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U.S. Cases Top 3.5 Million with 138,000 Plus Deaths as Number of New Cases is Rising in 39 States; Refrigerated Trucks Arrive in Texas to Expand Morgue Capacity; Texas Reports Record 129 Coronavirus Deaths in One Day; Pelosi, Florida Reports New One-Day Record Of 156 Deaths; Texas Reports Record 129 Coronavirus Deaths In One Day; Russians Accused Of Cyberattacks On Vaccine Research Centers; National Security Concerns As Famous Twitter Accounts Hacked. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He died 12 days later. Swing (ph) leaves behind six children and his wife Ellen. May his memory be a blessing.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.

We're following breaking news. More than three and a half million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States right now. That's a half a million additional cases in just more than a week. The death toll has just topped 138,000 people and cases are on the rise in 39 states.

This crisis is especially dire right now in Florida, our global hotspot, which set a one-day record of 156 deaths, as well as more than 13,000 new infections. But President Trump continues to largely ignore the pandemic. He did talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday. That was the first time they spoken more than a month, during which time thousands more Americans were killed by the coronavirus.

Let's begin this hour with CNN's Nick Watt who's joining us from Los Angeles.

Nick, new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, they are climbing throughout so much of this country.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, there are only two states in this entire union where nobody has died of COVID-19 in the past week, they are Alaska and Vermont. Here in California in that same time we've lost over 600. Same in Florida.

Texas yesterday reported its highest ever daily death toll. We're waiting for Texas to report today's number and just hoping that it's falling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WATT (voice-over): This is Texas now, six months into this pandemic. Refrigerated trailers deployed to store the dead in Dallas, San Antonio and down near the border. Morgues are filling up.

JUDGE EDDIE TREVENO JR., CAMERON COUNTY, TEXAS: Pleading with everybody here in our neighborhood, in our community. I need everybody to help us and do their part.

WATT: A hotel in Laredo is being converted into a makeshift hospital. And in Corpus Christi --

JUDGE BARBARA CANALES, NUENCES COUNTY, TEXAS: We were doing fantastic. At the end of May, we have just absolutely skyrocketed. After Memorial Day.

WATT: Mid-May the county was lugging maybe a handful of new cases every day. Yesterday, more than 1000.

Similar situation over in Miami where hospitals are now at 95 percent capacity.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: We're at the highest level of ventilators that we've seen through this pandemic, which obviously is worrisome because that's an indication of the death rate that will increase most likely over the next couple of weeks.

WATT: Thirty-nine states are now heading in the wrong direction with average case counts rising. In only Delaware and Maine are those numbers falling and those two states, home to less than 1 percent of the U.S. population.

Today, Target and CVS join the growing list of retailers that will require masks in stores nationwide. Arkansas governor just reverse course now requiring masks in public. And Tulsa's mayor, just signed a mask order dutifully wearing one himself.

Mask mandates now in at least 39 states but not Georgia, where the governor recently returned from a wear a mask tour of his state just banned local municipalities from making them mandatory.

Savannah's Mayor tweeted, "Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that we are arguing about masking, I don't understand that in the middle of a pandemic.

WATT: Example the Utah County Commission meeting about masks in schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are supposed to be physically distancing wearing masks. And so --

WATT: The President kind of agrees with those boos. He wants schools open before the election.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we're going to be putting a lot of pressure on open schools in the fall.

WATT: Not one of the 20 largest districts in the country has committed to in person teaching. But the state of Florida says they're ready to open even as Miami's mayor pleads for federal guidance to manage the outbreak in what is arguably now our nation's epicenter.

SUAREZ: There was guidance in terms of reopening in terms of the gating criteria, but there wasn't any guidance in terms of what happens if there's a second spike, like we're seeing right now. How do you go backwards? What are the metrics? And so we're struggling.


WATT: You know, something else Miami's mayor said this morning really struck me. He said he thinks one reason that New York is now doing pretty well is they saw hell in the spring, they asked me more than 23,000 people died in New York City. So they saw hell so they are scared of a second spike. So they're acting accordingly.


Down in Miami, they didn't get hit so hard in the spring. So it's harder to convince people just how bad this can be and to do the right thing. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick, thank you. Nick Watt reporting.

