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U.S. Shatters Single-Day Record For New Cases As Crisis Deepens; Anti-Mask Protest Abruptly Ends Utah Meeting On Reopening Schools; Texas Governor Defends Mask Order To State GOP Convention. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2020 - 10:00   ET



MERCEDES SCHLAPP, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Are you kidding me? You're talking about whether he talk a picture with Goya products?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- posted a picture of him talking a product from the resolute desk, but I don't think you're going to answer that question.

SCHLAPP: Because it is about cherishing -- yes it is. It's about --

HARLOW: Okay. We lost the signal there, Mercedes Schlapp, thank you very, very much. I apologize that we lost that. Thanks to her for her time.

It is the top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

As the U.S. shatters the record for new cases, state and local lawmakers are at odds over how to stop this virus, as we just talked about. In the U.S., more than 77,000 new cases yesterday, that's more than 13 times higher than the number of cases in the European Union. Three states, Florida, Texas and South Carolina all reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day. And ten states in Puerto Rico are seeing record hospitalizations.

In one of those states, that's the State of Georgia, there's a battle right now, as you know, within the state over masks. Governor Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta's mayor over her mask order even though masks are proven to help prevent the spread of the virus.

So let's begin in Georgia and all that has happened.

Diane Gallagher, this morning, the governor holding a press conference and the mayor responding to all of this in this new lawsuit against her right here on CNN.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. And, look, Governor Brian Kemp doesn't deny that masks protects the community. In fact, he said it multiple times today and even flew around the State of Georgia back before the numbers were so bad here encouraging people to wear masks. So it was a bit perplexing that he chose to sue the mayor of Atlanta as well as the members of city council, especially since roughly a dozen different local communities have some version of a mask mandate throughout the state.

Now, the governor claims that it violates his executive order because the executive order says you cannot put any restrictions that exceed the order in it.

He also, in the lawsuit, is suing her for recommending that Atlanta if back to phase one. He claims that this is about businesses. Over and over again, he said it's lives and livelihoods and says that it should be up to businesses to try to have to spend their time enforcing a mask mandate.

But when you listen to it, and he couldn't answer the question about how this wasn't just about politics.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): 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.

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-ATLANTA, GA): I have not heard personally from the White House, but I do know that Brian Kemp does the bidding of President Trump.

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, again, we should point out that the numbers here in Georgia have continued to climb. We have higher deaths, hospitalizations and also the new cases that are here.

According to the governor's own task force, Poppy, 39 percent increase in hospitalizations just this week alone. So, look, it's a serious situation here, and they are quabbling over masks.

HARLOW: Yes. Dianne, I wonder -- I really wonder what's going to happen there and the safety and health of the American people hangs in a balance. Thanks a lot for your reporting this morning.

Florida has now lead -- is now, excuse me, leading the nation in new cases of coronavirus per capita. So when you look at the numbers in the state, it's now averaging just over 55 cases per 100,000, that's 11 cases more than any other state. Let's bring in Broward County Mayor Dale Holness. Thank you so much, Mayor Holness, for being with me.

MAYOR DALE HOLNESS (D), BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Thank you for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: And look at you -- look at you in that mask, even in your office. Thank you.

HOLNESS: We wear masks in our office because it's the right thing to do. It's how we protect ourselves and our family and our community and beat this pandemic.

HARLOW: Me too. Mine is right over here in my bag.

Let me ask you this. The numbers are just -- they're so tragic right now when you look at the -- your neighboring county, 107 percent hospital capacity in Miami-Dade County.


I mean, they are out of ICU beds, and that's right next to you guys. You've expressed a lot of concerns not only about bed availability but about staff and medication shortages. Can you update us on your preparedness and your available resources this morning?

HOLNESS: Yes. So, as it is right now, Poppy, we have my -- my latest data shows that we have 18 percent of ICU beds -- beds -- hospital beds available. 11 percent, almost 12 percent ICU bed availability. But it is a lagging indicator in terms of the number of tests that we see coming in positive.

