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Surgeon General Jerome Adams: Virus Transmission Will Decide If Kids Go Back To School; Summer Surge Pushes Trump To Pivot Coronavirus Strategy; No White House Medical Experts Confirmed For Trump Briefing Today; Vaccine Executives Weigh On Sending Kids To School; Experts Say Antibodies May Be The Bridge To A Vaccine. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing this day with us.

America votes 15 weeks from today a new shift by President Trump tell us he knows at this moment he is in deep trouble. His prescription is a mix of the old and the new. A return to taking questions from reporters and an overnight conversion on mask wearing.

It is patriotic, the President suggests now 180 degree shift from calling it an impingement on liberty just a day or so ago. Not everything though is changing the President is still operating outside the Coronavirus truth.

He insists the United States you see the tweet there is the global model for Coronavirus mitigation, by comparison to most other countries who are suffering greatly the President says we are doing very well.

The numbers expose that as simply false. The United States is the global leader in both cases and deaths in the 20 days since the calendar hit July 1st, 1 million 119,000 new infections here. Here is the United States' 7-day average of new cases measured against that of the European Union which as you can see has flattened the curve.

And against Brazil were cases yes arising but nowhere near as fast as here in the United States. U. S. hospitalizations now within whisper of that pandemic peak back in April. The experts know this and for now those experts do not have invitations to join the President at today's daily briefing.

You will remember those daily White House Coronavirus briefings will they were canceled because the President kept contradicting Dr. Anthony Fauci and other administration experts. Then the President left those experts speechless by suggesting if you ingest bleach or disinfectants that might help you fight off COVID-19.

Like the virus those tensions have not disappeared. The President demands schools re opened and suggests the ones that do not should lose their federal money. His Surgeon General says this issue simply not that simple.


DR. 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 to nothing to do with the actual schools. It's your background transmission rate and that'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 covering, folks need to practice social distancing.


KING: The Surgeon General there talking about what people can do to stop this summer surge? Let's take a look at the latest trends. If you look at the state map now 25 states heading up that's the orange and the red. Normally you would say that's bad news, half of the state's going in the wrong direction.

I was here just a few days ago telling you 38 states were heading in the wrong direction. So there's some progress here, don't score it by any one day. We want to watch the trends as it plays out, but this is more encouraging than yesterday.

25 states heading up, 20 holding steady that's the base in the yellow and the steady importantly includes Florida. It includes Arizona, it includes California, and they have been on the leading edge of the summer surge. Let's hope they stay base and let's hope then they moved to green which is going down.

5 states reporting a lower case count this week when you compare to last week. Let's hope the map which is better today than yesterday continues to improve. Let's take a look at the trend since July 1st, see this is what I mean.

If you go back this are 38 states on July 1st. Look at all that orange look at all that red I just want to flip back to where we are today? Again this can change pretty quickly. So we got to be careful about this but as of today this looks a lot better.

Then this we'll hope it continues, let's look at 3 of the states that have been leading the edge, Florida, California and Texas. Again all today steady, in fact you see Florida maybe coming down a little bit Texas that's holding up here and California up here.

What you're hoping for these to flatten out and start to come down. Unfortunately when you have the case count go up wait 2, 3 weeks the death count goes up. And you see in Florida, Texas and California the number of deaths going up.

If they can flatten that curve, wait a week or 2 or more hopefully this starts to come down but right now the 7-day moving average of deaths in those states going up. And let's just take a look at Texas; you want to go back all the way here.

On June 1st Texas reported 941 new cases that's a big number right? But Texas is a big state, July 16th just shy of 15,000 new cases from under 1000 to 15000 as the summer surge went across Texas.

Here you do see the numbers in the last couple of days down a little bit; let's hope Texas is flattening out. This will be one of the big issues as the President comes into the briefing room today a summer surge during which he has been largely silent on the Coronavirus.

No public events, hardly any public events anyway and when he does talk about it, he talks about winning and about re opening schools and about keeping the economy open. What we hear today let's get straight to the White House and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, a big day for the President and some changes for the President, he's coming back in to the briefing room today and last night after a weekend in which he set a mask restrict your freedoms masking cause problems. Last night the President tweeting a mask might be seen as patriotic.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And then last night when he was seen at his fundraiser at Trump Hotel he was not wearing a mask. But I'll get back to that in a minute John. First let's start with what we were expecting to see today because this morning we heard the latest plan was that none of those task force members to health experts here in the administration we're going to appear with the President at today's briefing.


COLLINS: And the White House now is playing a little coy on whether or not those health experts are going to show up? Because when Kayleigh McEnany was asked about our reporting you know that none of those task force officials were currently expected to be at the briefing.