President Trump's a lack of leadership of the pandemic is clearly drawing a lot of criticism even from some Republicans. Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, the President just doesn't want to talk about this national crisis that's getting worse and worse every single day and has now killed more than 138,000 Americans in only the past four or five months.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And President Trump is holding yet another campaign style event on the South Lawn of the White House. It's another sign he's turned away from the coronavirus and concentrating on reopening the country and winning reelection.

Sources tell us the President finally spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday, their first conversation in weeks, and White House officials are firing back at a top Republican critic of President Trump's response to the coronavirus.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said it was, "hopeless" waiting around for the President to come up with a national plan for the pandemic. But aides to the President may have ignited a new COVID controversy after the White House Press Secretary first said the science should not stand in the way of reopening the nation's schools while claiming later on the science is on their side.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): Standing in between pickup trucks on the South Lawn of the White House President Trump staged yet another photo opportunity that was unrelated to the coronavirus that included only a brief mention of his response to COVID-19.

TRUMP: My administration has also eliminated massive regulatory barriers in our battle against the China virus.

ACOSTA: Some of the President's fellow Republicans say that's been the problem all along. In a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post, Maryland's GOP Governor Larry Hogan laid into Mr. Trump's handling of the virus writing, "Eventually it was clear that waiting around for President to run the nation's response was hopeless. If we delayed it any longer, we'd be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death. So every governor went their own way, which is how the United States ended up with such a patchwork response."

The White House fired back accusing Hogan who had COVID-19 test shipped into a state from South Korea of being two faced.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is revisionist history by Governor Hogan and it stands in stark contrast to what he said on March 19 for a praise the great communication that the President has had with governors.

ACOSTA: Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the President's record on the pandemic as well as Mr. Trump's drive to reopen schools with a jaw dropping declaration that science won't get in the way of sending children back to classrooms.

MCENANY: 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.

ACOSTA: Though she claimed Mr. Trump's position is supported by the science.

MCENANY: The science is on our side here.

ACOSTA: According to Mr. Trump's recent photos on social media Democrats say, it's just the opposite.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Observing his behavior, I have concluded that he is like the man who refuses to ask for directions. All of the answers are there. The scientist had the answers.

ACOSTA: On Wednesday the President finally spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci. In their first conversation according to the public health expert and weeks.

Fauci conceded his straight talk has rankled White House officials telling InStyle Magazine, "Well, you know, that really changes week to week and month to month, sometimes you say things that are not widely accepted in the White House, and that's just a fact of life."

The latest poll show the public is rejecting Mr. Trump's record on the virus with Joe Biden holding a commanding lead with most Americans saying they don't trust the President on COVID-19. But they do believe the information coming from Dr. Fauci who seems to get that.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I believe, for the most part, you can trust respected medical authorities. You know, I believe I'm one of them. So I think you can trust me.

ACOSTA: The Trump administration briefly removed COVID-19 data coming in from hospitals that's accessible on the website for the Centers for Disease Control, data that included hospital bed occupancy, staffing, and personal protective equipment supply figures. While the data was later restored, the White House denied it's hiding anything.

MCENANY: No one is taking access or data away from the CDC. And this is all about getting more data out there, not less data and ensuring in particular that our doctors get that daily data.

ACOSTA: The President responded to the turmoil by demoting campaign manager Brad Parscale replacing him with political advisor Bill Stepien. Parscale found himself in hot water after Mr. Trump's disappointing rally in Oklahoma, where thousands of seats went empty. And Mr. Trump said he'd like to see less testing for the virus.

TRUMP: So I said to my people slow the testing down, please.


ACOSTA: Now, as for Dr. Fauci, some Trump advisors appear to be getting the message that the infectious diseases expert is more trusted than the President.

One senior Trump advisor told me some of the latest polling has gotten their attention adding, "I think when over 60 percent of the public trust Fauci on COVID-19" that should be taken into consideration.


