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CNN NEWSROOM

Dr. Alison Haddock Discusses Rising Coronavirus Cases Pushing Hospitals to Breaking Point; Trump Repeats False Claims on Mail-in Ballots & Refuses to Say if He'll Accept Election Results; Trump Meets with GOP Leaders on New COVID-19 Stimulus Package, Says He'll Restart His COVID Briefings; L.A. Mayor: City on "Brink" of Issuing New Stay- at-Home Order & Sets Record for Hospitalizations on Sunday; Arizona's Death Toll Hits New Daily Record. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 20, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The governor was the earliest ones to reopen and did scale things back and now you're in the mess that our in now as you try to deal with this.

What are you seeing? Is this large groups, is this clusters, or is this widespread community spread, which makes it a whole lot harder to track and stop?

DR. ALISON HADDOCK, E.R. PHYSICIAN & ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: HADDOCK: You're seeing quite a bit of community spread.

I will say, since the mask order went into place, I have seen more people in my community who are wearing masks, doing more social distance. More people are use the curbside pickup at the grocery store instead of going in.

So I think some of these individual behavioral changes are driving some of the improvements we're seeing but it's hard without more state-level restrictions.

KING: And we hear -- as we do, I just want to show the total confirmed cases in Texas, because, while the northeast was deal with this early on, a lot of the Sunbelt was saying, OK, we're OK, I guess.

But look march into April and May, and then June and July are stunning when you see the growth in Texas there.

So as you deal with this every day, we hear national conversations about either it's taking five to seven days to get your test results back or have in some places a shortage of the swabs or the reagents.

What is the situation on the ground? The Texas Medical Center there in Houston is one of the most remarkable places in the country. Are you having those problems?

HADDOCK: You know, a few months ago, it seemed like we did have adequate access to testing. People who needed it were able to get it pretty easily at the community sites. And now we're seeing those resources are pretty swamped, that people are not as easily able to get the COVID test when they need them.

Which is unfortunate because you would think, by this point in the progression of the disease around the country, we would really have all those resources that we needed, the testing, the PPE. Everything should be in line by now and we're finding that that's not the case.

KING: And if you look, again, this is running in cycles. The northeast, New York, mid-Atlantic and the northeast were dealing with this early. If you look at the seven-day rolling average of new cases -- the green line, is the northeast region and the pink line is the southern region. And so the south, the Sunbelt, it's everywhere, 30 states heading in the wrong direction this week.

But when you see this play out, again, in terms of the cases that you're dealing with, one of the lines we heard as the reopenings began, Doctor, was, well, it's younger people getting it because they are going into bars. It's OK because younger people can handle it better.

Is the that what you're seeing? Is there a demographic group that stands out, or is it across the community?

HADDOCK: I think the problem is that if a younger person gets it while they are out at a bar, they then bring it back home and their grandmother becomes ill and their newborn becomes ill. And this is not an illness that stays restricted to one person.

And it's the widespread community spread that may sometimes be driven by incidents like that but it's also sometimes driven by essential workers. If you have to go to work at the grocery store and some of the patrons aren't wearing masks, that's also a site of spread.

So I don't think just attributing it to young people isn't fair.

KING: Dr. Alison Haddock, Baylor College of Medicine, right in the heat of it, right there in Houston. Thank you for your time and your insights. Please keep in touch. And, most of all, thank you for your work.

HADDOCK: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

Coming up for us, we connect the coronavirus to politics. Joe Biden has dumb-digit lead in the latest polls as President Trump gets failing grades from you for his handling of this pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:01]

KING: The numbers are just simply beyond clear. The summer coronavirus surge is taking an enormous political toll on the president. Take a look at this new CNN poll of polls averaging out the five most-

recent national 2020 polls. When you average them out, 52 percent of the registered voters support the Democrats, Joe Biden, and only 40 percent back the Republican incumbent, President Trump.

And in the latest "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, 60 percent of registered voters, six in 10, disapprove of how President Trump is handling the pandemic.

Here to share their expertise and insights, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart, and Gary Langer, the president of Langer Research Associates. He's also the polling director for ABC News.

It's nice to see both of you.

Alice, I want to start with you.

You've done a lot of campaigns and they come to you and they say here are some weaknesses and then you say, OK, what are our strengths so we can focus on our strengths while we deal with the resources?

Let's look at Trump versus Biden in Gary's Washington/ABC News poll. Overall, Biden, plus 15. Race Relations, Biden plus 23. Coronavirus, Biden plus 20. Crime and safety, Biden plus seven. On the economy, even.

The president of the United States is in a deep ditch, Alice.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, those numbers are certainly concerning, John. And if the election were held tomorrow, it would be a big concern. But it's not.

You also look at a recent poll that came out of the weekend, and the top priorities for this election are coronavirus, the economy and race relations. If I were advising this campaign, I would say focus, focus, focus on those issues.

And I think he has a couple of things in his favor. Donald Trump, he has time and he has a track record. Donald Trump has been behind in the polls in the past leading up to elections. He was in 2016. And he has the time. And he certainly has the resources to get things done.

