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Trump Urges Public to Wear Masks During White House Briefing on Coronavirus; Some Stats Show Positive Progress Against Coronavirus; "Wall of Moms" Shields Demonstrators from Federal Agents; U.S. Accuses Chinese Hackers of Trying to Steal Vaccine Data. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just a head, a grave new warning from President Donald Trump over where the coronavirus pandemic is headed next.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better. Something I don't like saying about things. But that's the way it is.


CHURCH: Also, Mr. Trump doubles down on facemasks at his coronavirus briefing. Why the president has gone from chief skeptic to supporter.

Plus, taking to the streets of Portland. Why mothers are on the front lines between police and protesters.

Good to have you with us. The U.S. reports more than 1,000 people died from the coronavirus on Tuesday. It is the first time in two weeks the death toll has surpassed 1,000 people in a single day. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. on Tuesday recorded more than 64,000 new cases, and there's a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it found that in some places infection rates were actually two to 24 times greater than the official count.

U.S. President Donald Trump returned to the White House press room Tuesday to hold his first coronavirus briefing since April. The White House is hoping to change the narrative of an administration mishandling the pandemic. But around 142,000 people in the U.S. dead from COVID-19, the president at one point acknowledged the grim reality of this crisis.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A scripted President Trump tried to take on a more serious tone in addressing the coronavirus pandemic in a press conference at the White House. The president at one point acknowledged that it's going to get worse before it gets better in the U.S. when it comes to COVID-19 and he urged Americans to wear masks and not to congregate in crowded places like bars.

Here's more of what the president had to say.

TRUMP: We're instead asking Americans to use masks, socially distance, and employ vigorous hygiene, wash your hands every chance you get, while sheltering high-risk populations. We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart.


ACOSTA: One big problem for the president's message at this press conference would be the inconsistencies, for example, on masks. For weeks the president has scoffed at the idea of using them and has even ridiculed former vice president Joe Biden for wearing a mask. And as for congregating in crowded spaces, that runs against the president's desire for Americans to attend his political rallies.

And even a trip he made to the Trump Hotel earlier in the week when he attended a fundraiser. Many of the people there, including the president, were not wearing masks.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And the United States president did not invite the nation's top infectious disease expert to Tuesday's briefing. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN he was not asked to attend and the last time he spoke to Mr. Trump about the pandemic was late last week. Days after the president called him an alarmist Fauci responded defending himself as a realist.

With the White House pushing to re-open schools next month, Fauci says he has not specifically talked to the president or the Education secretary Betsy DeVos about their plans, so the doctor shared some of his recommendations.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As a fundamental principle, I do agree that we should try as best as we possibly can to get the children back to school because of the well-documented, you know, secondary downstream ripple effects that are negative particularly on parents and on the children when you keep them out of school.

So if you at least agree that the general principle is to try as best you can to get the children back to school, I think you have to put that into context that important issue in that is to make sure you do whatever you can to safeguard the safety and the health of the children as well as the teachers. And that should guide your policy.

There are really some key issues. I mean, things like universal wearing of masks. Close the bars. Stay physically distant.


Outdoors better than indoors particularly if you're going to have restaurants sparsely. Seat people separated from each other. Wash your hands. They're really fundamental things. It's not rocket science.


CHURCH: Well, California has surpassed New York as the U.S. state with the highest number of infections. The state has more than 409,000 confirmed cases and as the virus continues to spread across the country some places are rolling back their re-opening plans to contain the outbreak.

CNN's Athena Jones reports.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Encouraging signs. The tally of new daily coronavirus cases nationwide falling below 60,000 for the first time in about a week and the positivity rate dipping under 8 percent for the first time since July 5th. And new cases now steady in 20 states and falling in five. Still, trouble spots abound in the south, the Midwest and west, with nine states and Puerto Rico seeing their highest seven-day average for new daily cases. And hospitalizations continuing to climb.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: This is why it's so important to get the message out. We're still at the beginning of this pandemic.

JONES: This as a new CDC analysis reveals the number of actual COVID cases is likely much higher than the official tally. Depending on the region the number of people infected was sometimes six to 24 times the number of reported cases.

More than 50 ICUs in Florida have reached capacity and 39 hospitals have asked the state for additional medical staff. Dozens of nurses have tested positive for the virus.

