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Interview With Former CDC Director Thomas Frieden; Trump Finally Changing Tune On Masks?; Los Angeles County Breaks Daily Record For Hospitalizations For Fourth Time In Past Week; Mask Mandate Fight Intensifies Between Atlanta Mayor, Georgia Governor; Suspect Identified In Deadly Shooting At Federal Judge's Home; Coronavirus Crisis: Testing Delays, Backlogs Hobble Virus Response. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 20, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news on the faltering U.S. response to the coronavirus.

At this hour, more than 140,000 Americans have died. The total number of cases just passed 3.8 million, with new infections now rising in 31 states. In California, Los Angeles County just broke its record for new hospitalizations in one day, the fourth time that's happened in just a week.

Multiple states right now keep breaking records for new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, as the CDC predicts another 17,000 Americans, 17,000 Americans, will die nationwide over the next three weeks alone.

And it's all putting enormous pressure on President Trump, who has been in denial about this crisis.

Tonight, he's suddenly tweeting in support of masks, after minimizing their importance for months, and he's set to resume coronavirus media briefings as soon as tomorrow.

Let's first go to our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, who is in New York.

Jason, we're seeing spikes in new hospitalizations, including unprecedented numbers out in Los Angeles. What's the latest?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. The numbers are troubling all across the country.

In California, the number of hospitalizations continues to increase, in Houston, the positivity rate above 25 percent, and, in Florida, the numbers today still trending in the wrong direction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Tonight, hospitals in Florida are reeling from the pandemic, as the state continuously reports more than 10,000 new cases per day. CARLOS HERNANDEZ, MAYOR OF HIALEAH, FLORIDA: This is scary. I mean,

now every day, it's over 10,000. It's almost like a norm.

CARROLL: Nearly 9,400 people are hospitalized across the state, and in Miami-Dade County, intensive care units overtaxed at 130 percent capacity.

CARLOS MIGOYA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM: We're building 100 new ICU beds, but, unfortunately, they're not going to be around until the end of the year. So, really, every day, it's a matter of a challenge.

CARROLL: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who refuses to mandate masks, coming face to face with the frustration this afternoon.

Los Angeles County also surpassed its record for daily hospitalizations four times in the past week.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It's our decisions that will determine how quickly our children go back to school. It is our decisions that will determine what kind of activities we get to once again enjoy with our friends and family.

CARROLL: Other states, like Arizona and Texas, seeing rising numbers as well. Arizona's seven-day average positivity rate is the highest in the country at 24.4 percent, even reaching an astounding 39 percent on Saturday; 87 doctors signed a letter to Governor Doug Ducey urging him not to reopen schools until at least October.

Nationwide, the CDC is now forecasting the total U.S. death toll from the virus will be more than 150,000 Americans by August 8.

The assistant secretary for health, a top official on the White House's task force, says the nation's Sunbelt is in the midst of a surge.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: There is no question that we're having a surge right now. We are approaching this with extreme seriousness. So it really is all hands on deck. This is serious, but we know how to stop this.

CARROLL: Health officials say wearing a mask is still a key way to help stop the spread of the virus, and yet it continues to be met with resistance. Georgia's Governor Brian Kemp has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate and sued to block Atlanta's face covering ordinance.

He is seeking an emergency injunction to restrain Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from making statements to the press.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: It is bizarre that we have turned mask wearing into something political. Imagine you were an alien coming to the planet Earth and looking around, looking at the scientific data, and going from various place to place and looking to see who's wearing masks. You would be totally astounded, puzzled, amazed. CARROLL: Few signs of masks or social distancing in Queens, New York,

over the weekend, where police had to break up a crowded street party. New York's governor again reminding people to wear masks and practical social distancing.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Bad operators in terms of restaurants and bars, they're going to make it bad for everyone, because -- and for themselves. We will have to roll back the bar and restaurant opening.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, Wolf, as you know, so much concern across the country about sending children back to school. Should they do it in person? Should it be online?

A lot of debate going back and forth on this. Late today, Missouri's governor weighed in on the debate, basically downplaying any risks that might be involved. He basically said, these kids have to get back to school, and if they get it, they will get over it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason, thank you, Jason Carroll reporting.

