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Coronavirus Cases Continue to Rise Across U.S.; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Interviewed on Next Possible Economic Stimulus Package. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, we have CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Great to have both of you. OK, Sanjay, tell us what you just learned about the briefings.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned that they're best called briefings, not Coronavirus Task Force briefings, because it's not clear that anyone from the Task Force, at least not the scientists or the doctors, are going to be there. As of this morning, they haven't even been told. So not only do they -- do we not know if they're going to be there, they don't know if they're going to be there or not as well.

So this gives you a little bit of an idea into how the White House is handling this. It's not going to be just coronavirus that's going to be discussed. And frankly, the people that we should really be hearing from on this that will give us the idea of what's happening in the country, and also I think more importantly the best path forward, it's not clear at all that they're going to be there. They don't know yet, so it doesn't sound like they will be, but it could still change throughout the day.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Osterholm, first of all, let me just tell you that in my household, your podcast is every day listening. My wife is a big fan. I learned a ton listening to it yesterday. Sanjay, I learn from you every morning, that goes without saying. Hi, Alisyn.


Michael, the question is that do you need to hear from the briefing? What would you need to hear from the administration experts if you had a choice?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, we don't have enough time today in the show to get into all of the issues I'd like to hear, but let me just hit a couple. Number one is the school reopening issue is going to not just be about kids right now, which it surely is focused on, but it's going to I think ultimately be one of those moments where when we look back 10, 20, 30 years about how we handled the entire pandemic, we will look back to this moment, how did we handle the situation with our kids?

And I think the most important thing we can do right now is to please provide the support to local schools to do what they need to do, and let them do that. I have talked to many school superintendents, many teachers, many parents, and they know best. They want to get back in the classroom more than anybody. It doesn't take a decree to make that happen. But we have to do it wisely, we have to do it safely. So to me, I would love to hear the top-down message saying we're going to support our schools and we're going to do it the right way or the best way.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, we had a really interesting interview with the head of the Teachers Association in Florida Fedrick Ingram, who just gave us this startling statistic about how kids in Florida -- and obviously we can stretch it out across the country -- have tested positive. And so that's all you need to know. They're testing -- there's tens of thousands, if you look at it across the country, I'm sure hundreds of thousands. So they may not be symptomatic, but they're testing positive. And as we know from the latest research, they can also be huge spreaders. So it's really tough when you hear that next month they're supposed to be back in the classroom.

GUPTA: Yes. I think it causes a lot of anxiety. I talked to a lot of the administrators around the country, and I do think it does come down to one of the things that you guys have talked about this morning as well. Besides the obvious things within schools that you can do or try to do, if you have space, have people, students and the faculty try and maintain that physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene stations. If there was some sort of testing protocol, that would probably be helpful.

But the big thing, as I think everyone has mentioned, is just what is the virus doing in the community in which you live right now. If it's increasing, there's increased community spread, it's probably not a good time to be opening schools.

I think the data on whether or not kids can transmit, and I'm curious what Dr. Osterholm thinks about this as well, but I think it's still a little unclear. I saw the contact tracing data out of South Korea, and they suggest that 10 to 19-year-olds can transmit just as much as adults. But for younger kids who have largely been at home since March, I haven't seen great studies on exactly what the transmission likelihood is from younger kids as well. I'm concerned that it could be higher than we realize, we just don't know. But I do think the idea that you'll want the virus at least going in the right direction in your community so that schools don't suddenly cause a significant flare-up I think is important.

BERMAN: Professor Osterholm, what do you think of that?

OSTERHOLM: I think Sanjay nailed it. I think that's exactly right where we're at. We still have lots of questions left. And I want to remind everyone that today if you look at the teachers in our schools, people who really want to be there, they miss their students something fierce. But yet, if you look at the fact that about 60 percent of them are over the age 40, over a fourth of them have underlying health problems that could predispose them to the serious case of COVID infection. And so we also have to be mindful that they -- the two are a consideration in how we're going to do this safely.


Finally, there are many families in this country who are living in multigenerational apartments. They don't have the luxury of spacing out if they need be. So we also have to understand the transmission in children if they bring it back home. So this is not a reason not to have school, it's not a reason to say that it's too difficult. But these are issues we really must address. And just to give a top-down edict to say you shall I think is a big mistake. And we have to answer these questions as we move forward.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I want to get your take on another bit of news this morning. Hidalgo County, a judge there in Texas, a judge has just ordered a stay at home order -- issued a stay at home order for Hidalgo County after 34 people died there in just 24 hours, 34 people in just that county.

