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Projected COVID-19 Deaths Decline As Mask Use Increases; Joe Biden and Barack Obama to Post Conversation to Social Media Tomorrow; Senate Republicans Negotiate Fourth COVID-19 Relief Bill. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: They know the country is divided, they know the Congress is divided but this is pretty unusual, to hear this kind of language used.

MIKE LILLIS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE HILL: Well, it's unusual in the sense that, yes, you're exactly right. I mean, this is all politics. This is Capitol Hill, and they all know --


LILLIS: -- they all know how to play this game. And you see this frequently in committee hearings, where guys will really go after each other. You saw in the Policing Act, you know, you had Cedric Richmond really going after Matt Gaetz, Matt Gaetz really going back at each other.

You know, these were -- they seem like very personal attacks, but then they get out in the hallways and, you know, and they can have a regular conversation. So a lot of this is for, you know, is political theater.

This, what happened on the steps, was not. This was very different. This was -- this -- nobody thought that they were being watched, and so that's, I think, what made this a little bit strange. And as you said, there are rules, there is a decorum here. It's not the Senate. You know, the Senate is much more sober. There's much more freewheeling in the House. But they do have rules and there is a sense of responsibility to be civilized.

And that's why you saw Steny Hoyer and Kevin McCarthy -- the leaders from both parties in the House -- yesterday, really take kind of aggressive steps to say, This -- you know, you crossed a line and, you know. That's probably the only reason that Ted Yoho went to the floor this morning.

KEILAR: Yes, that's a really good point. Well, Mike, thank you so much for sharing with us what you saw. We appreciate it, Mike Lillis with "The Hill."

LILLIS: Thank you, any time. KEILAR: Top of the hour now, I'm Brianna Keilar.

And we start with breaking developments in the U.S. fight against the coronavirus. The latest modeling projects fewer deaths because more Americans are wearing masks. A research source often cited by the White House -- that's the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation -- now predicts 5,000 fewer deaths because more people are wearing masks. Listen to what a lead researcher told me, last hour.


ALI MOKDAD, PROFESSOR OF HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: What we are seeing right now is an increase in mask use, especially in states that have been hit by COVID-19: Texas, California, Florida, Arizona. And we are seeing, also, a reduction in mobility in these states, so this is helping us with our projections.

The improvement has been much higher in states where a mandate has been put in place, so -- and we are seeing an increase in almost every state in the U.S., but a sharper increase in states with a mandate. So a mandate is very important and is helping. And a national mandate, of course, will do much better.


TEXT: U.S. Death Projections, Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation: If 95 percent of Americans wore masks when leaving their homes: Death projection would be 185,887; 34,000 fewer than latest estimate

KEILAR: Professor Mokdad also points out that if 95 percent of Americans wore a mask when they left their house, the death toll would drop by another 34,000 lives, so just consider that.

And there's other promising news. The president, finally acknowledging the pandemic will get worse before it gets better. Several hotspots, seeing some new case numbers, while still high, that they are on the decline. And the U.S. is announcing a major deal, promising free or cheap vaccines when they're ready.

Let's turn now to CNN's Athena Jones. And, Athena, we still have a long way to go, the president also made that clear. Another 64,000 new cases, just reported here in a single day.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. You're right, you know, another day, another mixed picture for America. That 64,000 number isn't good, but there is some better news. That is that 20 states -- the same number as yesterday -- are managing to hold their coronavirus case numbers steady.

Still, cases are rising in 26 states. And even though the predictions for the future death toll -- eventual death toll may be falling, right now, the daily death toll numbers are approaching April's highs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are certainly not at the end of the game. I'm not even sure we're halfway through.

JONES (voice-over): At the rate coronavirus is spreading, officials say if you don't already know someone who's been infected, that's likely to change in the coming weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning of a long road ahead for the U.S.

FAUCI: Certainly, we are not winning the game right now, we are not leading it.

JONES (voice-over): The nationwide daily death toll from COVID is rising, topping 1,000 for the first time in two weeks, nearing April's highs, driving at least 27 states to pause or roll back reopening plans.

California, surpassing New York in total confirmed cases. Many in hard-hit Los Angeles County are young people. Infection and hospitalization rates, painting a bleak picture in the south. More than 500 women at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas have COVID-19, including former NSA leaker Reality Winner.

And with hospitals overwhelmed, Governor Greg Abbott is backing a curfew in the Rio Grande Valley while stopping short of supporting a shelter-in-place order, issued by a county judge who says he just wants to follow the same CDC guidelines that kept infection rates low before the state reopened.