She only said you'll have to tune in. Now that is not going to help the administration dispel this notion that the President is only bringing back these briefings not so we can give information to people but because of the ratings that he got him and because of his sagging poll numbers that show 60 percent of Americans don't think he's doing a good job of handling the Coronavirus pandemic so far.

And it's not really funny to say whether or not the health officials are going to be there. People want to know if the experts are actually going to be showing up to speak alongside the President about what is happening inside the nation.

Because it's not just that the President has been attending these briefings John, we've only had two Coronavirus taskforce briefings in the last several months. So those are opportunities to also have reporters ask questions of these officials as well apart from the interviews that you've seen people like the Surgeon General or like Dr. Anthony Fauci are going to do on our air today.

So it is a real question will the health experts be there? And I think potentially now that our reporting is showing they were not expected to be there. It's raised questions about whether they will. There is a chance now that they could show up so we want to wait and see because we don't have a firm answer from the White House on that. But John when it comes to the President now changing his tune on wearing a mask we were told that was the result of poll numbers that were pretty negative for the President and that's why he sent out that tweet you know yesterday in July several months after the CDC recommended that people wear masks.

But when the White House Press Secretary was asked why the President wasn't wearing one when he was seen in public last night around other people who do not work in the White House? This is what her justification was.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President wore a mask in May; the President wore a mask at Walter Reed out of an abundance of caution. But as I've made clear from this podium the President is the most tested man in America. He has tested more than anyone multiple times a day. And then we believe that he's acting appropriately.


COLLINS: So that part about being tested multiple times a day John, raise some eyebrows because before we don't leave until the President was tested on a daily basis. So when Kayleigh was pressed for clarification, she said sometimes he's tested multiple times a day which is interesting because remember he gets that rapid Abbott labs test that's about 15 minutes for results.

But it does have a chance of giving some false negatives. So maybe the White House doesn't trust that test entirely and that's why they're giving the President multiple testing day on some occasions.

KING: That just adds yet another question for the President when it comes to talk to reporters today he'll be asked about his own testing regimen as well in addition to all the many other questions about schools, the economy, restrictions and masks. Kaitlan Collins a big day at the White House, I appreciate the live reporting.

Let's continue the conversation. With me to show their reporting and their insights our Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson and Josh Dawsey White House Reporter for "The Washington Post" Nia, let me start with you because Dr. Fauci said today that these briefings whether he's there or not whether the experts are there or not are helpful if you get a consistent clear non contradictory message. This President is not known for that.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He is not known for that he's known for contradicting. He's - experts putting out false information advancing quack you worse for Coronavirus which is why those press briefing.

Indeed we saw him on dig into very low territory in terms of his credibility and in terms of how Americans trust him? They don't buy in large trust on him but about a quarter of Americans trust what he is saying. You think about Dr. Fauci and his credibility many more Americans almost 70 percent trust his judgment and advice on the Coronavirus pandemic that everyone is experiencing, every waking moment of their lives in this country.

So we'll see, I mean what the President does? I think what we know the President likes crowds, he sort of enjoyed the back and forth of these press conferences, going after our reporters. He likes the ratings, he likes having this time slot of 5:00. It's right before the evening news.

So is that the reason why he's doing this sort of being front and center? And you know the thing is we pretty much know what the President feels about COVID? We know what he feels about opening schools back up? He wants to do it.

He wants to deny all school systems that don't open up in person. We know that he thinks that somehow testing leads to the Coronavirus instead of actually detecting it. So he has been out there on Twitter and in the ways that he's been out there it's only hurt his credibility and his standing now with the American people.

It's hard to see him being able to reverse that standing up at a press conference like its open mic night.

KING: And that's what hard Josh is because the President's enemy, if that's the right term here, is not just the Coronavirus something he has not been able to tweet away or talk away. His enemy is himself in the sense that I'm going to do a little flash back here.


KING: Here's the President a lot of what he says simply turns out not to be true. This is the President four months ago today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to have a great victory. We're going to be celebrating a great victory in the not too distant future. We're going to win with as few lives lost as possible.


KING: The numbers on the right side of your screen tell you that was just simply not the case. The President way out ahead of the facts there, that was four months ago today. This is two months ago today.


TRUMP: The numbers are going down very substantially without question I mean very powerfully going down. You look at Florida, you look at Georgia, you look at many of the state's the numbers are going down. The country's going to be in a very good place, very good place.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: I guess my question Josh Dawsey you have spent a lot of time reporting on the President's team. Do they really think he can be different?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, they're hoping that he can be. They're hoping that these briefings will be shorter and more focused and they will be less about some of the meandering answers as he suggested previous briefings too.

Yes they could possibly disinfected could be put in the wrong door. The UV light can kill this some of the briefings few months ago we seen as very deleterious to the President and the odds of his advisers. Jared Kushner, Ronna McDaniel his Former Campaign Manager Brad Parscale they all came to him and they said these two hour briefings - now these hour briefings.

