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Oklahoma Governor Seen in Public Without Mask before Testing Positive; Anger Erupts at Utah Public Meeting over Mask Mandate in Schools; Update on Coronavirus Responses Around the Country; Home Depot, Lowe's Join Retailers Requiring Masks Nationwide. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired July 17, 2020 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Oklahoma is another state experiencing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and it does not have a mask mandate.
We told you earlier this week that Oklahoma's Republican Governor Kevin Stitt just contracted the virus, the first known U.S. governor to do so.
And now CNN has learned, in the days leading up to his diagnosis, he was out and about in public without a mask, even visiting a restaurant that's now closed down to deep clean and test its employees.
CNN's Lucy Kafanov is joining me now.
Lucy, the governor said he was pretty shocked to learn that he was infected. But he's been very outspoken against experts' health recommendations.
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. It is interesting. There are simple steps, according to health experts, that all of us could take to limit the spread of coronavirus. One of those is wearing a mask. Obviously, it doesn't guarantee you won't get infected, but it reduces the risk to yourself and to those around you.
Something that the Oklahoma governor has so far resisted in terms of statewide policy. And it turns out personal example.
GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): COVID-19 is still in the United States. We know that. It's still in Oklahoma. We need to take this virus very seriously. We need to come together and make sure each one of us is doing the best we can to slow the spread.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Oklahoma's Republican Governor Kevin Stitt seemingly not taking his own advice. Rarely seen wearing a mask in public, even as cases continue to surge across his state.
STITT: I got tested for COVID-19 and the results came back positive. KAFANOV: Becoming the first American governor --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So help me God.
STITT: So help me God.
KAFANOV: -- Wednesday to announce he got infected with coronavirus.
Prior to his diagnosis, the governor often been seen in public without a face covering. Posting a photo of himself and his children at a crowded restaurant in March. Violating social distancing protocols, though not state law.
KAFANOV: Choosing not to wear a mask at President Donald Trump's Tulsa rally on June 20th.
And seen here allegedly shopping at a Walmart Sunday without a mask before he says he developed symptoMs.
Another social media post showing him at a Vietnamese restaurant without a mask last week. The restaurant announcing it would be closing for a professional cleaning and to test all employees.
CNN has reached out to Walmart and the restaurant for comment.
The governor's office telling affiliate station, KFOR, they don't comment on the governor's or first family's personal schedule or activities.
STITT: The White House is also directing Americans to wear masks in public where social distancing is not possible. I am strongly encouraging Oklahomans to follow this guidance and wear a mask in these situations.
KAFANOV: This month, for the first time since the outbreak, Stitt encouraged Oklahomans to wear a mask in public, even as he continues to resist a statewide mask mandate or other lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus.
STITT: I'm not thinking about a mask mandate at all.
I know that some businesses are mandating masks and that's great. But you can't pick and choose what freedoms you're going to give people.
KAFANOV: The state has averaged over 640 new cases a day over the past week, more than any other point in the pandemic. The number of people infected climbing, with more than 23,400 cases reported as of Thursday.
The governor has pushed to aggressively reopen the state's economy, despite a surge in cases.
The city of Tulsa seeing a surge following Trump's rally. Oklahoma officials are now doing contact tracing to see how and where the governor contracted the virus.
KAFANOV: According to the Oklahoma Health Department, the governor became contagious as early as Saturday but no earlier.
We're also learning that security personnel for the governor are now in quarantine, one of them describing symptoms. The lieutenant governor also under quarantine. And all are awaiting their test results -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Lucy, thank you so much for that update from Denver.
We have more on our breaking news. Dr. Fauci speaking moments ago and warning the U.S. will see more pandemics like this one.
Plus, churches are now suing California's governor over the ban on singing.
And anger erupts at a public meeting to debate forcing kids to wear masks in school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TANNER AINGE, CHAIR, UTAH COUNTY COMMISSION: The meeting is adjourned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: A county commission meeting in Utah to discuss the governor's mandate requiring masks in schools ended in chaos when at least 100 anti-mask parents crowded into the small room to protest the rule.
The group ignored social distancing guidelines. You can see how packed they are. The majority of them were not wearing a mask.
The commissioners decided to shut down the meeting just three minutes into it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AINGE: This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. We are supposed to be physically distancing, wearing masks.
AINGE: And so --
(SHOUTING) AINGE: -- all of our medical --
AINGE: -- all of our medical experts --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him talk!
AINGE: -- our Department of Health --
AINGE: -- everyone is encouraging us to do that.
This room is not complying with these health guidelines. This creates a health concern for this meeting.
We have a motion and a second to continue this meeting to another date.
All in favor say aye.
AINGE: OK. The meeting is adjourned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Conner Richards is a government reporter for "The Daily Herald." He was in the room.
Connor, thank you for coming on to tell us what this was like.
I want to look at the video that you took using your phone as this meeting was scrapped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And, Connor, it is worth pointing out protesters stuck around to speak. What did they say?
CONNER RICHARDS, GOVERNMENT REPORTER, "THE DAILY HERALD": Yes. So that meeting, the official meeting only lasted about a minute. But afterwards, two of the commissioners stuck around for hours to listen to people opposed to this mask mandate.
So some of them were parents. Some of them were teachers. And they really had a wide variety of concerns. Some of them said that they thought that masks were harmful for children, especially wearing them long hours at a time. And that kids should be allowed to play.
Other people were just opposed to the idea of the government forcing people to do something in general.
So a lot of different concerns expressed at that meeting.
KEILAR: What are the commissioners saying now about mandatory masks for students there following this meeting meltdown?
RICHARDS: Throughout this whole thing, the commission -- throughout the pandemic, the commission has been following both the state health department orders and those of Utah's Governor Herbert. And that's the position.
