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THE SITUATION ROOM
Vaccine Search; President Trump Holds Coronavirus Briefing; U.S. Agrees To Pay Pfizer Nearly $2 Billion For 100 Million Doses Of Promising Vaccine; California Hits New Daily Peak Of 12,807 Cases After Passing New York With Most Infections In The U.S.; Who Gets A Coronavirus Vaccine First? Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 22, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM, as President Trump tries to reset his P.R. strategy in responding to the coronavirus.
We're standing by for the president to answer reporters' questions over at the White House a day after he struck a more urgent tone, warning, the crisis would likely get worse, this as the virus now has claimed more than 142,000 lives here in the United States, more than 1,000 deaths reported in just 24 hours.
The president now beginning to answer reporters' questions.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
QUESTION: ... your failures on coronavirus. You are only targeting cities...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we haven't had that failure. And...
QUESTION: You are only targeting cities, though, run by Democrats. Is this just a political stunt?
TRUMP: Yeah, the cities, unfortunately, that are in trouble are all run by Democrats. You have radical-left Democrats running cities like Chicago and so many others that we just had a news conference. And, unfortunately, that's the way it is. I mean, that's the facts.
When you look at Chicago and you look at the job -- Mayor Lightfoot sent me a letter yesterday, and I think, in their own way, they want us to go in. There'll be a time when they're going to want us to go in full blast, but right now we're sending extra people to help. We're arresting a lot of people that have been very bad.
As far as the coronavirus, as you say, I think we've done some amazing things, and I think you'll probably see that if you compare our statistics to other countries. And if you look at death rates, et cetera, you're going to see -- and especially into the future, with what's happening -- you're going to see some very, very impressive numbers for the United States.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, sir, real quick?
TRUMP: Go ahead, Jon.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you plan to do a national strategy to help schools reopen and reopen safely? And regarding the children in your family -- your son, your grandchildren -- are you comfortable -- do you plan to have them back in person, in school this fall?
TRUMP: Yeah. Well, I am comfortable with that. And we do have a national strategy, but, as you know, ultimately it's up to the governors of the states. I think most governors, many governors want these schools to open. I would like to see the schools open, especially when you see statistics like this. We have great statistics on -- on young people and on safety. So we would like to see schools open. We want to see the economy open.
We just had a report, literally as I walked in, that we set an all- time record on housing price increases -- up, I think they said, 21 percent, which is a record. It's never happened before. That's a great sign.
We have a -- an economy that's going to be booming. It's going to be -- a lot of jobs are being produced. The job numbers will be coming out shortly -- meaning over the next week or so -- and I think it'll be a continuation of the last two months. The last two months have been incredible.
So I think we're going to have a great economy. You're going to have a fantastic next year. I think you're going to have a very good third quarter, actually, when the third quarter numbers come out. Interestingly, they'll be announced just before the election. They'll be announced around November 1.
So, yes, I would like to see the schools open -- open 100 percent. And we'll do it safely. We'll do it carefully. But when you look at the statistics I just read, having to do with children and safety, they're very impressive. They have very strong immune systems.
QUESTION: But you would understand that the...
QUESTION: ... the children who go to school then go back to home, they're with -- some live with their grandparents.
QUESTION: That there's -- there's a real risk. Would you understand if some schools... TRUMP: Well, they do say that they don't transmit very easily. And a lot of people are saying they don't transmit, and we're looking at that. We're studying, Jon, very hard that particular subject: that they don't bring it home with them.
Now, they don't catch it easily. They don't bring it home easily. And if they do catch it, they get better fast. We're looking at that fact. That is a factor, and we're looking at that very strongly. We'll be reporting about that over the next week.
QUESTION: Mr. President, at least three governors today came out with new orders on mask requirements.
QUESTION: Is that something you wish all the governors would do? Is that something you would encourage?
TRUMP: Well, a lot of the governors, they have different requirements. Some of the governors are very strong on masks. Others aren't. I think it's really going to ultimately be up to them.
