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Stark White House Report on Coronavirus Goes Unpublished; U.S. Shatters Daily Coronavirus Record. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2020 - 16:00   ET




JEISON ARISTIZABAL, FOUNDER, ASODISVALLE (through translator): The emotional and psychological part has really affected them. We have an entire team of professionals who give emotional support.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And so much more is needed. For more on this, please go to

Thanks, all. Thanks for being here.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We start today with our health lead and a staggering and tragic new record, more than 77,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in just one day in the United States, the number of daily cases tripling in just a matter of weeks, and getting closer to Dr. Anthony Fauci's prediction that the U.S. could soon see 100,000 new infections confirmed every day.

Today, the main floor of the emergency operations center in Florida, which has been dealing with this pandemic, has closed, after 12 employees there tested positive for coronavirus.

In Arizona, one E.R. doctor tells CNN that, because of the heat, those individuals waiting in line for a coronavirus test are fainting. And even if they get a test, they will likely be waiting a while for the result, with labs still reporting long backlogs, which means that, by the time individuals get their results, they will be outdated and could be quite irrelevant.

The testing inadequacies in this country are, as Trump's former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney called it, simply inexcusable. And beyond the testing problems are a complete lack of a serious and comprehensive contact tracing program nationwide.

The president, instead of arising to this moment, is focused on nonsensical claims about Joe Biden and various other culture war distractions.

More than 138,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus as of today. And in 17 states, the death toll is up more than 50 percent since just last week.

Yet, just one month ago today, President Trump said that the coronavirus was -- quote -- "dying out." It was not. It was not true then. It is not true now. And it serves as yet another reminder of how the president of the United States is failing to do what health experts say is needed for him to do to protect the citizens of this country, which is his number one job.

Let's get right to CNN's Nick Watt in Inglewood, California.

Minutes ago, California's Governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, gave an update on schools reopening in his state.

Nick, what did he have to say? What are the guidelines?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Jake, he said that right now most schools in this state are not allowed to reopen, because the counties they are in -- and this includes L.A., San Diego, San Francisco -- because those counties are on his watch list.

A county has got to be off that list for a full two weeks before they can open the schools. And when schools do open, he wants distancing, he wants every kid third grade and up and every teacher to wear a mask. He wants temperature checks on the way in.

Listen, as the president said this is dying out, it's doing pretty much the opposite.


WATT (voice-over): July is worse than April. Six days already this month, we have broken the record for new cases in a day, now stands at a stunning 77,255 from Thursday.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: People keep talking about the possibility of a second wave in the fall. When you're having up to 70,000 new infections in certain areas of the country, that's something you need to focus on right now, as opposed to looking ahead and what's going to happen in September or in October.

WATT: Florida now leads the nation in cases per capita, the main floor of their emergency operations center now closed, after 12 workers tested positive. But Miami-Dade schools are supposed to reopen in just weeks.

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, PUBLIC SCHOOLS: It certainly is becoming very difficult to argue for a regular reopening of schools, considering the data right here in Miami-Dade, which, by the way, is comparable to the data and the circumstances that Wuhan, China, faced about six months ago.

WATT: The daily death toll is now rising in half our states, a record daily death toll in South Carolina, but the governor wants schools to offer five-days-a-week in-person teaching, the same page as the president.


WATT: No, it's inconclusive. And look at what happened in Israel after schools reopened May 17.

Make no mistake, we have the means to control this.

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, VALLEYWISE HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER: I have got a really great drug. It's a blockbuster drug. It's called masks. Masks work.

WATT: And they are now really issuing fines in West Hollywood.

GARY WALTERS, CALIFORNIA: It's nice to see the regulations being enforced, even if it's being enforced on me.

WATT: Washington state, that very early hot spot, on the rise once more, so they are outlawing live entertainment again.


In Texas, a current hot spot, record death tolls reported three days in a row, but, apparently, the governor has no plans for more pausing or rolling back on reopening.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The last thing that any of us want is to lock Texas back down again.