We've been very vigilant in keeping our numbers down. We closed early. We issued wearing a facial covering, mask on April 11th for anyone receiving service in the public are given service. We further that on July 1st when we required that everyone in the public wear facial covering, even within your apartment complex within your building so long as you can't socially distance six feet or more.

We know that is an effective way of stopping the virus spread and get us to a place where we can keep business viable and keep people employed. We have people becoming homeless already because the funding from the federal government and even unemployment is not reaching a lot of folks.

HARLOW: I know. And that the increase in unemployment benefit, $600 more a week, is going to end at the end of July and I fear that's going to make the situation for those people a lot more difficult.

Just before you go, you've said that if hospitalizations continue to get worse and the positivity rates don't drop, that you will have to shut down. Are you on the brink of that now?

HOLNESS: We're not necessarily right on the brink, but we are going to monitor this very closely. I have calls with all the mayors across Broward County. We have 1.961 million people, 31 different cities and I get 25 to 28 of the mayors on each week, and we get our hospitals and the medical professionals in to tell us where we are. We will have another call coming up next week to see where we are.

The fact is this. Facial coverings work, social distancing works. Stay home if you're sick. Don't get in crowds. And we have an issue also where people are having parties at home. And that has to stop. We are enforcing that.

We've put together a 311 number for folks to call to report when there are problems, when people are not following the emergency orders and not doing what's right and we are shutting the businesses down that don't follow the guidelines.

HARLOW: Mayor Dale Holness, thank you so much. We wish you guys a lot of luck as you navigate this. Thank you for your time this morning.

HOLNESS: Thank you for having me, Poppy. Stay safe.


And let's talk about the medical side of this with CNN Medical Analyst Jonathan Reiner. He's a Professor of Medicine at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, it's nice to have you. Thank you so much for being here.

Let's talk about what's going on in Georgia right now because it just shows how political so much of this has gotten, unfortunately, when it's just about the science and medicine. You called Governor Kemp's blocking of any mask order, quote, basically criminal.

You heard his press conference this morning. He is encouraging people. He even says, I see the science, I know people should be wearing masks, but he said -- he said, while we all agree wearing a mask is effective, Georgians don't need a mandate to do the right thing. What do you make of that?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, apparently, Georgians need a mandate to wear a seat belt. A Georgia law mandates seat belts in all cars, and I guess also, apparently, Georgians need a mandate to prevent smoking in public buildings because Georgia law also does that.

So what do those laws have in common? They are for the public good. And during a pandemic, requiring masks is just that simple, so we need to stop this nonsense.

You know, there is this notion of individualism or libertarianism, but when it gets to a pandemic and something as elemental as wearing a mask that then becomes selfishness, right? You don't have the right to go into public with contagious tuberculosis and not take your medicines.

So why do you have the right to go into public or why can't we mandate the very simple, safe, easy measure of ensuring that we keep each other safe with a mask during a pandemic? It boggles the mind. HARLOW: What about our children and school? You know, I sort of ask this with, as my colleague, Sanjay Gupta says, with the journalist hat on and the parent hat on and I really want my kids in school and they really want to be in school. But we heard from the White House, the press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said this week about opening physically, quote, science is on our side and it's, quote, perfectly safe to reopen school.

I mean, help me if I'm missing something, but all the science I have read and every expert I've had asked say we actually have very little science on how children act as vectors of COVID.


We just don't know yet, right?

REINER: Right. So I think if we begin in this country when we talk about this pandemic with things that we can all agree on. So we all should be able to agree that masks prevent transmission. And we should all be able to agree that everyone wants kids back in school. We want them back in elementary school and secondary schools and we want them back in colleges. But question is how is it best and safest to do that?

So, recent data out of places like Arizona and California, Mississippi show that about 10 percent of the new infections are in people less than 18 years old, so about 10 percent of the infections are in essentially children and adolescents.

