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Trump Bringing Back Coronavirus Briefings as Cases Surge; COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Surging in Louisiana; Georgia Hospital Strains to Handle Patient Surge as COVID Cases Spike. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: The question becomes what power do they have to stop it. Thanks, Omar. We'll be watching very closely what happens in Chicago.

Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And the I'm Jim Sciutto.

A briefing on a growing health crisis but no health experts. Later today, President is expected to brief the nation, but for now, White House task force members, those with qualifications and experience on outbreaks, are not expected to attend. Dr. Fauci says he'd be happy to be there. Sources tell CNN the briefing will not focus exclusively on the pandemic and raises the question to what exactly Trump will use these briefings for.

HARLOW: That's right. And this comes is at president's approval numbers are sinking as cases are spiking this morning in 25 states. So the question becomes how is it all intertwined. The president tweeting a picture, look at that, that's really significant of him, finally tweeting a picture wearing a mask after months and months of downplaying it and months of refusing to wear one in public.

We're live across the country this hour. Let's begin in the State of Florida. Rosa Flores joins us from there. Good morning, Rosa.

hospitals there sounding the alarm that they need more nurses as cases spike.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDET: You're absolutely right, Poppy, because you can convert more beds into ICU beds, but you still need human beings to provide this care. We're learning this morning from the state that 39 hospitals from across the state are asking the state for help with nurses.

That's the case here in Jackson Health. We know that the State of Florida has deployed is 125 nurses to Jackson Health, and this morning, we're also Jackson Health is asking for an additional 275 medical professionals, and here is why. We've learned 146 employees from Jackson Health have contracted the coronavirus in the past ten days, including 49 nurses.

We're also learning that the positivity rate here for Sunday, which is the latest statistic available, was 38 percent. Now, these -- this includes all of the tests done at the E.R., in-patient tests and also employees.

And when you look at the amount of care that is needed, it really lets you know a little more about what's happening inside these hospitals. According to Jackson Health, 25 percent of the COVID-19 patients in this hospital need ICU care.

Now, as we look across the state, we've learned that 53 ICU hospitals are at zero capacity here in Miami-Dade County. Yesterday, the ICUs were operating at 130 percent.

Now, Poppy, you and I have been talking about this, despite all these facts and figures the State of Florida continues to require, to mandate for schools to reopen for in-person instruction starting in just a few weeks. Now, of course, we've learned that educators have filed a lawsuit.

Well, just now in a press conference that wrapped up here in the City of Miami, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announcing that their summer camps here in the City of Miami will be closed effective this week because at least three children have tested positive for the coronavirus.

So if this is any indication of what happens when you gather children, here we have it, it Poppy. The City of Miami announcing closure of summer camps because at least three children have tested positive.

HARLOW: Wow, Rosa, thank you so much for that update from Miami for us.

So it's been nearly three months since the president has held a daily briefing. If no medical experts attend today, what are we going to hear? Our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us. Good morning, Dana.

We don't know. I mean, Dr. Fauci says he'll go if he's wanted. You would think that you would want all your medical experts around you. But talk to us about reporting on what drove the significant change in the president to finally put a mask on and take that photo and publicly support mask-wearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Polls, I mean, that's it, full stop. It's because this is directly affecting his own personal political standing and prospects for re-election. That has been a trend. It is not as if it's a news flash that the coronavirus dominates and the lack of faith in his leadership on this massive issue is really, really hurting him.

But somehow advisers got to him in the past few days, and it's -- you know, from -- according to people I talked to who are familiar with his thinking, it's that it's just the combination of all of these polls. I mean, there's not one that they say publicly and more importantly for his consumption internally that shows that this is working for him.


So the plea that was made to him was turn back to the coronavirus. Focus on this issue, because it is dominating everything else, nothing else is breaking through, and this election right now is all about you, referendum on you and your lack of leadership on this.

Now, we can talk about how he's going to execute that right now, but from what I'm told, what he's planning on doing certainly doesn't jive with what he was advised to do, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Dana, I have to ask you, because it sounds like the president believes that this will help his poll numbers. As you know, the president's performance at briefings prior were not always helpful in terms of getting accurate information. Think about injecting disinfectant, his personal sales pitch for hydroxychloroquine. Are his advisers convinced that this will help rather than hurt him?

