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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Calls Fauci An Alarmist, Blames Testing And Downplays Virus; Trump Defending Cognitive Test, Claims Questions Were Hard; Texas Motor Speedway Hosts First Major Sporting Event In Texas; Governor Of Georgia Sues The Mayor Of Atlanta Over Mask Mandate; The Role Children Play In Spreading The Virus; New York Set For Phase Four Re-Opening. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 19, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. And the numbers are undeniable, 140,000 Americans are dead, more than 3 million are sick. Doctors are screaming out for help.

In fact, in Florida we just learned no ICU beds are available at 49 hospitals statewide. In Arizona, that state just reported the highest one-day death count since the pandemic began. And in Georgia and North Carolina, records shattered for new cases in

a single day, and yet the president of the United States says all those warnings you are hearing from Dr. Anthony Fauci about how much worse this could get, well, that's just him being a bit of an alarmist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: This weekend your White House put out a series of statements, so-called mistakes that Dr. Fauci had made. One of your closest aides, one of your right-hand men, Daniel Scavino, put out this -- have you seen this?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look --

WALLACE: Dr. Faucet shows him as a leaker and an alarmist. Why would he do that?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know that he's a leaker, but he's a little bit of an alarmist, that's okay. A little bit of an alarmist.

WALLACE: He's a bit of an alarmist?

TRUMP: A little bit of an alarmist. Let me just say, Dr. Fauci at the beginning -- and again I have a great relationship with him. I spoke to him at length yesterday. Dr. Fauci at the beginning said this would pass, don't worry about it, this will pass. He was wrong. Dr. Fauci said don't ban China, don't ban China. I did. He then admitted that I was right.

WALLACE: But you made mistakes too. TRUMP: I guess everybody make mistakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's be clear about what's happening here. The president is taking Dr. Fauch's words out of context to discredit him. And if you want to know why? Why would he do that? Listen to this next comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will be right, eventually. You know, I said it's going to disappear. I'll say it again. It's going to disappear and I'll be right.

WALLACE: But does that discredit you?

TRUMP: I don't think so.

WALLACE: Right.

TRUMP: I don't think so. You know why it doesn't discredit me? Because I've been right probably more than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Was he right when he said anyone could get a test when they couldn't? When many still can't? Was he right when he said 99 percent of cases are, "totally harmless?" When we know even if this virus doesn't kill you, it can put you in the hospital or leave with you major fatigue or neurological issues for weeks or longer?

What you heard there was a president who won't admit he's wrong. More worried about saving face than saving lives. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us. And Jeremy, we also heard the president repeat a lie that the United States has more cases only because we do the most testing.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is something that has been repeatedly debunked, and yet the president continues to repeat it. Ana, it is remarkable that we are more than a month now into the second surge of coronavirus cases, which has shown record number of new cases week after week after week.

And yet the president still appears to not be on the same page with the science and with the facts. And that certainly applies to this claim about testing. Listen to how he compares the United States to what we're seeing in the European Union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No way. They're having surges.

WALLACE: -- cases are 6,000 in the whole European Union --

TRUMP: They don't test. They don't test like we do.

WALLACE: Is it possible they don't have the virus as badly as we do?

TRUMP: It's possible that they don't test, that's what's possible. We find cases and many of those cases heal automatically. We're finding -- in a way we're creating trouble. Certainly, we're creating trouble for the fake news to come along and say we have more cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And the reality is, Ana, that the European Union has not experienced this second surge of cases that happened in the United States. In fact, they didn't even experience the plateau, the high plateau of cases that we had in the U.S. Instead they had their caseloads go way, way down.

And on this question of testing, Chris Wallace brought it up in the interview with the president, which is that while testing is up 37 percent in the United States, cases are up 194 percent.

And look, ultimately, Ana, this is affecting the president's political standing because tight now he is in a moments where poll after poll is showing him not only with the bigger deficit against Joe Biden that he has faced throughout this pandemic, but also with the biggest disapproval numbers.

But let me show you those head to head numbers between Trump and Biden from Fox News and the Washington Post/ABC News poll. In this Fox News poll, Biden is up 49 percent to Trump at 41 percent. And then in the second poll by "The Washington post" and ABC News, Biden is at 55 percent compared to 40 percent for the president.