WATT: Dr. Fauci says, one day, we will return to normal day, but that could be far away; 72 NFL players have now tested positive. And the president of the NCAA says the data is heading in the wrong direction for college sports come the fall.


WATT: And, in Florida, which is arguably the global epicenter right now, Governor DeSantis said that he is not going to close the gyms. And here's why.

He says that because, if you are in good shape, you're less likely to be hit hard by COVID-19 -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in California, thank you so much for that report, my friend.

Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, let's start with that, Governor DeSantis' claim that the gyms don't need to be closed because, if you're in good shape, you're less likely to suffer from COVID-19.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it sounds very reasonable, right, when you when you hear it like that, but the best way to not suffer with COVID-19 is to not get it, Jake.

And we have talked a lot about the fact that indoor settings where people are expelling a lot of virus in the air and things like that are potentially sources of spread. We saw this even going back to SARS days, back in 2003, significant clusters associated with gyms.

So, I think it's -- people should be as healthy as they can, boost their immune systems, do all the things they can to try and stay as healthy as possible during this time, for sure.

But I putting yourself in situations, especially in a place like Florida, where there's so much viral spread, and the likelihood that you're going to come in contact with somebody who has the virus is much higher there, I don't think gyms, indoor gyms would be a good idea.

TAPPER: And also, just to underline the point, just because somebody who is out of shape or obese is more likely to get and suffer from COVID-19 than somebody who is in tiptop shape, that doesn't mean that somebody in tiptop shape cannot contract and suffer from and die from COVID-19.

GUPTA: Correct.

I mean, we certainly see cases of that happening. And as you raise the absolute number of people who are getting the infection, those types of situations happen more often.

As you know, Jake, as well, even if they don't get sick, they can still have the virus and be spreading it.

And, again, gyms -- indoor locations, where you have a lot of virus in the air potentially, are tough. I mean, I know I have talked to a lot of gym owners. I know they're trying to do their best. They want to be open. They're trying to do their best through filtration systems, disinfectants, and I applaud them for that.

But it's a contagious, difficult virus to control, especially indoors, where there's a lot of virus being expelled into the air.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the fact that -- I can't believe we're still talking about this months into this, but let's talk about that the testing problems that still exist and plague the United States.

The president continues to brag about how many millions of tests have been given. But that doesn't really talk about, first of all, the fact that tens of millions more need to get those tests, and also the delays, because of the lack of labs that are able to do these tests, many people waiting a week or more to get results.

There's a new study showing just how much that hinders our ability to stop the spread. Explain that.


And I got to tell you, Jake, all the times I'm not talking to you and not doing television, most of the time, I'm on the phone. People are calling me, asking me, how can they get tested? How can they expedite their testing?

It is hard to believe -- you're right -- middle of July, that we're still talking about it. This new report came out that basically was trying to add a little bit more clarity to how quickly these test results really need to be coming back.

And when they modeled it, they sort of -- they sort of said that five days, if it was taking longer than five days, it was basically useless in terms of curbing the spread of the pandemic, because, unless the person isolated during that time, they could be spreading the virus.

I mean, that's the issue. The reason you would want to do mass testing, surveillance testing, is to find people quickly, have them isolated, and then trace their contacts.

In an ideal world, Jake, it would work something like this. You go someplace, you get tested. Even before you leave, you would get the results. If you're positive, at that point, they would take you aside and ask you about the beginnings of contact tracing. That's how quickly it should work. Then you would go isolate yourself. But the contact tracing would begin immediately.


It's taking five or six days, as the average is in many places around the country. It's just too long. It's not going to have the impact on curbing the pandemic.

TAPPER: We all want the schools open. If there were something like that for schools, parents would feel comfortable sending -- or more comfortable, rather -- sending them to schools.

Kids would be safer. Teachers would be safer. But all the people saying we need to open the schools at once are not also saying, and this is what we do to do that safely.

Sanjay, Dr. Fauci today reiterated that the default should be to get children back to school wherever possible.

