Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo; Republicans in Congress Disagree on Fourth COVID-19 Stimulus; Trump Hotels Import Chinese Products During Trade Talks. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 10:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to come back and we're starting all over again.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This used to be a corridor for regular hospital inpatients. It has now been transformed into an additional intensive care unit just for COVID patients.

Dr. Stephen Morgan is treating many of them.

STEPHEN MORGAN, DOCTOR, NORTHEAST GEORGIA MEDICAL CENTER: Yes, I have to admit, I thought we were probably in the clear. You know, I think a lot of of us did.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dr. Morgan says the rising COVID numbers make the job more difficult, more fatiguing.

He checks on a middle-aged COVID patient, and is gratified by his progress.

MORGAN: A real strong guy, got started out on some remdesivir as soon as he came to the -- to the hospital.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it's a very different feeling as registered nurse Haben walks into this room. This man is being treated in a specially designated COVID unit. This is not the ICU, but there is worry that he might end up going there.

TUCHMAN: This patient has been here for two days .There's a lot of concern, obviously, for anybody in the COVID unit. But particularly for this man because he's very old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, darling.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): He is being given sugar water to keep his blood sugar up, as well as insulin.

KRISTINA HABEN, REGISTERED NURSE: One of the hardest things is knowing that the last time that that patient's family saw them, could possibly be the last time that they get to see them.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This medical center is prepared for more and more patients being admitted. This unusual-looking structure sits in a hospital parking lot. Patients will soon start getting moved inside.

TUCHMAN: This rapidly constructed hospital addition consists of 44 shipping containers pieced together. There are 20 rooms for COVID patients.

BETSY ROSS, NURSE MANAGER: Everything that you would get in a traditional hospital room inside the hospital, we are capable of doing here in this unit.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Everyone we talk with here expresses pride at what they are doing. But as the numbers go up, so does the concern. And in some cases, fear.

TAMIKA JOHNSON, CHARGE NURSE: Well, I guess you know what post- traumatic stress, that's how I feel. I mean, it's like -- I feel like something that we should be able to prevent from happening, it's like we have no control over it in reality. And then the patients pass away. It's almost like -- we get so close to them, it's like losing a family member.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These doctors and nurses also consider each other family members, people they work with, fight this virus with for as long as it takes.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Gainesville, Georgia.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, what a story, Gary, thank you.

Just one update, we just learned in the past few minutes that that court proceeding in the case between the governor of Georgia and Atlanta's mayor, over mandating masks, has been cancelled. The judge presiding over it is recusing herself. We'll let you know when we have more on that -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as cases climb in Texas, one county judge is ordering residents to stay at home. The order impacts Hidalgo County, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border. Also includes a curfew, essential travel limitations as well as requirements to wear a mask. The question is, will other counties follow suit by mandating such restrictions?

I'm joined now by the head of another county, Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo. And, Judge, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So do you have your own intentions now of imposing a mandated shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order in light of a rise in cases where you are? HIDALGO: First, let me share where we are. The good news is, over the last week or so, we've seen a slight decrease in the hospitalizations in the general population. ICU patients, COVID patients are still about 50 percent of the ICU.

The cases are still increasing in a very dramatic fashion. We crossed 50,000 cases here in Harris County, the Houston area, last week. Two- thirds of those are active cases. The vast majority of them, over the past few weeks. So still a very concerning situation.

I have had the intention, for a few weeks, to have an enforceable stay-home order because I know that's the way to get through this quickly. Unfortunately, I don't have that authority. What the judge in Hidalgo County has done is a recommendation. The governor has come out and said, Well, I'll allow that because it's recommended. There's no enforcement provision.

Which is essentially what we did a few weeks back, is we said, Folks need to stay home. But we know why, you know, these provisions that are not enforceable are just not going to be as effective as those that are. So we're still sort of in the same situation, where our hands are tied by the state government.

SCIUTTO: I should let folks at home know that Harris County is just enormous. I mean, its population rivals that of many American states, so you have a lot on your hands here.

Schools is another step, right? In terms of how and when, in what way, to what extent schools open. You want school districts to delay the start of in-person instruction until October. What has the response been among families, and what are you looking for before you're comfortable opening in-person instruction?


HIDALGO: I'm hearing from a lot of parents, teachers, I've been hearing from them. And it's this deep, deep concern. You know, they really want students to go back to school, they recognize how crucial that is. But at the same, they don't want to put their health in danger, their community's health in danger.