[17:04:58]

And this is reflected particularly in the numbers that we are seeing with the president on coronavirus, his handling of coronavirus. His numbers are completely under water with a majority of Americans saying they disapproved currently with how the president has handled this crisis, Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Political Analyst and a former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen. And Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University. He previously advised the Bush White House.

Gentlemen, I want to play more from the president's interview with Chris Wallace when asked about the surge in COVID cases, the president once again downplayed the spread of the virus and put the blame on testing. Let's listen again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Cases are up. When cases are up, many of those cases shouldn't even be cases. Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world and we have the most. No country has ever done what we have done in terms of testing. We are the envy of the world. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So Dr. Reiner, is the U.S. the envy of the world when it comes to testing?

JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Do you think the U.S. is the envy of the world because we've had 140,000 deaths in the country? That's the one statistic that can't be spun. Easy to understand. We have 4 percent of the world's population and about a third of its deaths, 140,000 deaths in this country.

Once again, the president perpetrates -- continues to, you know, to parrot this myth, that the only reason we're finding these cases is that we're testing for it. You know, it's basically -- what he's basically saying is if we did fewer mammograms, we would have less breast cancer in this country. It's nonsense.

The virus is out of control in the south and southwestern parts of the United States. It's in better control in parts of the Northeast and Midwest, but it's really raging and it's causing real hardship and real death in this country. Just look at the hospitals in Florida. Hospitals are filled to capacity. The president doesn't seem to want to acknowledge this.

CABRERA: Yes. And you mentioned the hospitals. Again, no ICU beds available at 49 hospitals statewide in Florida. It seems, David, every day another state is breaking records when it comes to these coronavirus cases.

Georgia and North Carolina for example, record high number of cases. Today, Arizona with a record high death count. And yet we hear the president dismiss Dr. Fauci as a bit of an alarmist. What's your reaction when you hear that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I just -- we're so astonished on every day, every day that passes. Listen, Dr. Reiner is absolutely right. We have about 4 percent of the world's population, and we have about a quarter of the world's deaths. That's all you need to know about where we are internationally in the international comparisons.

I think what's very disturbing over the weekend is we're now getting stories out of the White House, that the White House is opposing Republican senators, who in this next tranche of spending, this next bill, spending bill, want to put more money into testing, and the White House is opposing it.

They want to zero out any new money for testing. How can they possibly do that when all of the respected voices in health care and medicine are arguing we ought to be doing more testing? Testing is the way to bring these numbers down. Testing is the way the Europeans have been so successful.

CABRERA: The funding going toward testing and contact tracing, which we know hand in hand, are so key.

GERGEN: Yes.

CABRERA: Dr. Reiner, the president does seem to be, you know, going his own way, but he is defending his response to this pandemic, saying he has been right probably more than anybody else. Any idea what he's referring to?

REINER: I have no idea what he's referring to. So, he continues to dismiss the benefits of universal mask wearing, one of the main tools that the rest of the world has put this virus down. He says testing is overrated. He's touted now debunked drugs like hydroxychloroquine.

He's mentioned that the virus would simply go away when it gets warmer. I'm not sure what the president has been right about. He's been right about almost nothing, almost nothing. He was right to ban flights from China, but he left Europe wide open. The president has been right about almost nothing.

CABRERA: David, the president is so preoccupied with other things, he didn't hold a single coronavirus-related event this week. He went to Atlanta. He didn't visit the CDC. Is this why he is losing support?

GERGEN: Yes. I think he's losing support because he has walked away from the problem and when he does talk about it, he lies and people have increasingly come to know that and they are frustrated by it.

[17:10:02]

You know, this is going to continue I'm afraid for a while, and politically, he may still may recover, but increasingly it looks like he maybe in a death spiral. It's going to be very, very hard to pull out of this because he does not have control of what's going on with the virus.

When you're losing that control, he lost control of the future of the economy. It's no longer again they get a v-shaped recession. We bounced out of this. The economy is an increasingly ominous place because we're not fighting well against the virus.

I just can't tell you how upsetting it is. We have gone to war on several occasions, but one of the lessons we learned was you never commit the country -- you know, you never commit the troops until you commit the country. You got to do that up first so that people will stick with you thickets and thin and are ready to go with you.

He has not done that. He's run away from it. It's striking this weekend as well, Ana, that the "New York Times" has two major profiles asking him, where the hell did we go wrong on the virus? And "The Financial Times" has basically has the same big story.

