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Trump to Hold First Coronavirus Briefing in Nearly 3 Months; Florida Reports Another 10,000+ Cases; Hidalgo County, Texas, Issues Stay-at-Home Order as Cases Soar. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 06:00   ET



NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nationally, we're now seeing three times the number of new cases every day, compared to mid- June.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): These kids have got to get back to school. If they do get COVID-19, which they will, they're going to get over it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My concern is students who are not social distancing, wearing masks. That's sort of a double whammy for me.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had very successful briefings. I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He's right about this, people will be watching, and hundreds also will be making funeral arrangements.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The next several weeks will need to look a lot more like March and a lot less like June.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, July 21, 6 a.m. here in New York.

President Trump will restart the coronavirus briefings today, but if you're hoping for information about COVID-19, you may be disappointed. Sources tell CNN the so-called news conferences will not actually be focused exclusively on the pandemic.

The coronavirus task force, meaning the doctors and experts like Dr. Fauci, may not even participate.

President Trump cites TV ratings as the reason he wants to bring back the briefings. So, are the briefings mostly about the president's bad poll numbers? President Trump also doing an about-face on masks -- pun intended. He

now calls wearing one patriotic, though he refused to do so for many months as the virus killed 140,000 Americans.

Also, he was not seen wearing one at a fundraiser at the Trump Hotel in Washington last night.

BERMAN: So, it's an about-face on an about-face. Let's keep this picture up for a bit, if we can. To be clear, by his own definition, the president is engaging in acts here that the president thinks are unpatriotic. In terms that he might understand, he's kneeling on a mask.

And not only that, he seems to be in violation of Washington, D.C.'s reopening orders, which require staff and guests to wear masks at hotels.

Also, poor Lindsey Graham, who was in the frame a moment ago. Lindsey Graham fell all over himself gushing praise for the president tweeting a mask photo. So, he will be so disappointed, Lindsey Graham. Graham will not only be disappointed in the president, but also disappointed in Lindsey Graham, because he was standing right there for the whole thing.

This morning, deaths rising in 26 states. At least eight states in Puerto Rico recording record hospitalizations.

Overnight in Texas, a judge in Hidalgo County issued an emergency order for people to shelter in place, stay-at-home orders in Hidalgo County. But the governor has removed the ability of local leaders to enforce these orders.

Also overnight, the country's leading diagnostic lab now says that processing tests could take up to two weeks. Two weeks as the White House tries to block funding for testing and tracing in the next stimulus bill, money that Republicans are calling for.

Let's go right to Joe Johns at the White House.

We do expect to see the president give some kind of a briefing today. How extensive or how much about the pandemic remains to be seen, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anybody's guess, John. He's got 141,000 Americans dead on his watch. He is sinking in the polls. And now he's decided to go back to his coronavirus briefings.

It's been months since the president went to one of these briefings. And showing up, just showing up, will not be enough. The question will be about the content and the messaging.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump announced his regular coronavirus briefings are making a comeback.

TRUMP: We're going to give you a lot of briefings in the next week and over the next few weeks.

JOHNS: Instead of focusing on the recent surge in cases and the high human cost of the virus across the country, Trump gave his attention to the number of Americans who could possibly tune into the sessions.

TRUMP: Well, we had very successful briefings. I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching. I'll do it at 5, like we were doing. We had a good slot.

JOHNS: The president's briefings came to an end after he made this bizarre statement in April, suggesting that household disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus patients.

TRUMP: And I see the disinfectant really knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or -- or almost a cleaning?

JOHNS: Trump's return to the podium will be after weeks of debate among his aides, faced with the president sinking in the polls and many Americans disapproving of his handling of the crisis.

One senior Trump campaign aide suggesting the briefings aren't only about saving American lives, but they could also save Trump's re- election chances in November.

The strategy also seen in President Trump's sudden support of wearing masks, tweeting an image of himself in one from his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center earlier this month, writing, "Many people say that it is patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance."

It's the only time he's been seen wearing a mask in public after weeks of pushback.

TRUMP: I wore one in this back area, but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.

JOHNS: Back in April, Trump said this the same day the CDC and coronavirus task force asked Americans to use facial coverings to slow the transmission of the virus.

TRUMP: I just don't want to be doing -- I don't know, somehow, sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens -- I don't know, somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just -- I just don't.


