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Trump's Virus Briefing Returns Tonight, Likely Without Doctors; Judge Recuses Self From Mask Case Between Georgia Governor, Atlanta Mayor. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 13:00   ET



M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is planning on having personal discussions with the women who are on that final short list. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A big speech, a big decision soon. M.J. Lee, I appreciate the live reporting. Thanks for joining us today. See you back here tomorrow. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

In a few hours, President Trump will hold the first coronavirus briefing since April and it looks like spin not science to lead the event since none of the members of the White House task force are expected to attend. That's right.

As U.S. cases near 4 million, as deaths just surpassed 141,000, as states report more than 56,000 new cases, and 25 of those states are experiencing a rise in infections, and as it takes up to two weeks to get test results thwarting any attempt by this country to contact trace and actually stop the virus, not one of the task force doctors has said that he or she will be there at the briefing.

Here are the voices that you should be hearing from, the task force coordinator, the surgeon general, the heads of the CDC or the FDA and leading infectious disease authority, Dr. Fauci, who said this to NPR this morning.


REPORTER: Will you be there? Will you be there at that time.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, I don't know. I can't guarantee that. I mean, that's up to the White House. I would imagine that I would be at least in on some of them but we have not heard anything definitive yet. I mean, if they want me there, I would be more than happy to be there. And if they have not, that's okay too, as long as we get the message across.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So, you will only be seeing the president who we just learned is getting tested for coronavirus multiple times a day even as his administration fails to produce a national testing strategy and as he ignores his own task force's guidance on how to stay safe and not contract the virus.

Let's get now to White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins for us. So, if no members of the task force are attending, who is going to be talking about the pandemic then, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kayleigh McEnany said at the briefing, she believes the president is the best authority to offer information to the American people. And that's why he's bringing back the briefings. But we also heard the president say yesterday that the ratings have obviously played a factor in this.

And we know that that is a driving part in why he is bringing back these briefings because you will remember back in April when he scrapped them, he said they weren't worth the time and the effort. Of course, that was after he got so much blowback for the comments he made about using disinfectants, like bleach, to possibly treat coronavirus.

And so now, they're coming back and right now, as of this morning, the plan was not to have any of the task force officials join the president at these briefings but the question is, does the White House change their calculation on that given all the questions and criticism they have gotten today about whether or not the actual experts are going to be there to be joining the president and talk about what's going on?

I do want to know that one thing that the president might get asked about is, yesterday, he tweeted for the first time encouraging people to wear a mask and posting a photo of himself wearing one but just hours later, Brianna, when he attended a fundraiser at his hotel just a few blocks away, he was seen on video not wearing a mask while he was interacting with supporters.

The press secretary was asked just hours after he said it was patriotic to wear one why he wasn't one and this is what she said.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is the most tested man in America. He is tested more than anyone, multiple times a day.

He has tested often. I'm not going to read out exactly how many times he's tested today. But sometimes it is more than one time a day.


COLLINS: So, that's new. We actually did not know that on --case-by- case basis, before the president was being tested multiple times a day. We had just been told before that it was daily. And so it does raise questions about whether or not the White House trusts that rapid test that the president is getting, that's that Abbott Labs that gives you results in about 15 minutes or less.

But it is known not to have a 100 percent accuracy rate. It can sometimes give false negative. So, clearly, there have been a few occasions where they feel the president needs to get tested multiple times, Brianna.

KEILAR: She also seems to think as long as he is tested, he can't contract coronavirus.

COLLINS: Well, that's the thing. What they so often say for why he is not wearing one when he is in meetings here at the White House is that the people around him have been tested. But you saw that video of him at the Trump Hotel, he is around multiple people, and Madison Cawthorn, of course, the winner in that North Carolina primary recently and several other people. And it's not clear that all of those people were tested since the president went up and briefly interacted with them.

So that is the question and that's why health experts have said the president should wear one because not only to keep him safe but also to send a message to the broader public that this is a good thing, that it can be helpful and that it is something that people should be doing, like his own experts have been warning.


KEILAR: Yes, because most people are not getting tested multiple times a day. In fact, they're waiting up to two weeks or longer for their tests. Kaitlan, thank you so much, live for us from the White House.

Despite what we might hear from the president latter today, the coronavirus crisis is far from over. In two of the nation's hotspots, hospitals are struggling to keep up with the record number of admissions.

We have correspondents in Miami and Los Angeles. Let's begin with Stephanie Elam.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, here in Los Angeles County, another record number of hospitalizations, up above 2,200. This is the fourth time in a week where we've broken this record. It's also worth noting that this is the sixth time in a row that this number has been above 2,100.