We've given them the facts. We've given them everything we know. They have their own facts. Some are strong on masks, and, as you know, some aren't in the same ballpark. But I think...
QUESTION: Shouldn't they all be?
TRUMP: Well, I think all are suggesting if you want to wear a mask, you wear it. I bring one. I have one. I've worn it. And I think when I'm in certain settings, like hospitals and various -- or when I'm close -- when you can't socially distance, I believe in it. Let's see: Do I? I do. I have it.
And if -- if -- you know, in certain -- in certain instances, I think you really -- I think you want to travel with a mask. There are instances where you really can use it. I would believe it would be a good thing.
QUESTION: Sir, one, just, follow-up: D.C. Mayor Bowser came out with such an order today. It, of course, doesn't apply to federal properties, but would you encourage federal properties and -- including the White House complex -- to follow the order? Or on military bases?
TRUMP: We're going to -- we're going to make a decision over the next 24 hours. We'll let you know what that decision is. OK?
QUESTION: Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you.
QUESTION: President Trump, do you agree with Senate Republicans discussing the possibility of extending short-term unemployment insurance today so that they prevent benefits from expiring?
TRUMP: Well, I think a lot of politicians are discussing that -- Republicans, Democrats. And right now, a lot of my representatives are on the Hill. They're discussing CARES Act or phase four -- whatever you want to call it. And I think, ultimately, something good will come out of it.
The economy is starting to really come back strongly, when you look at the numbers -- even with the fact that -- like California is still closed up and many big states. I think the numbers are even more impressive, considering that some states like California -- big ones -- are pretty well shut down.
So we expect to have something over a period of time -- over the appropriate period of time.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. These two questions are with Andrew Feinberg and J.C. Bua. One is: Today you said you're sending federal law enforcement officers to run cities run by extreme politicians -- that's the word you used -- which -- who happen to be all Democrats who have supported Black Lives Matter protests.
TRUMP: I didn't say I that. I didn't say who supported...
QUESTION: Millions of Americans voted for these people...
TRUMP: No. I said Democrat politicians, and these are the cities where you have the problem. If you look at Chicago, if you look at Detroit, if you look -- I mean, look around any of these cities where we have the problems.
And we're sending them help, but we're really waiting for them to call for the big help, for the big numbers, for the large numbers of people that we have ready, willing, and able.
You look at Chicago, where 14 people were shot yesterday, where, over the weekend, many people died and many people were shot, and, over the last month, they're setting record numbers.
We are waiting for the mayor, respectfully, and other mayors and governors to call us. We are ready, willing, and able to go in there with great force.
Now, we also have people that are going in and arresting drug dealers, arresting some of the shooters that are doing the shooting. We know who they are. We're working with police forces. And even though, in some cases, they're told, Don't work with the federal government, the police forces have great respect for the federal government -- what we do.
But we're ready, willing, and able to go into these cities that are just being decimated with shooting. And we're going to help.
QUESTION: I have a question on crime. But first, I don't think we really got an explanation yesterday on why the health experts are no longer joining you at these briefings. Can -- can you explain why?
TRUMP: Because they are briefing me. I'm meeting them. I just spoke to Dr. Fauci. Dr. Birx is right outside. And they giving me all of -- everything they know, as of -- as of this point in time. And I'm giving the information to you, and I think it's probably a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well.
QUESTION: OK. So, on crime...
TRUMP: But they're very much -- they're very much involved. They're very much -- the relationships are all very good. All very good. The relationships that we have with the doctors, with everybody working on the virus has been, I think, extraordinary.
Kayleigh is here, and I think you would say the same thing. You work with them all the time.
Yeah, go ahead. Please.
QUESTION: So, on crime: In 2016, you said it was President Obama's fault that homicides were up in Chicago. So why was it the President's fault then, but it's not your fault now?
TRUMP: Chicago is a disaster. The mayor is saying, Don't come in. The mayor is telling us not to come in. At some point, we can void that if we have to, but we -- and we may have to, at some -- because it's out of control. I assume she's saying that for political reasons. I think it's negative political reasons.
