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President Trump in Denial Over Coronavirus?; Coronavirus Raging; Georgia Governor Sues Atlanta Mayor Over City's Mask Mandate; Russians Accused Of Cyber Attacks On Vaccine Research Facilities; New Study: Testing That Takes 5 Days or Longer of Little Use. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Refrigerator trailers are arriving to handle the overflow overload at morgues. Florida also just set a new record for deaths in a single day.

There is no shortage of statistics to prove this pandemic is exploding here in the United States, but President Trump appears determined to publicly ignore those facts and often ignore the advice of his own health experts.

Amid tension with Dr. Anthony Fauci, we're told the president finally spoke with him yesterday, for the first time in over a month.

Let's go to our national correspondent, Erica Hill.

Erica, several states are reporting record deaths today.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and we know, Wolf, those numbers don't lie. And, of course, they're not just numbers. Each one of those is a person, is a loved one who has lost their life to this virus.

Texas, Florida, and South Carolina reporting record high deaths just today, as we look across the country. We see deaths are rising in a number of states, along with hospitalizations, and a good chunk of the country is going in the wrong direction.


HILL (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.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: 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.

MAYOR KELLY GIRTZ (D-GA), ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY: 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: Here in New York City, which is set to move into phase four of reopening on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made clear that phase four in New York City will not include indoor spaces.

He also talked today about cracking down on bars and restaurants within the state of New York, saying he's enforcing a three strikes and you're closed rule because of complaints that have been lodged about a lack of social distancing and adhering to his reopening guidelines.

The governor saying, again, he's concerned about what he's seeing in other states as they have reopened, what's happened with indoor spaces there. And, Wolf, this is a reminder too why he and those other states in the Northeast have put in place these quarantines, these mandatory 14-day quarantines, for people coming from more than 20 states. BLITZER: Yes, so significant.

All right, Erica, thank you very much, Erica Hill reporting.

Now to the White House, where officials are struggling to defend the president's coronavirus response amid growing criticism, even among some Republicans.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, as the president tries to talk about other things besides the pandemic, Dr. Fauci is speaking out once again, speaking out today.


President Trump just wrapped up yet another campaign-style event on the South Lawn of the White House. It's one more 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, the first conversation in weeks.

And in a new interview with Facebook happening right now, Fauci offered up some straight talk on the virus. He warned that racing ahead to reopen states is -- quote -- "perilous."


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.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 the been the problem all along.

In a scathing op-ed in "The Washington Post," Maryland's GOP Governor Larry Hogan laid into the president's handling of the virus, 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. 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 tests shipped into his 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, where he praised 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, first saying the science should not 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: But McEnany then said Mr. Trump's position is supported by the science, citing a recent study in "The Journal of the American Medical Association," noting the risk to children is low.

But it's still unclear if students would still spread the virus to parents and teachers.

MCENANY: The science is on our side here.

ACOSTA: Pointing 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 scientists have the answers.

ACOSTA: On Wednesday, the president finally spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci, in their first conversation, according to the public health expert, in 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 polls show the public is rejecting Mr. Trump's president'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.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You have got to do it correctly. You can't jump oversteps, which is very perilous when you think about rebound.

And the proof of the pudding is, look what's happened. There really is no reason why we're having 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, other than the fact that we're not doing something correctly.

ACOSTA: The Trump administration briefly removed COVID-19 data coming in from hospitals that's accessible on the Web site 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. 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 adviser 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 would 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 advisers appear to be getting the message that the infectious diseases expert is more trusted than the president.

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

But, Wolf, no sign yet that the White House is ready to take the muzzle off of Dr. Fauci when it comes to national TV interviews. He's continuing to do interviews like the one he did on Facebook today and Georgetown a couple of days ago.

Fauci says -- he's been telling reporters this -- that he still feels like he's getting his message out, just not the way he would like -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We would welcome him, obviously, back on THE SITUATION ROOM any time.

Jim, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation over at the University of Washington, and Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr. Jha, hospitalizations in the U.S., they are rising sharply right now. Take a look at this graph. We will put it up on the screen. We're almost back to the peak we saw in April.

