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U.S. Case Count Skyrockets; Florida Reports 9,000+ New Infections; Miami Teachers Union: Governor "Playing Politics" with Kids' Lives; Dr. Craig Spencer Discusses Case Surges in U.S., Delays in Test Results, Trump Now Advocating Masks; Governor Andy Beshear (D- Kentucky) Discusses New Restrictions as Cases Surge, Lawsuit by Kentucky A.G. on Restrictions; No White House Medical Experts Expected at Trump Briefing Today. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John King in Washington. Thanks so much for sharing this day with us.

Big changes from President Trump today as he tries to shake a polling slump directly tied to the coronavirus summer surge. One pivot, wear a mask is suddenly the message of a president who, for months, has refused to set that example.

Back to briefing reporters is another. And here is proof this is about politics, not the virus. Top administration doctors and scientists are not invited to today's presidential event, at least not at this hour.

A morning tweet from the president tells us he is still not interested in talking truth. He insists the United States is the global leader -- you see it right there -- the global model for coronavirus mitigation. "By comparison to most other countries," the president writes, "who are suffering greatly we are doing very well."

The numbers make clear that that's simply not true. The United States is the global leader in cases and deaths. You see the numbers on the screen every day. In 20 days since the call hit July 1, 1,119,000 new infections in the states.

This is the picture of suffering. Here is the U.S. seven-day average measured against that of the European Union, who has flattened the curve - you see it at the bottom there -- and that of Brazil where, yes, cases are rising but not near as fast as here in the United States. U.S. hospitalizations are within whisper distance of the pandemic peak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said this morning on NPR, the White House has not asked him to be part of the president's on-again briefings but, quote, "If they want me there, I'll be more than happy to be there." You'll remember the daily White House coronavirus briefings were

cancelled because the president kept contradicting Dr. Fauci and other administration experts. And then there was day when he left them speechless by suggesting ingesting bleach or disinfectants could help of you fight off COVID-19.

And like the virus, the tensions have not disappeared. The president demands schools reopen and he suggests the ones that do not should lose their federal money.

His surgeon general today says it's just not that simple.


JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: What I want people to know is the biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little or nothing to do with the actual schools. It's your background transmission rate.

And it's why we've told people constantly that if we want to get back to school, to worship, to regular life, folks need to wear face coverings. Folks need to practice social distancing.


KING: The questions, your questions, they are many about schools and about testing delays and about whether some encouraging vaccine news will hold up in the next phase of trials.

The 50-state look, at least on this day, is improving some. And let's take a look at that. Is improving some I say because we have 25 states heading in the wrong direction. That's the orange and red. And 25 states reporting more cases this week compared to last week.

But just days ago, I was telling you 38 states were heading in the wrong direction. But 25 states heading you have as today. Don't invest in one day's count. But let's watch to see if this turns into a trend.

And 20 states holding steady. That's the base here. And you can see it from coast to coast, including holding steady, Florida, including Arizona and California, the three states that have been on the leading edge of this summer surge. Texas, too, still going up. That's another one.

But to see Florida, Arizona and California holding steady. Let's hope that that locks in and they can shift to green soon.

Five states going down. So 25 up, 20 steady and five going down. If you look at the new cases trend, this is why this has been so troubling, is right. You can see February and then we're down, flat, and then boom.

June and July have been horrible. One thing to watch. We're on a Tuesday in this workweek. You do see the peek here but you also see yesterday and the day before. Will this flatten and come down? That would be great. That's what you want. The question is, as we go through the week, can we keep these numbers down.

Let's just look more closely at the past six weeks or so, seven weeks or so. You go back to the beginning of June, 17,355 was your average new confirmed cases. A record high last week of over 77,000. Look at that, 77,000 up from 17,000 in June. That's a quick summer surge.

And, again, the question is, yesterday 56,000 cases, can that stay flat and can you start to push it down. That is the challenge.

In the states dealing with the surge, this is a problem. You want the positivity rate, when you're testing more people, you want it in single digits. That means you're controlling with spread.

Arizona still about 20 percent. Nevada just shot up 20 percent. Idaho, 19 percent. Florida just shot up 19 percent. This tells you, you have community spread. You need to push the positivity rate in the testing down.

Let's look at those three states. They are all holding steady right now, California, California, Florida and Texas. This is the Florida line. Will this downward trend -- high, nearly 10,000 cases a day -- will it come down?

That's what you hop. Texas still going up. California still going up but some flattening here. Something to watch as we go through this week.