She's a -- she's a Democrat. I'm going to be nice. She's a Democrat. She's making a big mistake. People are dying in Chicago and other cities, and we can solve the problem. They have to ask us, but...
QUESTION: Right, but...
TRUMP: ... we can solve the problem.
QUESTION: ... why was it President Obama's fault in 2016? You credited it as him being in office.
TRUMP: Because President Obama was invited in, and he did a poor job. President Obama could have gone into Chicago. He could have solved the problem, and he didn't. In our case, they don't want us in. We can solve the problem very easily. We're equipped with the best equipment, the best people.
And you see what we're doing. I mean, Portland was coming down. It was busting at the seams. And we went in and protected all the federal buildings. Those federal buildings are totally protected. But -- and we had to do that. And Portland is a very different place than Chicago.
But Chicago should be calling us -- and so should Philadelphia and Detroit and others -- to go in and really help them. Because when you're losing many people a weekend -- many, many people. You see the same numbers as I do -- when you're losing these people, they should call us, and they should say, Come on in. And it's incredible to me, but they're not doing it.
At some point, they will. At some point, we may have no other choice but to go in.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you looking at closing further Chinese embassies in the United States?
And did you ask Ambassador Woody Johnson to bring the British Open to your Turnberry -- or Turnberry property in Scotland?
TRUMP: No, I never spoke to Woody Johnson about that, about Turnberry. Turnberry is a highly respected course, as you know -- one of the best in the world.
And I read -- I read a story about it today. And I had never -- I never spoke to Woody Johnson about doing that. No.
As far as closing additional embassies, it's always possible. You see what's going on. We thought there was a fire in the one that we did close. And everybody said, There's a fire. There's a fire. And I guess they were burning documents or burning papers, and I wonder what that's all about.
OK, how about one or two more? Please.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Would you like to respond to Joe Biden, who, today, described you -- you might have heard that -- as the first racist to be elected President. Those are his -- that was his words.
TRUMP: Well it's interesting because we did criminal justice reform. We passed criminal justice reform, something that Obama and Biden were unable to do. We did opportunity cities. We did the greatest -- if you look at what we've done with Opportunity Zones, nobody has ever even thought of a plan like that.
Prior to the China plague coming in, floating in, coming into our country, and really doing terrible things all over the world -- doing terrible things -- we had the best African American, Hispanic American, Asian American -- almost every group was the best for unemployment. The unemployment numbers were the best.
You look at -- so you look at employment. You look at Opportunity Zones, and maybe most importantly of all, you look at criminal justice reform, you look at prison reform. I've done things that nobody else -- and I've said this, and I say it openly, and not a lot of people dispute it: I've done more for black Americans than anybody, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close.
Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, so a relatively short Q&A, reporters over at the White House asking the president a few questions on the coronavirus, also on his announcement earlier in the day he is ready to deploy U.S. agents to various cities, like Chicago or New York City, other cities around the country, where there's been an upsurge in violence in recent weeks and months.
On the coronavirus, he did say he is very comfortable that the Trump administration, in his words, does have a national strategy to deal with all of this. He was very upbeat about the economy at the same place. He was upbeat about helping make sure that all, 100 percent, he said, of schools reopen in the United States. And he said he would have no problem with his little son and grandchildren going back to school right away.
He also said -- and Jim Acosta is with us.
I don't know what he was referring to. He said, within the next 24 hours or so, Jim, he would have an announcement on masks nationwide, some sort of announcement on masks. Did you hear an allusion to that?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There was some allusion to that, Wolf, but it is not altogether clear what that means.
And we have heard the president make these kinds of pronouncements before, saying he will have an announcement on something, and then two weeks will go by, and we won't hear anything about that pronouncement.
And so we will have to wait and see what these details are. But if he were to make some kind of declaration that he wants to see masks worn across the country, that would be just a complete 180 from where he has been since the very beginning of this pandemic.
Obviously, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming just about into this notion that people around the country have to wear masks in order to control the coronavirus.