And Wolf as for the Press Secretary's comments on sending children back to school, we should note she was trying to cite a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that suggests that children can go back to school with a low risk of contracting COVID- 19. But the Press Secretary and the White House, really writ large Wolf, they've avoided this question, this issue of whether children going back to school can infect their parents, their teachers and other employees at their schools. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget hundreds, hundreds of Americans almost 1000, in fact, yesterday died just yesterday from coronavirus.

All right, Jim Acosta reporting for us. Thank you.

Let's get some more in all of this. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us.

Sanjay just look at the number of hospitalizations in the United States right now, how big of an indicator is that of things heading in the wrong direction?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the first thing you sort of realize when you look at that, Wolf, is this whole idea that that testing more is leading to more cases. That obviously is not the case when you look at the hospitalizations also going up more testing wouldn't lead to more hospitalizations.

You can see a clear graph here in terms of what's happening. So this is a real concern, Wolf, it's a predictable sort of thing. You have a certain period of time after you start to see an increase in the number of infections, you're going to see an increase in the number of hospitalizations.

And sadly, you know, Wolf, a couple weeks from now, we will also see an increase in the number of deaths, which, you know, it's tough to sort of acknowledge that this far into the pandemic that we're still going in the wrong direction there.

One thing, Wolf, it's worth pointing out as we talked about hospital resources, we talked about hospital beds and ventilators and things like that, I think, you know, one of the biggest challenges is staff, respiratory therapists, for example, who actually you know, use those breathing machines to help the patient and help staff the ICUs. All of that if there's too much of a surge, it can be very tough on the staff. If staff gets sick, that can really reduce the capacity as well.

So, all these things I think together are pretty concerning, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very concerning.

As you heard, you know, Sanjay, some areas of Texas and Arizona right now, they're actually starting to run out of room in their morgues. Are these places now heading where New York was just a few months ago?

GUPTA: Yes, Wolf. I mean, those are, again, very, very tough things to sort of, you know, talk about the idea that they're now bringing in more trucks because they're anticipating what's going to happen over the next couple of weeks. And I really feel for the people living in those communities, and so many communities, Wolf, really around the country.

You know, Wolf, yes, it was New York a few months ago, but we had indicators of this all along. We saw what happened in China. We saw what happened in Italy.

Wolf, I remember being on your program talking about northern Italy at that time, and them talking about the fact that they had run out of hospital beds and there were people who are dying preventable deaths, you know. So it's not the situation we want to be in. It's not the situation we needed to be in. We missed very clear warnings, I think from places all over the world.

BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, several countries have reported zero coronavirus deaths over the last seven days. Clearly the situation here was not inevitable. So one of those countries around the world doing and what have they been doing that we are not doing? I know you've been looking into this?

GUPTA: Yes, Wolf. I mean, you should look at these numbers on the screen, I think. And at once be a little horrified at what's happening in United States. But also, I think, be inspired, because there are places around the world without any kind of magical, you know, therapeutic or vaccine have been able to have no deaths for significant periods of time.

I mean, since May 27 in New Zealand, since June 2 in Thailand. Yes, these are smaller countries, they are different countries, different cultures, different governments, the thing they share in common, Wolf, to your question is that I think from the beginning, they took this very seriously. And that meant having adequate testing in place and then tracing people. That's it. It's bread and butter public health.

Again, there was no, you know, specific medicine or anything that has leading to benefit here in terms of hospitalizations or deaths. It's really they tried and true measures of public health and taking this seriously.

Wolf, I mean, I was having people call me last night who are still telling me that they're waiting up to two weeks to get their test results back even if they can get a test. Unless you're isolating yourself during that time, Wolf, you could be continuing to spread this and that just makes the problem worse.

We're still not testing enough. We're still not getting the results of those tests quickly enough. And I think a lot of that is still because we're minimizing the gravity of the situation here.

BLITZER: Yes, that's really, really significant. All right, Sanjay, thank you very much.

And to our viewers an important note, join Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper tonight for a CNN global town hall "Coronavirus Facts and Fears" their special guests the former CDC director, Tom Frieden. That's later tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


Up next, the Tepublican governor slams President Trump's pandemic response as hopeless while another Republican governor is banning local officials in the states from mandating that masks be worn in public. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We have more breaking news coming into the Situation Room right now. Texas just reported 129 people died of the coronavirus in the past day. That's a new one-day record. But President Trump has very little to say about the pandemic.