BASH: No. And the big question is what is the this, which was kind of what I was getting at. The sources who I talked to say what they are imploring the president to do is to lead with the facts, lead with the medical experts, the people who, as of this hour are not planning to attend. The Anthony Faucis and the other medical experts who can really give Americans information that they can use, not spin, and in many situations, in many cases, maybe most often from the president, disinformation. I mean, we saw him try to do that over weekend in the interview he did with Chris Wallace, and there's no reason for us to believe that that will change today.

So, that's a long way of answering, Jim, that there is -- that there are a lot of people who are around the president who are holding their breath because they don't know how this is going to go. He is being advised, I am told, to keep his portion of the briefing short, not to allow himself to engage and to get into, you know, fights with reporters who are trying to fact-check him real-time on things that he is saying are wrong. But based on what we know right now the plan for a briefing at 5:00 with no medical experts, it doesn't look like he's heeding that advice as of this minute.

HARLOW: It doesn't at all. Dana, I appreciate the reporting. It's important.

BASH: Thank you.

HARLOW: Let's see what comes in a few hours in this briefing.

Let's talk about the science behind all of this. Our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is with us. Good morning, Sanjay.

I actually want to start with you on testing, the fact that Quest Diagnostics says two weeks now for some people now to get their test results. I've experienced it personally, you know, with a friend here in New York, 14 days, no results, no answers. What happened to the fast tests, right? There's the Abbott Labs one that worked so well in Detroit, and that were questions about how accurate it all was. I mean, it just seems like that would be the solution across the country, rapid testing for not just for sports players in the leagues but everyone.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was just talking to some sources about this very issue, Poppy. And if you look at like the Abbott test specifically, this rapid test that was supposed to give results within 15 minutes, the testing units are still out there. But the testing kits, the actual kits you use to collect the swabs and be able to use reagents, that then takes the materials off the swab and test, those are still in short supply. In fact, to put some numbers on it, about 1.2 million tests globally are being done of these tests.

So you're nowhere near being able to think of this as a widespread test that could be used to sort of really get at this issue of surveillance. So it's really still being used primarily in some point of care locations, but it's not a problem as much with the technology as it is the fundamental problem with the testing kits. I'm talking about the swabs and the reagents and the bread-and-butter stuff that in July, same conversations we were having in March, those still end up being a problem.

SCIUTTO: Sanjay, I want to talk about schools, a lot of folks -- we're all parents here, and I know a lot of folks are watching because they'd like their kids to go back to school. They'd like them to go back safely had.

I want to play sound from the Governor of Missouri, which is truly remarkable to hear from a sitting governor of a major state and just get your reaction and get you to focus on the science here. Have a listen.

GUPTA: Okay.


GOV. MARK PARSON (R-MO): These kids have got to get back to school. They are at lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will, and they will when they go to school, they are not going to the hospitals. They are not going to have to sit in doctor's offices. They are going to go home and they are going to get over it.


SCIUTTO: You know, I realize you might have to go through a list of things that is fundamentally misleading and unhelpful about those comments. Please do it because I know folks want their kids to go back to school as I do, but, of course, they want it to happen safely.

GUPTA: Yes, that's probably the one consistent thing that, you know, I think most people, myself included, would agree with in what the governor said.


The problem is that kids can transmit this virus still. I mean, that's the fundamental issue, is that while they are less likely to get sick, and that data has seemed to hold up since we looked at the early data coming out of Wuhan at the very beginning of this year, they can still transmit the virus.

There was a study, I was up early this morning talking to some sources in Asia. There was a study, as you guys have heard about, that showed that kids between the ages of 10 and 18 have enough virus and seem to transmit the virus the way that adults do. So, right away, you're talking about 10 to 18-year-olds, which is a significant chunk.

