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U.S. Daily Deaths Toll Tops 1,000 for First Time in Weeks; Texas Governor Won't let Hidalgo County Enforce Stay-at-Home Order; U.S. Accuses China of Spying, Orders Closure of Houston Consulate. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

And we do begin with breaking news, more than 1,000 new coronavirus deaths reported overnight. The U.S. has not seen a number that high since the beginning of June. More than 142,000 Americans have now been killed.

And this morning, we are at near-record hospitalizations. President Trump now admits the situation in America will get worse before it gets better. And he has suddenly and remarkably changed his tune on masks. For months, he's refused to wear one. Now he says everyone should. And he admitted that only now is his administration trying to come up with a national strategy.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We are in the process of developing a strategy that's going to be very, very powerful.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: In the process. Why only in the process? What about the last five months? What does that mean for the 142,000 Americans who have died?

Overnight, California passed New York as the state with the most cases, although it should be noted, New York probably had a much higher case rate, just not enough testing back in April.

In South Texas, one doctor says it has been a tsunami with medical staff stretched to the limit and breaking down emotionally. In Arizona, doctors are rationing testing equipment, even as the Trump administration sits on billions of dollars of unused funds that Congress designated for testing and tracing.

Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Sanjay, we all watched the president yesterday, even as we watched the death toll continue to rise in the United States, 1,000 new deaths reported overnight. The president used different language on masks, but he also said that the administration is in the process now of formulating a plan to deal with this. What was your takeaway?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it was the same as yours, John. I mean, we are just hearing about the idea a plan will be formulated, but we still didn't hear what that plan was. We didn't hear about, first of all, galvanizing every citizen to do the right thing, to remind people that we're all in this together, that we all have a role to play here. I mean, what an opportunity to sort of lead.

But also I keep coming back -- I think we've been talking about this since March -- to testing. I was talking to sources mostly the day yesterday about testing and this idea that we need breakthroughs in testing, we need antigen testing. We need to have more widespread testing. And I was saying -- I feel like we've been having these same conversations for several months now. What's the deal? I mean, has there been a real investment in testing?

And at the same time, as you know, there's been some discussion about pulling back funds on testing. The idea that you can have significant testing in places and sort of create a tsunami of activity around testing, that's what should have been done.

It's getting harder and harder to do, because there's so much virus out there, there's so much demand for testing. Instead of actually using testing to bring down the overall infection rate, it's essentially being used to basically point out fires around the country, point out hotspots and then try to divert resources there, and then put out another fire. That's not the way it should be used. So I didn't hear specifics like that, like I was hoping to hear.

BERMAN: Sanjay, I talked to a doctor last night in Arizona who's trying to ration testing. He doesn't have enough equipment to give tests to everyone who presents themselves in this hospital. And this comes as we learn that the administration is sitting on billions of dollars in unused money for testing. How can that be?

GUPTA: Yes, it's really -- it's crazy. And I can give you another example. I was in the operating room all day on Monday. And just to give you an idea of -- so we're going to operate on somebody. We would like to have that patient tested before we operate on them. We can't get that patient tested. We can't get a result now.

So what does that mean now? All of us have to go into PPE. I'm the surgeon. My residents are on PPE, my circulating nurse, my scrub nurse, anybody who comes into the room now has to use personal protective equipment. We're given one of these N95 masks periodically and told we can only get another one if we can demonstrate that it's no longer functioning or it's too soil or something like that.


It's crazy, because you don't have a testing and I couldn't test that one patient, all of a sudden, you have this ripple effect that goes through the entire hospital in terms of all the other resources that are necessary now that need to be implemented in order to take care of that patient.

So the fact that we're still dealing with this at this point, it's ludicrous. And it's all we talk about in the locker room, in the hallways among the physicians, in terms of why are we still in this position where I'm about to do brain surgery on someone, I'm about to take their skull off to remove a brain tumor and I can't get a nasal swab to get a COVID test back in order to avoid everyone having to go into PPE. It just doesn't make any sense.