Let's discuss the political and the medical fallout with CNN White House Correspond to John Harwood and biology Professor Erin Bromage, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.


You know, John, in the country's hotspots, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed right now. Morgues are actually running out of room, portable coolers have to be brought in. Is the President in denial about the dire situation the country is in right now?

JOHN HARDWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to tell, Wolf, whether he's actually in denial or whether privately he recognizes how bad the situation is, but he's clearly made a strategic decision on how to approach this. The first thing is to cross your fingers and hope for rapid progress on a vaccine and on therapeutics. Hope that comes much sooner than people are suggesting this fall. And in the meantime, do everything you can to try to talk up the economy and push states to reopen, get their schools going and get economic activity up and running.

So he has the event this afternoon at the White House on rolling back economic regulation. The flaw in that strategy is economic regulations are not what's holding back the economy right now. He could do a lot more to advance the cause in the medium term of getting the economy going by getting his arms around the virus because fear of the virus is what's holding back workers and average citizens and businesses alike. He's just not willing to pay the short term cost needed to try to do that.

BLITZER: Yes, more than a million Americans applied for the first time for unemployment, just last week, another million Americans.

You know, Professor, exactly a month ago, the Vice President Mike Pence wrote that there isn't the coronavirus second wave, how has that held up?

ERIN BROMAGE, BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETS DARTMOUTH: Well, if we want to take it technically, it's not a second wave, we're still going with the first. We never got our hands around this first one and pushed it into the ground and crushed it like they did in other countries. So what we've seen is this first roll come through and it's just now moved to different regions of the country. And it's building on top of that first wave that we have.

We really have not looked after this response at all with -- it's just been one big mismanaged pandemic response effort.

BLITZER: Yes, it's really, really awful.

You know, John, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today described the President as the man who "refuses to ask for directions," what do you make of that comparison?

HARWOOD: Well, we know that the President has fixed ideas and tends not to alter them in the face of evidence. And we've seen that, from his comments on testing, suggesting the testing creates more cases, when in fact, it reveals the cases you already have and lets you figure out a strategy for dealing with them, or on masks where he's laid back and said, well, it's a personal choice. I don't think it looks good on me. And he only under extreme duress, from other Republican politicians and from his age that he finally put on a mask the other day, but he's not made it a consistent practice. So, this is somebody who -- he's 74 years old. He is not terribly agile in terms of adjusting to new information. And that's what Pelosi is talking about and it's a valid point.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Professor, not only is the President not asking for directions from the scientist, the doctors, he's also actively undermining them. How much harder does that make it for public health experts to do their job and stop people from getting the disease and stop people, obviously, from dying?

BROMAGE: Yes. So we've seen this from the start that without consistent messaging, starting from the top, working right through our state leaders and our local leaders, we end up with mixed messages. And it confuses the public. We don't know which way to turn in regard to the response. And you think that we'd get their efforts more coordinated by now but we're just keep dealing with this mix up of what this saying and what they doing and who we should trust and who we should not.

Every time you undercut your own agencies, your own NIAD, your own CDC, to further your own political stage of whatever's happening right now, it just makes the messaging for everyone working in public health just terribly hada (ph).

BLITZER: Certainly does. You know, John, the President, he pushed out his campaign manager, but clearly it's not Brad Parscale who failed to respond to this virus isn't?

HARWOOD: No. And, you know, I was talking to a veteran of the Romney 2012 campaign who had also worked for John Boehner, the House Speaker, and George W. Bush. Before that, he said, let's face it, Donald Trump is the message. He is the strategist. He is the campaign manager.

Changing out Bill Stepien for -- substituting him for Brad Parscale may make some difference in the internal processes of the campaign. But that's not fundamentally what the issue is. The issue here, and it's why Joe Biden has got a substantial lead in the polls, the issue is Donald Trump and his performance.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point as well.

John Harwood, thank you very much. Professor Erin Bromage, thanks to you, as well.

We'll continue this conversation. There's more abrasive news coming into the Situation Room, a record number of deaths and new Coronavirus cases in Florida where a growing number of hospitals are now reaching capacity and intensive care.