[18:05:01]

Let's go to the White House right now, where President Trump seems to be suddenly changing his tune about the importance of wearing masks.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president also plans to hold coronavirus press briefings once again. Update our viewers what's going on.

JIM ACOSTA CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's something of a reset on the pandemic for the White House, Wolf.

A White House official says discussions about bringing back the coronavirus briefings have been going on over the last couple of weeks, and there's no final decision yet as to what those news conferences will look like.

The official says the briefings are coming back to show Americans that progress is being made in the pandemic, but it's also a change that comes as polls show the public is rejecting President Trump's handling of the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With more than 140,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. and counting, President Trump is offering up a new proposal to show he's dealing with the pandemic, resurrecting the Briefing Room news conferences on the administration's response to COVID-19.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will do it at 5:00, like we were doing. We had a good slot, and a lot of people were watching, and that's a good thing. ACOSTA: As Mr. Trump made the announcement, the former reality TV

host-turned-president appeared to be more focused on the ratings for the briefings than the surging number of cases across the country.

TRUMP: Well, we had very successful briefings. I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching. In the history of cable television, television, there's never been anything like it.

ACOSTA: The briefings were sometimes useful, when they featured the expertise of health experts like Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci. But Mr. Trump suspended the news conferences back in April shortly after he suggested people could inject themselves with disinfectants to kill the virus.

TRUMP: Then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute.

ACOSTA: The president is still misleading the public about the virus, insisting he was right when he predicted COVID-19 would miraculously vanish.

TRUMP: It's going to disappear one day. It's like a miracle. It will disappear.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump defended that comment on FOX.

TRUMP: I will be right eventually.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": I understand.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I will be right eventually.

I said, it's going to disappear. I will say it again. It's going to disappear.

WALLACE: But does that discredit you?

TRUMP: And I will be right. I don't think so.

ACOSTA: And his lukewarm support for wearing masks still runs counter to what the experts are telling Americans.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm begging you. Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say wear a face covering.

ACOSTA: The president still faces tough questions over his handling of the pandemic, like why the White House is seeking to block new funding for testing for the virus, a stance that irks some in his own party and surprised administration health officials.

COLLINS: The opening bid from the White House was a bit surprising, certainly for many of us, who were certainly hoping to see more in the way of support.

ACOSTA: A new ABC "Washington Post" poll shows Mr. Trump far behind former Vice President Joe Biden, so the president and his team are turning to former aides, Corey Lewandowski and Steve Bannon, for advice.

TRUMP: We have Corey and we have all the people. And, actually, Steve Bannon's been much better not being involved. He says the greatest president ever. I mean, he's saying things that I said, "Let's keep Steve out there, he's doing a good job."

ACOSTA: Bannon's message to Mr. Trump? Pay more attention to the pandemic.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: My recommendation would be every day start to have the top people around you, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, the vice president, Dr. Redfield, the CDC, Chief of Staff Meadows, have them in the Oval. Get briefed every day on an action plan.

ACOSTA: The president's interview on FOX concerned even some of his own aides, with one adviser telling CNN: "It was embarrassing. His total lack of preparation is catching up."

One awkward moment came when Mr. Trump came about passing his cognitive assessment test.

TRUMP: Well, I will tell you what, let's take a test. Let's take a test right now. Let's go down. Joe and I will take a test. Let him take the same...

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

TRUMP: Yes, how did you do?

WALLACE: It's not -- well it's not that hardest test.

TRUMP: No, but the last...

WALLACE: There's a picture, and it says, what's that? And it's an elephant.

TRUMP: No, no, no.

You see, that's all misrepresentation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, earlier this afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence led a conference call with the nation's governors on the COVID-19 response.

Some of the governors on the call were from states currently seeing big surges of the coronavirus. Also on the call was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who urged the governors listening in to get tougher on the virus and consider closing bars and making mask use universal. And speaking of mask use, the president posted an unusual tweet, at least for him, earlier today. All of a sudden, he is now encouraging mask use some, something his advisers, we should point out, have been urging him to do for weeks now. It is quite the reversal for the president, who once mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask back in May -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you very much, Jim Acosta reporting.

Joining us now, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden.

Dr. Frieden, thank you so much for joining us.

Your former agency, the CDC, is now projecting the death toll here in the United States will reach nearly 160,000 by mid-August or so. But you say the U.S. response still lacks fundamental basic elements.