MARTHA BAKER, REGISTERED NURSE: We're running out of, you know, beds and nurses and caregivers, and, you know, the trend is in the wrong direction. We're barely, you know, I'd say, dancing on the head of a pin right now.

JONES: The surging cases in many states super charging the back-to- school debate.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: And the most important thing is what we do outside of schools before we reopen to lower the transmission rate. JONES: One pediatrician arguing that while only a small proportion of

children suffer serious complications from COVID, one child's hospitalization or death is one too many.

DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PEDIATRICIAN: Children deserve better than this. Now is the time to invest in the infrastructure to get kids back to school safely.

FEDRICK INGRAM, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: The startling statistic that you all need to know is that we have 23,000 children that have tested positive for COVID-19 here in the state of Florida.

JONES: Florida's teacher's union now suing to block Governor Ron DeSantis' order to re-open schools.

INGRAM: We simply cannot be reckless with our public cools. That's not fair to our students and our teachers who want to get back to work.

JONES: In fact, just this morning, Miami's mayor announced summer camps there will be closed after at least three children tested positive for the virus.

(On camera): And one more thing in light of the ongoing resistance among some to wearing mask and keeping their distance, a new study out of the Netherlands finds that if 90 percent of people took those two simple steps, along with frequent handwashing, large COVID outbreaks could be prevented. One more reminder that we have the tools to slow the spread of the virus even without a vaccine.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. William Schaffner. He is also a professor at Vanderbilt University's Division of Infectious Diseases.

Thank you, Doctor, for all you do and for joining us.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, VANDERBILT: My pleasure. Good to be with you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Now, we all witnessed a shift in messaging from President Trump at his first Coronavirus Task Force briefing in 90 days. He said the pandemic will probably get worse before it gets better, and he promoted wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and appeal to young people to stay out of bars. It is a very different message compared to what he was saying just days ago but it is a welcomed change.

So what impact might the president's words potentially have on the current surge in cases in this country?

SCHAFFNER: Well, the change certainly is welcomed. We need national guidance. We need a national policy. Now I wonder whether this will be sustained and whether there will be really forceful follow-ups. For example, a call for everyone leaving their front door tomorrow morning to be masked. And, again, to reinforce social distancing. At least I didn't hear the statement that people should stay out of group activities, bars, yes. But there are many other group activities that people should avoid particularly older people and, obviously, people who have chronic underlying illnesses.

Younger people should be careful rather than care free. We need to hear those messages time and time and time again so that the people who have been skeptical and listening to the leadership until now begin to get the message that there's been a change at the top and we have to all follow and work together.

CHURCH: And so, Doctor, perhaps it is baby steps for the president because he did send out that tweet him wearing a mask and now he's saying this.


Does his next move need to be a national mandate for wearing masks?

SCHAFFNER: Well, of course a national mandate would be so important. You know, the countries that have been successful in flattening the curve, reducing the transmission of COVID have had from the beginning a national program that was clearly communicated. It was very sustained. And if we could have that sort of a beginning now, it certainly would help because at the moment we have a very heterogenous response across the country.

People are really confused what they ought to do. And I would put the public health leadership in front and have the political leadership standing back supporting the public health leadership. Perhaps that's too much to ask but you asked me and that's the way I'd do it.

CHURCH: Yes. As we learned Dr. Birx was in the other room but she wasn't present and no other doctors were there at that briefing.

So let's just look at the new coronavirus cases comparing past and previous weeks. We brought up this map, the nationwide surge in new cases appears to have stabilized in some parts of the country. Now it's worth mentioning that more states and cities are now mandating masks. Do you think that might be behind this slight improvement?

SCHAFFNER: I think, Rosemary, that might be a bit too early. Let's look at what happens over the next week or so. One would hope that as we have more mask requirements across the country we could start to blunt this. But it goes along with the other activities. Masks alone, they are fundamental but masks alone we need some help. We need the social distancing and the staying away from large groups. You know, when you have mask orders you frequently close bars at the same time.

CHURCH: Right. And President Trump also said at that briefing that the U.S. has done more testing than anywhere else. He talked about his own 15-minute and five-minute test but that's not the experience obviously of the rest of the population and the White House has been pushing back on increasing funding. It doesn't want to increase funding for testing for the U.S. population. And this is what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say about testing across the country. Let's bring that up.