But looking at this map of where cases are surging across the nation, anything in red or maroon is -- which is most of the country, that's where cases are surging. Is it realistic that school districts are going to be in a good enough place to reopen in just a few weeks?

GUPTA: I don't think, if you look at the actual criteria, again, that the White House released, that many of these places at all would fit the criteria.

And, again, these are the criteria, Jake, as you know, that came from the White House, from the Coronavirus Task Force, basically saying that you needed -- if you had five days of increase -- sustained community increase in your school district, you should not open, you should go back to an earlier phase and not reopen. So I don't know really that there's any place that really meets this.

I know there's a couple of districts in New York that are likely going to meet this. They have less than 5 percent positivity and the numbers have been coming down.

But I can tell you, where I live, they don't meet the criteria as things stand right now. They're taking it on a day-by-day basis. I have talked to various school administrators about this, and they're nervous and they're trying to figure that out.

And that's to say nothing of the teachers and the faculty and the staff. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a quarter of teachers would be considered vulnerable for some reason, either because of preexisting conditions or because of their age.

So that's a concern as well, Jake. I think that the overall impact on spreading the disease from kids is probably a lot lower than adults. We don't have great science behind that yet, but that seems to be where the science is headed. The problem is, if you already have a lot of virus in the community, it's kind of like a big steamship that has a lot of momentum behind it.


GUPTA: And it's just hard to slow down. This just adds fuel to it.

TAPPER: Sanjay, I want to ask you.

There's some research that other coronaviruses already circulating might provide some immunity for the novel coronavirus that we're now battling. Tell us about that.

GUPTA: Yes, this could be some hopeful news, Jake.

I have been sort of looking into this for the last couple of months, actually. The question I first was asking is, why do some people get so sick and some people have no symptoms at all? We know that there are people who are higher risk because of age or preexisting conditions. But that didn't explain all of it.

There was this interesting paper came out of "Nature" where they basically were finding that people who had never been exposed to this novel coronavirus still had some what is called T-cell reactivity. T- cells are these fighter sort of cells in our bodies that can help fight infection, can help generate antibodies.

And the question was, well, why would you -- why would your T-cells be reacting to a new virus that your body has never seen? And what they concluded, Jake, was exactly what you said. There are other coronaviruses out there, many of them fairly harmless, causing things like to get the common cold.

If you have been exposed to those types of viruses in the past, that may give you some protection against this virus. Very early science, Jake, but that would be very hopeful, if some of that pans out to be true. TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as always, thank you so much for

your expertise. We appreciate it.

An unpublished document shows 18 states are in the so-called red zone and should stop reopening, the recommendations that the White House is not sharing with those states. That's next.

Plus: taking the battle over masks to court. With no national leadership, state and local officials are now fighting over a mandate.

Stay with us for that story next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, today, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that President Trump should resume his daily coronavirus briefings because, she said, his approval rating and polls was higher when he was holding them.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: His approval rating on the pandemic was higher when he was at the podium. It was a 51 percent in March. And I think people want to hear from the president of the United States.


TAPPER: Of course, it may not be the lack of briefings by the president that is the problem. It could be the fact that a clear majority of the American people disapprove of his handling of the pandemic. A reminder, we have about 4 percent of the world's population in the U.S., 25 percent of the world's COVID-19 deaths.

Meanwhile, a coronavirus task force obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and not, not released to the public, shows that the task force is recommending that 18 states should be rolling back their re- opening measures because of a surge in cases.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump is ending the week without holding a single event dedicated to coronavirus as cases are soaring around the U.S. Instead, he held a roundtable on law enforcement Monday, gave a disjointed speech Tuesday, visited Atlanta on Wednesday but not the CDC, and then talked deregulation yesterday where he briefly mentioned the pandemic.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration is also eliminated massive regulatory barriers in our battle against the China virus. COLLINS: Americans are taking notice that the president doesn't seem

to be paying attention. A new "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump's response to coronavirus while only 38 percent approve. And more than half strongly disapprove.

Kellyanne Conway addressed Trump's sinking poll numbers and suggested he should resume his daily briefings.