That's a direct quote from you. As someone who previously led the CDC, how do you characterize this failure?

[18:10:02]

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We don't see a clear national strategy. We don't see a game plan. We don't see organization. It's not clear who's actually in charge.

I understand that the vice president is chairing the task force. You have got HHS. You had FEMA in. You have a White House coronavirus coordinator. We don't see an organized response.

And that's the first thing to do. We also don't see standard indicators that we would know how each state, each community is doing. And without that, we're flying blind.

What we're seeing now is the predictable reaction of the virus to people not stopping it. This virus doesn't go away on its own. It only goes away if we stop it.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

There are some early results coming in from that Oxford University vaccine candidate. It does appear to show that it does produce an immune reaction. There are relatively -- we're told, relatively minor side effects that go away after 24 or 48 hours, chills, fever, headache, a little muscle aches, stuff like that.

Where does this put us on an effort to deploy a successful vaccine?

FRIEDEN: Vaccines are really important, and globally they save hundreds of millions of lives.

And for COVID, it's the single most important thing we can do, but it's not a panacea. First off, we don't yet know if it's effective. We don't yet know if it's safe. We don't know if it's going to be produced in adequate quantities and quickly.

What we will need to do is have an open, transparent process to understand, what are the decisions being made, what are the studies being done, what are the costs going to be, how are we going to monitor for adverse reactions?

This is all the standard stuff that is tracked by the CDC and others in something called the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, ACIP. You should be hearing a lot more about that organization in the coming weeks and months, because we need the whole public to see what's being done, so that there are no suspicions of anything.

And we learn as the scientists learn. That's good practice. That's good communication about vaccine. Getting a vaccine is one thing. Getting it into hundreds of millions of people's arms is quite another.

BLITZER: As you saw just a little while ago, the president posted a picture of himself wearing a mask, saying, in his words, many people say that it is patriotic to wear a face mask.

Obviously, it took the president a very long time to do this, but is this a step, at least right now, in the right direction from the president of the United States?

FRIEDEN: It's certainly encouraging.

The more we have a coherent response, with coherent messaging, the better we can fight the virus. There's only one enemy here, and that's the virus. And the more we are divided, the more the virus can conquer.

What we need to do is also recognize, no one thing is going to stop this virus, not masks, not restricting travel, not testing, not contact tracing, not staying home, not even a vaccine.

We need a comprehensive, coordinated response. And that's what other countries have done. If we work together and stay physically apart, we can get our economy back, our kids can get to school, we can get back to work, and we can save tens of thousands of lives.

But not being focused and organizing -- and organized is costing lives and livelihoods.

BLITZER: Dr. Frieden, there's also some new research, very intriguing, that could have major implications for the school year.

Researchers apparently have found that kids ages 10 and up spread the virus just as much as adults do. How much do you think that should factor into plans for the fall as far as schools reopening?

FRIEDEN: We issued a detailed brief on schools reopening.

The first thing to understand is, if the virus is exploding in your community, it's very unlikely you will be able to get the schools open. So we all need to work together so our kids have the best chance to learn in the fall.

Second, when the fall comes, when it's time to open schools, there are lots of things schools need to do if cases are low and they're trying to open to keep people as safe as possible. The challenge isn't to open schools. The challenge is to open them and keep them open, keeping our students, staff, and teachers safe.

And that means protecting the vulnerable. That means reducing the risk that there will be widespread transmission within a school. That means keeping groups in smaller pods or cohorts within the school, syncopating hours or days, so you reduce crowding in the school, dealing with sanitation and ventilation.

All over the world, schools are reopening. And if we're careful, we can help our kids get an education. But if we don't work together and stay apart, it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to start schools in the fall.

BLITZER: You make really important points, Dr. Frieden. Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you do. We really appreciate it.

FRIEDEN: Great to speak with you again.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, we will talk more about the president's new tweet in support of masks and his political motives.

[18:15:00]

And the mayor of Atlanta is also standing by live to join us. She's battling with Georgia's governor over her mask mandate. She says he's trying to restrain her from even speaking on this issue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on the president's new tweet just a little while ago about wearing masks, something he's mostly refused to do for months.

We're joined by Maggie Haberman, the White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and a CNN political analyst.

