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Trump Trying to Regain Credibility on Coronavirus Response?; Republicans Face Internal Conflict Over Stimulus Package; Coronavirus Surging. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.

The coronavirus pandemic now has infected 15 million people worldwide, and the U.S. is home to a quarter of those infections, with more than 467,000 new cases just in the last seven days. The number of deaths per day is back above the 1,000 mark, after declining the last two weeks.

But a new model cited by the White House is now lowering its projection for overall deaths, citing growing mandates for masks.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations are poised to set a record high for this pandemic. And, for the second day in a row one of the nation's biggest labs is offering a bleak outlook on an already bleak testing situation. This executive with Quest Diagnostics is warning that U.S. commercial labs will not be able to handle a COVID testing surge during the upcoming flu season, and that they warn, wait times for results could get even longer.

Just yesterday, Quest said some of those delays are as long as two weeks.

Well, let me offer you some promising news here in the search for a vaccine. The federal government and Pfizer have announced a deal to produce 100 million doses as early as this December, once approved, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called the agreement historic.


ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We're not concerned about supply chain and its domestic manufacturing across the portfolio that we're investing in. We will ensure that any vaccine that we're involved in sponsoring is either free to the American people or is affordable.


BALDWIN: Now, today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that he is -- quote, unquote -- "cautiously optimistic" about a vaccine, adding that officials are working as quickly as they can. He also said that he believes COVID could be here to stay.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I don't see this disappearing.

The reason I say that is that it is so efficient in its ability to transmit from human to human. But I think, ultimately, with a combination of good public health measures and a vaccine, that we may not eradicate it, but I think we will bring it down to such a low level, that we will not be in the position that we're in right now for an extended period of time.


BALDWIN: I want to start a conversation that precise point.

Dr. Anne Rimoin is with me, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA.

I mean, Dr. Rimoin, when you hear Dr. Fauci, when you hear that he is saying that we will never really fully eradicate COVID-19, what's your reaction to that?

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well, I don't think that this comes as a surprise to many scientists. This virus is here. It's circulating. We know it's here with us, and so we're going to have to learn to live with it.

And the fact of the matter is, we know what we need to do here. We need to be able to social distance. We need to wear masks. We're going to have vaccines, we hope, coming in the future which will help with that. So this is not all just gloom and doom here.

There are things that we can do to mitigate the spread of the virus. And so if it is here with us to stay, we will get better at handling it.

BALDWIN: All right. So, gloom and doom aside for a second, this is promising, the bit about Pfizer. Let me ask you about this.

The U.S. will pay Pfizer and another biotech company something in the ballpark of $2 billion to produce these hundred million doses of the COVID vaccine if it proves to be safe and effective. And then HHS says Americans would then get the vaccine for free.

How significant is this contract?

RIMOIN: This is very significant. Wide distribution of vaccine is going to be important, but making sure that everybody can get it is even more important.

And it's all about operationalizing this. That's where this vaccine being free, widely accessible is going to be critical. We should have no barriers to people getting this vaccine. And if cost is a barrier, as it will be for so many people, we need to remove that barrier immediately. So this is really fantastic news.

BALDWIN: What about testing? We already have a huge problem with testing across the country.

And then, on top of that, you have this executive at Quest Diagnostics coming out today and saying, come fall, and flu season, labs won't be able to cope, won't be able to process all the tests because of the surge between COVID and the flu.

Obviously, that's quite concerning. What can be done, if anything, now to lessen the burden?

RIMOIN: We need to be ramping up infrastructure. We have had problems with testing from the beginning of this entire -- of this pandemic. And it's obviously going to get much worse when we start seeing influenza complicating as well.

We need many of the same supplies and equipment to be able to process flu tests as we do coronavirus tests.


And we know that lab capacity, staffing, all of this is going to come to bear. So we do really need to be thinking about, how do we improve capacity to be able to make tests widely available to people, and to be able to ensure that testing is running as smoothly as possible?

There's no downside to ramping up testing. There really isn't. And this is where we really need to be thinking strategically right now.

BALDWIN: There is a model, Dr. Rimoin, that's cited by the White House that's now lowering its projection for overall deaths by about 5,000.

