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Georgia's Governor Clashes with Atlanta Mayor Over Mask Mandate; Florida Becomes Leading Nation in Per Capita COVID-19 Cases; New Testing Site Set Up in Phoenix, Arizona; White House Says At Least 18 States in Coronavirus "Red Zones" Should Enact Stricter Measures; CDC Delays Release of Guidance on Reopening Schools; Texas Health Official Warns His Community is in "Dire Need". Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kamau, and to all of you, be sure to watch the all new season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." It's going to premier Sunday night 10:00 Eastern Time and Pacific, only on CNN.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with someone I know pretty well, Poppy Harlow, begins right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is Friday morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Glad you're with us.

This morning, states scrambling to try to get a hold on a virus that is surging across the nation. For the ninth time in the month, the U.S. has set a new record in new cases. More than 77,000 new cases over the last 24 hours. And more than 940 people dying from this virus yesterday alone. 38 states are seeing a rise in new cases and the debate over masks is getting more political and it's intensifying as some cities and states issue mandates.

Georgia's Governor Brian Kemp is now suing the mayor of Atlanta over her mask order. Despite the fact that it is proven, undeniably proven by the science that masks help prevent the spread of this virus. This has become a very public battle. It is getting uglier this morning.

Georgia's governor just held a news conference. Let's get straight to our Dianne Gallagher in Atlanta with more.

Good morning.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. And look, Georgia's Governor Brian Kemp doesn't deny that. In fact, multiple times during that press conference he not only encouraged but implored people to wear masks. Every member of his task force who got up there talked about the performance of wearing masks, but just 12 hours earlier his administration filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, because of the mask mandate and the going back to phase one restrictions.

Now, the governor maintains that this is about saving lives and livelihoods of businesses. A lot of focus on businesses and what going back to phase one might mean for them. But the mask mandate is in cities all across Georgia and many mayors including Keisha Lance Bottoms has said they're still going to do it. Here's what the governor had to say.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Now, I know that many well-intentioned and well-informed Georgians want a mask mandate. And while we all agree that wearing a mask is effective, I'm confident that Georgians don't need a mandate to do the right thing. Instead of issuing mandates that are confusing and unenforceable, I'm asking all local leaders to enforce the current executive order.

Enforce the rules that we had put in place to keep employees and customers safe at local businesses. Enforce the provisions that ensure folks are staying six feet apart in large gatherings. Enforce measures to protect the medically fragile and use your bully pulpit, your social media challenge, and your connections with the local media to help build support for wearing a mask when needed.

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA: Well, I have not heard personally from the White House, but I do know that Brian Kemp does the bidding of President Trump. And it is -- it's unfortunate because meanwhile over 130,000 people in our state have tested positive for COVID-19. Over 3100 people have lost their lives, and instead of speaking on the same accord about how we can stop the spread of this virus, this governor is taking taxpayer money to sue me personally and the irony is that I am now infected with COVID-19, and he is suing the Atlanta City Council and our city, by and large, supports a mask mandate.


GALLAGHER: Now, that's something that the governor really wouldn't answer. He was asked multiple times because he accused the city of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, of playing politics, that all they had to do was follow his executive order. But when he was asked if, you know, he was the one being political here since his administration is the one taking taxpayer dollars to sue a city over that mandate, he didn't really answer it and just kept going back to the fact that he was trying to protect businesses in Georgia as well.

Again, Poppy, deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases in Georgia are all at record highs over the past week. 39 percent increase in hospitalizations over just the past week here in Georgia. They've had to open surge hospitals.

HARLOW: Geez. Oh, Dianne, thank you very much for that update. We appreciate it.

Let's go to Miami now. Our colleague Rosa Flores is there. We just got new data showing Florida now leads the nation in per capita coronavirus cases. Is that right?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, it's not getting any better. Florida yesterday reporting nearly 14,000 new coronavirus cases and 156 deaths. That's a record. Here in Miami-Dade County, the 14-day average positivity rate, 27 percent. The goal is not to exceed 10 percent.


When it comes to hospitalizations in the past two weeks, according to county data those are up 46 percent. In the past two weeks, ICU beds 54 percent, ventilators, 86 percent.

