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Congress Debating Extending $600 Unemployment Benefit; Arizona Doctors Hope Cases Leveling Off After Sharp Spike; Arizona Reports 148,600-Plus Cases As Deaths Top 2,900; Officials Warn Crisis Will Get Worse As U.S. Cases Surge; U.S. Orders Chinese Consulate Closed In Houston. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 12:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: But at the end of the day, John, the core of it is that help necessary for those thrown out of work by COVID and that $600 in some shape or form is going to have to be returned back.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We'll watch this one debate through the Congress. Richard Quest I appreciate your insights today. And don't forget for the latest stock market news and strategy if your portfolio you check out "Markets Now" streaming live 12:45 pm eastern only at CNN Business.

And top of the hour welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. A frightening baseline truth this hour the Coronavirus pandemic is accelerating. The global case count near certain to eclipse 15 million today.

The world now averaging a pandemic high of 231,000 new infections per day, the United States accounts for more than a quarter of those an average of 66,000 plus confirmed infections just over the past week. The numbers send a very clear message according to the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci who says at the moment. We are losing.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think we ultimately will get control of it. I don't really see us eradicating it. I think with a combination of good public health measures a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get. I think when you put all three of those together I think we will get very good control of this.


KING: Now Dr. Fauci says he's not quite sure yet whether a vaccine will come this year or next? And he adds it's impossible to know how long the vaccine would protect you against the virus, but the U. S. government investing in a big way today nearly $2 billion to obtain hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine candidate.

Until then of course the mission is to minimize the spread. A fight the President now admits, likely to get worse before it gets better. Let's take a look as we go through this and just map out the cases for us right now.

If you look at - these are this week versus last week across the states, 26 states right now heading up in the wrong direction, 26 states heading in the wrong direction. 20 of them holding steady. 4 states at the moment trending down, 26 up sounds bad it's actually better than it was just a few days ago when we were at 38 states heading in the wrong direction.

If you map out the deaths right now this is sad. Remember cases go up sadly you wait a few weeks' hospitalizations and death counts tend to follow. New deaths in the past week versus the previous week 22 states reporting a higher death count this week the week before.

13 steady 15 down those are sad numbers when you look at those. If you look at just the 7 day moving average of deaths Tuesday back above 1082 deaths right there. Again that's a sad number deaths tend to be a lagging indicator let's hope this starts to drop the 7 day average trending in a bad way at the moment.

Arizona has been one of the hot spots among the sub - it is part of this summer surge. If you look at Arizona cases here 3500 new cases reported just yesterday though the 7 day moving trend line here, let's hope yesterday was an aberration and this continues to go down important to watch it each of the states can at least plateau this summer surge and then push it down.

Arizona 3500 new cases yesterday and again the deaths lag, the case count and you see this trickling up the trend of the Arizona deaths. 147 was the record just a couple days ago on July 21st just yesterday 134 deaths reported there these tend to lag the other cases.

So as the fight continues right now the President says wear a mask. The President says this is rare here not long ago he said it was going to disappear. It was going away. It was dying out now he says it's likely to get worse before it gets better. Dr. Fauci says this is like fighting a perfect storm.


DR. FAUCI: We are certainly not at the end of the game. I'm not even sure we're halfway through it is really an infectious diseases person or public health person almost your worst nightmare. You know it it's the perfect storm. We are living right now through a historic pandemic outbreak. And we are right now in a situation where we do not see any particular end in sight.


KING: With me now to share her expertise and her insights our CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Celine Gounder. Doctor when you listen number one, the President by now saying it's going to get worse before it gets better.

When you hear the top expert Dr. Fauci talks about a perfect storm. Take us inside what he means and why it is so difficult? Now that we have this high summer surge, the high case count, what makes it difficult to knock it down?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: John it's a combination of the virus and our response to it. So this is a highly infectious respiratory virus that transmits in a significant way through people who do not have symptoms.

So that makes it very hard to block transmission when somebody who doesn't have symptoms may not even realize that they're infected. But it's also a question of lack of leadership at the national level and poor leadership even at the state level in many states where Governors have rushed to re open.


DR. GOUNDER: They haven't taken the measures necessary to flatten the curve which is really to protect health systems and to reduce the number of transmissions such that public health officials are able to get their hands around it.

So right now the virus is so out of control, it's very difficult for us to do that with the tools we have at hand.

KING: And you mention the tools we have at hand. One of the tools vital to trying to get a sense of how bad is it in my community is testing? And we are seeing again not only some people can't get tests or there are delays to get a test but then there's the problem of even if you get a test you might wait 7 days in some cases 2 weeks to get the results? Listen to Dr. Fauci talking about how that essentially makes the test useless.


DR. FAUCI: When you get to 6 or 7 days that kind of really mitigates against getting a good tracing and a good isolation. So we've got to do better on that. I'm not sure what it would take?