Also, as you look at the State of California overall, the positivity rate, 7.4 percent over the last 14 days and it is trending higher, as are the ICU beds and also hospitalizations. Governor Newsom saying barbershops and hair salons can open back up as long as they conduct their business outside with masks while social distancing as much as possible.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rosa Flores in Miami. Intensive care units at 53 hospitals across the state are at capacity. We're also learning from the state that 39 hospitals have asked the State of Florida for help providing nurses. This as the legal battle looms over whether or not to reopen schools in the State of Florida in just a few weeks, this as we learn that the positivity rate in Floridian children 13.4 percent, for a total number of Floridian children infected of 23,000. Brianna?

KEILAR: Rosa and Stephanie, thank you so much.

And as Rosa just mentioned, 39 hospitals across the State of Florida are asking for more help with nursing. And one of the areas that is in the greatest need is Miami. It is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Martha Baker is president of the union that represents 5,000 registered nurses, physicians and other medical professionals at Jackson Health System in Miami and she is also a registered nurse. Thank you so much for being with us, because you said in one interview that you said nurses are going into a second battle and we're limping. So tell us what's happening.

MARTHA BAKER, PRESIDENT, SEIU LOCAL 1991: Wes. We thought perhaps that we had dampened the curve and then obviously this last month, we have done nothing but continue to break records day after day, embarrassingly enough. And it is hard. It's hard on our nurses. It's hard on all the caregivers inside the hospital. They need a break. It's been since March. People are near exhaustion and we are running out of beds and nurses and caregivers.

And the trend is in the wrong direction. It continues to go up. We probably are balancing yesterday. I heard it was 120 percent capacity of ICUs. We're opening up ICUs, converting holding areas into ICUs and, thank God, we have 100 nurses from all over the country come down and we're asking for another 100. I mean, we're barely, I'd say dancing, on the head of a pin right now. The scary thing is we haven't affected the curve yet. We're still going up instead of dampening or hopefully going down.

And that's the real fear is that each day is another challenge as we break yesterday's record and continue to go up.

KEILAR: Look, I think it is like anything that's taxing, right? At least if you see a light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps that is something in order to push yourself forward because we are talking about real exhaustion when we're talking about the nursing staffs at these hospitals. Tell us about that. Tell us about the kind of toll physically and mentally that they're experiencing.

BAKER: Right. And it's hard to separate COVID from non-COVIDs today. Our emergency department, I was talking to one of our physicians, and he was saying, he goes, they're everywhere. The COVIDs are everywhere. You come in for abdominal pain, thinking it's perhaps your appendix and they test and you're COVID positive.

The patients are in the hallways COVID-positive everywhere. It's hard to stay safe when you can't shut a door behind you in an emergency room and go to another patient. You are constantly donning and doffing your PPE and your patients are coming in. We are holding perhaps from 50 to 75 percent of the patients in our emergency department are waiting to go upstairs to a bed. So our E.R. staff is really getting stressed to the max.

Patients are coming in and we don't know until we get the testing. The reagent is skinny. We're running out of the fast rapid test. So it's taking days. So you've got to treat everyone as if they have it, even if they don't think -- the patient doesn't think they have it, came in sprained ankle, we're finding they have COVID.


So the E.R. is extremely stressed and 45, 50, 75 patients are waiting each day to go upstairs to a bed because all the beds are full.

And yesterday, we've created, converted holding areas in recovery rooms, holding areas in radiology to ICU beds so that we can to stay -- I think, today, we're at 93 percent capacity with all the creativity. But, you know, at some point, you run out of space and some point, you run out of nurses and caregivers and it's -- the scary thing is we are not affecting this trend and that goes outside the hospital.

This is -- the public has to take this seriously. Our elected leaders need to take this seriously. We've got a governor who thinks things are fine.

KEILAR: Martha, tell me about. What do elected officials need to do? What does the governor need to do?

BAKER: Well, we have, locally, Dan Gelber, the Miami Beach mayor, and he is doing a great job. He is telling people to wake up, smell the coffee, we need to shut things down, we need to slow down, we need to wear masks. And our governor is like, I don't want to mandate people to wear masks. And so this is like the opposite ends of the spectrum and it's just crazy.

I mean, just this week, Disney reopened. I mean, this is crazy the things we are allowing. We don't have to perhaps shut down 100 percent like we did last time if they want to try to balance it somehow but I just heard listening to the footage before this about barbershops are opening as long as they could be outside and social distancing. Those are creative ways to let businesses maintain.