So, what does that indicate to you about just how serious this situation is right now?


The situation is pretty serious, Wolf. And you have to remember that the peak that we had last time was weeks after we shut things down. There is always a lag between when we act and when the virus peaks. And so, if we're hitting these numbers now, and we're not shut down,

and I believe that the states in the South are -- most of them are still not taking this seriously -- my expectation is that those numbers will continue to climb for days and weeks ahead.


BLITZER: Yes, that's so worrisome.

Dr. Murray, in just over a week, just over a week, the U.S. has seen more than half-a-million new confirmed coronavirus cases for a total of 3.5 million cases right now. It's not just cases and hospitalizations are up, but deaths as well, as some parts of Texas and Arizona are running out of room in the morgues that they have.

So, what does that tell you, Dr. Murray, about the next few weeks and months?

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH METRICS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Well, Wolf, we expect that the death toll is going to continue to rise.

There was the huge surge in cases in the last two to three weeks. And then, finally, we're now seeing that turned into a surge in deaths, not just in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, but it's spreading into a number of other states.

So, very concerning. And that's why our forecasts through to November one are up. We're up to expecting 224,000 deaths in the U.S. over that time frame.

BLITZER: Two hundred and twenty-four thousand deaths by November 1. And, right now, it's 138,000 deaths. So, thousands, thousands of Americans are going to be dying unless something dramatic happens over the next few weeks and months.

Dr. Murray, this is a pretty ominous -- it's getting worse right now, based on your projection.

MURRAY: It certainly is.

And there's nothing yet that's happening that's going to put the brakes on it, as Dr. Jha just said. It takes about three weeks from the time you have really strict measures to, you know, really break transmission and bring that peak down.

And unless we see more action, mask mandates everywhere, people being more careful, closing restaurants, closing bars, and some of those measures, it will just progressively get worse.

BLITZER: Nearly 1,000 Americans died just yesterday from coronavirus.

You know, Dr. Jha, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control finds, what, 96 percent of coronavirus patients had either a fever, a cough, or shortness of breath, and about 45 percent experience all three of those symptoms. So, how can this data help us -- and we hope it can -- slow down the

transmission of this deadly virus?

JHA: Yes, so those data are really intriguing and interesting.

And it reminds us that primarily this is a respiratory virus. And it shows up in many ways the way the influenza virus does, other respiratory viruses do. What's really critical out of that, Wolf, is that it says to people that, if you have any of those symptoms -- you don't have to have them all, but if you have any of those symptoms, you absolutely need to go get tested.

You need to keep yourself quarantined. You have got to break the chain of the transmission, that this is not some esoteric set of symptoms that's going to get people. It's the classic stuff of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

BLITZER: And, Dr. Murray, I just want to get back to your new model, which projects, as you pointed out, 224,000 Americans will die from this virus by November 1.

Just a week or so ago, your previous forecast projected, what, just over 208,000 Americans would die by November 1. So, what contributed specifically to this dramatic increase, thousands of additional Americans dying?

MURRAY: Well, for a long time there, Wolf, the cases were shooting up. Florida went up cases tenfold, and yet we didn't see deaths go up. We saw a small increase in hospitalizations.

And, you know, it could have gone one of two ways. If that transmission that is out there is mostly in young people, a much smaller percentage go to hospital, a much smaller percentage die, maybe that huge surge of transmission wasn't going to translate into a lot of deaths.

Now the signal is clear that we're seeing a surge in hospitalizations and death. And that's what the models are picking up on.


MURRAY: And with no -- nothing in sight to put the brakes on that, it will continue to go, unless we change course.

BLITZER: We have got to change course to save lives. It's that critical.

Dr. Murray, Dr. Jha, to both of you, thanks for joining us. Thanks for all the important work that you're doing.

Just ahead: A Republican governor now calls President Trump's pandemic response hopeless. Is this the president in denial?

Plus: The epidemiologist leading California's contact tracing effort sounds the alarm. We will talk about it with the San Francisco mayor, London Breed. Much more of our special coverage coming up right here in THE




BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news on the coronavirus crisis, as infections, hospitalizations, and deaths soar at a terrifying rate.

Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci is issuing a new warning to states about the dangers of easing restrictions too quickly.


FAUCI: You have got to do it correctly. You can't jump over steps, which is very perilous when you think about rebound.

And the proof of the pudding is, look what's happened. There really is no reason why we're having 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, other than the fact that we're not doing something correctly.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod.

Gloria, this virus is running rampant throughout much of the country right now, but you would have no idea of that, based on President Trump's behavior. Is he in denial about this crisis?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's living in an alternate universe, because the real world doesn't fit his political narrative.

He has to be saying, we're doing a great job, the virus is on the way out, there isn't more infection, there's just a lot of testing.

And we all know, and the doctors and scientists have told us, that that is not the case. So, what's worse than his denial, Wolf, is his inability or unwillingness to deal with the problem at hand.

It's almost as if he's paralyzed, stuck in 2016, trying the same old, same old campaign tactics of division that we heard in 2016. It certainly worked then. But the country has changed. The country is in the middle of a very dangerous pandemic.

And the president is standing there without confronting the issue anymore, hoping that everyone will believe him when he says it's going great.

BLITZER: Yes. But these numbers clearly don't lie.

BORGER: Right, of course.

BLITZER: David, the Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, has written an article today in "The Washington Post."

Among other things -- this is the Republican governor writing this: "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."

Has the president, David, essentially given up his duties to keep Americans safe right now? Because there could be a national program, a national plan that he gets behind. He's reluctant to do so.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in fact, if you look at other countries that have more successfully navigated this, it's because they have a national plan, and their naturally leaders were willing to be truthful with their citizens about what sacrifices were necessary and what steps needed to be taken.

The president never has gone down that road, and has basically defaulted to the governors. And then he has misled governors. You see some -- many of the states where we have eruptions now are led by governors who followed his advice on masks and other provisions.

I have said before that we have this paradoxical situation where we have a president of the United States in charge of a government that is trying to fight the virus who is also leading the resistance to that government's directives.

And that has created an enormous problem in states like Florida and Arizona and Texas. And yet he seems not to be moving on this. You know, even if you want to look at it in crass political terms, the president is suffering because of his lack of leadership on this issue.

He has ratings in the low 30s on this issue. And his overall standing and his standing relative to Joe Biden has deteriorated during this period. And yet he doesn't seem to be willing to change course.

So, it's a tragedy, but it's also a political puzzle as to why he would continue down this road.

BLITZER: Yes, the new polls show his job approval number in the low 30s.

You know, Gloria, the president's standing in a lot of other polls is being impacted specifically by his handling or mishandling of the pandemic. And in response, he's now demoted his campaign manager. But is that going to really make any difference at all, when the president continues to ignore the reality of this coronavirus pandemic?

BORGER: No. It's all of the same piece.

Following on what David just said, this is a president who is kind of paralyzed here. And he can't figure out that what he would need to do to increase his standing is to actually deal with this virus, wear a mask very often, tell people to wear masks, and try and get this under control.

So it's not the campaign manager, Wolf. It's the candidate. And he, of course, will refuse to see that. And there are very few people, if any, who can tell him that.

But if you look at those poll numbers -- I was looking at one astonishing number from this week which effectively said that 60 percent of the American public do not -- believe that the president is actually hurting getting the pandemic under control.

This is not about how he's managing it. They believe he is actively hurting things. And so that is a leadership failure on any level, Wolf. And he just doesn't see it.


Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead: The battle over masks between the Atlanta mayor and the Georgia governor has now escalated big time with a lawsuit.

And I will speak with the San Francisco mayor, London Breed, about the crisis in California and how her city is coping.


BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on the huge toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on this country right now, with more than 138,000 deaths and more than 3.5 million people infected so far.

We have breaking news out of one of the states hardest hit right now.

Our national correspondent, Dianne Gallagher, is in Georgia for us.

Dianne, the state's governor is actually banning cities and counties in Georgia from ordering people to wear masks. And, tonight, he's actually also taking legal action to try to force Atlanta to comply.

Update our viewers on the latest.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Within the past hour here, the Brian Kemp -- the Governor Brian Kemp administration filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the city's COVID-19 restrictions, including the city's mask mandate, claiming that it violates his executive order.