And part of it which he haven't really fully understood until now is that Dr. Fauci has been sort of the voice of pessimism around the president. They go to Dr. Birx who has become apparently the voice of optimism and they voted -- internally, they went -- listened to her.

You know, if you're in a war, you always hope for the best, but you plan for the worst. You absolutely plan for the worst and that has not happened.

CABRERA: Dr. Reiner, there was another bizarre, but rather revealing exchange that happened during Trump's interview with Chris Wallace, when he said the cognitive test he took wasn't that hard. Chris Wallace told that to the president. And listen to how it went.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Incidentally, I took the test too when I heard that you passed it.

TRUMP: Yes, how did you do?

WALLACE: Well, it's not the hardest test. In the last picture it says less proud and it's an elephant.

TRUMP: No, no, you see, that's all misrepresentation.

WALLACE: Well, that was what is on the web.

TRUMP: It's all misrepresentation because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions. I bet you couldn't. They get very hard the last five questions.

WALLACE: Well, one of them was count back from 100 by seven.

TRUMP: And let me tell you --

WALLACE: 93.

TRUMP: You couldn't answer -- you couldn't answer --

WALLACE: All right, what's the question?

TRUMP: -- many of the questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Doctor, can you explain why the president would think this is a hard test when we look at the standard test. Again, we don't know exactly which test the president took so I want to be clear on that, but you know, based on the standard when we've all looked at, from what I see, you identify animals, you count backwards, you tell time. To be perfectly honest, I think my 8-year-old son could take this test and do very well.

REINER: I'm sure he could. Look, what is most interesting to me about this really embarrassing interchange about the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test, the test that the president apparently took, is that this is not an intelligence test.

This is a test we give people when we have a concern for either brain injury or impending, you know, ongoing dementia. It's a dementia test. It's a test that is real, I mean, it's all over the internet today so it's easy to find it. So he spoke about the last five questions. Chris Wallace mentioned, you know, one of the questions count back from 100 by seven, right. The last question on the test is recite the day, date, month and year. It's really a very, very simple test.

It asks you to draw a clock, identify a camel, connect the dots -- it's a test that we use to screen for dementia. But the big question is, why did the president's doctors -- and by the president's words, he said recently -- why did the president's doctors decide to test him for this?

Current guidelines suggest using this tool only when there is a concern for impairment. So, what I'd like the White House to explain is why did the president's physicians, and he said multiple doctors watched him take this -- why did they feel that it was important to test his mental competence? Again, this is not an I.Q. test. It's a dementia test.

CABRERA: Right. And what does it say when he tells Chris Wallace he thought the last five questions were hard?

REINER: It sounds to me like he had trouble counting backward from 100 by seven. Another one of the questions in the last five, they tell you five objects and they ask you to repeat them, repeat the five objects that they have told you, and again, the day and date.

It's a very simple tool. It's not designed to be a tricky test. I mean, they ask you to draw a cube and the president apparently found it challenging, but the bigger question is why was he tested? What is the concern? This is an election year. We need to know about the health of both candidates. This question needs to be answered.

CABRERA: Dr. Jonathan Reiner and David Gergen, gentlemen, great conversation. Thank you.

[17:15:00]

GERGEN: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, from empty stands to a crowd of thousands, NASCAR comes back in Texas and welcomes fans back as well even as the virus ravages that state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: In Texas, crowds are gathering right now for NASCAR as the state just released new numbers of new COVID cases -- 7,393 new deaths. Now, this is on top of the state reporting more than 10,000 new cases every day for nearly a week.

It's gotten so bad in south and southwest Texas, the governor is now deploying U.S. Navy teams to support exhausted medical workers. CNN's Ed Lavendera is joining us from the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Ed, how many people actually showed up and what is being done to limit their exposure to the virus?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. Well, this is actually kind of fascinating, what we're seeing unfolding here in Fort Worth.

[17:20:02]

The NASCAR race today at the Texas Motor Speedway, north of Fort Worth was supposed to be -- is the first major sporting event with spectators in this state since the pandemic started. And this is a speedway that is just massive. It can normally fit about 130,000 spectators inside.

We were told by NASCAR officials and Speedway officials here that the attendance would be capped at about 50,000 people. But looking inside of the speedway, it is clear, Ana, that it doesn't appear anywhere close to that number at all and perhaps that really speaks to the concern that many people have with just attending an event like this.