But he really needs to step up his efforts on combating coronavirus, really reinforce the American people that he is working to -- with regard to finding a vaccine and encouraging people to wear a mask and really focusing on the priority for Americans, which is coronavirus.

[11:40:06]

And that will go a long way to changing those numbers in his direction.

KING: Well, again, to that point, though, Gary, and in your polling, six in 10 Americans disapprove of how the president is handling this pandemic. To Alice's point, from the FOX poll, not your polling. But I think your numbers are pretty consistent. The top issues in the country, COVID-19, the economy and race relations.

The president is underwater on the coronavirus and significantly on race relations and perhaps breaking even on the economy.

How do you turn something like that around when, in your polling, the number that jumped out at me is 64 percent, just shy of two-thirds of Americans, do not trust most or anything the president says when he's talking about the virus.

GARY LANGER, PRESIDENT, LANGER RESEARCH ASSOCIATES & POLLING DIRECTOR, ABC NEWS: Yes. That's a challenge for the president, of course, and it's a hard subject to change right now.

An important point here are the trend lines, not only where the president stands but where these lines have been going.

He's gone in -- in approval on handling the coronavirus from 51 percent in late March to 38 percent, down 13 points. Disapproval up 15 points in three and a half months.

And note, too, that the president's approval rating on handling this situation has dropped most deeply in rural areas, which have been his heartland, down 23 points in these periods.

In May, he had 90 percent approval among Republicans for handling the virus. And today, it's 79 percent. So as you pointed out, where does this take us?

In March, the president and Joe Biden were -- were essentially even in trust to handle situation. And now it's Biden plus 20 points on trust.

What the president does have going for him -- I would add to what Alice mentioned -- is enthusiasm. Among his own supporters, is nearly seven in ten are very enthusiastic about backing him.

Biden falls badly on that measure, 39 percent enthusiastic. Biden supporters are more enthusiastic about defeating Donald Trump than they are about supporting Joe Biden.

KING: And, Alice, I'm going to call it a conundrum and try to choose a polite word for Republicans. As you see the rising case count, state after state saying we have to work on a more aggressive mail-in ballot plan because a lot of people will think it's not safe to vote come November unless there's a miracle turnaround in the coronavirus.

But here's the president of the United States yesterday, even though Republicans have been urging him in recent weeks to stop, here he is in that interview with Chris Wallace dumping on mail-in voting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mail-in voting is -- is going to rig the election, I really do. CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you suggesting that you might not

accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: I have to say, look --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Can you give a direct answer. Will you accept the election?

TRUMP: We'll have to see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The last part, will accept the results of the election, we'll have to see.

But on the mail-in voting part, a lot of Republicans are nervous. The president is telling people not to trust the mail-in voting, but mail- in voting will be critical not only in the presidential race but in all of the Congressional races and all the state races.

STEWART: John, one thing that's perfectly clear is that each state handles their own elections. It's a state-by-state race. And what we can do more than anything is assure all Americans that we have free and fair elections.

I have concerns about mail-in voting. There's certainly a lot of room for error and fraud.

But we're in a new time. We're in a new era. And with coronavirus and the concerns about people coming out to public places, specifically older people and people that are vulnerable with regard to their health, we need to take another look at it.

But we do need to make shower it's done in a fair way, where the results are accurate.

But I don't think we should count anything out with regard to the election at this point.

But make sure that we work with all of the secretaries of state across this country and make sure that the elections are carried out in a way that are fair, not just to Republicans, but Democrats as well.

Because this is a turning-point election. Of course, we say this every four years, John, this is a critical election. But this really is because we have a pandemic and such a heightened awareness on race relations in this country.

And I think more than anything we're going to have a lot of enthusiasm, whether people are getting out to vote for Trump, for Biden, or for a change. It's important for people to know they have that opportunity.

KING: And, Gary, I want to close with this. Normally, I wouldn't talk about how you do your work on TV. But the Trump campaign attacking all of the polls, not just your polls, saying all these public polls grossly under-sample Republicans, and that's why Joe Biden has this big lead because you are deliberately, they would seem to suggest, not calling enough Republicans.

Could you address that straight up so that people understand. Polls aren't perfect but these are good polls.

LANGER: We do random samples of Americans around the country. And 75 percent of our interviews are by cell phone. We're down the middle on methodology with full disclosure of all of all mythological elements up on abcnews.com.

You're welcome to vet it. We release our full data sets and full questionnaires. We play it right down the middle on these data.

The real point here, just to go back to the substance of this, if I may, is the president of the United States has an overall job approval rating, probably more important than vote preference at the moment, of 39 percent. That's dropped nine points in the last few months. And 57 percent disapprove of his work in office overall. It's very near his career high disapproval.

[11:45:07]

That's where he's got to be focused I would suggest in try to turn that number around.

KING: We'll see if he can do that. He's in a meeting with reporters saying he may bring back the coronavirus briefings. We shall see.

Gary Langer, Alice Stewart, appreciate your expertise and insights. We'll continue that conversation.

Coming up for us, we'll take you live to the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the country, Georgia, California, and Arizona.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Just moments , the president of the United States meeting in the Oval Office with Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on a possible new stimulus package.