The other thing we should point out, Wolf, when the president was asked about his children and grandchildren going back to school, the president not only said that he wants to see schools reopen 100 percent, as he put it, but he also said that he believes children have strong immune systems and that there isn't a danger with those children going back home and potentially infecting their parents and grandparents, if a grandparent is living in a house with a child.
The president was sort of brushing off those concerns. We have heard similar sentiments from White House officials in recent weeks. But, Wolf, the science is just not settled on this. The White House has been turning their attention to studies that support their point of view on 100 percent open schools around the country.
But there are just lots of nervous parents out there, lots of nervous teachers and administrators who say, hang on a second, I remember the cold and flu season from every year before this year, and kids go to school and they come back and they get people infected at home with the common cold and the seasonal flu.
And there is the expectation that that could happen, of course, once again with the coronavirus.
The other thing we should point out, Wolf, he was pressed a couple of times on this notion that he wants to send federal law enforcement officers into cities around the country.
He's accusing Democratic mayors in these cities of not being able to control violent crime.
Our own Kaitlan Collins pointed out that, back in 2016, President Trump accused Barack Obama of not being able to control violent crime in cities, and basically asking the president the question, aren't you responsible for when violent crime flares up in U.S. cities nowadays?
And one thing we should note, Wolf, is that violent crime across the country, studies have shown, has been on the decline vs. where it's been in recent decades.
The other thing we should point out is, as the president was presenting these sort of rosy pictures of where things stand in terms of the coronavirus, he was passing on once again, you know, his advice coming from health experts that people should be washing their hands, wearing masks, avoiding crowded spaces, and so on.
But at one point, the president sort of oddly said, I'm hearing that many people are saying that you should wash your hands. Well, of course, health experts from the very beginning of all of this have been saying that people should be washing their hands.
And finally, Wolf, the other thing that should be pointed out is that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx were once again not at this press conference with the president. He obviously wants to have this stage to himself.
Dr. Fauci, we're told, was not invited to yesterday's press conference, was instead at home working on his pitching arm, because he is going to be pitching -- throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals tomorrow night.
But Dr. Deborah Birx was apparently once again in the next room, could have easily joined the president and fielded some of these important scientific and public health questions. And, instead of the president obviously not having all of the facts and not all of the information to answer those sorts of questions, he could have called on Dr. Birx to answer those queries.
And he is just -- he seems to be resistant to doing that, Wolf.
He is very -- he pointed out that "They're briefing me," he said, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci. "They're giving me everything they know, and I come out and report, tell everyone what is going on." It is a very concise way, he said, of doing it.
Let me get Dana Bash into this conversation as well.
Dana, he was very determined that he was going to be running the show, and let the medical and scientific experts stay behind the scenes.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And, look, that was an important question, and the answer we got was that he wants to -- you know, he has enough information. But the reality is, take, for example, what the president said about children, that children have strong immune systems and that they aren't as susceptible, which is why he continues to push children to go into school, for the schools to open.
Didn't answer the question from Jon Karl specifically on what his strategy is. I should add that. But if Dr. Birx were there, if Dr. Fauci were there, the obvious follow would have been, well, medical professionals, what is your opinion, based on your degrees and based on your experience, not based on what may be politically proper, if you're the president running for reelection?
So that's just not possible in a situation like that. And it's not an accident.
The other thing I just want to say is, on the notion of mandating federal masks in federal buildings, my reporting, Wolf, is that, according to some people I'm talking to, that there is a sector of Trump world that is pushing the president to do just that, to go beyond just the -- doing the tweet with the mask on, to putting it in his pocket, as he has done now in two consecutive press conferences, but not actually wearing it, but making a move.
We don't know if he is going to do it. He suggested that it is that is something really being considered.
And, lastly, I just want to just -- from a pure political lens, that this is a president who is running for reelection that can't go on the campaign trail, and he is trying to find whatever means he can to turn this around for himself.