RICHARD CORTEZ, JUDGE, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS: What I've told him and others, if I can even simply get 10 percent of our people to follow it, I'm 10 percent better than where I am today.

JONES (voice-over): In Florida, health officials say just 15 percent of ICU beds remain available. Still, the governor is optimistic.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think we are on the right course, I think we will continue to see improvements.

JONES (voice-over): And with fall just around the corner, the mask debate and the back-to-school debate are now colliding, with teachers across the country raising safety concerns, and taking to the streets in Arizona.

ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: So important now to work together with school districts to figure out how they can take our guidelines and operationalize them in a practical way.

JONES (voice-over): The CDC director, arguing masking will be key to returning to class.

REDFIELD: And one of the most important things is going to be the role of face masks and the role of social distancing in those classrooms.

JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, there is news on the vaccine front, the federal government, reaching what's being called a historic deal with pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We can acquire 100 million doses of this vaccine as early as December of 2019 -- of 2020, and have the option to buy an additional 500 million doses.

JONES (voice-over): While Secretary Azar said the vaccine has shown promise, the company has yet to complete large-scale phase III clinical trials.


JONES: And there is a study out now about one of those basic public health steps that everyone's advising you take: Washing your hands and wearing a mask can be pretty easy to do, but it may not be so easy to physically distance yourself from others, depending on your living conditions.

Both the World Health Organization and the CDC recommend that anyone exposed to COVID-19 or infected with the virus, should isolate in a separate bedroom and a separate bathroom, while a new study -- new research from Case Western University is finding that more than 20 percent of American homes don't have sufficient space to do that -- Brianna.

KEILAR: No, it's a very good point. Athena, than you so much for that, live for us from New York.

Dr. Leana Wen is an E.R. doctor at George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Wen, I want to begin with the new projection, 5,000 fewer deaths because more Americans are wearing masks. That is good news, but it also prompts the question, Should there be a federal mask mandate?

LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Yes. At this point, there absolutely should be that mandate. Because we know that if all of us wear masks, we reduce the chance of transmitting or acquiring COVID-19 by five times.

I mean, imagine if there's a pill that we could be taking now -- a vaccine, if you will -- that reduces our chance of getting COVID-19 by five times, we would all want that. But I think something else that this model shows is that so much is within our power, that whatever death and suffering could be projected to come, it doesn't have to be that way, it's not inevitable.

But we as policy makers, we as individuals have to take the necessary steps right now, and that would include, in these very hard-hit states, to reimpose stay-at-home orders because at this point, we have to stem the tide of rising COVID-19 deaths.

KEILAR: Yes, that's a very positive way to look at it, which is, look, this is information that you can actually use every day, every hour to try to help your personal situation and that of your community.

You just wrote a piece in the "Washington Post" about how you see this situation playing out if it doesn't get better, if the crisis doesn't get better. Give us your thoughts.

WEN: So I outlined the three scenarios, and it really is a choice that we could be making. One is the status quo, which is these piecemeal -- really, too little, too late types of policy decisions: closing bars, for example, but not restaurants, even in places where the ICUs are getting full. We know what that will lead to, which is a lot of preventable suffering and death.

Then there's another option: a full shutdown, another national shutdown but in a way that actually is all throughout the country, whereas the first time around, about half the states did not have stay-at-home orders. That would be the most effective way and the most efficient, but we don't have the political will, and likely may not even need that.

So I think there is a third option, which is whack-a-mole. You can close down the states that are not doing well at all. And for the other states, consider pausing reopening, really assessing. And in the meantime, having the rest of the national strategy be brought up, in terms of having sufficient testing, sufficient contact tracing in order to contain the infection.

KEILAR: We learned of a major deal that the U.S. has struck now with Pfizer, as well as several other pharmaceutical companies. And this is to get free or affordable vaccines to Americans when the vaccines become available. There's at least 100 million doses, that's the plan. Do you think that Americans will take the doses even if they're free? Or do you think that some of them will have skepticism about whether it's safe?

WEN: Yes, this is a really good question, I certainly hope so. And I and other scientists will be doing everything that we can, in the meantime, to educate about how vaccines are safe and effective. But I also think that the work that's being done now, in terms of making these vaccines accessible widely and free, is going to be so critical too. Because it's not the vaccine that's going to save lives, it's the vaccination.