Now, that's an executive order that he extended through the end of the month just yesterday. And he included some brand-new language yesterday where he explicitly prohibited any local government from enacting any sort of mandate of facial coverings or masks within their county or city.

Now, Chris Carr, the attorney general of Georgia, said about the lawsuit, quote, the State of Georgia continues to urge citizens to wear masks. The lawsuit is about the rule of law. The City of Atlanta cannot continue to knowingly enter orders that are unenforceable and void.

Here is the thing though. It's not just the city of Atlanta. At least a dozen other counties and cities across the State of Georgia have mask mandates. And, in fact, two other mayors said just today, Athens and Savannah, that they plan to continue their mask mandates because of two reasons, the same as Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms', safety and science.

And what makes this all even more perplexing is that Governor Brian Kemp isn't an anti-masker. He wears them all the time. I saw him just a few hours ago here in Marietta, he had one on, everybody around him had them on. Two weeks ago when he was flying around the state on his mask-up tour to encourage people to wear masks, the numbers were much better than they are today, where Georgia has been experiencing a record number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

And so it's perplexing as to why it's come to this. But according to the governor, the mayor of Atlanta is not adhering to his order, Wolf, and they're going to take legal action.

BLITZER: Yes, wearing masks will save lives, period. All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you very much.

Let's go to Florida, right now, the new epicenter of the pandemic. Randi Kaye is on the scene for us.

Randi, the state recorded another one day record of 156 deaths as new cases are soaring right now. Are hospitals right now able to keep up with the surge?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the numbers are certainly concerning, 14,000 new cases just in the last 24 hours. So now, the state is hovering at about 315,000 cases and 4,600 residents here have now died. So the numbers, as you said, are certainly going up.

And if you do look at those hospitalizations now, 9,100 people or so hospitalized here in the State of Florida. That's up 7,000 from when the state first started releasing that information. And we started tracking it just a few days ago. 49 hospitals -- I just checked this, just moment before I came on air with you -- 49 hospitals now marking zero capacity for ICU beds, so not a single ICU bed.

In the county of Miami-Dade, just south of here where I am, that entire county, Wolf, is without ICU beds. So now, they are converting regular rooms to ICU rooms, to ICU beds, adding in that extra machinery, that negative pressure machine that they would need. In Miami-Dade, they have a positivity rate of 29 percent. They're looking to get that down to at least 10 percent, maybe even single digits. But it's been hovering in the high 20s for weeks now.

One infectious disease expert said that Miami now is like Wuhan was six months ago. And Jackson Health, the largest hospital in Miami- Dade, is saying that they are trying to get people in and out of there as quickly as they can if it's safe for the patients to leave. They're trying to sort of usher them through there. And they also say that they are not taking any more patients unless the need is urgent, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, thanks very much, Randi Kaye in Florida for us.

Let's go from Florida to California. We're joined by the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed. Mayor Breed, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, during the last seven days, California actually led the nation in recorded deaths. How did your state go from leading the nation in terms of its response to this virus to now leading the nation in deaths?

MAYOR LONDON BREED (D-CA), SAN FRANCISCO: Well, it's been really unfortunate. I think that it has a lot to do with many of the large gatherings that continue to take place all over the state. You know, we've gradually reopened in San Francisco, and we saw a slight surge, although we're still doing okay.

What we're finding in the numbers demonstrates that our Latino workforce are -- they're the ones being infected in higher numbers, as well as people who are participating in large gatherings.

So I think that people are tired of the virus but the virus isn't tired of us. And the fact is we can't get complacent. And I think that has had a lot to do with what we're seeing.

BLITZER: I know you're seeing a significant increase in cases in San Francisco.


It could be a whole lot worse, but still an increase. You've paused reopening plans. But if the cases continue to rise, as they are now, will you consider reinstituting restrictions, possibly returning to a stay-at-home order?

BREED: Well, we are taking that into consideration. And we are trying to reiterate to the public because especially for parents who want their kids to return to schools that we need people to follow the order and to wear their masks. We need people to avoid large gatherings and to continue to wash your hands and to respect social distancing, because what this means is, we may have to make hard decisions to close businesses that we've already allowed to reopen if things continue in this way.