BLITZER: Among the breaking stories we're following, Miami's Police Department has just announced 68 of its officers have now tested positive for coronavirus. And all 140 employees, including police officers and civilian employees are in isolation or self-quarantine due to possible exposures to COVID-19.

We're joined now by the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez. Mayor Suarez, thank you so much for joining us. Let me first get your reaction to what's going on with the Miami Police Department. Can you update our viewers?

SUAREZ: Yes, Wolf. Yes, those numbers are accurate. What we're seeing here in Miami-Dade County is that first responders and people in the healthcare industry are two of the professional categories that have the highest risk of exposure. Healthcare workers and even patients in medical facilities are some of the people who are getting sick the most and, of course, our first responders as well, firefighters and police officers. Police officers, obviously, having to interact in a very intimate way with our residents. And that is definitely what's driving these numbers.

BLITZER: Florida, as you know, has now just reported its highest number of coronavirus deaths today, 156. What's stopping you, Mayor, from enacting a new stay-at-home order for all the folks in Miami right now potentially that could save lives?

SUAREZ: We are very, very close to that point. We're consulting with, of course, our hospital administrators to determine what kind of hospital capacity we have. We're consulting every other day with epidemiologist and our biostatistician, which is how we make a lot of these decisions. And we're consulting with the business community understanding that, you know, we're not at full employment like we were in March, April. There is no federal safety net like there was and there's very little, if any, federal and state guidance on how -- and what metric we need to use to close. So we're developing that all on our own. And we're faced with making these tough decisions in the next few days if things don't improve radically.

BLITZER: It's critical. As you know, I've been following the situation in Miami for a while. I love the city of Miami. Florida, as you know, put a stay-at-home order in place back in April when the state had about 7,000 cases fewer than 100 deaths. And so I asked the question, why not enact one right now when daily new cases are nearly double that number?

SUAREZ: Yes, and in the case of Florida, they have about twice the rate of increase of infection that we do. In their highest moment back then, they had 1,300 cases. They now had, I think, reported yesterday, 13,000 cases that's a 10 to 1 ratio. We had 533 cases, we're now up to about 3,000 yesterday, that's a six to one ratio. So they actually are in a worse position than we are in Miami-Dade County.

We have taken a variety of prophylactic measures to mitigate the spread. And we're seeing whether those measures will work over the next couple of days. And we're working very closely with our hospital administrators to make sure that we have sufficient capacity. But the situation is dire. I don't want to sugarcoat it or I don't want to downplay it in any way. Our hospitalizations are at the highest level, our ICUs are double what they were back then. And our events have surpassed the high point, so the death rate will continue to go up if we don't take any more dramatic measures.

BLITZER: So why not do a stay-at-home order right now?

SUAREZ: We are potentially going to be doing that soon. If things do not dramatically improved, that is what we're looking at right now.

BLITZER: We're talking the next few days. Is that possible?

SUAREZ: We're talking about some somewhere in the next few days, potentially, within the next week.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Mayor Suarez. I know you got a lot going on. We're always grateful to you for spending some time with us updating our viewers. We're all watching what's going on in Miami very, very carefully. Florida right now, the Epicenter, not just here in the United States, but a global epicenter of this coronavirus. Thank you so much for joining us.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's also breaking news in Texas right now where Thirdy's (ph) just reported 129 people died of the coronavirus in the past day alone. That's a new one day record.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's in Dallas right now. Tell us more about this dire situation in Texas, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're exactly right, those new numbers coming out today. And we've been reporting for several days now that state officials here in Texas were saying that this week was going to be worse than last. And that death count number really gets to the heart of this. 129 deaths reported today, that is more than 20 than the highest previous day record that we have seen since this pandemic started.

And the number of new coronavirus cases also being reported is now topping 10,000 for the third-day in a row. So stunning numbers here, and again, that in infection rate around almost 17 percent. That continues to be an area of great concern.


And the death toll has put so much stress on hospital systems and county morgues across the state that refrigeration trucks have been brought in into some of these areas to relieve the pressure. The morgues are full at some of these hospitals in San Antonio. We saw one at a hospital here in the Dallas area as well. So it really kind of speaks to the morbidity and the dire situations that many of these hospitals are dealing with is another record breaking day of coronavirus statistics emerging once again here in Texas, Wolf?