Lastly, I just want to look at the Florida surge. Just the cumulative impact in Florida. You go back to June 1st, and then you just see this. It's been a steady rise to more than 360,000 cases, total, confirmed in Florida right now, setting records for hospitalizations as well and a high for deaths.


Let's get straight to CNN's Rosa Flores live in Miami.

Rosa, they have been setting records, six consecutive days, I believe, above 10,000. Is this number seven or do we see any hopeful signs?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, the Florida Department of Health just posting those numbers. They went down a bit, but there's definitely no good news here.

Total for today, more than 9,000 new coronavirus cases and 136 deaths. This as we learn 39 hospitals across the state are asking the state of Florida for help with nurses.

That's the situation here in Jackson Health where I am. The state has already deployed 125 nurses here to Miami-Dade County. And now we learn that Jackson Health is requesting 275 more medical personnel.

Now, this is the situation on the ground, according to Jackson, 25 percent of the COVID-19 patients that come to this health system require ICU care. Now, when you think about that and you think of how ICUs are operating in Miami-Dade County at 130 percent yesterday, that is why we're seeing this need of more nurses, medical professionals.

As we look across the state, 53 ICU hospitals are at capacity, meaning they have zero ICU beds. Despite all these facts and figures the state of Florida still mandating the reopening of schools in just a few weeks.

Well, now there's a legal battle. Educators have filed a lawsuit to try to stop the reopening of schools with in-person instruction, with teachers arguing in this lawsuit that it is unsafe, that it is unconstitutional, and this it is reckless. Take a listen.


FEDRICK INGRAM, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: It's unfortunate that we have a governor that is playing politics with children's lives, with teachers' lives and cafeteria workers and bus drivers and secretaries and people who really want to get back into our public schools.

Listen, there is a risk. There's a risk that we don't know. There's a risk that he's willing to take. And one life lost, one life lost, is one too many.


FLORES: And, John, the education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, going to Twitter to say this: "Parents should choose. This lawsuit is frivolous and a complete disregard for everybody, especially children's health and welfare" -- John?

KING: Rosa Flores on the ground in Miami. Grateful for your updating on both the school crisis and those case numbers.

Let's get expert medical analysis on this quite challenging moment. Dr. Craig Spencer is the director of health and emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Doctor, thank you so much for being here today.

I have a hard time with this. You have six consecutive days in Florida above 10,000 and then they come in at 9,000, and I start to hope that that means they are pushing it down.

What does it take? When you look at data like this, do you want to look at a seven-day average and how it plays out over a week? What would convince you that finally, from a high baseline, they are at least starting to push it down?

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE, NEW YORK-PRESBYTERIAN/COLUMBIA HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER: That's a great question. There are a lot of things that we actually want to look at.

It's not just the number of new cases. That does depend a lot on testing. And as you already pointed out, we need a lot more testing. The test positivity rate in many places is high, over 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent, which means we're not doing enough testing. Things we need to look at are things like hospitalizations. We have

over 58,000 hospitalizations in this country. That's similar to where we were at in mid-April.

You want to look at the death rate. And we've seen that the death rate has already started to climb from going up, coming down, and now is back on the rise. Those are the things that I look at that are concerning.

Even if, in places like Florida and California and Texas, we have a flattening, we have some type of plateau, that's heartening. But let's remember, one, that's not acceptable. We're at extremely high levels.

Just a month ago, the vice president and the leader of the Coronavirus Task Force was boasting about how we had only 20,000 in the country, down to 30,000. Now we're routinely seeing 60,000, 70,000 cases a day, and that may continue to go up.

KING: Just at that number, you are dead right, even if you flatten it, you're flattening at a trouble spot and you want to push it down.

You mentioned testing. Listen to Dr. Fauci this morning. Because we have this problem that is complicating itself, if you will. That's a layman's term. I want to hear a medical perspective.

And you have a high case count and you want to do more testing it. Then you want to do contact testing. You might have to test some of those people. But there's a backlog and delay in getting test results.

Listen to Dr. Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES (voice-over): I think the thing that we need to make sure, if it occurs, that we correct it, that we get the results of the tests back in a very ample amount of time.

Because if the test comes back multiple days later, it kind of lessens the impact of why you're doing the tests to begin with. So I think that's one of the important things that we need to focus on.



KING: There's no doubt it's important, Doctor.

But how do you deal with it in the sense that Quest, one of the big labs, says it could take up to two weeks. That's a useless test. If you take a test and don't get your results for two weeks, you could have been exposed in the meantime, and so what's the point?

