COVID until proven otherwise.

And I think it makes for a challenge, as we're talking about opening up schools. I was talking with my superintendent of our school district, you know, they would have five kids in a classroom gone at any one time with influenza in a typical season.

Now, when those kids have those symptoms, they could in fact be COVID. How many kids are we going to have to send home to quarantine? How many classrooms are going to have to be shut down until we know better? Another reason we need a massive testing regime, rapid turnaround testing, so they can manage the safe reopening of schools.


KEILAR: Today, coronavirus hospital data is gone from the CDC website. This is following the Trump administration decision to re- route this medically important information from the CDC, instead, through to the HHS, which is closer to the White House. What do you make of that?

DAVIDSON: I think this is highly concerning. I think this White House has dealt with this virus in the only way that they've known how. They've worked on their messaging and the politicization of the virus, instead of dealing with the actual health care ramifications of the virus and how we actually stop it.

And the way we stop it is by oversharing, by getting every bit of information to everyone possible as quickly as possible, and then using that information, using the data so we can inform the next decision. We understand that, right now, more young people have the virus. Well, probably, in New York, when it was transmitting before we saw deaths and hospitalizations go up, that was happening as well.

This is the time to clamp down in places like Florida, Texas, Arizona. And if we don't get that information in a timely fashion, the people on the ground just aren't going to be able to make the decisions they need to make.

KEILAR: Dr. Davidson, it's good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

DAVIDSON: Great to see you again. Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: We have some news, just in to CNN. The National Football League's Players Association database says that as of last week, 72 players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The database does not specify how many players in total were tested, but it is meant as a way to keep players and personnel updated with the spread of the virus around the league.

And this is coming just weeks before NFL training camps are set to begin. The league still hopes to begin its normal season in September. A campaign shakeup, the president gets a new campaign manager as new polls show trouble ahead. And after the break, I'll be asking his campaign's press secretary about their plan to turn things around before November.



KEILAR: While coronavirus cases here in the United States continue to surge, President Trump's approval rating is trending down. Trump last night, announcing a campaign shake-up, demoting his campaign manager, Brad Parscale. Parscale, who was behind Trump's digital strategy in 2016, will be staying on as a senior advisor. He was replaced by his deputy, Bill Stepien, a longtime Republican operative.

The president reportedly lost confidence in Parscale after his highly touted return to the campaign trail failed to live up to expectations.

I want to bring in national press secretary for the Trump 2020 campaign, Hogan Gidley, who is joining me now. Hogan, thanks for coming on.

HOGAN GIDLEY, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Absolutely, Brianna, thanks so much for the time. I do appreciate it.

KEILAR: So why has there been this shakeup?

GIDLEY: Well, look, I wouldn't necessarily call it a shakeup. The president runs his campaign, as you well know. We want to get the message out there about the, you know, historic successes this president has been able to accomplish on behalf of the American people, making their lives better in the last three years.

We look at all types of ways to do that. And let's be clear, Brad Parscale's not leaving the campaign, he's actually handling the digital side of it. He's done an impressive job, he's a longtime trusted ally of Donald Trump and the Trump family.

He's build an organization here, I think, that is unmatched. You've seen dollars raised in this campaign no one thought possible -- in record time, for that matter. And the digital infrastructure he's built here is historic and, quite frankly, it's the envy of the entire political world. And so he's going to go focus on that side of the campaign.

Bill Stepien, as you mentioned, a friend of mine, worked with me in the White House as well, another good man, another trusted man in the Trump orbit. He's going to handle the day-to-day managerial part of the campaign.

And so basically what's happened here, with about 110 days left to go in this campaign, Donald Trump told Bill to steer the boat, and Brad to man the guns.

KEILAR: OK, I know -- so I know you're pushing back on this idea that it's a shakeup, but the vibe there at campaign headquarters is telling a very different story. This morning, Brad Parscale spoke with those in the campaign. It was very emotional, we are told. There is one person who said that it was sad. He was saying goodbye to them.

And it would make sense that there is a shakeup when you look at how the president is performing. What is the plan for turning this around, Hogan?

GIDLEY: Well, I understand that. I was actually in that meeting, I heard the speech. I don't know that that characterization necessarily is accurate. Brad gave a speech to the campaign staff, and let them know that he's loyal, that he's in this fight for the long haul. He helped get this president elected in 2016, he's going to help do it again.

Bill Stepien also spoke, and said, Guys, we've all been here from day one. Bill said that he and Brad have worked together for a long time now -- several years, in fact -- and it's the same team. So no one is really experiencing anything new or odd because they've both been around, working on this campaign for quite some time.

So we're going to move forward with actually showing -- comparing and contrasting what this president has been able to accomplish versus the anemic record of someone like Joe Biden, who's been in politics now for half of a century, and barely has anything to show for it.

KEILAR: But how do you -- how do you turn this around? Because the president's really struggling, Hogan.

GIDLEY: I wouldn't say he's struggling. Look, a lot of the polls people are pointing to are obviously skewed heavily to Democrats, under-sampling Republicans.