The concern is not so much that the child who acquires the virus will become deathly ill. Thankfully that's a rare phenomenon. But those children will transmit the virus, those transmit it to their parents and grandparents and neighbors and other kids will take it to their homes so they become a vector for the perpetuation of the virus. That's really the simple issue.

We have to stop politicizing these things. We have to be able to send kids to school in a safe environment. Some parts of the country can do this. But to think about sending kids to school in Miami in a month, how does that make sense or in Houston? So let's all be smart about this. Americans are smart people. This is not that hard.

HARLOW: dr. Reiner, thank you very much for your time this morning. It's really good to have you.

REINER: My pleasure. Thank you.

HARLOW: Let's talk about Arizona, where one of the doctors there says people have passed out in the heat while waiting in line to get a COVID test in the state. My colleague, Evan McMorris-Santoro, is on the ground in Phoenix for us again this morning.

That has been a real issue is, you know, over 100-degree heat in that state and hours and hours of wait time for people just to get tested and then like a week delay sometimes to find out if they have got it. EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. Look, heat is the number one factor in Arizona. I've been here for several weeks now. It's 7:00 A.M. in South Mountain Park in Phoenix at a testing site where I am. It's 90 degrees.

So this particular testing site, which is a self-testing side, you can see behind me cars are going to drive in here, they're going to head over there, they're going to get swabs and get their own tests and then they're going to be met by a medical personnel.

Anyway, all of that process gets shut down if it gets too hot, which is a big problem in Arizona. This particular testing site is about trying to alleviate the testing challenges here in Arizona. They have a very high infection rate, which can be indicative of not enough testing being done. So the governor is trying to ramp up testing.

This is a FEMA-run site, and they are hoping to do 2,500 tests a day. But, again, that number might not be hit if the temperature gets too high, which in Phoenix, you can pretty much count on. Poppy?

HARLOW: That you can. Evan, very sad update there. Thanks for the reporting though. We appreciate that it's important.

Well, a commission meeting goes off the rails turning into an anti- mask protest. We'll show you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's adjourned.


HARLOW: More on this ahead.

Plus, the top health official in one Texas county is sending this message as cases surge, we are in dire need.

And time and money and short supply for small business owners, people who need to make their housing payments, pay their rent at end of the month, we're going to be joined by the former head of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Tomas Philipson. He is here.



HARLOW: Well, the Utah commission meeting has ended abruptly, and it ended when the topic of masks came up. Look at what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. We are supposed to be physically distancing, wearing masks and so all of our medical --

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: That's what happened. Just talking about masks, something scientifically proven to really help, you could hear the shouts from the crowd, some people anti-mask protesting, mandating masks, a fiery topic obviously as we have seen, especially over the last week in this debate, also over how to reopen schools. That's intensifying.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, masks were just made a requirement for the schools, and the superintendent of the Tulsa Public School District is really urging students to wear them as well.

Superintendent Deborah Gist joins me now. It's nice to have you. Thanks for the time.


HARLOW: Are you facing the same pushback? Because you have said, look, we're going to have masks in our schools. And I wonder if every parent and students are on board with that.

GIST: You know, I don't think any of us want to wear masks. They are not comfortable. But we understand why it matters. And what we're hearing from our parents and our teachers, they want us to make good choices about keeping children and team members safe, and safety is our top priority as well.

So I feel confident that we're going to have general agreement about this while, of course, we know that we will have some folks who will not be comfortable with it.

HARLOW: So, as of now, at least, August 31st, that's the start or open date for schools.


And I just wonder what your plan is right now, meaning are parents going to have a choice to physically have their children attend school or do online learning?

GIST: We do have a virtual academy option for students in our community. And we also know that we have teachers who are in high-risk categories. So we want to have a way to have them be able to teach from home.