Maggie, thanks for joining us.

You saw the president just posted this picture of himself in a mask, which he says, many people now think it's a patriotic thing to do to wear a mask. But watch what he said about masks for months, even just yesterday. Watch all this.

[18:20:03]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Will you consider a national mandate that people need to wear masks?

TRUMP: No I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that.

And I don't agree with the statement that, if everybody wore a mask, everything disappears.

Everybody was saying don't wear a mask. All of sudden, everybody's got to wear a mask. And, as you know, masks cause problems, too.

I wore one in this back area, but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.

Somehow, sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know. Somehow I don't see it for myself.

They have learned about face masks, the good and the bad, by the way. It's not a one-sided thing, believe it or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Maggie, clearly this picture that he posted is a huge reversal for him.

Is it because he's come around on the science, the importance, the life-and-death issue of wearing a mask, or is it because of his poll numbers that are clearly sinking right now?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it's most certainly the latter.

I think that there is a high probability that the president will say something different about masks in whatever next interview he gives or when he gives what we expect will be a briefing tomorrow in the White House Briefing Room.

Look, this is not something the president has believed in. He's not only not been supportive of it. He's been evangelizing away from masks for many months, including as recently as last week.

I do think this speaks to the fact -- and you're seeing signs of this -- him recognizing the external reality is that his poll numbers are in trouble, his reelection prospects are in trouble, that people are very concerned about this virus, despite his efforts to downplay it.

Now, again, it is good to be modeling good behavior. I don't know how often we will actually see him wearing a mask going forward, but this tweet was a start.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly, it would be very important if he continued doing so.

HABERMAN: Right.

BLITZER: Maggie, the president also, as you point out, bringing back his coronavirus press briefings, supposedly starting tomorrow.

They ended with some disastrous moments, as a lot of us remember. Why has he decided to bring back these briefings now?

HABERMAN: So, there has been a divide within the White House for many weeks since a halt was put to those briefings, and that was soon after he was, you know, theorizing or ruminating about chemical injections into the body to kill the virus.

He was clearly doing a lot of damage to himself and his poll numbers. That began his slide in the polls. There has been a big divide about how to handle this current moment, when the virus is clearly resurgent in a number of cases -- in a number of states, rather. Excuse me.

The caseload is rising. The death numbers are creeping up about to the number that it had been in March or April. I think it's roughly 900 deaths a day. And this is something that has been concerning a lot of White House officials.

They have been looking at ways to deal with it, but how do you deal with it without the president taking over these briefings? And so I think there is -- again, it's another reality check on where this president is in his reelection prospects.

They are hoping that they can do it in a different way, where he will stay on topic, but that's never been his strong suit, so we will see.

BLITZER: Is the president's poor polling numbers, pretty bad job approval numbers, only in the high 30s, for example, losing decisively nationally, you can see in the CNN poll of polls, 52-40 -- 52 for Joe 52 percent, Biden, 40 percent for Donald Trump.

Is that emboldening, Maggie, some Republicans out there to actually break with the president, at least on some issues?

HABERMAN: Certainly on issues related to the virus, Wolf.

You have seen -- and it's -- to be clear, I don't want to overstate it. It's not widespread. Most Republicans are still in lockstep with the president. But you have seen, at least on the topic of masks, for instance, Republicans saying that, you know, mask wearing is important.

You have seen folks like Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, say that this won't be over until there's a vaccine, and this is going to go on for a long time. We're not just around the corner, as optimistic as the president likes to sound.

So you are seeing steps like that. I think that this is an effort, again, part of what he's doing with promoting mask wearing, part of what he's doing with these briefings, is trying to change that, because once Republicans start creeping away from him, that's a real warning sign.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, as usual.

Maggie Haberman, thanks for joining us. Thanks for all your terrific reporting as well.

An important programming note for our viewers. Be sure to join CNN's Fareed Zakaria as he investigates President Trump's embrace of conspiracy theories. That's later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead: alarming updates from coronavirus hot spots out in California and Florida. More records right now are being broken, as infection rates soar.

And I will speak live with the mayor of Atlanta. She says the Georgia governor is trying to keep her quiet, as they battle over the city's mandate to wear masks.

[18:25:01]

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the coronavirus crisis, including another record-shattering statistic just now out of California, one of the hot spots of the pandemic.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Los Angeles for us.