SPENCER: Absolutely, or you could expose many other people, and going back and contact tracing over the past few weeks will be really tough. Look, the reality is we need more testing. We need to do way more

testing than we're doing right now, contrary to what the president has said, that more testing is creating more cases. That's not true. Those are cases that are already there. Many more out there and many undiagnosed.

You're right, we need to have testing much quicker. Getting a test three, five a week later, none of that will be really helpful in stamping out the virus.

We need more testing. We need quicker tests. And we need way more available testing because, right now, we're failing in that department as well as many others.

KING: In a weekend interview, the president of the United States said that masks can cause problems, too. And he said that requiring masks would be, in his view, an infringement on liberty.

An important turn from the president last night. Doesn't want a mask mandate, but he did tweet a picture of himself saying many believe that wearing a mask is patriotic. I'm going to take this as progress because he's not set an example for quite some time.

Let's set the politics aside. From a medical perspective, and anyone out there watching, whether Democrat or Republican, Independent or not sure, do masks slow the spread? And should everybody see the president's tweet there and put one on when they are near other people?

SPENCER: Absolutely. Look, for me, it's never political. It's all about public health. This is what we need to be focusing on right now. It can't be partisan.

Yes, I'm heartened that the president, many months after the CDC recommended we wear face masks, put one on. Great. Congratulations. But I'm not convinced he's turning a corner.

As you already pointed out, we're going to have, you know, a redo of these Coronavirus Task Force meetings today. But we don't have the people that should be out there talking to the American public.

I don't need to hear anything more from President Trump about coronavirus. I need to hear from Fauci. I need to hear from the CDC. I need to hear from people. And amplify those public health messages that have an understanding of what's actually going on, not the president, who has waited many months to take steps necessary many months ago.

KING: He's been reactive and behind for months now. You are correct, Dr. Spencer. We'll see what we get from the president of the United States later today.

I'm grateful, sir, for your expertise and insights and for your time. I know you're busy. Thank you so much.

SPENCER: Thank you. Up next for us, Kentucky's governor joins us live. His state now

adding new restrictions on social gatherings because, yes, it, too, part of the coronavirus summer surge.



KING: New restrictions now in place from Kentucky's governor because the coronavirus trend in that state, the commonwealth, not a good one.

The governor says social gatherings with more than 10 people no longer allowed. He also put out new guidelines on travel, asking anyone who comes from a state with an infection rate above 15 percent to quarantine for two weeks.

The numbers tell you why. Nearly 8,000 new confirmed cases in the month of July in Kentucky, 1,500 cases just this past weekend.

Joining me now to discuss is the Democratic governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear.

Governor, thank you so much for spending your time with us as you deal with this.

You have an unwelcome place on the 50-state map. Your state, which early on was doing a very solid job flattening the curve and pushing it down, now the only state of the 50 in the deep red, which means the rate of case growth this week, 50 percent or higher, than it was last week.

If you look at testing -- and you do every day -- the positivity rate in Kentucky is 7.2 percent. By comparison, Connecticut, one of the early states like you to deal with this is below 1 percent. What happened?

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Well, Kentucky was a success story, and I think still is, in how that we have dealt with this virus. We came together early. We did what it took and we flattened our curve.

But what we have seen is states to our south and in the west with exploding cases and devastating consequences. Since then, what we have seen is anything from traveling to the beach, which Kentuckians do during the summer, to people maybe just becoming a little more lax. We are seeing an escalation in our cases.

But what we're doing in Kentucky is we had such a low number compared to other states -- while you see us in the deep red, we still have 40 percent our hospital beds that are open. We have a vast majority of our ventilators and significant ICU capacity.

We're asking before this thing spirals out of control, making sure that we don't become a state that has 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 cases reported each day.

So we've got to do a couple of things. Number one, we have far too many clusters of people who have gone on vacation, primarily to the beach, come back, go to work, go to church and spread it through their community.

Number two, we're seeing backyard barbecues, which we all love, something critical in Kentucky and maybe in America, people letting their guard down, and trying to provide that reminder that you still need to be careful and still need to wear that mask.

Now about two weeks ago -- I'm sorry, about 10 days ago, we did a statewide requirement for facial coverings. And that hasn't caught up in the data yet.

But my goal is to take serious and significant action right now to make sure we don't become what we're seeing in some other parts of the country. And I'm certainly hoping and praying for folks in those states --

KING: Let me --

BESHEAR: -- so it will turn around.