And this is, in fact, with the Speedway officials saying that they had put in place a number of precautions to protect people. Some of those precautions included requiring masks of everyone coming inside and also in areas where they could not socially distance.

There was all digital ticketing, no cash transactions at the convenience stands and hand sanitizer in touch areas. And then the people that did attend were going to be sparsely kind of spread to the grandstand to socially distance, Ana.

But it is clear as I mentioned, that the attendance here is very low, which really speaks volumes to what people and how people are reacting to all of this. And we spoke with a number of people who did feel comfortable attending the race today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is real, but I think the hype is overblown. I'm really not worried about it. It's probably, to me, just -- I'm not used to big crowds so just the crowd itself probably makes me more nervous than the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel secure and safe. I think everything is good. I'm not going to stop my life because of this going on. We'll do what we have to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very excited. I mean, I am a little nervous about what the crowd is going to be like, but I'm excited to be able to see it again.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

LAVANDERA: And, Ana, this was a race that was supposed to have been held in March. People were allowed to re-use their tickets for the event today, but it's clear that if people don't feel comfortable, you can open up everything that you want, but if they don't feel comfortable, people aren't going to come, Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Ed Lavandera in Texas, thank you. Now from Texas to Georgia, an ugly battle between the governor of Georgia and the mayor of Atlanta over masks has businesses caught in the middle. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:00]

CABRERA: Breaking news. The state of Georgia breaking its own record for new cases of coronavirus in a single day, reporting more than 4,600 new cases today. That news comes as the governor and the mayor of Atlanta engage in a legal battle over her city's mask mandate. CNN's Natasha Chen reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The politics of how to fight COVID-19 has played out at all levels of government, from the White House, to state houses, to county commissions and city halls. But now in Georgia, a high-stakes battle between the statehouse and Atlanta city hall has turned into something of a food fight, at least for some Atlanta restaurants.

BRIAN KEMP (R), GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA: Mayor Bottoms mask mandate cannot be enforced, but her decision to shut her businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating.

CHEN (voice-over): Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has sued Atlanta's mayor and city council over its rollback to phase one, which he says is unenforceable, while the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has instituted a mask mandate and is calling on the city's restaurants to return to curbside pickup and delivery only as cases of COVID-19 soar.

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA: It is a complete waste of time and money to file suit against the capital city of the state in which he's supposed to lead.

CHEN (voice-over): Kemp says no local mandate can be more or less restrictive than statewide executive orders. He said he filed the suit on behalf the struggling Atlanta businesses. But if his lawsuit is a dish best served cold, some Atlanta restaurant owners say it's just feeding the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grow up. Be adults.

CHEN (voice-over): Kevin Clark and his partner Lisa Spooner own Home Grown, an Atlanta restaurant that was cited in Kemp's lawsuit as an example of a business suffering from the mayor's actions.

LISA SPOONER, ATLANTA RESTAURANT OWNER: We would benefit more if they came together and made a universal decision together on their own as adults working together to help this community, not a lawsuit that to me just makes it further apart as opposed to closer together.

CHEN (voice-over): They decided to close Home Grown again since they said they would operate at a loss doing only takeout. But without concrete guidance from local and state leaders, others have stayed open. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just the Wild West. You know, a lot of people,

you know, it's like the Wild West. You do what you want, like build a patio, you close, you're open.

CHEN (voice-over): Chef Zeb Stevenson of the Atlanta restaurant Redbird said just the act of shutting down and reopening again costs thousands of dollars.

ZEB STEVENSON, CHEF AT REDBIRD: We feel like a child in between two parents who are going through a divorce right now. When I say we, as normal people and business people, one of them is saying this and one of them is saying that, and we're not sure that either one of them is sending the message because they think it's what's best for us. We kind of feel like they're sending the message because they feel like it's what's best for their political career.

CHEN (voice-over): Stevenson has kept Redbird open for now with strict protocols to protect people's health because he said his customers have demanded the experience of sitting down inside. He also had some customers calling to cancel reservations after the mayor's rollback. But either way, there's no winning.

[17:29:56]

STEVENSON: It feels very unsafe to make statements right now because the population is so divided about the best way that anybody should be doing anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN (on camera): It just keep escalating from there. This morning, Mayor Bottoms tweeted that in the lawsuit she feels the governor is trying to restrain her from making press statements. She said "far more have sacrificed too much for me to be silent."