So, Stephanie, Los Angeles County, I understand, has hit a record number of hospitalizations now for the fourth time in just a week.

[18:30:02]

How likely is it that the city will once again have to shut down?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right, Wolf. You're talking about more than 2,300 people -- I'm sorry, 2,200 people are in the hospital right now. And when you add into the fact that this is the sixth day in a row that we've had a number over 2,100, this is obviously not the right way we want to see these numbers going overall.

Also, 26 percent of those patients are in ICU beds. That's the other issue there, the county announcing nine deaths. But, of course, it's important to remember that we usually have a lag from the weekend, so we might see a larger number come tomorrow when it comes to that.

But when you take a look at California overall, the positivity rate at about 7.4 percent over the last two-week period, they're also seeing a trending upward movement for hospitalizations, also patients being admitted to ICU beds as well is part of the issue.

Governor Gavin Newsom announcing today though a little bit of relief for barbershops and hair salons, announcing that they can go ahead and open up as long as they do their work outside, and they're maybe under a tent, but all walls of that structure have to be open outside, open air to make this work, and, of course, social distancing and masks.

But, obviously, when you look at these numbers, they are not going in the right way at all here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Stephanie, thanks very much, Stephanie Elam in L.A.

From L.A., let's head over to Georgia right now, where the coronavirus infection rate is surging, and the governor there is doing battle with the Atlanta mayor over her city's mandate to simply wear masks.

We're joined by the Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, Georgia hit a record number of new cases just on Saturday, but Governor Kemp is taking you to court, he's taking you to court to stop you from enforcing a mask mandate. He also wants to limit your public statements on masks. So what's the latest? What's going on? What's the latest in this fight?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: Well, thank you for having me again, Wolf. We have a hearing scheduled on tomorrow, and to quote the motion for injunctive relief, he wants to restrain me from speaking against his orders and from issuing orders that are contrary to his orders. And it's very simple. We have an alarming rise in our COVID rate in our city.

In the City of Atlanta alone, over 49 percent of the new positive cases are in the city. Our ICU capacity is somewhere around 12 percent. And so the notion that this governor, in the midst of this pandemic and the resources that need to be given to fighting this pandemic, is attempting to silence me, I think, really speaks to just the misguided leadership that we have in this state right now.

BLITZER: Why do you think the governor sued you and not the mayors of other cities in Georgia with rules on masks?

BOTTOMS: He's made it very personal. He sued me personally in his name personally. And so I don't know what the reason is. Only he can answer that. There were several other cities that went before Atlanta, and I was very intentional in making that decision because I wanted to see what, if any, response he would have to the other cities.

They are led by men. I don't know if it's because I am a woman. I don't know if it's the demographics of our state. I don't know if it's because of my very strong support of Joe Biden as president of the United States.

There are several things that I can assume, but what I know is this is very personal to me and very personal to the people of Atlanta. He has singled us out.

BLITZER: I know his lawsuit isn't just about masks, Mayor. It's also about you rolling back Atlanta's reopening. What do you say to business owners who are struggling to get by right now, don't know whether to listen to you or to the governor?

BOTTOMS: What's really strange about that, Wolf, is that the governor acknowledged during his press conference that he had just learned that the advice was advisory, voluntary advice. We convened an advisory committee to make recommendations for businesses related to our phased reopening.

We thought we were on the path to reopening not knowing that very quickly we would be going backwards with that phased approach, but they were voluntary recommendations. This committee was comprised of business owners in the city. And so I am being sued personally about making -- or giving advice to businesses based on data and metrics and also an attempt to stop me from speaking on that advice.

And, certainly, there's a better use of our resources, and that better use would be making sure that people can get testing and get the results back quickly and making sure that we have the hospital bed capacity that we need in this state.

[18:35:08]

BLITZER: And maybe Governor Kemp will be influenced by the president, who just tweeted a little while ago a picture of himself actually wearing a mask. You don't see that very often, saying many people say that it is patriotic to wear a face mask. I don't know the governor might be -- I suspect the governor might be influenced by the president on this issue.

Amid all of this, Mayor, you, your husband, one of your four children, I know you're all recovering from being infected with the coronavirus. First of all, how are you doing? How is your husband doing? How is your child doing?