But it's -- I don't know how DeSantis or other leaders in Florida or outside of Florida can ignore the science of this and it's really unfair to the -- not only the patients in our community but caregivers inside of the hospital. Our nurses and doctors and other healthcare workers are dealing every day with the brunt of this.

And I say caregivers aren't 12 hours a day and they go home and relax. They go home and worry they're going to give it to their kids, their family, their mothers, their husbands. They rent hotel rooms to quarantine themselves. One, they sent their husband and their child to the hotel to isolate. I mean, it's a 24-hour stressor. You don't know if you have it. You don't know if you're bringing it home, you know?

And we need to feel -- the community needs to stand up for these folks. They've done a good job and saying thank you, you are the heroes. We need people to start putting that into action and respecting the mask and the science and the hand washing and the social distancing. This collection of people laughing at this like it's a hoax is really disheartening and our caregivers are wearing out and they're kind of getting a little angry that the leaders are not standing up for them.

KEILAR: You know, Martha, I think you're really driving it home. So, hopefully, there are some ears that are open to what you are saying. I think we've talked a lot about how this can be very traumatic for people on the frontlines in this day in, day out stress drives home why it is, and we thank you for eliminating that, Martha. Thank you.

BAKER: Thank you, I appreciate it.

KEILAR: The search for a coronavirus vaccine is taking center stage before Congress right now. The heads of five pharmaceutical giants are testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today. The hearing is being held remotely as a safety precaution. And there is a stark warning from Merck's executive vice president.


DR. JULIE GERBERDING, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF PATIENT OFFICER, MERCK: I believe this pandemic won't be the last or even the worst we will face. So we have to preserve a vibrant, innovative and economically sustainable biopharmaceutical business as the frontline of our health protection.


KEILAR: I want to bring in Dr. Richard Horton. He is the editor of the medical journal, The Lancet, which has been getting a whole lot of attention lately. And he's also the author of the book, The COVID-19 Catastrophe, What's Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again. Dr. Horton, thank you so much for being with us.

There are several trials right now that are under way and they're showing promising results. That's not to mention the several more that are still under way, period. So there's one right now that's out of Oxford, it's getting a lot of headlines and it seems to induce antibodies and T-cells to combat infection. We've also been hearing about an experimental vaccine being developed by Moderna and early stage trials in Germany and China that are also showing promising results. Any of these stand out to you in particular?

DR. RICHARD HORTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE LANCET: Well, thanks, Brianna, yes. There are something like over 200 candidate vaccines that are currently being studied around the world and 20 of those are currently in human clinical trials. I think the Oxford vaccine, whose results we published yesterday, is a standout vaccine. That was a real scientific breakthrough because here was a study in over 1,000 people and we have got to first base for the very first time.


And that's to say that, as you rightly point out, this vaccine elicits antibodies which can attack the virus and kill the virus effectively. And it also attacks cells that have been infected with the virus, making sure that those cells also are eradicated.

So we now know that we have a vaccine that can induce a very strong immune response and what we need to do is to now test that in what we call phase three clinical trials, and they are going on at the moment and I believe we will have results before the end of the year. So we're in a good place.

KEILAR: Results one way or the other, you mean, knowing if this is going to clear more hurdles?

HORTON: Yes. We can't guarantee success right now. But if this vaccine works out, then we could be ready to scale up production worldwide by the end of the year.

KEILAR: Okay. Well, that is good news. I mean, look, the best case scenario here is good, right? So there's something there we can have some hope for that even as we wait anxiously, right?

I want to ask you about the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he is worried about pressure from President Trump to get a virus out before it's safe or before it's effective. Here is this. Let's listen.


REP. FRANK PALLONE (D-NJ): And now that Trump is president, I still think there's a real possibility that he will pressure the FDA to lower the standards either by maybe putting out new guidelines and say the standards don't have to be (INAUDIBLE). I think right now, they say the vaccine has to be 50 percent effective.

DR. MENE PANGALOS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, BIOPHARMACEUTICALS R&D, ASTRAZENECA: All of our interactions with the regulators have given us no evidence that they're lowering the standards or thinking about lowering the standards. And, secondly, as a company, we always think about safety and efficacy first and foremost and making sure that we have an effective medicine. We would not be trying to launch a medicine that's not effective.


KEILAR: What's your reaction to that? Are you concerned that there could be a rush to get the vaccine and that actually there might be a safety issue?

HORTON: Well, let's get this into context for the way we produce vaccines. On average, it takes seven years to produce a vaccine. And the very fastest time we've ever gone in history is about 18 months, and that was when we had the Zika epidemic.