And so I was talking to Dr. Peter Hotez about this. But what we -- out on the street what you hear, and maybe this is just rosy optimism from people needing to hang to something, but therapeutics are getting better, right? People are using steroids. We're bringing deaths down, not as many people are dying now as were in March. But then you hear something like that, why couldn't they be saved? Why aren't they getting remdesivir, or is it too late? How are we to process huge death spikes like that?

GUPTA: The huge death spikes are clearly related to the fact that there is more virus spreading. This has been the same pattern since the beginning. You get more infections. You can have a predictable lag time before you have more hospitalizations, and then more deaths. I think we have made some progress clinically, from a clinical standpoint in terms of understanding how better to care for patients. The ventilators maybe weren't as effective as we hoped they would be.

There are certain medications. Remdesivir is something that can shorten the course that someone's ill. It's not still entirely clear that it reduces mortality. You can use steroids in people who are hospitalized and people who are on the breathing machine as well. But the thing is that these are not panaceas, though, still. If there's a lot of virus out there, a lot of people are getting hospitalized, you are going to have a predictable rise in deaths.

And what's happening in Hidalgo, as Peter described as a humanitarian disaster, in part he's saying because this is a community that was sort of disenfranchised already. They didn't have a lot of the resources. And it's tough to get a precious commodity like remdesivir to all the places that need it. There's simply not enough. Again, I'm not saying that that's going to be the answer. But even to the extent that it can help there's not enough to give it to all of the people who need it.

BERMAN: Professor Osterholm, it's interesting because I know we talk a lot about Texas, Hidalgo County, we talk a lot about, Florida, California. But I think one of the points you like to make is that it's not just in these more flame like areas, as the president likes to put it, it's everywhere. The virus is still everywhere, and we need to acknowledge that.

OSTERHOLM: Well, as we talked many times on this very program, right now we're somewhere between seven percent to nine percent of the U.S. population has been infected with this virus to date. This virus is not going to slow down it's transmission until at least 50 percent to 70 percent of us have been infected and developed what we call that herd immunity. And that of course assumes that we're going to have long-term protection once we've had the infection.

So if you look at this right now, if we had 65,000 cases a day, a day for the next 365 days, that would get us to about 50 percent of the U.S. population infected. So it gives you a sense how much more wood this coronavirus forest fire has to burn out there in terms of humans. And so this is why it's so important to get the message out. We're still at the beginning of this pandemic. That's what I find so difficult. Most people are already done with it. They've decided they are not going to do any more. Well, they don't get to choose. The virus chooses, and this is what we have to keep getting the message across is we have to deal with this issue, as we will be for the next year.

BERMAN: Professor Osterholm, Dr. Gupta, Alisyn Camerota, you are Zen master every day.


BERMAN: Let me make that crystal clear. Everyone knows that, though, it goes without saying. But I'll say it anyway. Thank you.

So to the White House and Congress could be on a collision course over the next round of stimulus funding. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joins us next.



CAMEROTA: We are hours away from top Democratic leaders and the White House meeting to discuss the next coronavirus relief package. Some proposals that President Trump is pushing are already running into trouble, even with some members of his own party. Joining us now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator, thanks so much for being here. So tell us about this meeting that you're going to have with Meadows and Mnuchin? What's your message to them? What do you expect to accomplish?

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, our message to them is let's get going. It's over 60 days since the House passed the Heroes Act, which is a strong, bold, and comprehensive proposal to deal with the greatest crisis, the greatest health crisis we have had in 100 years, the greatest economic in 75. And as you mentioned, Alisyn, 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 us to, present something to us in detail, because up no now they have been dithering. They have wasted 60 days as the crisis gets worse and worse and worse.

CAMEROTA: Senator, explain to us, if you can, what this pushback the White House is giving lawmakers, including Republican lawmakers, about not wanting to include money, additional money for testing and tracing. We have a list of all -- even the Republicans who are saying that they desperately need more money for testing and tracing. Do you understand the logic from the White House in terms of why they don't want to do it?

SCHUMER: No. No. It's so typical. Look, President Trump is really probably number one to blame for this crisis being a lot worse than it is, and probably the number one reason, and there are many. He dithered, he said it's going to go away, he tells people not to wear masks and all of that. But the number one reason we're in such trouble is because we don't have adequate testing and adequate tracing.