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us in Texas as he always is. Thank you very much.

Up next, in our daily wrap up of coronavirus stories from around the world, security officials now accuse Russian hackers of cyberattacks on vaccine research centers here in the U.S.



BLITZER: In global coronavirus headlines, U.S., British and Canadian authorities are accusing Russian affiliated hackers of cyberattacks on research centers working on potential coronavirus vaccines. CNN's Nic Robertson is monitoring the developments from London for us. So what are the Russians up to, Nic?

NICK ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Wolf, going after what is essentially the most valuable data and information on the planet at this time, the information about vaccines to combat coronavirus. What the British National Cybersecurity Center is saying along with Homeland Security Department, along with the NSA, with you in the United States and across the border in Canada, they are all saying that this was a group of Russian hackers that they believe are part of a Russian intelligence operation, working in a group called APT29. We also know them as Cozy Bear and the Dukes and that they're using spearfishing and carefully manufactured malware, custom-made malware to penetrate these coronavirus, vaccine research and development centers.

So what the Russians are trying to do is get their hands on the knowledge that the United States, Canada and Britain have that hopefully can help save the planet. What does this tell us? Does it tell us that Russia is woefully short of the similar type of knowledge and expertise that we all have? Or does it tell us that they would like to try to use this information against us in the future? That's the concern of these intelligence agencies and that's what we've been hearing today here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing indeed. All right, Nic Robertson in London for us. Thank you.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong is shutting down businesses again because of new coronavirus outbreak. Officials confirmed 67 new cases today, the most so far what's being called a third wave of the virus. Let's get the very latest from CNN's Will Ripley. Will, what are you seeing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in Hong Kong, things are not looking good right now. Public health officials say dozens of new cases are being detected every day of COVID-19. And in many of the cases, the contact tracing isn't helping them pinpoint where the infection came from. That means that there are people walking around who might have the illness, might not know it, and might inadvertently get other people sick.

So that is why the city which had just opened things up recently, is now shutting things back down. A lot of places are closed or restricted at the moment in terms of social distancing measures. If you're caught without wearing a mask on public transportation, you could face a fine of several hundred dollars. This is an attempt, a last-ditch attempt by one Hong Kong to try to contain this small outbreak before the numbers here start to skyrocket like other places around the world. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Will, thank you. Will Ripley reporting.

Coronavirus cases are surging in South Africa. It now ranked sixth worldwide in total cases. Let's go to CNN's David McKenzie. David, tell us about the numbers there.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, South Africa has crossed the threshold of 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Now, the cases are surging in this country, particularly where I am in Johannesburg, commercial center. Now doctors say that the pressure points in the next few weeks will be expanding the availability of beds with high flow oxygen for treatment.

Just in the last few days, South Africa has reinstated a liquor ban to try and free up the emergency room beds. They've also put in a curfew and the wearing of masks is mandatory, in fact, enforced by the law. Now despite the surging cases, public health officials here say that the numbers of deaths, the death rate is still lower than some of the worst hit areas. They say that this is mirrored across Africa but that the next few weeks will be key. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, David, thank you. David McKenzie reporting.

France is joining the list of countries making mask wearing a mandatory. CNN International Anchor Cyril Vanier is in Paris for us. Cyril, tell us more.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the French government is now mandating that everybody wear protective face mask in all indoor public spaces. The law hasn't come into effect yet but the health minister is calling on the French to implement it immediately.

Since the beginning of the crisis, French authorities have done a complete U-turn on face coverings. Back in March, when there was a shortage of masks here, the government's official position was, don't wear one if you don't have coronavirus symptoms. But the government's scientific advisors are worried that people aren't following distancing and social mitigation measures as closely as they once did. Even members of the government have been called out.


For now, the virus here is still considered to be under control. But in recent weeks, indicators have started to trend in the wrong direction. Wolf?

BLITZER: Cyril Vanier on the scene for us, thank you.

Coming up, breaking news, Texas has just reported a record number of single day deaths from coronavirus as the pandemic spreads across the state. Plus, the very disturbing national security implications of a massive hack targeting some of Twitter's most famous users.