As far as people who are younger than that, the thing is I think that the data is still not clear. I think what the governor is sort of referring to and what some have said is that those kids aren't transmitting the virus as much. And if you really deep into that data, you find that you really can't make that assessment yet

Part of the issue is that, for the most part, think about your own kids, if they are under the age of nine, they have mostly been at home since March. So even in these huge studies which are looking at tens of thousands of people, sometimes it only involves 40 or 50 kids under the age of nine or ten years old, so you really still don't know, and that's the concern.

I think the biggest thing, and I don't know if we have this graphic of what's been going on in Missouri, but Missouri had its highest seven- day average of new cases just over the last couple of days. If you had a lot of virus in your area, it basically means you're much more likely to come in contact with somebody who is carrying the virus.

If you are vulnerable because of your age or pre-existing conditions, it's a problem. We have lessons from around the world, places have done it safely but in places where there's a lot of virus, it's very hard to open schools safely.

HARLOW: For sure, and that's a key fundamental difference between European countries that have opened schools and what's happening in the U.S.

You talked to Dr. Fauci. He says he'll be at the briefing today, Sanjay, if he's wanted there. What's going to happen?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I felt this was quite striking, and I know you guys talk to him regularly. You know, as of early this morning, he didn't know. I mean, that's the thing. First of all, it's a briefing, not a coronavirus task force briefing.

So, you know, we keep thinking of this as something that we used to see where there was this gravity and importance being given to what is the largest public health crisis of our lifetime, and they are calling it a briefing. And the scientist as of this morning still don't even know if they are invited to this, which is just a fact. And when I talked to Dr. Fauci, he was referring to all members of the coronavirus task force.

So I think it's -- I find that just absolutely remarkable at this point when we need to hear from him. I mean, certainly we don't want to hear from him when all he is doing is contradicting or fact- checking other people, such as the president, during the meeting. I mean, I don't know how useful that is. But the idea that there is a path forward here, it's not that challenging.

Other countries have done it. We need to hear from the scientists how to do it here. And still, it doesn't sound like we're going to get that opportunity. I think it's just really, really terrible.

SCIUTTO: Well, the president denies the science repeatedly. He does. I mean, again, this weekend, the idea that it's testing, we're only seeing more cases because there's more testing, it's false. And if that's the primary voice, raises question about the function of it.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always good to have you on.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: As cases soar in the State of Texas, one county there is now issuing a stay-at-home order. Could other counties follow suit? We're going to discuss.

HARLOW: Also, Louisiana went from flattening the curve after an initial surge to now being right back pretty much where they started. What happened? The state's lieutenant governor is with us, next.



HARLOW: Well, right now, the State of Louisiana ranks number two per capita in the most COVID cases surging once again. Take a look at this because I think this graphic really paints a clear picture of how all the progress made in the state during the stay-at-home order is now gone after that was lifted in May. And it's not just cases rising there. Hospitalizations climbing as well.

I'm glad we have Louisiana's lieutenant governor, Bill Nungesser, with us. Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

LT. GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER (R-LA): Glad to be with you. How are you?

HARLOW: I'm all right.

Another sad statistic from your state is the fact that 45 percent of the new cases are people under 29 years old, 29 years old. When you look at this and you look at the fact that the governor's mask mandate is going to expire in your state in three days, is it time for that to be extended?

NUNGESSER: I believe the governor will make an announcement today at 2:30, and I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I believe with those numbers, we will see it extended. And hopefully because of the 4th of July weekend and the next few weeks, we can see this level off if everybody wears their mask and follows the guidelines, and hopefully see our way -- a light at the end of the tunnel, because this is really having a devastating effect on Louisiana.

HARLOW: Do you and the governor, you're a Republican, he's a Democrat, does the State of Louisiana support at this point a federal mask mandate? Because your borders aren't shut, people coming in and out of your state all the time.

NUNGESSER: Right. We give out masks at the welcome centers to those visitors. I work very closely with the governor. We do that Monday conference call with the White House, and there's talks about that, and that will be decided on the federal level.


But --

HARLOW: But what do you think?

NUNGESSER: -- in Louisiana -- well, I think it's in lieu of all of the states that are having the spike. It's absolutely important to have that -- everyone wearing a mask. I don't want to make a decision for the feds, but here in Louisiana, we need everybody to wear their mask so we can get the doors back open to Louisiana.