We don't have an example of schools reopening safely with this level of spread, where we're crossing into surge capacity as a matter of course, we have these tens of thousands of cases ready to spread the virus in the community.

And so what we're saying is, it's not a date so much as a threshold. Once those hospitalizations come way down, those cases come way down. We saw the Houston independent school district, the largest one, they've decided not to open in-person until mid-October. That's what we're asking all the other 18 school districts in Harris County to do.

We've got 18 school districts, 34 cities. And if we don't, we do have the ability, we believe, to issue an order that they not open. And so we're waiting to see, you know, how they will respond. I trust that they will follow this. I so want schools to return, but the reality of it is the sooner we work together to bring this virus down, the sooner we'll be in a position to do that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The president, his administration -- as Congress considers another round of stimulus -- is threatening to withhold federal funds to communities who do not reopen fully next month, as we get into September. I wonder what your reaction is to that. And if money is held over your head in that way, will you say, "Fine, open the schools, I guess we've got to do it"?

HIDALGO: Let's not do with schools what we did earlier in the year with generally the community, opening up too soon, leading to a crisis. Part of the problem is the mixed messages at different levels of government. And so not just from the federal government, but the state, many levels.

You know, one day, it's OK to open; the next day, you know, they're saying, Whoa, whoa, slow down. So we've got to put people first on this, put the politics aside.

For me, right now, we're focused squarely on safety, and I hope we're not going to have to make that decision. I hope that folks look at the data and recognize, we just don't have an example of reopening with this level of spread -- perhaps in some communities; unfortunately not in mine.

And we need to bring those curves down so that we can do it and do it successfully. But look, I'm not going to put false hope out there and then pull the rug out from under people as had happened earlier this year.

SCIUTTO: And the science has shown -- right? -- you know, schools can reopen as long as there's not a spiking outbreak in that area. Judge Hidalgo, we wish you the best of luck as you meet this challenge in the coming weeks and months.

HIDALGO: Thank you.

HARLOW: What an important interview.


OK, the opening of stimulus talks between the White House and Senate Republicans is leading to a clear rift, even, you know, within the same party. Not with Democrats, but with each other, as I said. We'll tell you what is pushing the divide and what it means for all of you, ahead.


SCIUTTO: A lot of that stimulus will run out very soon, and today will be a crucial day in talks over extending stimulus payment support. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, they're scheduled to hold three meetings on Capitol Hill. This, as they attempt to help bridge what is a big divide, not just between Republicans and Democrats but Senate Republicans and the White House. HARLOW: Yes. The biggest issue seemed to be the president's demand

that a payroll tax cut be included and proposed funding for COVID testing that would go through the CDC. Let's go to our senior congressional reporter Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. I think what makes this so interesting is that the president's even threatening to veto this if it doesn't include a payroll tax cut, something a lot of Republicans are saying is not even the best approach right now.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Even some top Republicans are pushing back on the idea. The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, who's in charge of tax policy, thinks this is not something that would stimulate the economy as effectively as, say, a direct payment, a check to consumers.

Also, on the number-two Republican in the Senate, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, opposes this idea as well as Senator John Cornyn, a member of Mitch McConnell's leadership team. So you're sensing some resistance in the ranks.

It could ultimately be included in the first draft of this legislation. The Republican legislation, which could come out in a matter of a couple of days, but it almost certainly will not get into a final draft, any final draft that could become law.

Now, the process essentially is this. The Republicans are trying to get on the same page with the White House, and they are not on the same page, the payroll tax cut being an issue that divides the parties. But also other issues as well.

Increased funding for testing, the White House maintains that there's enough money left over in the past stimulus law, so they don't need additional money. The Republicans in the Senate say they absolutely need more money for testing, also more money for schools. The White House wants to make this contingent on schools reopening; Republicans, including John Thune, think that's a bad idea. Say that this should not be a one-size-fits-all approach from Washington.

Now, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader on the floor, just moments ago, announced the total for the amount, money that the Republicans are looking to spend on schools, $105 billion. Now, that falls much shorter than what the Democrats in the Senate want, which is four times as much for schools. So there's major differences that they've got to resolve, guys, on the Republican side.


And then they've got to resolve it with the Democrats, to get a deal in which Nancy Pelosi told her caucus this morning, she wants a deal done by the end of next week. So those talks will begin between the Democrats and the administration officials today. We'll see if they can end up with any sort of deal, get any closer by next week sometime -- guys.

HARLOW: OK, all right, Manu, thanks a lot for the reporting.