FAUCI: It isn't as uniform as you would like that every single state, city, every county, every place where we need it is doing it exactly at the same level. As a whole we need to improve it.


CHURCH: And Doctor, improving testing is going to be difficult if the president stops funding COVID testing across the country despite being able to get one for himself every single day. Sometimes more than once. So what needs done to test better and test faster?

SCHAFFNER: Well, we certainly could use more resources and the laboratories need to expand their capacities if they can do that. But the other thing that's being done is, particularly in my state, for example, we're testing high-risk populations more. Rather than just letting anyone come in who has got no symptoms to get a test. We're focusing on older people, nursing homes, prisons, manufacturing facilities where there are cases.

Seasonal agricultural workers and the like. So we're going after populations that we consider at higher risk. And of course we're testing people who have symptoms.

CHURCH: Dr. Schaffner, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.

CHURCH: And we want to bring you this. A tsunami warning has been issued after an earthquake struck off the coast of Alaska early this morning. The warning is in effect for South Alaska and the Alaskan peninsula and parts of the Pacific Coasts. The preliminary magnitude was 7.8 but there's no tsunami threat to Hawaii or the California coast so far. We will, of course, bring you more information on this as it comes into us.

Well, just ahead, the city of Portland, Oregon, wants U.S. forces to leave town but federal authorities say they are not going anywhere until the violence stops. Plus, we will hear from a mother who has been on the front lines with demonstrators. What the so-called wall of moms are hoping to achieve.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Oregon's top prosecutor is calling for an investigation into the actions of federal agents in Portland. They were dispatched by the White House at the beginning of the month to guard federal monuments. But now protesters want them to get out of town. Video showing two federal officers detaining a man and placing him in an unmarked van has marked national outrage. And the mayor of Portland says the White House is to blame for escalating the situation.


MAYOR TED WHEELER, PORTLAND, OREGON: It doesn't de-escalate the situation at all. In fact it's well documented that before they got here the energy was really going out of the late night protests. We were seeing smaller crowds. We were seeing less vandalism. We were seeing much less violence. And all of us expected that it was going to go away. We had it contained. We are using our de-escalation strategies. We were engaged in limited arrests of people who were engaged in legal activity.

That's modern policing. And then these guys came in like a bulldozer and what it did was it re-energized Portlanders, it brought people back into the streets. And now here we are in the middle of a pandemic that their boss doesn't even seem to take very seriously and we've got thousands of people back on the streets. This is a disaster but it's a disaster the administration's own making.


CHURCH: But the Department of Homeland Security disagrees. The acting DHS deputy secretary defended the actions and presence of federal forces. He says Portland was in shambles before federal officers arrived.



KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY DEPUTY SECRETARY: They are operating under legal federal authority protecting federal facilities and the people at those facilities as best they can. And they've been there for about two weeks. You've seen the violence every night from Portland but it was there every single night. They've had violence for 35 or 40 nights before we had expanded our presence there. So the idea that somehow the federal government caused this which Mayor Wheeler there has occasionally asserted is just belied by the facts.


CHURCH: Well, a group of women in Portland formed a so-called wall of moms to protect protesters. Take a look.

Standing arm in arm forming a human barricade the mothers say they are trying to protect protesters from federal agents. The organizers said around 200 women were involved. They say some even got caught in the crossfire and were teargassed by police.

And earlier I spoke to Julianne Jackson. She is a mother who helped lead the wall of moms march last night.


CHURCH: Talk to us about what happened last night. What you have been witnessing, because we heard there that there's all of this violence and that these federal agents have to stay while the violence lasts. What sort of violence are you seeing?

JULIANNE JACKSON, ACTIVIST WITH "WALL OF MOMS": You know, to be really honest I've been out there protesting, you know, since the beginning of these protests and quite frankly what the mayor says is absolutely correct. The crowds started to die down. Things were starting to get organized to where most protesters were kind of starting to do things the correct way. They were finding different avenues to reach out to government and get involved locally.

And truthfully, these troops being deployed here just escalated things. So the majority of the violence I have seen to be really honest has come from the other side, not so much the protesters. I've noticed that not only police officers but also the feds that are out there have kind of hairpin triggers so it doesn't take very much to activate them and they don't necessarily go towards the person who is creating chaos, it's everyone.