And we have to make sure that we don't have supply chain issues that we have seen with testing reagents. I don't want for us to run out of syringes and vials. We also have to think about how do we literally get hundreds of millions of vaccine doses delivered to people. Those are the plans that we should be making right now, as we also fight the anti-science, anti-vaxxer movements too.

KEILAR: All right, Dr. Wen, thank you for joining us.

WEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, the Biden campaign's released a new clip of the former vice president's sit-down with President Obama. How the pair are taking on President Trump's handling of the pandemic.

Plus, the fight brewing in the Republican Party that could put a serious hold-up on any more coronavirus relief funds.

And as mayors across the country voice their outrage at federal officers' tactics, the president prepares to send more agents to two cities.



KEILAR: So just a short time ago, I was interviewing Texas Congressman Chip Roy. And through a storm of unrelated talking points about the border and Antifa. He falsely claimed that the coronavirus curve in his state was flat. He said, We're getting on top of this in Texas, we've been working to keep the curve flat.

Well, it is not flat, not by a Lone Star mile. Check this out here, he said, Show the curve. Here's the curve -- as you can see it -- it's a disaster. It's a grim chart. It shows the past four months of the pandemic outbreak: And those, right there, them's the facts.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former President Obama have met to discuss challenges that are facing the country, in a video released earlier of the two men, criticizing President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic. This is it right here. Just a short time ago, they dropped this new clip. Let's take a look.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He ran by deliberately dividing people from the moment he came down that escalator. And I think people are now going, I don't want my kid growing up that way.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what it's like, as much as anybody, to be in the White House during a crisis. You know what it's like, and how lonely it can be to make tough decisions, where not every decision's going to be perfect and -- but you've got to make them, and to take responsibility for it.


KEILAR: This full conversation there is going to be posted on their social media accounts tomorrow.

I want to bring in former Virginia governor and DNC chair, Terry McAuliffe. He is a CNN political commentator.

And I wonder, Terry, what you make of -- let's talk first about the timing of this. What do you think about the timing of this?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's very innovative. And you've got to remember, Brianna, everybody is home, so they're watching. So I think it's a great time to do this, right on top of Donald Trump coming out and saying, It's not my responsibility.

So you've got two folks sitting there who were in the White House during many crises, acted like adults, dealt with the country, laid the facts out. And the comparison to Donald Trump, I think, is extraordinary.

I can remember when I was governor, I inherited a very tough economy, the Great Recession. The Republicans had put sequestration in place, really hurt us badly. It was Joe Biden who I worked with every day, as governor, to help rebuild that Virginia economy. We had Ebola, I worked with Joe Biden every single day.

And to have this president, Donald Trump, say, It's not my responsibility, basically you're on your own, governors, you figure it out yourself? It's just reprehensible.

So the timing for me is very important. The contrast between what happened in the Obama-Biden White House, and now what's happening in the Trump White House. And, you know, pretty soon, Trump's going to come out, he's going to attack President Obama. And he's done that his whole career, but he's going to do it -- it's a very perilous thing for Donald Trump to do.

In fact, a CNN poll before the COVID crisis has, Who do you think was a better president? Fifty-five percent said President Obama, and 39 percent said President Trump. Even 18 percent of Republican leaders said, I think Obama was a better president.

So I think it's very effective, what they did today.

KEILAR: OK, well, then what do you think about -- you know, when you're talking about voters who -- maybe they voted for President Trump before, and maybe they're not so sure about it now or they're possibly looking for an alternative but maybe Joe Biden doesn't quite sit well with them but they're open to it. What if they don't like President Obama? Is this something that could backfire with those constituents?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, President Obama is one of the most popular politicians in the country, if not the most popular. I put him right up there with his wife, Michelle Obama. So very popular in the country.

As I say (ph), before the COVID crisis, he hit (ph) nearly 60 percent of Americans said he was a better president than Donald Trump, and Trump was down at 39 percent. So I think it energizes folks.

I think for independents -- who greatly admired the work that President Obama had done -- for those independents out there and other individuals who may have voted for Trump before, said, Oh, let's give it a try? They've seen what they saw with Obama and Biden, and said, No, we've got to go back. That's the kind of leadership we want.

So there's no downside. I think, Brianna, it just energizes folks, look at the polling today. But let's be clear, the election, you know, also more than 100 days away. Biden is leading everywhere, but we can't take anything for granted, we've got to run like we're 20 points down.