KING: Well, it troubles me when the top experts of the United States government are not sure what it would take? But to that question if you're trying to contact trace, if you're trying to isolate if you try to understand how deep is the spread in my community? 10 days to 2 weeks makes that test useless right?

DR. GOUNDER: Well, that's right because by then John all of the transmissions that are going to occur from that index case will have occurred. So that sort of once the impact of contact tracing the whole point of contact tracing is to detect cases before they've transmitted onwards.

So you know again it's very difficult to do contact tracing when you have so many cases in the community. And this is also why some have brought up the idea of mass testing of everybody in order to capture those infectious cases early enough that you prevent onward transmission.

KING: Right and so one of the issues and we've had this conversation sadly for 5 plus months now is that everything seems reactive. You know the government is reacting as opposed to being proactive in getting ahead of something. When Dr. Fauci is not sure what it would take?

You mention the possibility of mass testing this idea of pool testing has been kicked around. What would it take - what would it take so that experts like yourself would have a folder full of data available that would help you say okay here's what we need to do?

DR. GOUNDER: So pool testing is really about batch testing where you're combining a couple specimens and testing them simultaneously with one test. It's really a way of stretching your resources. Mass testing, if we can get a test that was cheap and fast enough where we could be testing everybody say every three or four days you would be able to detect cases.

People who are infectious even before they have symptoms and you would be able to isolate them offer them medical care if they need it. But most importantly you'd be able to prevent them from infecting others. But we're still a long ways off from doing something like that.

KING: We're a long ways off from doing something like that and to that point as we do test in some states it's about 20 percent. In Florida it's around 18 percent, if you look nationally at the positivity rate trend 8 percent nationally.

What does that explain to people at home why that matters if 8 percent of the national tests are coming back positive and in some states we're saying at much higher than that? Why is that so important for me a lay person it tells me we're nowhere close to controlling the spread what else?

DR. GOUNDER: Well, it tells us we're not testing nearly enough because it means that we're not really capturing all the cases that are out there. If you have that many tests that are coming back positive you know what we should really be doing is testing way more people who don't have symptoms at all which means your negative rate should be much higher.

So you know the data that we have seen coming out recently including a paper from the CDC just in the last day would indicate that there are 6 to over 20 times as many cases of Coronavirus nationally than what the official case reports would indicate.

KING: As many as 20, the numbers are numbing enough. If we do that math, it gets bordering and depressing I guess. Dr. Gounder as always I appreciate your time and your insights and expertise. We'll continue the conversation.

Up next for us one of those states we've been worrying about doctors and nurses in Arizona struggling to keep up with the surge in cases. Meanwhile teachers there fighting, taking a stand against reopening schools.



KING: Teachers in Arizona planned rallies in their cars later today to protest the possible re opening of schools. Arizona's Republican Governor wants classrooms back in session by mid-August. Many question whether that's a good idea because as we all know the state right now trying to flatten its curve after a surge of summer Coronavirus cases.

Joining me now is Dr. Hannah Dillon. She's an Emergency Room Physician in Tucson. Dr. Dillon grateful for your time, so if you look at Arizona I can put up our national map and this is why statistics we have to be careful with them.

At the moment if you look at the 50 states Arizona is green that is good that means its cases are down this week compared to last week. If you do the week by week analysis however, down from a high point. What are you seeing in the ER? I know one of the things you're worried about is the equipment shortages and burnout?

DR. HANNAH DILLON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: So thank you for having me John. I'm actually an anesthesiologist in Tucson and our hospital is working with other hospitals across the state to manage the increased hospitalizations.

As you mentioned in your first segment there's a lag between when people become positive to when they need hospitalizations and ultimately when that's increased. So we are experiencing very high levels across the state of ICU bed occupancy.

Most recently we're looking at about 85 to 90 percent of our ICU beds across the state occupied not entirely by patients with COVID but if you contrast that to around May of this year when we had around 60 to 65 percent occupancy you can see that there is a very large strain on our resources at this time.


KING: And the question is how you know how effective can you be? How effective is this state being in pushing that case number down? If you look at the positivity rate 24 percent on a 7 day average of tests in Arizona coming back positive compared to Massachusetts which is 2.5 percent - 2.4 percent you look the number there. Why is that - why you have such a high positivity rate right now in the state?

DILLON: So the positivity rate as your last guest mentioned really reflects the inadequacy of our testing. We are having a very hard time obtaining enough tests and getting the results of those tests back in a timely fashion which really makes the results of the tests less useful to health care workers and also to public health officials who are charged with tracing and figuring out how to slow the spread? In addition with the strap on our resources, we are finding that hospitals and physicians and nurses across the state are getting burnt out, getting exhausted. There some of them are falling ill and so that further places a strain on our resources and makes it more difficult to get this under control.