CHURCH: So why do you think those federal agents are there?

JACKSON: To be really honest, I don't know. I mean I wish I could -- I wish I could tell you that. To me it seems like an intimidation tactic. We have the right to assemble. We have the right to protest. So, you know, I'm not necessarily sure.

CHURCH: And Julianne, Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler, he supports the protesters as you know and he wants these federal agents to get out of town but he says the protesters have been heard and it's now time to end this because of safety concerns in the midst of this pandemic. Will you and the other moms encourage these protesters to end this now?

JACKSON: You know, for me personally, it's something I've been working on to, you know, try to find out what the ask is and I think, you know, it's very easy for people to say that we've been heard but we haven't necessarily seen the action or the follow through to back that up. You know, we did see a small divestment from the police, the Portland Police Bureau budget but it was not what was not requested to put back into black communities.

So I think, yes, we're being heard but we're not exactly being taken seriously. So as far as encouraging people I would definitely encourage people to continue to try to stay safe. I would definitely continue to, you know, to encourage people to try to get involved with local government and to change those things from the inside out. But as far as encouraging people to stop, not really. No.

CHURCH: Do you worry, though, that the longer the protesters stay there the longer these federal agents will and then the more federal agents will be sent to other towns like Portland? Do you -- are you worried about that? It's playing into this whole narrative?

JACKSON: Absolutely. I think that's always a concern but I think, you know, we're in a momentous time. There's a lot of momentum here for the black community that has never been there before. And we have, you know, obviously, as you can tell from the pictures and videos, we have the numbers now. And, yes, I'm concerned. I don't want anybody to get hurt. So that's definitely not what we would encourage.

We do encourage organization, we do encourage getting into local government and trying to do these things differently as well. But, you know, these protests that we're asking for, these are not necessarily new concepts.


These are things the black community has been asking for. So I think, you know, if Ted Wheeler is saying they're listening, you know, I would just like to see to follow through with that. But yes. I mean, it's concerning obviously. We don't want anyone to get hurt.

CHURCH: Yes, that is critical of course.

Julianne Jackson, thank you so very much for talking with us here at CNN. We appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you.


CHURCH: Some very brave moms there. All right. Another story we're following. Two Chinese nationals are accused of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research with the support of China's government. The charges were unsealed in Washington Tuesday even though the defendants are believed to be still in China. They are suspected of trying to hack the computer networks of several U.S. based firms working on coronavirus projects.

And CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now from Hong Kong.

Good to see you, Kristie. So we know the U.S. is accusing these hackers of trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine data and says the action was state sponsored. What is the evidence linking them to China and how much intel were they able to get?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the details in this indictment are astonishing in scope and scale. In the United States two Chinese hackers are charged for their role in a sweeping cyber espionage and crime campaign that according to U.S. prosecutors was backed by Beijing. It was aimed at gathering information from COVID-19 research centers in the United States, organizations that were looking into coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

According to this indictment, it says that this campaign was 10 years in the running. That it amassed terabytes of data worth of hundreds of millions of dollars. That it involved two former electrical engineering students who currently reside in China. And the indictment also had an astonishingly long list of alleged targets including COVID research centers in the U.S. ranging from biotech companies in California to Maryland and Massachusetts, as well as hundreds of firms in 10 countries around the world including a solar energy company in Australia, a Defense contractor in Spain, and artificial intelligence firms in the UK.

Also targeted, according to this indictment, human rights activists and dissidents in the U.S., Hong Kong and China. In fact it details that the passwords belonging to a former Tiananmen Square protester were targeted by these two alleged hackers. Now we've heard already for months now senior U.S. security officials have accused China of attempting to infiltrate COVID-19 research centers because this is high valued information during this space race. That is the race to a vaccine.

We have received comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the last hour. They deny the accusations. They also are demanding the U.S. to stop making these accusations and they counter accuse the U.S. of engaging in cyber espionage themselves -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. That U.S.-China relationship not looking good right now.

Kristie Lu Stout, many thanks. Appreciate it.

And this is CNN NEWSROOM. Coming up, heartbreak in Texas. We take you inside hospitals there where doctors, patients and families are struggling to cope.