JOHNS: Still, President Trump has rejected calls for a national mask mandate.

TRUMP: No, I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that, no. And I don't agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask, everything could disappear.

JOHNS: But top health officials, such as the surgeon general, sending this message --

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I'm begging you, please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say wear a face covering.


JOHNS: The president's endorsement of wearing a mask really raises the question of what took him so long to get there.

And with that endorsement, it does not appear the president is changing his behavior behind closed doors. He attended a closed-door fundraiser here in Washington just last night, and he wasn't wearing a mask -- John.

BERMAN: What more evidence do you need? You see a big smile on his face, but no mask on his face there, Joe Johns. And that was last night.

Oh, and there's Lindsey Graham, right? There's Lindsey Graham, who tweeted out praise for the president in endorsing mask-wearing yesterday. Poor Lindsey Graham will be so upset. The maskless Lindsey Graham, by the way.

All right, Joe Johns at the White House. Thank you very much.

Major developments in Florida overnight. The state is reporting record hospitalizations, with dozens of intensive care units at capacity this morning. Florida's largest teachers' union is suing to block the governor's mandate to reopen schools.

CNN's Rosa Flores live in Miami with more. I keep on looking at those ICU numbers, Rosa, and they're not getting better.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're really not. Fifty-three hospital ICUs across the state of Florida are at capacity this morning.

Here in Miami-Dade County, they have gone from operating ICUs at 107 percent capacity on Thursday to 130 percent capacity just yesterday.

The good news is that the county says that they have more than 400 beds that they can convert into ICUs. But the other issue and the bad news is the need for medical staff.

Now, we've learned that Jackson Health has requested an additional 275 medical personnel. The state has already sent 125 nurses here.

And all new this morning, we're learning from the state operations center that another 39 hospitals across the state have asked the state of Florida for more nurses.

Now, I wish I could give you a full report on the positivity rate here in Miami-Dade County like I normally do, but on Saturday, Miami-Dade stopped issuing its full data report on their positivity rate. I asked why, and in a statement, they told me that the state and the county were going to be meeting on Monday to figure out the, quote, "discrepancies" in how they report the positivity rate.

Well, I've been pushing them since yesterday, and I have not received an answer.

Look, it's this lack of information, the lack of clarity, that has some Floridians very frustrated and taking their concerns directly to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you had been --


DESANTIS: If you had been infected, then you --




FLORES: Now, Florida educators are also very frustrated with the governor, filing a lawsuit yesterday against Gov. Ron DeSantis and his education secretary to try to stop the reopening of schools for in- person instruction next month. And John, they're arguing in this lawsuit that this move is reckless and unsafe for children.

BERMAN: Rosa Flores, terrific work for us in Miami. And one point Rosa's making there. The data has been harder to get a hold of the last four or five days. Maybe it's because of the shift in the administration, taking it away from the CDC, moving it to HHS, but we are having a hard time interpreting the numbers we're seeing every morning, as well.

There is encouraging news on the vaccine front. Three separate trials reporting promising early results. We'll bring you the very latest, next.



CAMEROTA: Developing overnight, a judge in southern Texas issuing an emergency stay-at-home order for all residents in Hidalgo County. This amid a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, top health officials in Maryland asking their governor to reimpose restrictions on bars and restaurants.

Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Dr. Hotez, good to see you.

So, Hidalgo County, stay at home -- I mean, in other words, it's going backwards. What prompted that judge's order?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE IN HOUSTON: Alisyn, we had 34 deaths in the last 24 hours in not a very large county, so south Texas is just getting hit incredibly hard. It's underreported, because this is an underserved area. Large Hispanic, Latinx population. High rates of poverty. And the hospitals are overwhelmed. This is a dire humanitarian crisis down in south Texas.

And there's many stories across Texas and across the southern United States among Hispanic and Latinx communities just getting hammered. And we're not really getting a full accounting of this. My suspicion is that the death rates are extraordinary among these populations who live in poverty, who represent essential workers, who have to be in the workplace in order to support their families.

And it's -- these are just incredible tragedies, one of the many, of course, in this 2020 epidemic in the United States. But we just don't hear enough about the role of COVID-19 as a health disparity, and I'm very discouraged by that.