Now, we are working as fast as we can around the world. If we get a vaccine by the end of 2021, that will be a world record. So I'm optimistic that we will have good signs by the end of this year but we need to manage public expectations. We are not going to have a vaccine available for everybody to use by the end of this year. But I think going into 2021 we should be optimistic.

And it's absolutely right, safety first. We cannot release a vaccine unless we are really sure that it is safe as well as effective.

KEILAR: All right. Dr. Horton, thank you so much for being with us.

HORTON: Thank you.

KEILAR: The mask standoff between Georgia's governor and Atlanta's mayor heading to court. Hear what happened.

Plus, Walmart workers are reportedly terrified of enforcing masks. Hear what customers are doing.

And the mayor of Chicago is warning President Trump to not send federal agents into her city as a standoff looms over law enforcement.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: Round one in the legal battle brewing between Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, and the leader of the state's capital city, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. It came to an abrupt pause today, the judge presiding over the case unexpectedly recusing herself.

The two camps were supposed to head to court today for an emergency injunction hearing after Kemp brought a lawsuit against Mayor Bottoms for mandating masks for the City of Atlanta.

Dianne Gallagher, our CNN National Correspondent, explains what happens next.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the first proceeding in the legal battle between Georgia's governor and Atlanta's mayor was supposed to happen this morning but the judge recused herself from the emergency injunction hearing.

Now, according to the Georgia State Attorney General's Office, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Ellerbee had disclosed a conversation she had had with another judge about an opinion that may have weighed on this particular case. According to emails that I have viewed, it was the state that requested Ellerbee recuse herself.

Now, this emergency injunction hearing has already been reassigned to another judge. There is not a date at this point. Governor Brian Kemp would like to keep Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from talking about any sort of COVID-19 restrictions that exceed his order until the lawsuit can be heard in front of a judge, Brianna.

KEILAR: Dianne, thank you for that.

This week, several major retailers started mandating masks for shoppers entering their stores, and that means the store's employees are tasked with enforcing the rules to the dismay and sometimes hostile dismay of store customers. Some workers say that they are terrified.

Kelly Weill is a reporter for The Daily Beast, and she talked to many of these employees from places like Target and Walmart. And they were extremely candid with you, Kelly. Their fear is real, they say. Some are even quitting their jobs over this. What else did they tell you?


KELLY WEILL, REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, a lot of workers at Walmart and Target have told me that they've received really hostile abuse from customers when they ask them to mask up. Some of them told me, frankly, it's not worth the low pay and the hostility to deal with these customers.

KEILAR: So it's not worth it. And what kinds of things are -- look, I know some of the things you cannot say on television but just give us an idea of the things that people are saying to them or just blatantly disregarding their asking them to wear masks.

WEILL: Well, some of the nicest things were saying nothing at all. Workers ask people to mask up and the customers walk on by like they hadn't said a thing. Other customers reportedly swore at them. Some even spat at them, pretended to sneeze. I had a cashier telling me that she asked someone to mask up, and he didn't leave her line. He just stood there and he loomed over the other customers, so, really hostile and weird stuff.

KEILAR: Okay. So let's talk about some of the tactics that stores are using because Walmart says it's employing the health ambassadors. How does that work?

WEILL: Yes. As far as I can tell, a health ambassador is just a regular employee who's working the door who now gets a black polo shirt that designates them as a health ambassador. What they're supposed to do is stop customers as they come in. If they're not masked up, they can offer a mask, they can inform the customer that they have to mask up.

But this is really an ad hoc policy that's being implemented by employees who don't have a lot of training.

KEILAR: Is there any union involvement here trying to help out employees?

WEILL: Walmart is pretty notoriously anti-union. They don't have one. There are retail and grocery worker unions that have sort of pseudo organized within Walmart in the past but they're not major players here simply because it's very, very difficult to organize within Walmart.

KEILAR: Have they considered using normal security instead of just their standard employee?

WEILL: Not to my knowledge. One thing that some customers -- some employees told me is that sometimes their managers were intervening in difficult customer conversations. So that's a manager sort of acting like a de facto store security. But to my knowledge, no new security force has been hired in this capacity.

KEILAR: Okay. Well, Kelly, thank you for the piece. You really pulled the curtain back on what folks are dealing with at these major retailers. We thank you for sharing it with us.

WEILL: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: The governor of Louisiana begins a three-day fast due to the outbreak. Hear his reasons.

Plus, how Disney World is changing its rules and cracking down on masks inside the park.

And Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth joins me next on the president's threat to send federal agents to Chicago, something that the mayor says she will not allow to happen.