CAMEROTA: That's so helpful for us to understand it, Sanjay.

And so, Dana, that's why when you listened to the president, was that real? I mean, it's hard to know. He was clearly reading off a script and he was saying, we are in the process of developing a strategy. And so does that mean that they are going to stop outsourcing this to the states, which was their explicit strategy up until now? So is something really changing at the White House?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not changing at the White House. And the answer is going to be no until we actually see and hear a very different approach, an approach that will make it so that Sanjay Gupta is not in an operating room with somebody's skull cracked open but can't get a nasal swab. I mean, that story just makes your heart melt. Because -- or maybe, you know, your head explode, because it is so outrageous. It is so outrageous.

And, look, I've been speaking to mayors across the country. I spoke to a couple in some big cities yesterday. And, you know, one was in a hotspot, one was in a place where the numbers have plateaued, but they're singing from the same song sheet, which is they are desperate to get the numbers down, but they can't do it without a federal strategy on testing. It's as simple as that.

And while this is going on, there is this big debate on Capitol Hill about the next tranche of money. You know, money is obviously a big issue, but as you said, there is unspent money. It is a strategy that is missing to get the money out the door, to get these tests out the door, to have a federal, you know, system, so that all of these places, not just the fires that Sanjay talks about, but everywhere, can get proper testing, timely testing.

BERMAN: It seems to be a lack of will and a lack of a plan at this point, Dana. They have -- maybe the White House has a political plan. They did have the president deliver that news conference last night. What do they want to see from him going forward?

BASH: They want to see him engaged. They want to see him stop trying to ignore and downplay the virus rhetorically, because the president has been told by a number of people, according to sources I've talked to, that this isn't going to go away. This is the number one, two, three, and four issue for U.S. president, but more importantly, in his mind, for him in his re-election campaign, so you've got to get in the game. That's what yesterday was about rhetorically.

Whether or not that equals getting in the game on a plan, that is TBD. We certainly didn't hear it yesterday. CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I'm sure you were heartened to hear the president talk about masks and say that everybody should be wearing one. It was so different, obviously, than the message that he has modeled for people, by not wearing a mask, and by dismissing masks for the past five months.

But, yesterday, it was definitely a change in tune. I'm sure that was encouraging, but he did say that he carries a mask with him in his pocket. And I'm just wondering, does a mask work as well in your pocket?

GUPTA: No, definitely not as well in your pocket. But, you know, I do think that it makes a difference. And I know that maybe -- I don't know. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I live in a state where the governor is suing the mayor over masks and it's pretty clear that I think the governor here is taking his cues from the president. So I hope that it makes a difference.

I mean, one thing we know, and we've said it for so many months now, but masks, physical distancing and hand washing are pretty much -- and addition to testing, early testing, are the only tools that countries around the world have had that have basically been able to contain this virus.

What does containment of the virus mean? That means 1.5 million new infections per day. So that means we would have 350 roughly new infections per day in this country as to oppose to, what, 65,000 or 66,000. So we could do that with these basic strategies. It is within our power to get there.

I know it sounds crazy, like a pipe dream at this point, that I we could have just 350 new cases per day, but eventually take that number even lower, but it can happen.


And it can happen with just these simple strategies.

BERMAN: Yes. I want people to do that math in their head, the difference between 350 and 65,000 is immense. It is a chasm. That's how far we are from where should be and could have been, frankly, today.

Dana, there was a startling moment that had nothing to do with the pandemic at the news conference yesterday. The president was asked about the case involving Ghislaine Maxwell, the friend of Jeffrey Epstein, who is under federal charges for helping him in his alleged sex trafficking ring, horrible allegations against her. And this is what he had to say about this accused criminal.


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, whatever it is.


BERMAN: The range of things he could have said, I wish her well to an accused sex felon was stunning.