We're just fighting with reporters repeatedly they're hurting your numbers. And that's the main reason they were ended previously. But now what's happening is the fear in the President's orbit that he's not spend enough time focusing on Coronavirus and that the American public simply could have turned on him on this issue.

They have seen these numbers on this would just becoming kind of the preeminent issue of the election by all accounts. His numbers on this have gone down, down and down. So they're looking for ways to get him talking about it more whether it's highlighting - for a vaccine or talking about therapeutics or talking about PPE or somehow getting out and showing the American public that there aren't things happening inside the administration on the virus even if the President's not regularly talking about it.

KING: Well, the President as I said knows television. He knows the art of the tease if you will whether or not the experts will be there one of the big questions? We'll see when we see the President about 4:00 hours from now - 5:00 hours from now in the White House briefing room. Nia-Malika Henderson and Josh Dawsey I appreciate your reporting and insights.

Another related story likely to come up with the White House briefing today Senate Republicans and the White House at the moment at odds on priorities for the next round of Coronavirus recovery spending and then there's yet another hurdle Democrats say even if the Republican settle their family feud they are still ignoring other urgent needs Democrats outlining their wishes today in a meeting with the Treasury Secretary and the White House Chief of Staff.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The Republicans don't even seem to have their own act together it's hard to negotiate when the President says one thing Senate Republicans say another and many of them are divided. So we hope they're going to be unified and present something to us present something to us in detail. There is money there but it's not close to enough and we propose more and many Republicans agree with us.


KING: CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill. Money for testing Manu is one of the flashpoints and there are others just as the Republicans try to settle their differences first and then giant hurdles after that?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. A lot to - away to go before anything could get on the President's desk. The goal this morning according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling her caucus that she wants a bipartisan deal by the end of next week and the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who is on Capitol Hill right now I asked him about that.

He said that is absolutely the goal but they have huge challenges ahead. And you mention it; the first challenge is getting Republicans on the same page. They're divided over a whole host of issues. One the payroll tax cut but Steven Mnuchin still wants to push forward on that because the President wants that but a lot of Republicans do not think that is a good idea and that will actually stimulate the economy.

Republicans are calling for more money for testing. Some Republicans also are concerned about the White House call to make money for schools contingent on re opening. John Thune the number Two Republican raised concerns about that so there should be a one size fits all policy.

And also there are a whole host of other issues that are unresolved namely how to deal with those unemployment benefits that are expiring at the end of this week $600 worth per week? Republicans are on the same page that Democrats want those.

Of course so the question is whether the Republicans ultimately do get a deal? They expect to get one eventually with on their own side but presumably they'll put forward their own proposal as soon as tomorrow. But then how did the bridge such a significant difference with Democrats?

They're $2 trillion apart right now. So there is a ton that the 2 sides have to agree with. But first the challenges getting their own party on the same page and of course wrapping all of this John is the election year politics of course making things incredibly challenging to get this done such a hot short time frame with so many people in need and waiting desperately to see what Washington would come up with, John?


KING: At least they're finally talking. We will see if those talks bring us results. I appreciate the latest reporting, Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill, grateful for that. Up next for us Coronavirus antibody testing is that the best remedy as we wait for a vaccine? Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores that next.


KING: We know President Trump wants kids physically back in school come fall, states still weighing their options as infection rates rise. Many cities, university saying the probably remain online for now some definitely remain online at least in the short term. Well representatives from the companies at the forefront of efforts to produce a vaccine testifying on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress thinking let's ask the experts what about your kids going back to school?


DR. STEPHEN HOGE, PRESIDENT, MODERNA THERAPEUTICS: My wife and I are both physicians who are our local public school has asked us to answer the question and I honestly don't know the answer yet even for my three children.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, EXECUTIVE VP AND CHIEF PATIENT OFFICER, MERCK: So I think there's a great deal of local variability and we need better science about the role of pediatrics transmission in daycare schools and colleges.



KING: Three companies now showing some promising results from early emphasis on early vaccine trials in humans but an effective vaccine probably still months away at the earliest. Today new hope that antibody therapy could provide a bridge until a vaccine is produced. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If there's one thing most humans on the planet want right now its antibodies. Your body can produce them if you're infected. A vaccine can also provide you with them, but there is another way. It's called antibody therapy. That means, taking the antibodies from the blood of someone who's already been infected and recovered from COVID-19.


DR. MARSHALL LYON, DIRECTOR, TRANSPLANT INFECTIOUS DISEASES, EMORY UNIVERSITY: We have used it for rabies, for hundreds of years. More recent history in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa people tried something called convalescent plasma.


DR. GUPTA: Dr. Marshall Lyon is an Infectious Disease Expert at Emory University he also treated some of the first Ebola patients in the United States.