CONWAY: The president's numbers were much higher when he was out there briefing everybody on a day by day basis about the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he stop?

CONWAY: Well, I think some people are encouraging him to stop.

TRUMP: Then I think the disinfectant where it knocks it out.

COLLINS: Trump largely stopped taking questions from reporters in the briefing room after he suggested that disinfectants like bleach could be used to treat COVID-19. And lately, he's focused on urging schools to reopen.

TRUMP: Schools should be opened. Schools should be opened.

COLLINS: A newly uncovered document is raising questions about that push. An unpublished file prepared for the White House task force and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity recommends that 18 states in the COVID-19 red zone roll back their re-openings. The red zone is defined as areas with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

The report is dated July 14th and says bars and gyms in those areas should close, gatherings should be limited to ten people or fewer. And residents should wear a mask at all times when outside their homes.

Also missing from the Trump administration this week is that additional CDC guidance on re-opening schools that Vice President Mike Pence said would come out this week.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president said today we just don't want the guidance to be too tough. That's the reason why next week, CDC's going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that'll be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.

COLLINS: Overnight, a CDC spokesman confirmed to CNN those documents are, quote, not ready to come out this week.


COLLINS: And, Jake, the CDC spokesman said we may not even get those documents until the end of the month. Of course, that's going to be a concern since some teachers are scheduled to go back to their classrooms before then. But we should note that while we are waiting on that, we may start seeing Dr. Anthony Fauci appear on television more. He is scheduled to be on PBS tonight. He may be making more appearances in the future after this week it was talked about so much how the White House had denied several requests for him to appear on camera.

TAPPER: Yeah. We've been trying to get him for months, we've been told no.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Also today, the Pentagon effectively banned Confederate flags from military installations. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announcing the new flag policy, which does not specifically mention banning the Confederate flag by name. But that flag is not listed as one of the flags allowed to be on display at any military property.

And this comes, of course, within this context. Just days after President Trump was asked about the flag, which is empirically a symbol of a treasonous declaration of war on the United States by Southerners fighting for the right of their states to permit the rape, murder, and owning of black people.

President Trump, asked about the flag, said this.


TRUMP: With me, it's freedom of speech, very simple. Like it, don't like it, it's freedom of speech.


TAPPER: The Pentagon says the White House was aware of this change.

As the battle over masks continues, Dr. Anthony Fauci has some advice to public officials. We're going to discuss with a top health expert, next.



TAPPER: In our health lead today for the fifth day in a row, Florida is leading the nation in coronavirus cases per capita, reporting more than 11,000 new cases just today.

Florida is one of 18 states listed as red zones by the White House and an unpublished list made for the coronavirus task force of states that should start shutting back down. Joining me now to discuss this and more is the director of Harvard's Global Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha.

Dr. Jha, thanks again for joining us.

What's your reaction to this list of red zone states by the White House Task Force, the secret document that was not shared publicly?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes. So, Jake, thank you for having me on. I had a chance to review the document. And it's really striking to me in a couple of ways.

One is it's a pretty good document. It's like a pretty science-based document that you'd expect from the coronavirus task force. And it lays out which states are in big trouble and what those states should be doing. And it's pretty clear in its public health recommendations.

What is amazing to me is that it is a secret. And why it is a secret and why this document is a secret is baffling. And it's also clear that governors are largely, some governors are not following the recommendations of the coronavirus task force.

TAPPER: Well, how should the governors in these red zone states respond? What should they be doing?

JHA: They should be following the science and they should be following the evidence. And the coronavirus task force recommendations are that. So, for a place like Georgia, for instance, their recommendations are very clear that there should be a statewide mandate on wearing masks and that in the red zones of Georgia, there should be no gyms, there should be no bars. And they encourage governors to allow localities to have even more restrictive policies.

So, again, it's a very science-based document coming out of the task force. I was thrilled to see it. And then, of course, I was puzzled that it is both being kept as a secret, and that governors are really defying it or just ignoring it.

TAPPER: Take a listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci this morning calling on local governments to enforce the wearing of masks in public.