BASH: It was stunning, especially since as president of the United States, the answer should have been, I'm not going to comment, it's an ongoing federal investigation. But this is a classic Trump M.O. that turn of phrase, I wish her well, is the same kind of turn of phrase that he used for people like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort and others who he later, you know, gave help to. But it seemed at the time was trying to send a signal to.

And that's how I took it, that he wanted to use the opportunity to, you know, get it out into the ether that, you know, he's on her side. Whatever that means, for whatever reason, that's what he wanted to do in that moment, as opposed to doing what presidents normally do, which is say nothing.

CAMEROTA: Dana Bash, Sanjay Gupta, thank you both very much for this conversation.

So, the coronavirus crisis in Texas is escalating. It has gotten so bad, a judge tried to issue an emergency stay-at-home order, but the governor is blocking it. So that judge is going to join us next.




FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX): This is one of the most craven, callous failures of leadership that I've ever witnessed in my life. This is a death cult, the Texas GOP, only they want you to do the dying. And that's exactly what is happening in Texas right now.


BERMAN: That's former Texas Congressman and former Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke calling the Texas Republican leadership a death cult. Why? Well, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas will not let counties enforce stay-at-home orders.

Joining me now is Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, who issued the order that cannot be enforced in the county.

First, Judge, thank you for being with us. Why was it so important for you to issue that order?

JUDGE RICHARD CORTEZ (D-HIDALGO COUNTY, TX): Well, thank you for asking the question. I want to be very clear. Hidalgo County, we are in dire need of help. And we cannot survive in the future without the help of our governor, without the help of the State of Texas. And just yesterday, we met with him and he's promised a lot of assistance and help to us that we need. But the reason that he and I disagree is because when this pandemic first hit our county back in March the 21st, I didn't have any experience in this. The emergency manager person responsible in my county, in my county of about 1 million people, I wanted to follow all the guidelines of the CDC, which I did.

As a result, after eight weeks of battling this disease, we only had three people in the ICU, we had less than ten people in the hospital and we had single digits in people confirming positive. What did I do, follow the CDC guidelines, which one of those was shelter in place, keep people away from people, have physical distance, facial covering. All the things we heard over and over again.

So after the governor opened Texas, which I agree that business is important, the economy is important, then now we have what we have now. So, to me, it didn't require just common sense that if something worked before, let's just go back to it. So I issued the shelter in place order, knowing that it was against the governor's order to enforce that law.

But, you know, what I've told him and others, if I can even simply get 10 percent of people to follow it, I'm 10 percent better than I was today, because, yesterday, we had 49 people pass away and that is certainly not acceptable.

BERMAN: He will not let you enforce the stay-at-home order, despite the fact that you think it is necessary to save lives.

I want to put up the statistics so people can see what's happening in Hidalgo County. 49 deaths Tuesday, you can see the number ICU patients and the hospitalizations. 49 deaths Tuesday, that's a big jump from the day before. I think it was 34 the day before. You're going in the wrong direction.

What's going to happen over the next few days, Judge?

CORTEZ: Well, you know, we can try to find fault in numerous ways. The truth is that I have, in my county, about 38 percent of the people that live in our county are considered to be in poverty. So it's not unusual to have three generations living in the same household. So when you have grandpa, mom and dad and grandchildren together and one of them gets infected, then what we're seeing is this cluster infections growing all over the place.

So what I have asked the governor, I have ask government to help us, because we don't have the resources, we don't have the personnel to educate our people, inform our people how to manage this disease when situations like that happen.


I don't see enough of that going on.

The other thing that our testing is taking way too long for us to find out if someone tested positive, so if you tested positive and you were asymptomatic and you went back home and you go back to work, go back to your family, go back to your friends, later, you find out seven days later that you're infected, look at all the people that you came across.

And then we have to, we must continue to do business in this pandemic. But we have to learn how to do it safely. So where is the government helping us to help businesses be safe?