Of course, when we asked the governor's office about this, they said the mayor's interpreting that too narrowly, that this is really about stopping her from confusing the public about business restrictions saying, "the mayor is mischaracterizing the truth to confuse people. She has taken several actions inconsistent with the Governor's order and threatened the livelihoods of Georgians without legal justification." Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Natasha Chen reporting. Thank you for that and Happy Birthday, my friend. I hope you finish the day strong and can go on and celebrate.

CHEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: All right. Let's move from Georgia's capital to the coast now. Two hospitals in Chatham County where Savannah is located are seeing the highest level coronavirus hospitalizations since this pandemic began, that as the mayor of Savannah says he will not revoke the city's mask mandate despite Governor Brian Kemp's executive order that voids those local mask mandates. So with us now is the mayor of Savannah, Georgia, Van Johnson. Mayor, thank you. I first want to have you respond to what the governor said about you on Friday. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEMP: We've got the mayor of Savannah that's put out some messaging, saying that businesses need them. Funny how he's going to require businesses to enforce the mask mandate. Businesses don't have time -- they're barely hanging on now. They can't be some city's police force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: What is your response to that?

MAYOR VAN JOHNSON (D), SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: It is totally inconsistent with the science. I think the problem is here is that Georgia has been acting somewhat psychotic. We know what the science says. We know what best practices are, yet we refuse as a state to be able to follow the science, follow the best practices.

So mayors along the -- including myself -- we know that mask work and we know that mandating masks work. If we did and it was not true, there would not be states across this country (inaudible) to include Alabama to our west. If it was not true, businesses across this country would not mandate it.

We know this is the truth. And unfortunately, our governor just doesn't get it, and I mean, it's unfortunate. People are caught in the middle of this. We should not be fighting coronavirus. We should be fighting each other.

CABRERA: You're right, 39 states now have some kinds of mask mandate, not Georgia, even though the governor has said he believes masks are important and is encouraging everybody to wear a mask although he won't make it a requirement. Has the governor or the governor's office reached out to you since Governor Kemp issued the executive order essentially banning local mask mandates?

JOHNSON: No. No, our experience is that we've never even gotten a call to say, you know, how is Savannah doing? Just calling to check in on you. Certainly the governor has been in Savannah but for business interest at least twice that I'm aware of. Again, we're one state, we're fighting a common enemy.

We know that Georgia is in the top 10 across the country. We just want to keep our folks safe. We just want Savannahians to be safe and feel safe. We are a major city on the coast, 15 million people come and enjoy our beautiful city. They come from all over the place. We just want them to be safe and we know that wearing masks help to keep people safe.

CABRERA: So the governor and his office haven't reached to you. They haven't issued or, you know, given you a lawsuit like they have done to the mayor of Atlanta and her city, which she says she believes was personal retaliation. And she also said this this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOTTOMS: There were other cities in our state who instituted mask mandates, and he did not push back against them. I don't know if it's perhaps because they were led by men or if it's perhaps because of the demographic in the city of Atlanta. I don't know what the answers are, but what I do know is that the science is on our side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Mayor Johnson, why do you think Governor Kemp would target Atlanta, but not Savannah?

JOHNSON: Well, Savannah is the mother city of Georgia, but Atlanta is our capital city. Savannah was the first city to actually institute a mask mandate and Atlanta came along maybe third or fourth. So, we're not really sure. It may be about rolling back the restrictions. Again, ultimately the governor does not see people suffering on the street like we do. The governor I see the hospital utilization like we do

CABRERA: Do you think though it is personal retaliation that he would hit Atlanta with a lawsuit and not other cites that also have mask mandates, which I know yours is included and you feel like it is very important to keep it?

[17:35:05]

JOHNSON: Well, we know about 20 cities in Georgia that have done it. I don't know the reason I'm not in the governor's head, but I do know it's divisive, it's confusing. It rips our state apart. And when we should be talking about our coronavirus, we're spending our time talking about the inner fighting, the cannibalism occurring here within the state of Georgia. To me it's an absolute waste of time and it takes our attention away from the thing that is most important, and that is beating coronavirus.