And that is the forum that we just saw, period, the fact that he, yes, talked about coronavirus, but was very eager to talk about issues that are more advantageous for him, he thinks, politically, like the law and order notion that he pushes and other things like that, another reason why the president is doing these press conferences, because he tried to do the rally.
He tried to do things that he has been traditionally more comfortable with. And it backfired big time. Now this is day two, because my understanding is he felt like yesterday went really well. That's why they added another one today, even though we didn't think it would happen earlier in the day.
BLITZER: I suspect he would much rather go out and do a rally. The one in Tulsa a few weeks ago didn't exactly work out that great.
But, clearly, at this time of the coronavirus social distancing mandates, you can't go out and do these huge rallies, which is what he would clearly prefer doing.
Dr. Peter Hotez is still with us, professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
He did say -- and I want your expertise on this, Dr. Hotez -- that young kids, they don't transmit the virus like older people do. There was a study that came out just a few days ago that children under 10 may not necessarily be transmitting it as quickly as adults, but children over 10 are the same as adults.
They can -- if they get it, they may be asymptomatic, they may have mild cases, but they can pass it along to their parents, their grandparents, their brothers, their sisters, their uncles, and their aunts, if you're over 10, just as easily as older people.
That's the study I'm referring to. You saw it.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, that's right.
He wants to open the schools, Wolf, regardless of what the science says. And the science is pretty clear. If you open schools in areas or school districts where there's a high level of virus transmissions, say, if you were going to do this in Houston today or San Antonio or Phoenix, it will fail.
It will fail because, not only are the kids transmitting the virus, but adults, vendors are going in and out of the schools. What will happen, within two weeks, teachers will start going into the hospital, going into ICUs. It'll be bus drivers. It'll be cafeteria workers. And parents will start getting sick.
It's untenable. It's not sustainable. And, again, he keeps on pushing on this concept that we're going to open schools, no matter what. Sure, you can open schools in some areas of Maine and Vermont, where there's not much virus transmission, but those are going to be the exceptions.
You just can't do it now. And this is the problem. The president, although he may call it a national strategy, it's not a national strategy. Or, if it is, it is one called operation chipping around at the edges.
He is not willing to confront this and take this on in a substantive way. I mean, he is relooking -- he is revisiting the nursing home issue, and that is an important issue. Nursing homes are responsible for about 40 percent of the deaths on COVID-19 in the United States in 2020, and so he is shoring up nursing homes.
Should have been done a while ago. But the fact that he's taking them on, that is good. But that's really about it. He sees this massive resurgence across the South as little embers, little hot spots that he's going to knock down. Another one will pop up, like some kind of game of Whac-A-Mole.
That is not the case. It is a massive recurrence across the South, one of the three largest epicenters of COVID-19 globally, along with South Africa and Brazil. That is how bad it is in terms of the numbers rising.
He will not confront that. And, again, he talks about knocking things down, popping up. This inability to get his arms around it. And I don't know if the president is in denial, or if he is not getting the right advice from the task force, or they're not communicating, but it is a failed strategy and it's hurting the country.
And then, again, he talked about the border and the wall, as though the virus is going to be stopped by a wall. And, again, this is -- so, this is very disappointing. Beyond disappointing, it's disheartening.
And we continue to race toward hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, 142,000, approaching 143,000 deaths already in the United States over these past five months. And it continues; 1,000 Americans died only yesterday.
Daniel Dale is with us, our CNN reporter and fact-checker.
All right, so do some fact-checking for us, Daniel. What jumped out at you?
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Sure.
Wolf, I think a common thread in the president's false claims throughout this crisis is that he continues to give Americans a false sense of security. And so this claim that children don't transmit or a lot of people are saying they don't transmit is another one of these instances.
As you and your guest just talked about, we don't have evidence of that, to put it generously. And we do have some evidence from the South Korean study that older children transmit just as well as adults do.
And so it is premature, at best, to say that. Wolf, I think it is also important to note that the president kind of vaguely blamed the anti- racial injustice protests for a recent rise in cases and for a relaxation of mitigation measures.