BERMAN: Judge, you brought up testing. The president even yesterday was bragging about the United States having more testing than any country in the world, but you're saying it's not working when you need it and people are dying.

The president also said, he hasn't had any specific requests for help or equipment. He was talking about from governors. But here is your opportunity. Is there help that you would like to see from the president?

CORTEZ: Well, of course, we need more resources for testing. We have a smaller county right next to our neighbors and I spoke to the county judge just last night said, we're having to pay for our own testing and we just simply don't have the money. We don't know what we're going to do for testing in the future. So I'm sorry, but I would have to disagree with that.

BERMAN: There's billions of dollars in unused federal money that was allocated for testing and there are counties in Texas where you are that say they don't have the money to procure new tests. That's a problem. We appreciate you coming in and shining a light on that problem. We'll try to get some answers.

Judge Cortez, thanks very much for being with us. Good luck. Let us know how we can help.

CORTEZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, the United States ordered China to close this consulate in Houston, the Chinese government now threatening to retaliate. We'll speak to a key senator about this, next.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news. The U.S. State Department is ordering the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston. You're looking at live pictures of that consulate right now for what the State Department describes as massive illegal spying and interfering in domestic politics. Now, China is vowing to retaliate.

Joining me now is Independent Senator Angus King, of Maine. He serves on the Intelligence Committee. Senator King, thank you for being with us.

As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I don't know if you've seen more than we have. What's the State Department talking about here and what do you make of this development?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, I think there are a couple of things. Number one, this is a dangerous moment, John, as the confrontation between our two countries continues to escalate. Number two, I know of no recent intelligence of particular Chinese activities, either with regard to our elections or the whole confrontation between our two countries, theft of intellectual property. And that's what sort of bothers me about this is the timing.

We've known about Chinese -- I mean, they hacked the Office of Personnel Management five or six years ago. They've been stealing intellectual property for 20 years. There certainly is a good reason to confront China. My concern is escalating this tension, is it really about confronting China or does it have something to do with an election in four months?

The president keeps talking about the Chinese virus and linking Joe Biden to China. This is a dangerous game. Here's a term -- here's a new term for you, John, the Thucydides Trap. And what that's all about is the tension between a rising power and a dominant power. In 16 of the times that you've had that situation in world history, going back to the ancient Greece, 12 have resulted in wars.

So the question is can we avoid the Thucydides Trap with China. And it's going to require some really deft diplomacy and military power, and deterrence, and all of those factors. But I guess my question would be and my question will be today when I talk with my colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, is there any particular data, is there particular information that is behind this new action. I'm all for confronting China, but it has to be done in a serious, thoughtful, non-domestic politics kind of way.

BERMAN: I see you're Thucydides, by the way. The strong do as they will and the weak suffer as they must. I'm on Sparta's side, as far as that goes.

KING: Beautiful.

BERMAN: Senator King, there were reports that the Chinese and the consulate were burning documents over the last several hours in Houston. Why would that be?

KING: Well, that's what happens. That's what happens when we close Russian consulates and when they close ours. If there are confidential documents and they know that the building that they're operating out of is going to become essentially available to Americans, that's what they're going to do.

And, look, I don't want to minimize what the Chinese -- the Chinese are, I think, on a very dangerous path themselves. They just essentially put a chokehold on Hong Kong, what they're doing with the Uyghurs is unconscionable, and they're sort of aggressiveness around the world, what they're doing in the South China Sea. So I don't want to sound like I'm whitewashing them at all.

And I'm sure there are documents in that building that they're burning that they don't want us to get a hold of. But, again, it's -- I think one of the issues here, John, is this ought to be handled on a worldwide basis with allies, instead of a one-to-one kind of confrontation, and that seems to be where we're headed.

BERMAN: On the subject of intelligence and on the subject of possible hacks in meddling, Democratic leaders, including on the Intelligence Committee, have asked the FBI to be brief all members on alleged new Russian attacks or plans for attacks on the election system.