And I think last it's important to note that Arizona still does not have a statewide mask mandate. And we are still able to go for a sit down meal in a restaurant in this state. So we haven't followed the CDC's recommendations with regards to phase 3 opening. And I think that's a big part of why we are where we are today?

KING: Well, then that makes me hesitant to say what I'm about to say. But I'm going to try it anyway. I try to be an optimist and so this virus frustrates that goal quite frequently. I just wanted to show you the 7 day new confirmed cases in Arizona. And again you know if you look at the trend lines that are if we could go to the 7 day case instead of this one.

This is Arizona versus Massachusetts, if we go to the 7 day of new cases in Arizona. All right it's going to - it's going up and it has had 3500 cases yesterday. The point I'm trying to make it. I will do without the graphic I guess is that there has been a slight drop in recent days. The question is, is that a blip or is it finally proof that your plateauing does you sees that? What are you seeing there on the ground?

DILLON: I do hope that that's evidence that we are plateauing. I think we're all very hopeful that that's what that means. We are seeing a slight decrease in our ICU bed occupancy. Again last week it was closer to 90 percent this week we're down around 85, 86 percent.

So we are very hopeful that that is a sign of our plateau and that may be a result of local city and municipality mask mandates increasing social distancing and shutting down some businesses such as bars and gyms.

KING: And so you say - you mentioned the bars and gyms, you also mentioned no mask mandate there. You have this you know even the President of the United States belatedly coming into the briefing room yesterday and saying Americans should wear a mask.

I started this segment by saying teachers in Arizona going to protest today because they think it's not safe just yet to reopen schools. You're a doctor but I'm asking now more of a political question.

What is the conversation over the past several weeks if things have gone steadily up and let's hope plateauing? But as you've had this summer surge in recent weeks has the conversation changed in the state?

DILLON: You know I think there's still a lot of emotion and politics being infused into this conversation that should really be just about science. And they're still quite a few people across our state who are resistant to any social distancing measures, any mandates with regards to masks and we are still seeing that and battling it on a daily basis.

I wish I could invite people into a hospital to see the enormous strain on our health care workers and also on the patients who are battling every day. I can't really figure out what to say to help people understand that this is real.

And it's not just a disease of the elderly which I think is a common misconception out there. Here in Arizona at least half of our cases are in age range of 20 to 44 and those patients account for a quarter of our hospitalizations. So this isn't you know a flu variant that only affects the elderly and medically vulnerable.

KING: Well, I hope your words and your passion and your time today help make that case to anyone who might need to think again about what they think on this state. Dr. Dillon thank you so much.

DILLON: Thank you for having me John.

KING: With my pleasure. Coming up for us China vows to retaliate if the United States orders Beijing to close its consulate in Houston, Texas.



KING: The State Department today is escalating tensions with China ordering Beijing to close its consulate in Houston. China denies it but the Trump Administration says it's acting to combat Chinese espionage and to protect American intellectual property.

Our National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt in Washington joins us live. Alex, this is a very significant escalation of these tensions.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is and one of the people who has been most forceful about this move has been Marco Rubio who of course is the Acting Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He said that this consulate in Houston was what he called the central node of a massive spying operation in terms of defense industry even trying to influence Congress.


MARQUARDT: Now the State Department has not said specifically why they chose to shut down this consulate? Of course this does come in response to a growing and rampant cyber espionage operation by the Chinese that has really ramped up over the course of the past few months as this pandemic has ravaged the planet.

I want to read part of you - part of the statement by the State Department earlier today justifying this move. They said that the People's Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U. S. government officials and American citizens.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is traveling in Europe was asked about this earlier today. Here's part of what he have to say.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave? And when they don't we're going to take action to protect the American people, protect our security, our national security.


MARQUARDT: Now John in response the Chinese have said that this was an unprecedented escalation that will sabotage U. S./China relations. Last night as word came that this consulate was getting shot down, there were reports of fires set in the courtyard of this conflict.

It was caught on video by local residents firefighters responded they were not allowed into the complex. Now as I was mentioning John this does come on the heels of an increase in cyber espionage by the Chinese during this pandemic.

Two months ago back in May the Department of Justice called out China for carrying out cyber attacks against institutions, research facilities, companies that we're looking into vaccines for COVID-19.

And just yesterday the Department of Justice again named two Chinese hackers working in consulate with the Chinese security services to go after that intelligence. Now we have a concerted campaign by the Trump Administration to really ramp up the pressure, ratchet up the pressure on China.

We've seen major speeches by the Director of the FBI, by the Attorney General of the National Security Adviser and we're expecting another one tomorrow from the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he gets back from his travels, John.

KING: A tensed moment, we'll continue to track it. Alex Marquardt I appreciate the important news there about the base - the consulate in Houston. Coming up for us a new warning from Dr. Fauci and you see why the numbers on your screen now about 15 million global cases? Dr. Fauci says you might be tired but the fight against COVID-19 just beginning.