BOTTOMS: We are all doing better. This is day 14 since we were tested. My other children are coming home today. I am so happy, and I can't wait to hug them. So, thank you for asking.

BLITZER: And your son, how is he doing? And your husband, how is he doing?

BOTTOMS: He's doing much better. Even from just a few days ago when my husband complained that he was still a bit fatigued walking simply to the mailbox, to see the improvement he's made, it's been significant. So, everyone is doing better, and we're just very grateful to be amongst those who have gotten to the other side of this because I know so many other families across this country don't have the same story.

BLITZER: I know it took you, the mayor of Atlanta, what, eight days to get the results of your coronavirus test. Is it getting better there in Atlanta right now? Are people getting their results more quickly because that is so critical? BOTTOMS: No, not from what I've heard. And what's interesting, there was a group that tested with me at the same time. I got mine back in eight days. That was pretty fast compared to others in the group. And what we are being told is expect wait times from eight days to 14 days for testing based on the backup that we have in the state right now because our cases are so high.

As you mentioned, we have a record number of cases, and we scaled back a bit in this state on some of the testing sites. And even with the mobile hospital that we had up in the World Congress Center, $20 million-plus to stand up the hospital, the governor took it back down. It now has to go back up.

BLITZER: I know amidst all of this, you're also now mourning the loss of the civil rights hero, John Lewis, who represented what Atlanta in Congress for so many years. How do you hope, Mayor, that Americans will honor his legacy?

BOTTOMS: Well, John Lewis, and C.T. Vivian, I think it's about courage. And it is honoring their legacy by continuing to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, not backing down when faced with the most daunting of challenges ahead of you and just simply caring about other people, caring about your community as a whole.

That's what John Lewis taught us. That's what C.T. Vivian taught us. And it is an especially big loss of both of them in Atlanta, but it's the reason that I'm continuing to push forward and use my voice to speak against what I know to be unjust policies in our state. And I know it honors John Lewis and C.T. Vivian in being courageous and doing so.

BLITZER: Yes. He was very, very courageous, and we miss him already. All right, Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us.

BOTTOMS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the primary suspect in the fatal shooting of a federal judge's home has just been identified. We're going to get a live report. We're going to New Jersey.

Plus, we'll take a much closer look at the backlog in U.S. coronavirus testing, delaying some results for as long as -- get this -- three weeks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We're going to have much more coming up on the coronavirus pandemic in just a few moments. But right now, there's another story that's breaking. Tonight, the FBI has identified the primary suspect in the shooting that killed a federal judge's 20-year-old son and wounded her husband at their New Jersey home. CNN's Alexandra Field is joining us live from North Brunswick, New Jersey.

Alexandra, first of all, what are you learning about the suspected shooter?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first of all, he's been identified by authorities as Roy Den Hollander. He is an attorney who has died apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His body found about two hours from here. Investigators say they also found a package that had a FedEx address on it to Judge Esther Salas. That was found in a car that investigators were searching.

What we know about the attorney is that he describes himself as a men's rights attorney who has written prolifically to espouse his anti-feminist views. He's been part of a string of failed anti- feminist lawsuits going after Columbia University for their women's studies programs, going after various bars for so-called ladies nights. Most importantly though, he crossed paths with the federal judge, Judge Salas, back in 2015, when he presented arguments arguing against the military's male-only draft.

In that case, the judge agreed with some of his arguments, rejected others, but allowed the case to continue. In 2019, the attorney handed it off to another law firm, but he went on to write about Judge Salas on his website in racist and sexist terms.

[18:45:06]

Authorities say they had no known threats against the family at the time of the shooting, Wolf.

BLITZER: Alexandra, the attack was so brazen and horrific. Tell us more about how it unfolded.

FIELD: It unfolded according to the authorities when the suspect arrived at the house behind me dressed in a FedEx uniform. They say he opened fire when the judge's son, Daniel, just 20 years old, opened the door with his father mark behind him.

Daniel was shot dead. Mark was shot several times. He is now in the hospital. He has undergone surgeries both yesterday and today. We understand he is aware of what happened. He understand that he is also aware of the passing of his son.

Again, Daniel was just 20 years old, a college student who planned to study the law like his parents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, deepest, deepest condolences. Totally horrific.