And the researchers cite growing mandates for wearing masks, right? You mentioned it's as easy as wearing a mask off the top. Like, how optimistic are you that these mandates will in fact lead to fewer deaths in this country?

RIMOIN: All of the models are really starting to converge on this issue of wearing a mask.

So I think it's really important for all of us to remember that wearing a mask is something that we can do. We can social distance, we can wear a mask. We have so much under our control.

And I think that this is important for everybody to remember, when everybody is feeling so out of control with this virus. If -- these models, like the IHME model, show that we could reduce deaths by 45,000 if everybody would wear a mask.

And the good news is that now we're starting to see some consensus in the political arena and elsewhere, showing people that wearing masks will make a difference.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: No. Let's say it. President Trump -- if President Trump is now saying wearing a mask is patriotic, let's hope the folks who've been hesitant to do so will see it that way.

Dr. Anne Rimoin, thank you very much.

RIMOIN: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: If you are looking for more help from Washington to ease the suffering across the country between COVID and jobs losses, you name it, you're going to have to wait.

Senate Republicans, the White House and Democrats remain divided over some of the key details of this next stimulus package, including whether or not to provide more funding for testing and the CDC.

Senate Republicans held a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill just a couple hours ago.

And we have got CNN's congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, there with the scoop.

And my first question to you really, is if we're talking about more money for testing and the CDC, like, what why can't they all get on the same page? It seems like a no-brainer.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you would think, although easy and Congress often aren't synonymous with one another.

Look, Brooke, what's interesting right now is, with Senate Republicans specifically, who are still fighting over just putting something on the table at this point in time, you're seeing kind of a convergence of dynamics that simply didn't exist back in March, when Congress almost unanimously passed the $2.2 trillion package that dealt with testing, that dealt with the economy, that dealt with public health.

The Republican Conference right now is divided. There are Republicans who don't want to spend any more money. There are Republicans who are very crosswise with where the White House is right now, some of the priorities for President Trump. And there are front-line report because in very difficult Senate races who want something done now and something done much bigger perhaps than some of their colleagues are.

So you have all of that running into one another. And I think what I have heard behind the scenes is just an immense amount of frustration that everybody can't get on the same page. And that goes particularly to Senate Republicans and the White House.

Brooke, you take a look at what Senate Republicans want to do in this initial package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the priorities yesterday on the Senate floor, $105 billion for education, liability protections, not just for businesses, but for schools, for hospitals as well, more money for small businesses, more direct payments, the stimulus checks as well. But there are several issues, whether it's President Trump's

insistence on including a payroll tax. Very few Republicans are into that at this point in time. Obviously, there's the big issue of unemployment insurance, the federal enhancement of that, $600, which expires in just a couple of days. Republicans haven't agreed on that yet.

And there's also the issue of schools. Obviously, the White House has made very clear they want more funding schools, contingent on schools reopening.

Brooke, I have talked to dozens of Republicans up here. They're simply not on board with that. They don't think that you can force kids to go back to school, force teachers to go back to school, if there's an outbreak or spread in specific communities.

So here's what they're trying to do right now. Of that $105 billion, $70 billion would go to K-12. Another 30 would go to colleges, $5 billion to governors to be able to kind of work with on their own. And of that $70 billion, about half of it would go to schools that are going back into session.

It'd be for PPE. It'd be for retrofitting. It would be for meals and for transportation, but they don't want that tied to forcing those schools to get back together.

So, I think the big issue right now is, you have a Democratic proposal that's been on the table since May. The House passed it. Democrats are unified behind it, much bigger than where Republicans are. But we're not even to that point yet, where Republicans and the White House are negotiating with Democrats.

Republicans have to figure it out on their own first. And, right now, they're still, based on the lunch earlier today, Republicans that I have spoken to over the course of the day, still pretty far apart -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will see if and when the White House and Republicans can find some common ground. It's like, if the president saying it's getting worse as he stood at the podium yesterday, we will see if he really means that or if that was just for show.


Phil Mattingly, thank you.

California is hitting another milestone that no state wanted to reach. It just passed New York as the state with the most coronavirus cases in the nation. Well over 400,000 people in the state have been infected.

Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles.

And, Stephanie, I feel like we talk every day. You're reporting out some new number that's going in the wrong direction. Is there any indication that cases in California are starting to plateau? STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wish I could come here and tell

you something different, Brooke, than I'm about to tell you, but no.

No, I don't have that information to give to you right now. In fact, we just got new numbers for California, and we have a new record number for cases in a day, that number being 12,807. So that's surpassing, according to my notes, our last record high, which was July 7, which was almost 11,700.

So, again, this is not what we want to see. The positivity right here in the state, it is at 7.4 percent for the 14-week period, so down just slightly from what we talked about yesterday. However, the seven- day positivity rate is at 7.6 percent and it is trending higher right now, the hospitalizations increasing by 79 people from yesterday.

So, that is just an incremental increase there for that number. But, overall, this is the concern here when you look at -- the hospitalizations are more than 7,100 in that case.

Also, what's noteworthy here in California, 60 percent of the cases are in people in the age group of 18 to 49. And more than 55 percent of the cases are coming from the Latino population in the state. They also make up about 45 percent of the deaths, just to give you an idea of what is happening here in the state.

Here in Los Angeles County, we are seeing that 57 percent of the cases belong to people who are 41 years or younger. And that is a concern, because those are the people who are out mixing and spreading. But at the same time, when you look at the deaths that were announced, people who are 65 and older make up 75 percent of those deaths.

So while younger people tend to recover and get better from having the coronavirus and have shorter stays in the hospital, according to the hospitals I have spoken to, they still are infecting other people. And that is the concern here when you look at this number.

Now, we did surpass New York state, Brooke. And just to give you some perspective on that, we are about twice as large as New York state as far as population is concerned here in California. Also, our death numbers here are approaching 8,000, whereas New York state is at about 32,000.

So, some perspective there, but, still, obviously this is not the way we want things to go.

BALDWIN: No. And you talk about older, younger. I mean, this virus does not discriminate, does it?

Stephanie Elam in L.A. for us.

Again, Stephanie, thank you.

Coming up: The president downplayed the virus for months, even said it would disappear, and now he suddenly says it will get worse. Let's talk about what else he said there at the podium at the White House. And sympathy for a sex trafficking suspect. The president takes time to deliver good wishes to the woman accused of helping Jeffrey Epstein abuse -- abuse women for years. But the question I'm asking today is, what about these young victims?

And, later, New York state spent tens of millions of dollars on a temporary hospital during the height of the pandemic, but it turns out it was hardly used. And you will have to guess how much was actually spent to put this thing together. And now we have got a nurse speaking out. Don't miss that interview.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

After months of telling the nation coronavirus would just disappear, in warm weather or otherwise, that the risk to Americans was low and that Democrats were overreacting, and that 99 percent of cases are totally harmless -- that's a quote -- President Trump now says things will get worse before they get better.

He made those comments during his first of his relaunched White House press briefings. But, despite the admission, the president did not offer a specific plan or path forward to fight the virus.

So, with me now, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger in Washington, D.C.

And, Gloria, we know the president is set to hold another press conference in just a couple of hours. Some of his supporters, as well as pundits, say that he showed us a -- quote, unquote -- "new tone" yesterday.

My question to you is, was that all just show? And what do you expect from him today?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we will have to see what happens today.

Yes, it was just show. This was an effort to try and regain his credibility. He was reading from a script. And at least he talked about COVID as if it were something that still exists, which is something we haven't heard before from him.

What we did not hear from him and what people want to hear is some kind of coherent national strategy for testing, as you spoke about earlier, a coherent strategy for what to do in terms of opening schools, which is the concern of every parent in this country, as they -- as they have August and the fall staring them in the face.

And so they want to hear from a president who is in charge. That was the effort yesterday. One of my Republican sources with good lines into the White House said they were trying to get ahead of the story, and to make the president look like he was, in fact, in charge.

But, as we all know from all of our reporting, it's -- he's a very difficult guy to brief. He's not interested much in being briefed on this. He likes to watch TV more.

BALDWIN: He does.

I had remembered all of this -- the fact that Fauci wasn't there, the fact that not a single M.D. was present for this coronavirus briefing actually brought -- reminded me of this piece, this opinion piece you had written back in April.