DR. LYON: And so plasma is the part of the blood that contains all of these antibodies.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DR. GUPTA: Within the plasma, you are likely to find antibodies which are specifically attached to this part of the virus it is called the spike protein and it is the key to entering human cells.


DR. BARNEY GRAHAM, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, VACCINE RESEARCH CENTER, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: If an antibody binds this little finger part, that's obviously going to block the attachment to the cell. That will neutralize the virus.


DR. GUPTA: Dr. Barney Graham is Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health.


DR. GRAHAM: There's other spots that you can bind the protein that disrupts its function.


DR. GUPTA: What's he's describing are called neutralizing antibodies. They work to block the virus from actually infecting cells in our body.


DR. GRAHAM: Having the antibody or the plasma from convalescent patients allows you to accomplish at least temporarily what we're trying to accomplish with the vaccine. You can just give the antibody - passive immunization and we can give the antibody ahead of time and create temporary immunity.

DR. GUPTA: Taking antibodies in that plasma and giving that to somebody either to help protect them against becoming infected or even possibly as a treatment, how effective should that type of antibody therapy be convalescent plasma?

DR. GRAHAM: I think it's very important that the serum therapies and plasma therapies and even hemoglobin therapies are tested both as treatments for serious disease but maybe also intervention in the early phase of infection so it doesn't progress to serious disease.


DR. GUPTA: The hope is that these antibodies can do a preemptive strike, preventing more serious disease from developing in someone who's infected or maybe even blocking infection altogether in people who are at high risk like health care workers.

Some have even called it a bridge to the vaccine. Companies like Eli Lilly and Regeneron are now trialing therapies using neutralizing antibodies found in recovered patients but then manufactured in the lab. They're known as monoclonal antibody therapies. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. GRAHAM: To be able to put them to good use in therapy or prevention is an exciting new technology.


DR. GUPTA: But there is an issue. Some recent research has found that COVID-19 antibodies may wane after several weeks and it was those who were sickest who tend to produce the most antibodies and keep in mind, the majority of people with COVID experience mild symptoms.


DR. GUPTA: How does that compare to how long the antibodies will last from the vaccine?

DR. GRAHAM: For antibodies the typical half life of an antibody in humans is around three to four weeks. And so those antibodies if given it a high dose could last for a couple of months.


DR. GUPTA: These are all considerations in developing a COVID-19 treatment, as well as a vaccine.

KING: So Sanjay you present this as a potential bridge but at the end there where you talk about this waning antibody response that sounds troubling. Is it troubling and what are the implications?

DR. GUPTA: Yes, I think that this is something that they are definitely going to have to pay attention to both on the use of antibodies as a therapy and the vaccine. But one of the things that's coming out John I think it's very interesting and worth paying attention to is we measure the antibodies because they're easy to measure and they're sort of an indicator of how immune what somebody's immunity status is?

But there's another thing called T-cells and T-cells are something everyone's going to pay attention to but it's basically the core of the body's immune response. What we're finding and what they've seen after other infections like SARS is that even if antibodies start to wane the body still has significant T-cell reactivity which means if it's exposed to the virus you can mount a fast response and start to build antibodies very quickly again.


DR. GUPTA: So even if the antibodies aren't there the person may still have significant immunity John.

KING: I want to get your take Dr. Gupta on this afternoon. The President will be back taking questions from the reporters at the White House. The White House says though at least as of this hour stay tuned but none of the members of the Coronavirus Task Force were invited at least when we came on the air there's some confusion and openness about this what you make of that?

DR. GUPTA: Yes, I mean I spoke to Dr. Fauci early this morning and I was quite startled to actually here that he really didn't know what the status was going to be for this briefing? Going so far as to say it's a briefing not even considered a Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

You know it's - he's the guy and Ambassador Birx and others are the ones that we want to hear from obviously about the path forward here. I will say this John, I think you know this may be more of a subjective point but the idea of someone like Dr. Fauci having to consistently go up and fact check and even contradict the President on a regular basis.

It's tough I mean it's tougher for anybody to do it. He is certainly capable I think from a scientific perspective but that back and forth I think is quite a challenge for anybody including Dr. Fauci. So if you could - if they're given plenty of time to talk to answer questions and to talk about solutions going forward I think it could be a great thing.

Overall, I think it's important because hopefully it reminds the country that we're still in the middle of a pandemic. I think for a lot of people once the briefings went away people thought hey this thing is kind of over now. So hopefully that'll at least suggest that sort of thinking.

KING: It would be nice to - if people's - if we need to grab people's attention it would be nice to get some help certainly from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Dr. Gupta I appreciate your insights there. Up next for us one of the big questions about all this what needs to be done to fix increasingly overwhelmed testing lab? Some people waiting so long as two weeks for the coronavirus test results.