Now, according to data released by Miami-Dade County, ICUs are operating at 107 percent. Here's the data. ICU capacity is 440 beds. Well, yesterday they had 472 patients. Now it's important to note that the county does have over 400 beds that they're converting into ICU beds. Now according to the city of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, he's looking at all this data. He says that hospitals in his city are at 95 percent capacity and that leaders in his city are possibly a few days to a week away to shutting down -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Rosa Flores, we appreciate it. Those numbers are getting worse by the day as you said.

Let's go to Arizona. Our Evan McMorris-Santoro is Phoenix.

Good morning, Evan. The situation there this morning, what is it?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. Yesterday, at a press conference the governor sounded a positive note about some numbers here, but continued to talk about how dire the situation is saying there's no end in sight at the moment for this pandemic in Arizona which has been ravaging the state.

I'm at South Mountain Park, a testing site in Phoenix. You can see they set up a testing site here. There'll be cars coming in later during the self-administered test. This is a FEMA run site. A big deal trying to get the testing up to try to get a better picture of the pandemic here.

Now we saw something kind of grim happened yesterday, that it was sort of shot you up in your seat when you heard about it. The county medical examiner has ordered a bunch of trucks to add more than 200 beds to their morgue system here. They say that that's just a worst case scenario note. They don't need those beds yet, but they're ordering them just in case things do get worse -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK, Evan, let's hope they don't, but good that they will be more prepared if they do. Thanks for that, from Arizona.

Let's talk about all of these developments and these record heartbreaking numbers. Crystal Watson is with me this morning, senior associate at Johns Hopkins Center for Health and Security.

It's nice to have you. Thanks very much for being here.

CRYSTAL WATSON, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: Thanks, Poppy. HARLOW: When you look at what we're seeing and it's not just states

that reopened quickly or where there's not a lot of mask wearing, for example. Look at what we're seeing in Washington state. When you look at the U.S., 77,255 new cases yesterday, almost a thousand deaths yesterday, it joins, you know, Brazil and India as the only countries with more than a million cases. why is the fundamental question? And what would change this the most?

WATSON: So I think while states did reopen at kind of different rates, one common thing that we've done is we've allowed people to congregate indoors again in bars and restaurants, staying for prolonged periods of time within six feet of one another. And I think that is clearly a dangerous thing to do and so I think the only thing that will affect this is to layer a set of measures together including closing those indoor gatherings. And having people wear masks and commit to social distancing.

HARLOW: Let's talk about schools. I mean, there are some school districts that are supposed to open in a matter of weeks. A number of states opened their public schools in August. We heard the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying yesterday, look, science is on our side. It is perfectly safe, her words, to open the schools.

Just set the record straight on the science because everything that I have read, and every expert I've talked to said, actually, the science is just not there yet on how much children are vectors or spreaders of coronavirus. What we do know is every other virus like influenza they spread a lot. What is the science? Is it perfectly clear?

WATSON: No, there's still a lot of uncertainty about how much kids spread the virus. We haven't had as many children get sick so we don't really know what will happen when we introduce an epidemic into school systems. We've seen some indicators from the rest of the world where there have been outbreaks in schools but we're particularly worried about those teachers and staff members, who may be older or who have underlying conditions who if they get sick they may have severe consequences.

HARLOW: What about the delay in testing results? So we've heard some of the biggest labs out there, Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, talk about this. We just heard, you know, the governor of Florida talk about this.

If you have what we're seeing in some states is a delay of testing results, COVID testing results from five to seven days from when you take the test to when you actually get your result. I have a friend here in New York who took a test more than a week ago, hasn't gotten a result. What does that do to the nation's ability to get a handle on this crisis and really bring the numbers down? Because I don't think almost anyone stays inside and by themselves for a week waiting for results.


WATSON: Yes. It really hinders our ability to get control of these epidemics. As you said, if people who have symptoms, who are waiting for a test, are not indoors and trying to isolate, then they're out spreading it likely to others in the community. And we're certainly not able to trace contacts of cases and get those people quarantined without that information. It makes it really difficult.

HARLOW: Yes. OK. Thank you so much, Crystal, for your expertise this morning.

WATSON: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, still to come as millions of parents as we were just talking about wait on news for whether their children will return to school physically in the fall, the CDC says it will not be releasing new documents about reopening safely today. There's a delay. We're going to find out why and how long that delay may be in that guidance.