One piece of news, the president said he plans to resume his coronavirus briefings.

Let's get straight to Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

[11:50:10]

That's one big headline, Kaitlan. What else?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Some aides have been urging the president to bring back the briefings, talking about his sinking poll numbers with 60 percent of Americans saying they didn't approve of the way his handling it. And the president said starting tomorrow, around 5:00 p.m., he'll

bring back the daily coronavirus briefings that he was doing before with the task force.

But remember, he largely stopped those after there was that one briefing, I believe it was in May, where the president suggested disinfectants like bleach to treat coronavirus. And there was so much backlash that aides tried to scrap the briefings altogether. And notable that the president is going to bring those back.

And it does seem that the president is responding to this criticism that he is not the public face of the administration's response to coronavirus for the last several weeks because he's not doing that or hasn't held a COVID-19-dedicated event since the two weeks ago.

But then in this meeting that the president was having, the reason they have it, of course, is to talk about another relief bill when it comes to coronavirus. And they're working on a really tight deadline.

And things have gotten off to a rough start because they managed to tick off some Republican leaders saying they did not want to give more funding to the CDC, to states for testing, to the Pentagon and the State Department for the pandemic response. So the question is, how is that going to resolved.

The president was in there, John, with some top aides and several Republican leaders. And when they get Democrats involved, where do the talks go?

Because the treasury secretary said he does want legislation passed by the end of the month. This is likely to be the last bill before the November election that's going to go through.

But what was interesting is, there at the end, the president asked about something that he repeatedly pushed for that Republicans are not behind, a payroll tax cut, and something that the president floated for several months now as a response to the pandemic, something that Republicans said they are not interested in.

The president repeated again he does believe that it is something that he wants. But of course, the question is, is that going to make it in. Republicans are very doubtful -- John?

KING: Republicans are very doubtful. And then they have to deal with the Democrats, so unlikely.

Kaitlan Collins, very important headlines out of the White House. Appreciate the live report.

Coming up for us, states grappling the hardest with some of the nation's biggest coronavirus surges.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:56:18] KING: Coronavirus cases in a handful of states harder to manage. Officials considering return to lockdown among of steps to slow the spread.

Our correspondents in some the hardest-hit communities.

We start with Stephanie Elam, in Los Angeles.

Stephanie, the city now reporting a record-high number of hospitalizations among its problems.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. More than 2,200 announced in one day of new hospitalizations. In fact, five days in a row Los Angeles has seen more than 2,100 new cases.

This is why this is a concern to the mayor here, Eric Garcetti, who says that we are on the brink of going back into a stay-at-home order.

Listen to what else he had to say on "STATE OF THE UNION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, (D), LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: I think we are on the brink of that. But as I told people over the last week, the discipline, that people don't seem to understand, mayors often have no control over what opens or doesn't. That's at the state or county level. I do agree that those things happened too quickly.

ELAM: Now the other thing to keep in mind here in Los Angeles County, John, is that we are seeing that of these new cases that were announced here that 53 percent of them people under 41.

This is spreading into a different part of the population here when you consider the fact that more than half of the deaths in California are here in Los Angeles County. Obviously, this is concerning.

As far as the state is concerned, the positivity rate and the hospitalizations over the last 14-day period are both trending upward.

And this is why people are saying that it's possible, the mayor himself saying it is possible that we could go back into a stay-at- home order here in Los Angeles County -- John?

KING: One of the many things to watch in this important week ahead.

Miguel Marquez is in Phoenix, Arizona.

Miguel, it's another one of those Sunbelt states hammered in recent days.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hammered, and it has been that way since the governor, in a very sort of aggressive way, reopened the state in mid-May. Unlike New York and other places with the staged reopenings, Arizona just flipped a switch and everything went back on. They have retrenched from some of that and they're trying to put the

genie back in the bottle basically but it is going to be very difficult.

There's a lot of virus out there right now. The positivity rate across Arizona, the seven-day average, about 24.5 percent. That means a quarter of everybody who is tested -- this is a pop-up testing site behind us. A quarter of everyone tested tests positive for the virus.

There are some good signs. The retransmission rate, if I have it, how many people I pass it on to, that's down slightly. Hospitalizations are down slightly.

But there's a massive amount of virus out there. And what they're facing now is reopening schools. They're meant to open, typically open August 1st. The governor put that back to August 17th but doctors want him to cancel it for the semester or at least until October so they can see if they can put this back.

But keep in mind, when the governor shut down this state in March, they were at about 1,000 cases a week. Right now, they're about 26,000 cases a week -- John?

KING: Miguel, when the governor says he'll reopen the schools, he says he'll delay it. You say the pressure is on how much. He says just two weeks from now, 17 days?

MARQUEZ: That's what he's saying, an aspirational date. And in the coming days they're meant to make that decision.

Teachers are already protesting to some degree trying to raise awareness about this. The teachers are most concerned about it.

The debate will be over whether or not kids spread it to other kids, at what rate they can spread it, and then can they spread to teachers and then others in households. That's the biggest problem.

[12:00:03]

You get it from going to work, community spread, bars, restaurants, gyms, all that sort of stuff or going to school.