But we do see our hospital rate continues to be fairly low. We do see the number of deaths continue to be fairly low. We're at 51 here in San Francisco. But we still see the number of new cases continue to rise. And that is cause of concern. Our reproductive rate is at 1.3. We need it to get to one and below in order to make sure that we're able to continue to reopen.

BLITZER: Will students in San Francisco, Mayor, be returning to in- class school in the fall? How is your city approaching this critically important decision? BREED: Well, right now, the school district has announced that they want parents to prepare for distance learning. And they're going to need to start the fall semester at home. And that has a lot to do with, of course, concerns around health and safety. And we want to make sure that we're able to keep the students safe. We want to keep the teachers safe. But right now, based on what we've seen with the data, we are not in a position where we will be able to allow schools to open at this time.

BLITZER: And what are you going to do with the students, Mayor, who don't have computers, who don't have access to the internet?

BREED: Well, the good news is, early on when this emergency first happened, we operated in our Emergency Operations Center an Equity team where we have been delivering computers. And this was very early on, computers and adding high speed internet to those areas where our low income students live.

So we've been in a decent place as it relates to access. And I think that what we plan to also do is set up hubs in the community for the fall. But we've delivered a lot of computers, access to high speed internet in those communities. So we're in an okay place, but nothing takes the place of being able to come together as students and interact with one another. And that's what I'm most concerned about. I think that's what a lot of parents are concerned about.

BLITZER: Well, what are parents going to do, if let's say K through high school, if students have to stay home? The parents are -- at least one of the parents are going to stay home as well, right?

BREED: Yes. Well, it's a tough choice. I mean, I want to be clear, we are living in COVID for the next, you know, 12 to 18 months. And we are really all in this together. That's why when you have governors of states not requiring masks by their constituents, that's why we have a problem. We need something on a more national scale to address what we know we are all struggling with.

Yes, we want to open schools. Yes, we want to open businesses. We want the economy to get going. But the only way that's going to happen is if everybody does their part. And we can't have governors, mayors, even our president making different decisions because we are all impacted by bad choices.

BLITZER: And as I say, these are life and death decisions, mayors and governors and the president for that matter, they have to make. Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, thank you so much for joining us, good luck.

BREED: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, security officials from the United States and key allies are now accusing Russian hackers of cyber-attacks on vaccine research centers.

Plus, a just released study says it's essential the U.S. speed up testing its results to effectively combat this coronavirus. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: Russian cyber attackers are targeting research centers working on a coronavirus vaccine, that according to new warnings from U.S. security officials and key allies.

Our Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance, is in Moscow for us right now. He's reporting live.

Matthew, take us inside what happened, and tonight, how is the Kremlin responding.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are absolutely extraordinary allegations, that Russia is actually spying on organizations that are trying to find a coronavirus vaccine, organizations in the United States, in Britain and in Canada.

What the allegations coming from those U.S. and other western security organizations is that the hacking group called, Cozy Bear, which we've heard about before in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee back in 2016 during the presidential elections there, has been involved in sort of accessing vulnerable computer systems at this organization, then using malware to upload and download files on infected machines.

The Kremlin, of course, whenever it's confronted with any kind of malign activity allegations like this, it always denies them, and that's been the case this time, saying -- Kremlin's spokesperson saying, Russia has nothing to do with these attacks.

What security agents is saying is though that despite these attacks taking place, no actual sort of damage was done, if you like, to the effort to try to find a coronavirus vaccine.


So, that's a good thing. But research into that vaccine, of course, at the moment, given the situation in the world, is extremely sensitive as countries try to find an effective treatment or treatments for it. Russia is, of course, one of those the countries, one of the highest numbers of coronavirus infections in the world, more than 750,000. It's plowed massive resources into trying to find a vaccine of their own.

And so, they're very sensitive to this allegation that there's been any wrongdoing. They're saying, senior Russian officials are saying tonight that these allegations of spying are simply an attempt to tarnish the Russian vaccine which could, they say, could, be the first vaccine in the world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Obviously, critically important, that vaccine, we all want to see that vaccine.

Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow, thank you. Just ahead, a new study says it's critical that the United States

speed up its testing results. I'll ask a former FDA commissioner about this important new study and the latest developments on the coronavirus.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight, a new study in "The Lancet" public health journal says the U.S. must drastically speed up test results for contact tracing strategies to work. And those test results need to be delivered within a day to effectively reduce virus transmission.

Let's bring in the former FDA commissioner, Dr. Mark McClellan.

Dr. McClellan, thanks so much for joining us.

Just remind our viewers why the speed of testing is so critical if contact tracing is going to be so successful. We can't wait four, five, six days and even longer, right?


For people who have symptoms of COVID or for those who have been in close contact of known cases, it's very important to isolate and get tested fast so that you can then get in touch with the people that they've been in touch with and really get the outbreaks contained. And that's not happening. That can't happen when there's a week delay in getting the diagnostic test results if you don't have to wait a few days to get the tests in the first place. We've got -- we've got some real delays taking place now.

BLITZER: We certainly do.

How do you recommend that official speed up the testing because new research suggests the use of that app technology, for example, might be able to help? What might that look like if you get to that point?

MCCLELLAN: Wolf, I think there's some technologies that we can use right now for people who have symptoms or for those who are close contacts. They need a test fast that's really accurate. And that's what the lab test, the so-called PCR tests are really about.

The reason that we're having so much shortage and so many delays in testing, even though we're doing more testing than ever before, is because more and more people are getting tested and they should be because we want to make sure there's not spread among people who don't have symptoms. You know, so much of the disease is spread by people who either have minimal symptoms or none.

But for most of those individuals where we're talking about screening, there are other tests available, so-called point of care tests that are much faster. They're not quite as accurate. But that's OK because you're able to do lots more testing and people otherwise wouldn't be able to get it. So, two kinds of testing and the Rockefeller Foundation is undertaking a big national initiative to get the smart testing approach out there.

BURNETT: And speaking of that, I know that you contributed to this Rockefeller Foundation study that says the U.S. needs to get to, what, 30 million rapid coronavirus tests per week. What needs to happen to get to that kind of rate?

MCCLELLAN: Well, the exact number isn't as important as the strategy. So, this is about smart testing. It's about using those lab tests for people who really need them, those who have symptoms and the close contacts. And that could be done within the five or six million tests that we're able to do now.

Where we really need to ramp up, Wolf, is in these other types of tests that are much faster to run, they don't require being sent off to the lab. They're not quite as accurate, but, again, because we can test lots of people fast, we can do a lot more to contain the pandemic than is the case now where we have to wait a week for the results of tests even in the most important, sensitive cases.

BURNETT: Yes, the mayor of Atlanta had to wait eight days to get her test result.


BLITZER: And she's unfortunately positive.

Researchers insist, Dr. McClellan, it's not enough to simply have more testing but we have to have what they call smarter testing.


BLITZER: So, what makes a testing plan smart?

MCCLELLAN: It's using the right test for the right reason. So, for the people who have symptoms, using those lab tests that are now taking a week because we're trying to do so many of them, that's not going to work out. For people who are going into the hospital or the doctor's office for a procedure, they need to get tested. For people who are working in high-risk setting, maybe even more people going back to school, that's a lot of tests that need to be done, but they're not in people who are very likely to have COVID.

So, that's where we can really ramp up the other type of tests, not the lab tests, not these diagnostic tests that are so backed up now, but point of care tests that are good for screening and can give good results in just a few minutes. And the capacity to do those things, Wolf, is much higher and we haven't taken advantage of it yet.


We're starting to do it with nursing homes, but we really need to ramp that up across these other high-risk settings, too.

BLITZER: Dr. McClellan, thanks as usual for joining us.

We're going to have much more news right after this.


BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we honor some of the people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

Elizabeth Lombardi of New York was 65 years old. She worked in catering for 30 years. Her husband says Elizabeth devoted her entire heart and soul to her family.

George Possas of New York was 93. He was a World War II veteran who is nationally recognized for his leadership in the Greek American community.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.