If you compare America to the other countries, of the developed countries of the world, whether in Europe or east Asia, many of them had coronavirus as fierce as we had, Italy, Spain, South Korea. But they're now back to -- getting back a little bit to normal because they had a strong testing regime. And it's befuddling, it's confusing, and it's detrimental to the health of millions of Americans why the president refuses to do --


-- he has plenty of tools to do stuff on testing now, such as invoking the Defense Production Act. We need more help on testing. He's fighting even with his own Republicans on this.

It's totally, totally a dereliction of leadership. It's like there's no one there leading the country at a time of great crisis.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: As I understand it, what the White House logic is, is that there were billions of dollars in the previous stimulus bill that hasn't been spent for -- that was designated for testing I guess and tracing, and it hasn't yet been doled out.

SCHUMER: Well, some of the money hasn't been dole out because the White House hasn't doled it out. The president seems to think if we don't test, corona will go away. It's an absurd proposition, but that's why he's resisted this all along. That's why he's resisted the Faucis when they say we need more testing. It makes no sense.

They -- there is money there but it's not close to enough and we propose more and many Republicans agree with us. But the president is there.

And I'll make one other point. Senate Republicans almost never buck the president. They're afraid of him. They don't like to buck him. They know he can be mean and vindictive and angry. So, even when they know he's wrong, they don't buck him.

And I'm really worried that we won't have adequate testing in this new bill. The HEROES bill has a very good, strong, adequate testing plan.

CAMEROTA: How about that $600 -- the supplemental $600 that are going to unemployed Americans that are -- that will run out this week? What happens when that runs out?

SCHUMER: What happens is millions of people go into poverty. Every expert has said that the pandemic unemployment insurance which I proposed with Senator Wyden, the Republicans had resisted, but thank God it's in the bill, it's kept millions of people able to feed their families, pay their mortgage, pay their rent -- people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

It runs out the end of this month, and if we don't renew it and renew it in a robust way, millions more will sink back into poverty and lose their homes, get kicked out of their apartments and not be able to feed their families. So, it makes no sense to cut back.

At a time when we have over 20 million unemployed and we have the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, to cut back on unemployment insurance makes no sense whatsoever. And that's what they're proposing.

And then one of their proposals says, well, we'll pay people to go back to work. Well, the people who are going back to work are getting their salaries. The people who can't get back to work who we need to help.

CAMEROTA: And are you going to be able to get that done or is there too much resistance?

SCHUMER: Well, we'll see. I mean, in the last three COVID bills, initially, the Senate Republicans were stingy and behind the ball. McConnell put on these very narrow plans. He called them bipartisan, but they were negotiated, as he said, in his own office, with no input from us.

We Democrats in the House and Senate resisted, and then they came around to a much better plan. I'm hopeful that will happen again.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about Russian interference, not in 2016, in 2020.


CAMEROTA: Because there's a development this morning as you know.

SCHUMER: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: So, top congressional Democrats have sent a cryptic letter -- I assume you were on this letter -- on Monday, that a foreign power is attempting to interfere again. Obviously, this has been a fear of lots of intelligence experts.

Part of it is classified so we don't know all of the details. However, apparently, it is intelligence related to possible Russian-backed attempt to smear the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Here's what "The New York Times'" David Sanger has found along with his colleagues: Democrats contend that the Russian-linked information is being funneled to a committee headed by Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is investigating Mr. Biden and his son who was once paid as a board member of the Ukrainian energy company.

Senator, what can you tell us this morning?

SCHUMER: Well, not much because it is classified. But, look, we all know that any foreign power when they interfere in our elections, as we all know, Russia did in 2016, despite the fact that the president denies it. He denies -- seems to deny almost everything that's fact and reality these days. It's -- it's -- it's at the wellspring of our democracy, our elections.

The Founding Fathers in the Constitution worried about foreign interference in elections and their prescience is proving true today because it's ha -- it's happening.

We've demanded that the FBI director, Mr. Wray, brief every member of the House and Senate as to what's happening so we can know what's happening. It will be classified, and then do things about it. Let's hope he says yes.

CAMEROTA: What would you do?

SCHUMER: Well, we have to know what -- we have to know the details before we can tell you what we'd do -- what we would do, but we should be doing everything to prevent foreign interference in our elections.

CAMEROTA: We're about a hundred days away from the election.


How worried are you on a scale of 1 to 10 about interference in the election?

SCHUMER: I'm very worried. They did it before. It's a lot of -- a lot of countries are trying to do it. We have to be prepared. We have to be guarded. We have to make sure they don't.

There was less of it in 2018 than 2016. But no one knows if that's because some of these countries decided to lay off and give us a sense of complacency or not. But we should be ever vigilant, ever vigilant. This -- if people think that a foreign country helped determine our country and lose faith in our democracy, that's the beginning of the end of this grand experiment in democracy that's been so successful for more than 200 and some odd years.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the Supreme Court. We're very happy obviously that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to be on the mend, out of the hospital.