Of course, there was a commissioner who put something on the agenda saying that he wanted to ask that the governor to exempt Utah County from the K-12 public school mask mandate. And that's a commissioner's position.
But really they're just adhering to state guidelines at this point.
KEILAR: Did you hear any parents say that they are worried about the health of their children not wearing masks?
RICHARDS: Well, there was one woman who's going to be starting as a sophomore high school teacher in the fall. And she said that she was really concerned that people were showing such a disregard for public safety and didn't seem to care about her health as a public schoolteacher and the health of her students and children.
And there were definitely people who did voice those concerns and said that they really thought that it was upsetting that people were showing such vitriol to just following a public health guideline.
KEILAR: I wonder, some anti-mask protesters, we see them in the room, they're packed. Do you think they represent how most folks in Utah County, most folks in Utah overall feel? What do you think?
RICHARDS: So Commissioner Tanner Ainge, the chair, said he didn't want this to be what people saw Utah County as and didn't think it reflected the county.
This does appear to be a pretty vocal opposition. So it doesn't seem to represent all of Utah or all of Utah County.
There are a lot of Utahans who are against a statewide mask mandate. And none of state officials have said that they would implement such a thing. There's opposition to that.
But I would say this appears to be a vocal minority, both for Utah County and the state as a whole. KEILAR: Can I ask you, as you talk to people there about how they feel
about masks, are people that against mask mandates, are they for masks but don't want to be told to wear them, or are they generally against wearing masks?
RICHARDS: That was Commissioner Bill Lee's position. He's the one who -- he told people who were opposed to the mask mandate to come to the meeting.
And beforehand, he spoke to them in a rally outside the meeting and told them that he's supportive of masks but doesn't think it's something for the government to mandate. And another commissioner said that as well.
As far as people there, I would say that some of them are for masks. They just don't think it should be mandated. And others think that they pose serious health concerns. They don't want to be breathing, getting their own C02. And I would say it's really a mix.
KEILAR: It's a mix.
All right. Connor, thank you so much for tells us what it was like in the room. We appreciate you being with us.
RICHARDS: Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: Speaking of school, as the president pushes for them to reopen, will he send his own son back to school? The White House will respond.
Plus, the game show host who said that doctors are lying about the virus, which the president cited, cited his opinion, reveals that his son has now tested positive.
Breaking news. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealing that her cancer has returned and she's undergoing chemotherapy. We will have her statement ahead.
KEILAR: The time for warnings is over. That is the message from city officials in Manhattan Beach, California, urging people to wear a mask or face a fine of up to $350. Other cities in southern California, like West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, are also fining mask abstainers.
We have more now from my CNN colleagues across the country.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Stephanie Elam, in Los Angeles. The California bar exam for October will be online only. The State Supreme Court also deciding to permanently decrease the minimum packing score by 50 points to $13.90 out of a possible 2,000.
The court says they understand recent law school graduates are being substantially impacted by the pandemic. They also noted the state has one of the highest minimum passing scores in the nation.
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Evan McMorris-Santoro, at a testing site in Phoenix. In Arizona, the positivity rate has been relatively high, which could be an indication that not enough testing is being done.
The governor and federal officials are trying to change that with testing sites like this one. The challenge is the heat. Triple-digit temperatures are a norm for the summers in Arizona. And this testing site will shut down if the temperature gets too high.
Last night, on CNN, one E.R. doctor in Phoenix spoke about patients coming to the E.R. after fainting from the heat while waiting for a test.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: I'm Chloe Melas, in New York. Former game show host Chuck Woolery's son has coronavirus. A spokesperson for Woolery said his son is, quote, "fine and asymptomatic."
Woolery made headlines last weekend after tweeting, in part, quote, "Everyone is lying about COVID-19." A tweet which President Donald Trump retweeted.
But Woolery seemed to double back earlier this week after his son contracted the virus, writing, quote, "COVID-19 is real and it is here." Adding, "I feel for those suffering, especially for those who have lost loved ones."
But Woolery, he has since deactivated his Twitter account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And just in, more retailers joining the move to require customers to wear masks in all of its stores.
CNN's Cristina Alesci is joining me right now.
Cristina, this is Lowe's and Home Depot.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Correct. They are both requiring masks nationwide following a cascade of corporate announcements over the last 48 hours. It's quite remarkable to see companies acting in the absence of a federal mandate.
So, both Home Depots and Lowe's are requiring customers to wear masks starting either July 20th or July 21st. Home Depot saying it will provide masks for people who do not have one. We're reaching out to Lowe's to see what it will provide for people who show up without masks.
Let me give you some color here. It's hard for these companies to go ahead and enforce these policies. In fact, last night, I got some documents from Starbucks' training modules that outlines recent areas where customers may not want to put the masks on. And it really trains employees on how to deescalate these situations.
But even still, there's a risk if it gets ugly. That's why the companies wanted the federal government to act.
And today, before coming on, I also reported groups renewed calls from the federal -- to the federal government and state's government to go ahead with mask mandates, reduce confusion about which localities and states have them and which don't and make it a more unified and uniform mask order.
But they're turning to the government for that leadership. And in the absence of that, these companies are forced to act on their own, given the rising coronavirus cases around the country.
And, Brianna, this is really an issue that companies are struggling with, clearly, from every indication that I've got in my reporting.
KEILAR: I think this is one of the biggest stories this week. And we see why companies are doing it, Cristina. Seven in 10 Americans say that mask wearing is very important and should be mandated.
Cristina Alecia, thank you so much for your work this week.
As a legal fight is playing out in Georgia, the governor suing Atlanta's mayor over a mask mandate there. He says local leaders need to be forceful about getting people to wear masks.
Plus, a Republican Senator is called out for racist comments after what he suggested was the reason the pandemic is disproportionately affecting Latinos.