Remember, it was the piece where you started out with the whole Rolling Stones story and Trump back in the day. And your point, if I remember correctly, was that basically Trump doesn't like being upstaged by doctors.


BALDWIN: And here we are now. What are we, end of July? We're almost at four million cases in the U.S.


BALDWIN: How much longer can he keep this whole let's shove the science aside thing up?

BORGER: I don't think he can do it any longer.

It's clear to me Tony Fauci, who was kept off television for quite some time, has gone around the White House, and appears everywhere else. And the scientists are not keeping their mouths shut. This is a president who doesn't like to share the stage, particularly with people who are more popular than he is.

Two-thirds of the people in this country trust Tony Fauci on the coronavirus. Less than a third trust the president. I think people in the White House are well aware of this. And -- but he wants to get credit for being in charge, as people look to choose a leader in the next election.

And what the Biden campaign is doing is talking about COVID and how the president is handling or not handling the pandemic. And that is what the voters say is their number one issue.

And so it was at a point where he couldn't disregard it anymore and say, things are back to normal. So, he has to at least acknowledge it. The question is what he does with that. Does he actually try and lead on things like testing, rather than just say, OK, I have changed my mind, I'm for testing, and now I'm for masks?

BALDWIN: Your point about Biden, and now it's -- we're seeing Obama- Biden teaming up again. Let's talk about that.

They have released this teaser of a sit-down conversation these two had recently. Here's a clip.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you imagine standing up when you were president and saying, it's not my responsibility, I take no responsibility, it's not -- I mean, literally, literally.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That -- those words didn't come out of our mouths while we were at office.

BIDEN: No. No.

I don't understand his inability to get a sense of what people are going through. He just can't -- he can't relate in any way.


BALDWIN: To your point, clearly, Joe Biden is seizing on this COVID moment, but we still have, what, three, four months to go until the election, anything could happen.

Is this a safe bet for team Biden?


We all know elections are not a safe bet. I think the notion that they're focusing on COVID right now and talking about the president who said, "I don't take responsibility," when he was talking about the states and reopening and it was their plan to reopen, et cetera, et cetera, I think that's a valid argument that the Biden campaign can make.

I'm sure the Trump campaign is going to have a response here, but COVID is not everything, but, right now, it's mostly everything. And what you're hearing from the Biden campaign is a list of how we would have handled it. That's what Obama and Biden were kind of getting at, that they would have taken responsibility.

The question is -- from Trump and his campaign is, what do they do going forward? That's what Mike Pence says he wants to talk about. So, people want to hear details. This is about their families. This is about their children. This is about their livelihoods.

And they want to know what the president wants and how he's going to get there.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, I miss seeing you in person, but good to be able to talk to you on TV. Thank you.

BORGER: You too.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BORGER: It is. Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I -- before we get to break, I just wanted to take a moment to highlight something President Trump said during that coronavirus briefing yesterday that has absolutely nothing to do with COVID, but everything to do with something I just want to call your attention to.

He uttered these five little words:


TRUMP: I just wish her well, frankly. I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach.

But I wish her well.


BALDWIN: "I wish her well," those seemingly warm words from the president, they were for Ghislaine Maxwell, longtime associate of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell before he could have been convicted.

Now, Maxwell is facing federal charges. She is accused of recruiting, grooming and sexually abusing young girls as part of a years-long criminal enterprise. And their stories are so abhorrent, I can't even go into some of the detail on national television.

But while the president of the United States wished Ghislaine Maxwell well, he has left other incredibly important women off of his well- wishes list.

How about wishing well alleged victim Annie Farmer, who said -- quote -- "The danger Maxwell poses must be taken seriously"?

How about wishing well anonymous Jane Doe, who said -- quote -- "Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did"?


How about wishing well Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims that Epstein kept her as a teenage sex slave, and that he was able to keep her with the assistance of Ghislaine Maxwell?

How about wishing well the women whose younger years were allegedly stolen, whose lives are forever scarred, whose futures they hope will see justice?

Ghislaine Maxwell is currently being held in a federal jail without bond. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

We will be right back.