Also, a brand-new ABC-"Washington Post" poll this morning show 60 percent of Americans now disapprove of the president's handling of this outbreak. We'll be joined by his senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign.



HARLOW: Welcome back. We do have new details this morning, so guidance from the White House that suggested at least 18 states in so- called red zones should enact stricter measures and roll back their reopenings, but so far, this report has not been published. So the public hasn't seen it. Let's go to our White House correspondent John Harwood. John, let's talk about these 18 states, and if they were given this report.

I mean, what's the genesis of this, where does it come from, right? Because it's from July 14th, and have the states themselves seen it?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, the states involved are living this experience. It's not a matter of information, it's a matter of political will. You've got a Republican president who has moved from a strategy of neglect to denial to aggressive, almost pathological denial of what's going on, and Republican politicians in those states are following his lead.

Sixteen of the 18 states were carried by President Trump. He focuses relentlessly on his base. Now, we know that in the end, you can only deny reality so long. Citizens will take responsibility in their own hands, they'll take care of themselves, protect themselves. Eventually, the Republican politicians will come along, but the question is, how many people are going to get sick and die before that happens?

HARLOW: OK, also when it comes to the CDC, right, they issued those guidelines for schools reopening last week, and now there is some updates that's coming to them, but it's not going to be published today. Do we know why?

HARWOOD: Well, we know that consistently, the president has been trying to sit on the facts and the experts delivering the facts. The CDC issued some guidance, then we were told that the guidance was going to be changed. Then we were told the guidance wasn't going to be changed, but it was going to be supplemented.

HARLOW: Right --

HARWOOD: Now the supplementing material has been delayed. And states are in the process of trying to make decisions and the administration plainly, wants them to open and is going to take steps to try to get them to open.

HARLOW: I hope we get that soon. I think every parent, teacher, child deserves it. John Harwood at the White House, appreciate your reporting as always this morning, have a nice weekend. So, let's talk about schools, let's go to Miami-Dade County where school resumes in just weeks. Families still awaiting a decision on, will it be a physical reopening?

The superintendent Alberto Carvalho said yesterday that as long as cases continue to rise, quote, "we will not" be opening schools, they won't be safe to open and he joins me now. Mr. Superintendent, it's very nice to have you. You have set out some numbers here, right? Your position has been, we can't physically reopen schools unless we have a 10 percent or less than 10 percent positivity rate.

Yesterday, there -- it was a 25 percent positivity rate. At this point, are we getting towards it being inevitable that you begin like some other districts have chosen to just fully reopen online at least in the near-term this Fall?

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Number one, thank you very much, Poppy. 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 --

HARLOW: Yes --

CARVALHO: It's comparable to the data and the circumstances that Wuhan, China, faced about six months ago. We are at the center of America's epicenter for COVID-19, so we're monitoring a number of data points, not just the positivity rate which you correctly said is around 24.4 percent. But also ICU bed occupancy capacity which is at 107 percent with the increased levels of hospitalizations. Those are elements that cannot be ignored. Now, I am one who wants children to return to school --

HARLOW: Yes --

CARVALHO: Because of the deleterious effects that children face out of school. You know, social and emotional impacts, the learning loss. But we need to take that within the context of environmental conditions that vary from region-to-region in a country, from county- to-county right here in the state of Florida.

HARLOW: I hear you a 100 percent, and not to mention the economic toll, what it means for dual families, most families, where both parents work. What about federal funding? The threat from the president and the education secretary to withhold federal funding if your schools don't fully reopen. Do you know if you're going to get the money if you're not physically opened by August 24th?

CARVALHO: Well, we certainly hope that that's not the case. I mean, look, we are a poor community, regardless of what people see on TV, you know, Miami-Dade is not South Beach, 73.4 percent of the children in our community are poor --

HARLOW: Yes --

CARVALHO: Eleven percent of them have disabilities. About 50,000 of them are English language learners. You know, imposing an additional crisis, a financial crisis upon children who are fragile to begin with just does not make any sense whatsoever.


What I'm actually asking for is some degree of flexibility. Look, you know, different parts of America are experiencing different levels of proportionality regarding COVID-19. We are in crisis mode right here in our community. So we ought to be given some degree of flexibility to restart the school year, but in a way that's safe for students and parents and teachers.