But the trajectory that the -- you know, that Trump's going on? I mean, the only people who will be supporting Donald Trump are his family and those that work on his campaign. And they're pretty much the same people nowadays. So there's not a lot of movement there for new Trump voters.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about -- look, yesterday, we covered the former vice president giving his -- an economic policy speech. And he gives the speech, and then he just kind of walks off the stage, he says he's on to the next thing. He doesn't take questions.

And, look, we have a lot of questions about his -- this very important thing, economic policy, right? Americans deserve to have questions answered. But he hasn't taken questions from the media in quite some time. Do you think he should?

MCAULIFFE: Sure, and he will. I remind you, we are earlier in -- you look at 2008, Hillary Clinton did not even get out of the race until late June. In 2016, Bernie Sanders did not get out until late July. We have plenty of time, more than 100 days to go. I think it's important for --


KEILAR: But what does -- what does that have to do with answering questions, though?

MCAULIFFE: I think the most important thing for him is to put his plans out so that we can all digest them. And then the press can ask some questions. We've got more than 100 days to go, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for questions to be asked and he's ready to answer those questions.

But, you know, you've got to answer the --

KEILAR: But he's not. Terry, he's not taking questions. I mean, it's kind of weird to not take questions.


MCAULIFFE: But, Brianna -- we've got plenty of time. And I promise you, Joe Biden is going to answer all the questions that you're going to have for him. As I say, we have 100 days to go. People are concerned about the coronavirus. How we put people together, how we do press events: I think the campaign is very cognizant of.

But as we now head into -- through the summer and getting ready for our convention and into the fall, many opportunities for the vice president to answer these questions. he's happy to answer these questions. I mean, compare -- you've got so much to talk about compared to Donald Trump and the disastrous presidency he's had. Plenty of time to do it, and he will do it.

KEILAR: All right. Well, urging patience of a journalist, you know that's basically pointless but --



KEILAR: -- Governor, thank you so much --

MCAULIFFE: -- but you're right.

KEILAR: -- thank you. We appreciate you coming on.

MCAULIFFE: All right, Brianna, thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you.

MCAULIFFE: You bet, thank you.

KEILAR: So there is a convent outside of Detroit that has been hit brutally hard by the pandemic, 12 sisters lost to coronavirus in just one month. That story, ahead.

Plus, the president of Brazil, testing positive for a third time. We'll have details on his condition.



KEILAR: Senator Ted Cruz gave it a hell no, not just a no. Senator Rand Paul said it was insane. Republicans, publicly airing their grievances about critical parts of a new stimulus bill. As congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly explains, the GOP disagreements could turn into a disaster for millions of Americans who are now in jeopardy.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Congress sprints to pass another massive emergency coronavirus relief bill, the fight isn't Republican versus Democrat.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I asked my Republican colleagues, What in the hell are we doing?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): For now, it's Republicans against themselves. A raucous, closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, laying bare a series of divides between President Trump and the GOP --

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There are some differences of opinion on the question of the payroll tax cut and whether that's the best way to go.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): -- and between Senate Republicans and Senate Republicans.

CRUZ: A number of senators at lunch get up and say, Well, gosh, we need -- we need $20 billion for this, we need $100 billion for this, and they're just really eager to spend.

Man, I'm like, What are you guys doing?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, attempting to thread the needle over internal concerns about spending, and the White House push on a series of priorities Republicans simply don't back.

MCCONNELL: The legislation that I've begun to sketch out is neither another CARES Act to float the entire economy, nor a typical stimulus bill for a nation that's ready to get back to normal. Our country is in a complex middle ground between those two things.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Republicans, planning a $1 trillion with $105 billion for schools, but rejecting the idea of explicitly tying all those funds to reopening, a key Trump ask. Another round of stimulus checks to Americans, but wary of Trump's push for a payroll tax cut.

A push to increase funds for state grants to increase testing, and new money for the CDC and NIH despite the administration's insistence there is still money available, and more isn't necessary.

And, as millions of Americans face losing $600 in federal unemployment benefits at the end of this month, the biggest unanswered question? How to restructure the program amid GOP opposition.

McConnell, however, making clear his conference and the White House will unify.

MCCONNELL: I'm going to introduce a bill in the next few days that is a starting place, that enjoys fairly significant support among Republican senators -- probably not everyone.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): For Democratic leaders, unified behind their own $3 trillion proposal, passed by the House in May, a waiting game.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The time is so important, and the sooner we can see their bill, the sooner we can understand our differences more clearly, or our similarities.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): And then start negotiating.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): And this sharp critique.