KING: First, let me ask you a political question and then a personal question.

The political question: You're a Democratic governor who is fighting with your Republican attorney general, who is going to court. He says your mask requirement and other restrictions in the state are hurting the economy.


I'm assuming it's your view -- and we respect the attorney general's view and he's welcome to come on and explain it if he wishes.

I'm assuming your view is, number one, a political fight right now doesn't help. And number two, you say the restrictions will help the economy in the long run. The attorney general says they are hurting the economy right now.

BESHEAR: Well, our Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Federation all agree that wearing a mask is absolutely critical to protecting our economy.

You know, Goldman Sachs says 5 percent of the country's GDP is dependent on people coming together and wearing facial conversation. That's $10 billion in Kentucky. Our entire business community supports this facial covering requirement.

And sadly, our attorney general isn't just opposing that. He recently went to court to try to overturn every single rule and restriction that we have, and to prevent me from putting any further guidelines in place in the future.

Think about Texas, where they're going through a really tough time. And where the governor has, in the midst of this, started putting in some new necessary rules and restrictions. We wouldn't be able to do any of that. It would be devastating. It

would cost us the lives and health of our people. It would cause business shutdowns, hurting our economy. And it would make it very hard to get kids back into school.

So I'm not in this to fight legal battles with my attorney general. I'm in this to protect lives, the health, the economy and the education the people.

KING: Let me ask the personal question. Now, 4.5 million citizens in your state, Governor, in your commonwealth of Kentucky, including your son. You pulled him from a baseball game because you thought this doesn't feel right.

Walk through that. And I ask the question because I have a rising fourth grader. I'm hoping he plays fall baseball. Summer baseball got cancelled. We talk about schools and about all of these things. What was it that made you say no?

BESHEAR: So I'm a parent. I have a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old. When we talk about opening schools or youth sports, it's very personal to me because it is the safety of my own child.

Let me say that I believe low-touch sports can be played properly if done under the right guidelines. And I went to a tournament where the tournament director had tried. He put some rules into place, but they just weren't being followed.

And I just saw too much. I saw kids congregate in the dugout which is, you know, the big no-no. It's a really small area.

KING: That was it for you? You decided at that point that our son has to go?

BESHEAR: I'm sorry, I was getting feedback.

It's a very small area where it can spread. And then I just didn't see the types of facial coverings on coaches and parents that were too close together.

And I hate it for my son, the fact that he was supposed to pitch that game. And it's not easy being my son right now. But I wanted to make sure that the environment was safe. And I think we want to do that for everybody.

KING: We wish you the best, sir, as you deal with the issue in Kentucky. And we certainly hope your son is back on the diamond pretty soon. I hope my son is as well. I hope we all figure this out in a safe way that we can get back to it.

BESHEAR: Thank you.

KING: Governor Beshear, appreciate your time today. Thank you, sir, so much.

Coming up for us, President Trump set to resume his coronavirus briefings, or daily briefings, anyway, and none of the White House coronavirus experts, at the moment anyway, scheduled to be at his side.



KING: President Trump pulled the plug on his daily coronavirus briefings because they were doing real damage to his political standing. Ingest bleach and all that, remember?

Today, he'll be back before reporter hoping to stem a polling slide that continues long after the briefings went on hiatus.

We have lived this cycle before, many times. The White House signals a reset and the president aims to show us he gets it and is ready to right the ship.

Here you go, a tweet last night promoting mask wearing as patriotic just days after an interview in which the same president of the United States said masks cause problems and that mandating them is an infringement on your rights.

Today marks 15 weeks exactly until Election Day. And, as of this moment, no doctors or scientists from the president's coronavirus team are invited to today's briefing.

CNN's John Harwood joins me.

John, I don't' know what to expect today. One thing I would not be on, at least as we go from today into later into the week, is consistency and discipline.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No question about that, John. I think this is going to be a fascinating test of whether the president is capable of acting rationally in his own self-interest.

As you mentioned, he stopped these coronavirus briefings because they were hurting him, because his own comments were hurting him.

Now, the devastating polls that he's seen over the last week or so have persuaded him to resume the briefings, to send that tweet about mask-wearing. Although he equivocated, said many people say it's patriotic to wear masks, he didn't say he thought it was patriotic.

And what is his message going to be? He tweeted this morning that we're doing very well on the virus. Repeating things that are at odds with the reality that the American people are living, is not going to help him political standing.


So I'm betting that at the end of the day, he is going to have some public health experts, Birx, Fauci, Redfield, maybe the surgeon general.