BERMAN: Dr. Hotez, you said we should stop counting on the administration for answers here and look to others to lead. In that vein, the White House, the president has announced he's going to begin holding briefings again, which will include some information, I imagine, on the pandemic.


How much of a difference do you think this will make?

HOTEZ: You know, in the past, John, the -- the quality of the briefings is very poor. It was -- there was not -- they were not very informative, and they were horribly organized.

I mean, you would just have several different people get up there, cite different facts or factoids, but it was left to you to kind of string together the real story of what was happening.

They never got up there and said, Look, this is the three big problems that are facing the nation right now. This is where, if we don't do anything, things will head, and here's what we're going to do about it.

It seems pretty obvious, doesn't it, that this is what you would do in a briefing, but that was never done. It was just this random collection of facts, and with the vice president and the physicians on the task force. So you came away saying, well, what actually are they going to do?

And now we know, they didn't plan to do anything. There was never a national plan. It was put the states out in front. We'll provide some backup FEMA support and other types of support, when asked.

But this is why we're in this terrible situation. There was never a federal response led by epidemiologists who knew what they were doing in terms of giving directives to the governors to tell them what to do.

And so, a few of us are starting to do this independently, now putting together what needs to be done, because we can do a lot between now and October in terms of reducing the hospitalizations and deaths. And it's just so awful and tragic that it's not coming out of the federal government.

CAMEROTA: But Dr. Hotez, it's also, as you point out, so awful and tragic. Thirty-four dead in one county in 24 hours? I mean, that is just such a stunning number.

And you know, at the same time, we had heard that things, therapeutics were working, you know, hospitals were trying new things. They were going to be able to keep the death count maybe down, somehow, through steroids or through Remdesivir being, you know, distributed at hospitals.

And so, is that just not across the country? I mean, why are deaths spiking, if we've made progress?

HOTEZ: Well, the deaths spike for three reasons. And now we're starting to see it. Remember a few weeks ago we heard from the White House, there were no deaths? And we all said there was going to be a lag in deaths? And sure enough, now we're seeing this very steep rise in deaths in Florida, Texas, across the south.

And the -- and they come in three different waves. The first part is the fact people on ventilators for periods of time finally succumb. That's -- that's a big part of it.

The second is the fact that, as hospitals become overwhelmed, as hospital staffs become overwhelmed, it's not just the beds, it's the human capital, donning and doffing PPE multiple times a day, hospital staff getting sick. This is what we're seeing across the south.

That's when you get the second big wave of deaths coming along. We saw this in Europe. We saw this in New York. And guess what? We're seeing it here. So that's also happening, as well. You just -- it's just impossible to manage the surge.

And then there are the unreported deaths at home, which according to some estimates, a paper in "JAMA" recently, may account for an extra 28 percent deaths. So, all those three are coming together now in south Texas and across the south.

And again, it's mostly happening to people of color and -- and the working poor in many of these counties. All preventable and predictable, unfortunately.

BERMAN: Some vaccine news yesterday. The vaccine study out of Oxford, the one that they are promoting, also one out of China, moving to the next step, shown to produce an immune response, and also very few significant side effects at all.

What does this mean, Dr. Hotez? How much hope do you hold out?

HOTEZ: Well, as Dr. Fauci uses always that term, cautiously optimistic, and I would echo that.

I think, you know, looking at the Oxford vaccine and that study that was published in "The Lancet," they really only got a really strong immune response that looked promising in individuals who got two doses of the vaccine, not one dose. And the reason that's important is there were only ten patients in that study who got two doses.

So, it's -- so cautiously optimistic in the sense that it looked good in those ten patients, but we're going to need to vaccinate thousands of patients in order to get an idea whether these vaccines are actually working and they're safe.

So, I think the take-home message, in a number of these Operation Warp Speed vaccines, as well as the Chinese two vaccines, is that there -- there's enough "there" there, in order to move it into phase three clinical trials, large trials, 20,000 to 30,000 people.

And over the next year, we'll get a much better read whether these vaccines actually work and are safe. So cautiously optimism.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Hotez, thank you so much. We always learn so much from talking to you, even if the information is hard to hear. We really appreciate it.

HOTEZ: Thank you.


CAMEROTA: President Trump is restarting the so-called coronavirus briefings today as his poll numbers sag. But will Dr. Fauci be there? Will real information be shared? Or will the president again suggest that Americans inject themselves with disinfectant?