We have not made a final decision about how we will open school. We'll make that decision. Our Board of Education will make that decision on August 3rd. But we have prepared an in-person option, a distance learning option and also a hybrid option, where we have about half of our students in school at any given time so we can have greater social distancing.

HARLOW: I wonder when it comes to online learning for students. 83 percent of the students in your district are economically disadvantaged. And you know what the data show, right, that those that are in lower-income neighborhoods, they have less access to broadband, less likely to have a laptop to get the work done. The data for March, when schools closed, showed that a higher percentage of them weren't logged in and really getting a full online education and participation. What do you do for those kids, and, of course, Superintendent, special needs children?

GIST: Right. Well, I mean, that's one of the reasons why this is such an excruciating decision. We know that our students need to be in school. All of our children need to be in school. That's where they are going to learn best. But we know that for students who have additional needs that they really, really need to be in school.

We absolutely are working with families, with children who have -- children who have special needs, to make sure that they are getting their needs met. And that may mean that they are in school even if other students are not.

HARLOW: Okay, okay.

GIST: For our district, more broadly, with children who are from lower-income communities, we are working hard to make sure they have internet access. We've provided every single one of them with a device.

HARLOW: I know. Good for you. I'm so glad you could do that. It's not just that, right? There's a whole lot of other factors that go into really providing an equal learning opportunity for them, many of which I know are out of your control. Will have teachers have a choice to show up, meaning, if they don't have a medical control that they can prove makes them immune-compromised but they are just scared and they don't want to get and they don't want to risk maybe their elderly parents at home. Do they have a choice or will they lose their job if they don't come report physically to school?

GIST: We're confident that our teachers want to be back in school. And what they expect of us is to make sure that we have circumstances that are going to keep them safe.

We do have the virtual academy and depending on how many students in our district register for that virtual academy. We will need a significant number of teachers to be working in that role.

HARLOW: Let me ask you, because there's a school next to you. It's the Union Public Schools in Tulsa that, right now, is in the process of, as you know, changing its mascot that is right now the Redskins for obvious reasons. And, of course, when they talk to you -- Tulsa, obviously, very important, 99 years ago, what happened, the tragedy, the massacre, the Greenwood massacre there.

And when you look at the 300-plus people who died, more than 10,000 black Americans left homeless, more than 2,000 of their businesses destroyed, it was a tragedy. I mean, it was a horrible, violent racial crime.

And I wonder, many of the guests that I've spoken with over the last few weeks about this say, you know, so much of this wasn't included in the curriculum, and we didn't learn about this until later in our adult life. Is there going to be more emphasis in this moment, especially in your school district to speech them the fulsome history of what happened?

GIST: Absolutely. So I was a student who grew up in Tulsa and did not learn about the race massacre until I was an adult, and that is atrocious. So we have been working really hard to provide not only the expectation that it's taught but the resources and the ways in which our teachers can teach it in all grade levels.

It's not something that should be relegated just to Oklahoma history or even U.S. history. It is a part of our community, a part of our country, and it needs to be included in topics at multiple levels.

And we also want to focus on not just teaching about the massacre itself, which was a horrible incident that we should all understand and learn from, but it's also about the beautiful, rich community of Greenwood here in Tulsa both now (ph) and before

HARLOW: You're right.

GIST: And for students to see that and understand what was right here and to see that part of our history as well.

HARLOW: And to see how much was lost and never came back because of it there. Superintendent Gist, we wish you a lot of luck. Thanks for coming on.

GIST: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course.

All right, so Texas and South Carolina are reporting single-day records for COVID-19 deaths just yesterday.


We'll take you live to both states after a break.


HARLOW: Welcome back.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott right now defending his statewide mask order and also saying that face coverings are the key to preventing another shutdown across the state, which he is refusing to do.

Let's go to Ed Lavandera. He joins me in Dallas.

I mean, it is very significant that he has issued this statewide mask order for sure, but he is pretty certain that they are not going to -- need to shut down again.