CABRERA: And Mayor Van Johnson, it's very clear you care very deeply about your citizens, your residents, and doing everything you can to try to help keep them safe and healthy. We wish you the very best. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Keep us in your prayers. Thank you very much.

CABRERA: We are indeed. The debate over reopening schools rages on. CNN's own Dr. Sanjay Gupta heads to the school his own children attend to see what precautions are being taken. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:00]

CABRERA: Welcome back. A new study has perhaps both good news and bad news for reopening schools. According to "New York Times," a study out of South Korea finds children aged 10 and older spread the virus as often as adults. That's the bad news. The good news is, this same South Korea study found children under the age of 10 spread the virus much less often than adults, but the risk is not zero. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently visited a school in Atlanta still planning to open its doors. And this story is personal. It's where Sanjay's own children will go.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So are you looking forward to the first day of school?

KEITH EVANS, HEADMASTER, THE WESTMINSTER SCHOOL: I am. We have a group of students out there that are eager to get back to see one another.

GUPTA (voice-over): I don't relish the decisions that headmasters like Keith Evans have to make about his 535 faculty and staff members and nearly 1,900 students at this school, which includes my three daughters.

(on camera): The cafeteria is going to feel very different as well.

EVANS: The cafeteria is going to absolutely feel different. And this will be -- the students will come in and they'll grab lunch and go and eat in their classrooms and that kind of thing where we can maintain distance.

GUPTA (voice-over): No surprise, physical distancing a key part of the CDC guidance. Also recommended, wearing masks, teaching good hand hygiene and not sharing supplies like books and pencils.

If you could have anything that you wanted that you don't have right now, what would it be? What would you like to have?

EVANS: We are really blessed with some great buildings and square footage here. That is the constraining factor I think in every school space.

GUPTA (voice-over): Many other schools don't have that kind of space. And truth is, that problem alone in classrooms, hallways, on buses may prove too much for some schools to open this fall. But perhaps even more vexing is that more than six months after the first U.S. cases of coronavirus, we still can't definitively say what role do kids play in transmission?

One study found children carry just as much virus as adults and may be just as infectious. But others have found differently. In one French study, a 9-year-old boy with symptoms of COVID-19 exposed over 80 classmates at three schools. None of those children contracted it.

In New South Wales, nine infected students and nine staff across 15 schools exposed a total of 735 students and 128 staff to COIVD-19. Only two secondary infections resulted. One, possibly transmitted by an adult to a child.

BENJAMIN LEE, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT: The likelihood of children spreading the virus or transmitting it are relatively low. However, in areas where there is a lot of transmission in the community, that could potentially increase the likelihood than an infected adult could step into the school setting.

GUPTA (voice-over): Exposure from wherever is a concern for many teachers. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, nearly a quarter of all teachers in the United States have health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

EVANS: We're planning for all of that as opposed to staying focused on students who have a more narrow bands of risk in this.

LEE: We need to move the conversation not towards whether schools should open or not, but towards how can we open the schools to ensure that they can open and remain open.

GUPTA (voice-over): How to do that is a challenge.

EVANS: We are planning and we are moving toward a particular end, but we're also eyes wide open, ears wide open, understanding how this is evolving and we understand, you know, next week everything could change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:45:00]

CABRERA: And that was Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting. Dr. Anthony Cardillo is joining us now. He is an emergency room physician in the Los Angeles area. And Dr. Cardillo, you are the perfect person to talk about kids returning to school because in your pre-doctor life, you taught high school, English and Biology. So, let's hear it from a doctor and a teacher. Can kids sit in classrooms right now safely or not, and would you stand in front of a classroom full of students today?

ANTHONY CARDILLO, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, that's certainly a charged question right now in American, but I will say as an emergency room physician, I go to work every single day right now exposed to known COVID patients and we are very well protected.

And so myself and I'm certainly a unique case, I would feel comfortable in a high school classroom right now if I had the proper protective equipment, the same equipment I use when I'm in the emergency department, so masks, shields, gloves, gowns with a lot of physical barrier, but again, is that realistic and can we do that? That's the unknown right now.

CABRERA: When we mentioned this new study out of South Korea, there are still a lot more that we need to learn about how kids, you know, contract the virus, how they spread the virus, but we're still learning more and more.

The data so far seems to show that kids may not suffer the worst effects from the virus, at least initially, but what about the long- term effects in young people if they test positive for the virus? If they don't get sick with COVID-19 right away, could their health be affected later?