BLITZER: A really huge hacking attack on some of Twitter's most famous accounts now raising deep concern about national security. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, as bad as this attack was the next one potentially could be a whole lot worse.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Future attacks like this could be a lot worse, Wolf. You know, it's one thing to solicit money with a fake tweet, but it's quite another to get into the Twitter account of a political leader and put out fake and very dangerous information.


TODD (voice-over): Joe Biden today assured his supporters he'll never ask them to send him Bitcoin cryptocurrency for donations. That comes after Biden's verified Twitter account and those of many other famous people were compromised by hackers in a devastating attack.

They got to the accounts of former President Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, other celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and then Kanye West, and companies like Apple and Uber. And they did it, Twitter says, by doing what's called social engineering.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: What actually seemed to happen was that a Twitter employee was hacked. And that Twitter employee had sort of master an access, access to the master controls that could control or take over a lot of these accounts.

TODD (voice-over): After that infiltration, a fake tweet from Bill Gates said, "I am doubling all payments sent to my Bitcoin address for the next 30 minutes. You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000". The other famous accounts had almost identical inducements.

Tonight, the FBI is leading an investigation. Two U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN, it's too early to tell if the attack is by a lone wolf hacker or someone working for a nation state. But cyber experts tonight are calling this nightmarish for what could happen in the future. President Trump's Twitter account does not appear to have been targeted in this hack. But the President makes many of his announcements and dictates policy sometimes over Twitter. What if.

LAURA ROSENBERGER, ALLIANCE FOR SECURING DEMOCRACY: You could imagine how deeply damaging it could be if you saw a tweet from a compromised account, whether it's the President or somebody else in a senior position, saying, you know that we had launched some sort of attack on North Korea. And North Korea might not know whether or not that is true.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say America's enemies could send the financial markets into a spiral by seizing a verified Twitter account and putting out false information. And the fact that Biden's account was compromised in the midst of election season is very concerning. Because of fake tweets, the hackers could have sent from his account.

BEN BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, "THE HACKER AND THE STATE": It certainly seems like they may have been able, technically speaking, to have -- make him say things he never would say that could, indeed, be quite damaging to him.

TODD (voice-over): And analysts say hackers could grab Twitter accounts, send fake information and spark dangerous confusion on Election Day itself.

ROSENBERGER: You say had a lot of accounts that suddenly started tweeting allegations that there had been fraud or -- something was rigged or that there was foreign interference, and the people couldn't trust the outcome. You could also imagine people having, you know, significant doubts then created about the outcome of the election, even if there was none of that kind of activity that had happened.


TODD: And there's concerns tonight about how this hack might have prevented legitimate important information from getting out. Yesterday, just after the hack was discovered, Twitter had to temporarily shut down much of its network of verified Twitter accounts, including the Twitter account of the National Weather Service, which then could not issue warnings on Twitter about possible tornadoes, several possible tornadoes then hitting the Midwest during a period yesterday afternoon. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, what a horrendous situation. How much pressure, Brian, is Twitter under right now to investigate how exactly this was done?

TODD: Enormous pressure, Wolf. Our analyst Donie O'Sullivan told me that this is the worst attack in Twitter's history. He says that, you know, this -- the company is devastated by this. They've got to get to the bottom of this. It really creates a lot of doubt about their security systems there and how people -- how hackers might have been able to get into it. It could actually compromise the very future of the company and people's trust in Twitter and the information that comes from famous accounts.

BLITZER: Yes, this was really, really bad. All right, Brian, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news here in "The Situation Room". Two coronavirus hotspots, Florida and Texas now reporting their highest numbers yet have signaled a deaths as the pandemic rages across so much of the United States.



BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". We're following breaking news. As of this hour, more than 3.5 million people in this country have been infected with coronavirus, that's a half a million more cases than were reported just last week.

The U.S. death toll now staggering 138,000 plus and counting. New cases are rising in 39 states. The sea of red on our trend map gets bigger and bigger every day. In Texas, where officials just reported a new daily record 129 deaths, refrigerated trailers are arriving to handle the overload and morgues.