Well, the president rails against China in public, but we have new reporting that it's a very different story behind the scenes when it comes to the president and Trump-owned properties.

SCIUTTO: Yes, this is a big contradiction here about what the president does in private versus what he says in public. CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood, she's behind this reporting. She joins us now from the State Department. Kylie, what have you learned?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, guys. So we have learned that over the past year, the president's personal properties here in the U.S. -- of course that are owned by his family -- have imported more than eight tons of goods from China while the president has railed on China on a number of fronts.

So about two months ago, there were two tons of shipments that came. They were glass and wooden cabinets from Shanghai, they were shipped to Trump Golf Course L.A. And around that same time, the president was tweeting about the incompetence of China when it comes to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

And he has said similar things earlier last year. In September of last year, there were six tons of tables that were delivered to the Trump International Hotel in New York City. And on that same day, I want to read you what the president was tweeting about.

He said, "We are doing very well in our negotiations" -- referencing the U.S.-China trade negotiations -- and he said, that he thinks "What happens to China when I win, deal would get much tougher."

So he's indicating that with him in the steering seat here as president, the U.S. is going to be much tougher on trade negotiations with China.

We have seen that there was phase one of the trade deal that the president inked earlier this year, but he's indicated that there's no sign that they're going to sign a second phase of that trade deal. And as he has railed on China and promised the American voters particularly that his trade policies are going to economically benefit them, his own organization has been benefiting and adding to this deficit with China.

SCIUTTO: Well, do as you say, say as you do.


SCIUTTO: Doesn't seem consistent with that. Kylie Atwood, thanks very much.


The New York Jets and Giants are set to play their home games without spectators. What could the fallout be for the rest of the league? Remarkable, as we get closer to the start of -- hoped-for start of the NFL season, that's next.


SCIUTTO: Well, NFL training camps, they open today. But as far as preseason games, doesn't look like it's going to happen.

HARLOW: Carolyn Manno has more on "the Bleacher Report" this morning. Seems like they're in the middle of pretty intense negotiations right now.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: They are, Jim and Poppy. And this has been a major sticking point for them on a long list of items. But it seems like they're getting closer to finding some common ground as to whether or not a preseason makes sense in the middle of a pandemic like this. The players have advocated against it because they prefer to use that time to get into game shape.

But a source that is close to these talks that are being held between the league and the union says that the NFL has offered the players the opportunity to play zero preseason games. The players, you know, have been asking for this. And once source says that the union has not accepted the offer yet, but that it could be in the works.

The two sides have agreed on daily testing for two weeks, so that training camps can really begin and everybody feels safe. If the results are at or below five percent during those initial two weeks, then testing is going to shift to every other day instead.

If you are a fan of the New York Giants or the Jets and you want to watch those teams play, you're going to have to do it from home on TV. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, deciding not to grant an exception to a public safety executive order for events at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, which is where both of those teams play. So that means no fans will be allowed, in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Meantime, San Francisco Giant manager Gabe Kapler, joining players who took a knee during the National Anthem in silent protest of racial injustice before last night's game against the Oakland A's. He is the first big league manager to do that. He says all of his players will be supported regardless of what each decides to do during the anthem.


GABE KAPLER, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS MANAGER: I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country. And I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions, and we would respect and support those decisions.


MANNO: Giants coach Alyssa Nakken, making history in that exhibition game at first base. She became the first woman to coach on the field during a Major League game. She was a four-time all-conference softball player at Sacramento State herself, so certainly well qualified on the field.

And the first pitch of this year's baseball season could be made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, a Nats super fan. The team said they are thrilled that he has accepted the invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the team opens against the Yankees on Thursday night, Jim and Poppy. I know he's excited. It's a lot of pressure, not that he hasn't faced

significant pressure in the past. But hopefully he'll get one past the plate.


SCIUTTO: Yes. I'm a little disappointed because he's a fellow New Yorker. And I -- you know, I want him to be a Mets or a Yankees fan. But I'll give him the Nats. You know, he lives in D.C., we'll give him the Nats.

HARLOW: Jim and I had a whole off-air conversation about who was a better basketball player, by the way, at their high school. I'll let --


MANNO: Oh --

SCIUTTO: Very much Dr. Fauci, to be clear.

MANNO: Dr. Fauci was an all-star point guard, there's no question about that.

HARLOW: Totally.


HARLOW: All right, Carolyn, we'll see you tomorrow. Thanks so much.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. We will see you here tomorrow. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with John King starts after a quick break.