CAMEROTA: Breaking overnight, leaders from the European Union agreeing on a stimulus plan to help the region recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The $859 billion proposal focuses on reforms to help businesses and economies rebound while investing to safeguard against future crises. This is the biggest joint borrowing agreement ever agreed to by the E.U.

Italy and Spain are expected to be the main beneficiaries.

BERMAN: New details about the coronavirus press briefings that the president is going to resume this afternoon for the first time in nearly three months.

CNN has been told that the briefings will not exclusively focus on controversy. The president had to be promised that in order to agree to it. The task force, we are told, will not necessarily be participating. And the reason the president says he wants to do the briefings is ratings.



TRUMP: We had very successful briefings. I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching. In the history of cable television, television, there's never been anything like it.


BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim. She's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post."

Leave aside how the 141,000 families of dead Americans must feel about the president's television ratings, but the briefings do tell us something about how the White House feels. The White House clearly feels the president has lost control of the narrative when it comes to coronavirus.

And a prime example of this is something we're seeing on Capitol Hill, Seung Min, which I think is fascinating. And I don't want to get lost here. Which is that there's a big split between Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House.

The president and the White House wants to remove funding for testing and tracing and funding for the CDC from the new stimulus bill, and Republicans on the Hill think that's a bad idea. So, what's going on here?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, in terms of Capitol Hill, there are so many issues where the White House, the administration, and Senate Republicans who will have to shepherd this bill through the Senate and through, eventually, through Congress are so far apart.

You pointed out one of the major parts, that they want to reduce the funding for the testing and tracing. I can't tell you, you know, the very influential senators on Capitol Hill yesterday -- you're talking about Roy Blount, Lamar Alexander. Those are the two Republican senators who oversee education policy and education funding, and also health policy and health funding. And they say this is not a good idea. You need more money for testing to resume normalcy. You need money for testing for schools to reopen.

They had a meeting last night with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and they are still -- as they left the meeting, they told reporters they are still working on this. But there is also a lot of disagreement among -- or between the White House and Senate Republicans on the merits of the payroll tax cut. This is something that the president has pushed for, for months. But -- but something that very few Republicans on Capitol Hill actively want and think it's a good policy.

I think I have counted maybe on two fingers the number of Republican senators who have come out and said they support this idea. And we expect that to be a very contentious topic of discussion when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, come meet with Senate Republicans later today on Capitol Hill. CAMEROTA: Seung Min, in terms of President Trump's instincts on being

on television, he's not wrong. I mean, being -- a leader being on TV is a powerful tool, that often. When the president was doing these coronavirus briefings and was giving real information for a while, or at least Dr. Fauci and the doctors around him were, his ratings did seem -- I mean, his approval ratings -- John, I see your skepticism, but they did tick up.

When the coronavirus White House task force briefings were going on, his own approval ratings ticked up. But then, when he sort of sidelined the doctors and said that Americans should inject themselves with disinfectant, his approval ratings went down.

So, obviously, he has to be careful about what information he gives out. Will the doctors be there? Will Dr. Fauci be there today?

KIM: That is a major question that we're watching. Because you're right. You know, according to CNN's reporting, and also according to our reporting, this coronavirus press conference is not going to focus on just on the pandemic. You have heard White House officials tell us, saying he could touch on a variety of other issues, other issues of the day.

And you saw, I sat through a lot of those press briefings with the president. Yes, at the beginning, they were primarily pandemic- focused, but they devolved into other things. You know, he fought with reporters. You know, even when it came to the pandemic, he asserted things that were not according to public guidance.

I mean, we mentioned the disinfectant issue. I mean, it was not that long ago that the makers of Lysol had to warn consumers not to use this as a -- as a medicine of sorts.

So we have to see if they stick to plan and on message. And while these press briefings were tapering off, while they were still continuing to do them, but they appeared to be less and less helpful to the president and to the public in late April.

Republican senators were telling me that, Look -- in a gentle way, Republican senators were saying, Look, maybe it's better for a president to defer to the public health experts and let them, you know, let Dr. Birx, let Dr. Fauci, let the CDC and NIH officials tell the public this health information.

And I know some Republicans yesterday were a little bit nervous about the news that the president was resuming his press briefings. So, first real test will be 5 p.m. this afternoon and see how helpful those -- that information from the president will be.