CARDILLO: Okay, so a couple of questions. So the first is the study coming out of South Korea looking at the 6,000 students. So we did find that children under age 10 were less likely to spread the disease. Now, some other interesting data coming out is well looking at the MMR vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is a live attenuated virus. And it is possible, according to these researchers that this live attenuated virus is boosting our immune systems, so it's very possible that children under 10 who received that MMR, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, since they were so young when they got that vaccine, it's possible that their immune system is more augmented.

Now, some children are having, as well as adults, some long-term effects. We don't what those are yet, whether the cognitive, neurologic, behavioral, we just don't have enough research, but we are seeing some long-term neurologic deficits on children and adults that have contracted this virus. So, certainly a cause for concern.

CABRERA: I want you to hear this. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who is a medical doctor like yourself and who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this year, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I'm kind of pro-vaccine, but I'm also pro- freedom. Look, there's millions of us like me now who are immune. Are they going to hold me now and stick a needle in my arm? They probably will because these people believe in the idea that they are so right and that their cause is so righteous that they can inflict it on others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The senator was making an argument about a coronavirus vaccine and whether it should be mandatory, if and when it exists. Put that aside for a moment because you both are physicians. Does his claim to be immune hold any scientific water?

CARDILLO: It certainly does now. We do know that patients that were infected with the coronavirus have mounted an immune response and they are theoretically immune at this point. We don't have overwhelming data to suggest that people who contracted the virus earlier are getting re-infected.

So certainly, we know that if you were infected once, you are immune at this point. And that's very similar to getting a vaccine. It's the whole purpose of getting a vaccine. A vaccine will amplify your immune system to give you and confer immunity the same say or equal to if you're actually been infected.

Now, obviously the vaccine debate is a political debate in our country right now. I am in favor of vaccinating all children that are coming to school the same way we vaccinated for all other illnesses.

CABRERA: All right, Dr. Anthony Cardillo, great to have you with us. Thank you for all you do and thank you for being here.

CARDILLO: Thank you.

CABRERA: The former epicenter of the crisis in the U.S., it's preparing to enter the final reopening phase, but that doesn't mean business as usual in New York City. We'll explain, next.

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[17:50:00]

CABRERA: New York City on the verge of the final stage of the state's reopening plan. Phase four set to begin on Monday. However, indoor restaurants, bars, museums and malls will remain closed for now.

Across the state, coronavirus numbers keep falling. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down to 722. The fewest in four months. New York statewide, reporting 502 new cases and 13 deaths today. Let's bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval in New York. Polo, what exactly does phase four entail for New York City?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anyway you look at it, Ana, it will certainly be a milestone moment since you now have New York City entering its final phase, but you might as well call it phase four lite (ph), because as you mentioned, when the re-openings begin tomorrow, that new wave of re-openings, there will be multiple indoor spaces that will remain closed that you've just mentioned.

What you can expect to resume opening procedures is things like botanical gardens, zoos around the cities, movie film production around the city. It will look a little bit more like New York. Also, schools will be allowed to re-open, however, an ultimate decision won't be made until August according to the governor.

And also professional sports without fans. We even got a taste of that yesterday in an exhibition game between the Yankees and the Mets. The reason why this is not a full opening is because we do live in a very densely populated area compared to other parts of the state. So there is a concern that if you do open some of these indoor spots -- spaces, then that would allow an opportunity for the virus to spread.

CABRERA: Just like we're seeing in some of these other states. I do want to ask you, Polo, quickly about New York bars selling "Cuomo Chips" in response to New York's new rule on food and alcohol. What's this all about?

[17:55:02]

SANDOVAL: Yes. So this comes after Governor Cuomo basically ordered that all establishments only sell alcohol to patrons as long as they're sitting at a table and actually consuming food. The idea behind that is that that I would supposedly prevent any of the street mingling and patrons from just picking up a drink and then hanging out on sidewalks.

That's a big concern so, the response for at least one restaurant upstate was to sell chips with their drinks, but the state's alcohol board saying you got to order salsa too to make it full meal. So, it is just one of many loopholes now that some of these restaurants have to adhere to. It obviously has been a very difficult time for them.

CABRERA: Okay, Polo Sandoval in New York. Thank you sir. We'll be right back.

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