Alexandra Field, thank you very much for that update.

Just ahead, health experts are sounding the alarm about the very long delays in U.S. coronavirus test results, forcing some to wait -- get this -- as long as three weeks.

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[18:50:49]

BLITZER: As coronavirus cases are surging across the United States, turnaround time for the test results has significantly slowed down. Health experts are warning those delays totally undercut the value of the tests.

CNN's Brian Todd is looking into this for us.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one governor calls the situation with testing in the U.S., quote, a complete disgrace. A big problem tonight, potentially deadly delays in getting test results back.

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TODD (voice-over): From the start of the pandemic, Sara Polon was worried about her 30 employees. The founder and owner of Soupergirl, a successful plant-based soup company in the Washington area hired a private doctor to test her employees every week. For a while it worked well, she says.

Then --

SARA POLON, HAS PROBLEMS GETTING CROWD TEST RESULTS FOR EMPLOYEES: The test results started taking longer and longer. It got to the point where I was getting results after the CDC recommended isolation period for asymptomatic carriers. So I'm spending all this money on doing everything possible to keep my team and my customers safe, and I can't.

TODD: Medical experts say people who get tested who think they might have coronavirus should self-quarantine while they wait for their results, but Polon says she can't shut down her business while her employees wait.

POLON: If I shut down waiting for test results for 13 days, I'll go out of business. It's hard to put into -- into words the amount of stress that's on us, as small business owners.

TODD: Polon's frustrations are reflected across America tonight during a coronavirus test crisis that has reached alarming levels. It is not just that patients are waiting a long time to get tested sometimes compromising their health in the process like waiting in long lines in the Arizona heat.

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, VALLEYWISE HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER IN PHOENIX: There are people waiting in line to get tested and are fainting literally while waiting to get a test.

TODD: But America's top health officials, as well as the companies which run diagnostic labs are also acknowledging as the demand for test grows during the spike in cases, the wait times for getting test results back are getting longer and longer.

CNN has reported results can take from a couple days to as long as three weeks to get back.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: You send it to a central laboratory. There is a time to do the delivery of the sample, then they have to do the testing, they're kind of backed up. It takes a lot to come back.

TODD: The problem experts say is that people can spread the infection to others while they're waiting for their test results.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: We generally know that people who transmit do so in their first two or three days before symptoms, and then two or three days after symptoms. So if you're getting test results six days after you've had symptoms, you've already transmitted it to all of the people you're otherwise going to.

TODD: Experts are worried tonight about the ramifications of delayed test results. It delays contact tracing and it means the entire system could be clogged.

WALENSKY: There are so many components to the test. You need the personnel to do it. You need the PPE to do it. You need the swabs. You need the reagents. You need people in the lab.

And it's not entirely clear where in the whole system if not everywhere in the system there are delays.

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TODD: Dr. Walensky says it also breaks her heart to see that getting test results back quickly often depends on how much money or power you have access to. Anyone close to President Trump can get tested and get results back almost instantly. The same for professional athletes whose leagues can arrange for tests and results very quickly, while people in the most vulnerable communities, Wolf, sometimes have to wait for weeks.

BLITZER: Brian, are officials talking about any potential fix to get these -- the results back sooner?

TODD: Right, Dr. Francis Collins, Wolf, the director of NIH, told "Meet the Press" yesterday that there are a number of new technologies coming along where he thinks the whole thing can be improved. It is crucial to do that.

If you can get people -- a result back in a day, it is easier to tell them whether to stay home or go to work. You can have whole clusters of people that you tell that to and it will increase confidence of, you know, people going back out in public and back to work. It's crucial that they fix this.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Brian Todd reporting, thank you.

And we're going to have much more news just ahead.

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[18:59:22]

BLITZER: Finally, our nightly tribute to some of the victims of the coronavirus.

Anna Levine of New York was 91 years old. She was a life long community activist who marched on Washington with Dr. King. She loved politics and crossword puzzles and approached life like an adventure -- a philosophy she instilled in her two daughters and three grandchildren.

Morris "Gene" Norton of Kansas was 84. He was an architect who loved design and knew every block of Kansas City. He leaves behind his life partner of more than 30 years, Marianne (ph), whose daughter says Gene taught them both about the meaning of unconditional love.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.