HARLOW: I'd like to talk about the children you just mentioned, I mean, among the most vulnerable populations. You've got 70 percent -- over 70 percent of the students in your schools rely on free lunch, and you know, you talk about not just food insecurity, but about, you know, all of the other challenges that they face. We also know many of those children face an increased burden of not having complete broadband access, Wi-Fi access, their own laptop to get the work done at home.

And we know what the numbers have shown in terms of the impact on many of those children from schools being closed in March. What is the plan, right? Can you assure every family, every parent in your district that they will have the broadband access they need, they will have a computer to really have an equal shot at an online education?

CARVALHO: All right, therein lies the hop's stretch, right? You want to protect the health and well-being of children and teachers, but at the same time you want to sort of put a stop to the learning loss, the academic regression that they're facing. In the last quarter of last school year, because or our level of readiness, we actually reached the 100 percent connectivity for students with every single student in Miami-Dade with a portable device connected from home.

HARLOW: But I hear, that is --

CARVALHO: To help --

HARLOW: Let me just jump in and say that's amazing. Good for you. But does your data show that since schools closed in March, they were all logged on consistently and taking the classes? CARVALHO: So they were logged on. What we did observe were some

challenges with quite frankly students, not only being logged on, but actually learning consistently in a continuous manner.

HARLOW: Yes --

CARVALHO: That's why right now, we're doing massive professional development for our employees, but also as a board priority, training for parents to be better supporters of the home-learning environment for children. So our problem is not a technology problem. Our problem quite frankly is that there's no guarantee that depending on the personal circumstances of parents --

HARLOW: Yes --

CARVALHO: Work demand of parents --

HARLOW: Wow, I mean --

CARVALHO: That they will be the necessary support at home.

HARLOW: Yes, it's impossible for, you know, many quote-unquote "essential workers" that will not get paid if they don't leave the home to go to serve people and to do their job, and then how can they be there for their kids? It's an impossible situation, we wish you a lot of luck. Thank you, Superintendent Carvalho.

CARVALHO: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Of course, Texas Governor Greg Abbott doubling down on his pledge not to revert back, not to shut down the state's economy again, but could a dire warning about the facts on the ground change his mind?



HARLOW: Welcome back. A top health official in Texas is sounding the alarm now, warning that coronavirus is beginning to overwhelm his community. This as the state reports a record number of new COVID infections again.

Ed Lavandera joins me again this morning from Dallas. Good morning. So I think the real question is, these dire warnings from medical experts within the state, are those going to cause the governor to reverse course? Because he keeps saying mask will solve it. We are not, you know, closing down again. We are not shutting down the economy again.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I don't see based on what the governor has said over the last few days any imminent shutdown of the Texas economy based on what he has said. There's some wiggle room and he is really pushing people here in this state to use the masks. The governor has said he believes that if people were to strictly wear masks when they're out in public, that, that would do enough to curtail the surge of cases in hospitalizations that we're seeing in this state.

But he did say that people need to do that to prevent another shutdown. So, there's some wiggle room there, but I think it's some time away as they continue to see how these cases continue to unfold. The number of coronavirus cases over 10,000 for most of this week, per day, hospitalizations up as well.

A record high in the number of deaths reported on Thursday, Poppy, 129. And the governor who was speaking to the state Republicans at their state convention, and he's been under a great deal of attack from the right-wing of the Republican Party here in Texas.

Some calling the mask mandate unconstitutional. The governor is defending all of that, saying that he has science on his side, and he has a legal authority to do so. So he's really kind of taking it from both sides here in this state as he's pushing people here in Texas to continue wearing their masks. Poppy?

HARLOW: Ed, thank you for that reporting. We'll watch the state very closely. Let's go to California now where the governor is set to announce his guidance for reopening schools today. This is a big deal, Stephanie, everyone is waiting for this news.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, because people are trying to figure out how if cases are rising as they're especially here in L.A. County which is really the center of the outbreak in the state as far as the number of cases per county. How are they going to have kids back in school in the long term? We already know that LAUSD and the San Diego Unified School District plan on going to remote learning when they start up in the Fall.

But he did get come questions about that in his last press conference, Governor Newsom did. And so he did say that he was going to have guidance, we're expecting to hear that at 3:00 p.m. Eastern today about how this is going to work, and what these guidelines are going to look like for the state of California. Now, just to put it in perspective, California's numbers for the day above 8,500 new cases, and we did see a slight decline in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.