SCHUMER: Praise God. CAMEROTA: But it does raise the question -- it does raise the question as to what would happen through retirement or something else, there was a vacancy on the court? And the Republicans have begun to talk about what they would do.


CAMEROTA: And they say that they would absolutely allow a nomination and a confirmation even right now during this election as well as after the election. After November regardless of who wins, they would up until January of a new administration still go through that whole process.

SCHUMER: Well, I'll say two things. Let's hope that doesn't come to pass. Let's hope -- let's all hope and pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's continued health.

But second, one thing is certain, Leader McConnell twists the rules. Sometimes he's for the rules, sometimes he wants to change the rules for whatever he thinks benefits him at the moment. That does not serve our democracy. That does not serve separations of powers. That does not serve what this country needs.

CAMEROTA: Here's what Senator John Thune says about it, in terms of will they would fill the vacancy.


CAMEROTA: He says: We will. That would be part of this year. We would move on it.

SCHUMER: Let's hope we don't have to even confront that awful type situation.

CAMEROTA: Senator Chuck Schumer, we really appreciate you covering all of this and giving us all this information.

SCHUMER: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

SCHUMER: Appreciate it. Have a good day.

CAMEROTA: You as well.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Hospitals in parts of Texas are stretched to the limit with coronavirus patients as cases soar. What will it take to get the outbreak there under control?



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing overnight, officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, issued a stay at home order for residents there. The state's governor is preventing counties from actually enforcing these orders. In Dallas County, one of the largest in Texas, the numbers continue to rise as the county reported more than 1,000 new cases on Monday.

Joining us now is Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Judge, thanks so much for being with us.

So, just so our viewers know, a judge in Texas in the county is sort of like a county commissioner. People want to know why we refer to you as the judge. You are the county judge in Dallas. It looks like a county commissioner in other places in the country.

You run the place, so thank you for being with us.

Your reaction when you woke up to the news today that Hidalgo County, Judge Richard Cortez, issued a stay at home order. What did you think of that?

CLAY JENKINS (D), DALLAS COUNTY JUDGE: Well, we'll have to see what Governor Abbott does with that. You know, we had done similar things in the past and the governor and the attorney general tried to strike those down. So they let that stand. It may be a new path to try to get some more compliance out of people and try to turn this thing around.

BERMAN: Why do you think it's necessary that county leaders have the power to actually enforce these orders?

JENKINS: Well, when the county leaders were in charge, the state was doing quite well. In Dallas County, we implemented our stay at home order the same way -- or we announced it the same day that New York City implemented theirs and implemented a couple of days later.

So, we were way ahead of the curve. The governor took over on May 1st. We're in the situation we're in now. If the counties had the authority to deal with their unique situations in this big state and, you know, varied places, then we can get back maybe not to where we were before the governor took it over. But we could be in a better place than we are now.

BERMAN: What would you like to do in Dallas County that you're currently unable to do?

JENKINS: We want to close all businesses where you can't wear a mask 100 percent of the time. The governor won't even close cigar bars, and we want to restrict day care to essential workers only. You know, there's a few other things our doctors are looking at. They're actually meeting again tonight.

Basically, we just want to do whatever the doctors tell us the science indicates will work here. But those are the two main things from now.

BERMAN: I noticed overnight that Travis County, Austin, did not need to open an auxiliary center in the convention center because they say there that hospitalizations have stabilized. What's the situation in Dallas County? What are you seeing in terms of


JENKINS: Well, our hospitalizations are at an all-time high, but they have been at about the same number give or take for the last six days. So that's a good sign. We're not going to open an auxiliary hospital. We are going to double up our bed capacity in our existing hospitals if necessary.

BERMAN: At an all-time high, but it's plateaued at the all-time high for six days, you say. How long is that sustainable? That's a high level.

JENKINS: Well, we just don't know. We don't know if this is plateau is the beginning of the decline or we don't know if this is just a respite on the way up to the new high. So, we work on it constantly with our big hospital systems, you know, increasing their capacity, bringing in those temporary workers. We feel pretty good about it until the end of the month, at least.

BERMAN: Until the end of the month, which is really only about ten more days at this point.

JENKINS: It's true.

BERMAN: Not even -- it's not a long time frame, but I appreciate that it's at least plateaued and you're waiting to see what happens next.

What do you want to see at the federal level from national leaders?