HARLOW: Yes. I mean, you think about the fight within the State of Georgia right now in Atlanta, and if that makes a whole lot of sense, you know, in the middle of all of this.

NUNGESSER: This is not political. This is about people's safety and about getting our economy back open. We've got families that have been in the restaurant business for generations here in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans, that won't make it through this crisis if we don't follow those rules and see this thing level off.

HARLOW: For sure.

The Trump administration, as you know, is pushing back on even some Republicans in Congress asking for increased state aid for contact tracing and testing. I wonder if you need more money in the state to do that. And if you don't get it, what that's going to mean for the health of people in Louisiana?

NUNGESSER: Well, I think, absolutely, the testing, the tracing is so important to isolate and find out and keeping this under control. And so that funding is crucial. As we had hoped, we would not see the spike again, but, obviously, this thing is going to be here a lot longer than we anticipated.

HARLOW: Because you did see the spike that, as I showed in that chart, has completely done away with all the progress made since stay- at-home order, are you and the governor now in Louisiana considering another stay-at-home order? Are you on the brink of that as California says they are?

NUNGESSER: Well, I don't want to put words in the governor's mouth. That's his decision with the medical team.

HARLOW: Well, you are the lieutenant governor, so you're privy to this stuff.

NUNGESSER: I work closely with him. I hope we can stay where we are and see people follow the mask rules and the distancing rule and come out of this and not have to go back to a lockdown.

Of course, I'm in charge of tourism, so I'm hoping we can move forward and not move backwards and get this thing under control where we are now.

HARLOW: And there is nothing I'd rather do than come to New Orleans and have a hurricane. I think all of us would love to do that, but it's just not -- it's not in the cards right now.

Let's talk about schools finally, because if you look at Jefferson Parish schools, for instance, they are supposed to open August 12. And you look at 224 cases there just yesterday alone, 77 percent of ICU beds taken, and then you have teachers like this teacher. She teaches high school English, Mercedes Schneider in St. Tammy's Parish. Here is what she says.


MERCEDES SCHNEIDER, HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER IN LOUISIANA: I feel very much like all of American education is an experiment right now, but not even a scientific experiment. It is a political roll of the dice for us and we are the dice.


HARLOW: We are the dice. Are schools in Jefferson Parish safe to reopen in three weeks?

NUNGESSER: You know, I'm going to defer to the medical team, but I absolutely believe the teachers and educators need a seat at that table. and she's absolutely right. It should not be political. We need the kids back in school, but we need them back in school safely. And any attempt to open without doing it safely, whatever those restrictions are put in place need to be followed because, as you said, we don't need to see another spike, and we need our kids back in school but we've got to make sure it's done safely for the teachers and the students and those educators.

HARLOW: Yes, for sure. Well, thank you so much. We'll look forward to that announcement from the governor today at 2:30. Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser of Louisiana, thank you, sir.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.


SCIUTTO: Important interview. He, like many other local leaders, says you've got to wear your masks.

Up next, CNN takes you inside one hospital's battle against the resurgence of the viral and the toll it is taking on healthcare workers. It's an alarming picture. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


HARLOW: Well, just a few minutes from now in Atlanta, a judge will hear arguments in the fight over that city's mask mandate. Georgia's governor, Bryan Kemp, is trying to block Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from mandating masks and rolling back reopening guidelines even as the state sees new record cases and hospitalizations.

So our Gary Tuchman went to a hospital in Northeast Georgia to show us exactly what the situation is like there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll be with you all in a second.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is not doing well, a female COVID patient, being transferred from her room to her intensive care unit at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Georgia, a state where COVID deaths have nearly doubled since earlier this month.

KRISTINA HABEN, REGISTERED NURSE: It's exhausting. It has pushed me to my limits. It has shown me that I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was.

TUCHMAN: Kristina Haben is an R.N. at this hospital, which is in a part of Georgia that was a hot zone early on in the COVID crisis. The numbers started dropping. The state started reopening. Leading experts say to what's happening now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just when had you think we might be getting ahead of this thing, it's going to come back and we're starting all over again.


HARLOW: This used to be a corridor for regular hospital inpatients.