We do not have any hard evidence that these protests, which were largely outdoors, in which many protesters were wearing masks, caused the rise in cases or that they were responsible for the loosening of restrictions, which Trump himself was calling for.
We had many cities with big protests where we did not have big spikes in cases. I think it's also important, Wolf, to call out the president's hyperbole, even though we know it is hyperbole, when he claims he did more for black Americans than anybody, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.
That is a certain exception. We also have Lyndon Johnson signing hugely monumental civil rights bills. And you can make an argument for many other presidents. But, certainly, the president, President Trump, is not the number one accomplisher of important things for African- Americans in this country.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to stay on top of all of these late- breaking developments.
We have much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following a lot of breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic.
Let's get the very latest from CNN National Correspondent, Athena Jones.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the nation battles to get coronavirus under control, signs of progress on the vaccine front, the federal government reaching what's being called a historic deal to buy tens of millions of vaccines from pharmaceutical company Pfizer, if it's approved.
ALEX AZAR, U.S. 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: Pfizer, in partnership with German firm BioNTech, just the latest vaccine maker in recent days to issue a promising report.
JOHN BURKHARDT, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, PFIZER: Preliminary data from study shows good immune response from patients vaccinated and we've planned to start a large-scale clinical trial before the end of July involving 20 to 30,000 patients.
JONES: Calls for volunteers to try out vaccine candidates from Pfizer and others have been met with an overwhelming response.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have well over a hundred thousand people that have already signed up as volunteers.
JONES: Meanwhile, at the rate the virus is spreading, officials say if you don't already know someone who's been infected, that's likely to change in the coming weeks.
The nationwide daily death toll from COVID is rising, topping 1,000 for the first time in two weeks. California, which just surpassed New York in total confirmed cases, setting a new record, adding more than 12,800 new cases in one day, many in hard-hit Los Angeles County driven by young people. Total hospitalizations nationwide nearing their April highs, and infection and hospitalization rates painting a bleak picture in the south.
With hospitals overwhelmed in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott now backing a curfew in the Rio Grande Valley while stopping short of a shelter- in-place order issued by a county judge.
JUDGE RICHARD CORTEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS: What I've told him and others, if I can simply get 10 percent of the people to follow it, I am 10 percent better than I am today.
JONES: Hospitals also under pressure in Florida, where more than 50 ICUs have reached capacity and health officials say just 15 percent of ICU beds remain available statewide. ICU capacity in the state's hot spot, Miami-Dade County, now tops 130 percent. And nearby Broward County is nearing capacity.
MAYOR DALE HOLNESS (D-BROWARD COUNTY, FL): 90 percent of our ICU beds are filled. It means that we're at a place where we must do more to stop the spread of this virus.
JONES: Experts warn of a long road ahead for the U.S.
FAUCI: I think we ultimately will get control of it. I don't really see us eradicating it.
JONES: But officials say getting it under control will require people to follow basic public health guidelines.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: We're not defenseless. We have powerful tools. Probably the most powerful tool that we have is a simple facemask.
JONES: And one more thing about those simple face masks Dr. Redfield was talking about. The University of Washington's influential model is now projecting 5,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. by November 1st in part due to the fact that more and more cities and states have issued these mask mandates and in part to a general increase in the number of people who were wearing masks and keeping their distance from others even without mandates.
According to this model, deaths would fall by another 34,000 if the U.S. universally adopted wearing masks. Wolf? BLITZER: Clearly, everyone should be wearing masks when they are outside and when they can't social distance. It's critical. It will save thousands of American lives.
Just ahead -- thank you, Athena -- a live report from California as the state sets very disturbing new records while the virus clearly surges.
And I'll speak with the mayor of Houston, Texas about the current crisis in Texas, get his reaction to what we just heard from President Trump.
Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news out of the coronavirus hotspots here in the United States, including out in California, the state which now has more confirmed cases than any other. It just surpassed New York State.
CNN's Dan Simon is in San Francisco for us. Dan, California broke yet another record just a little while ago and it wasn't a very good record.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't, Wolf. First of all though, let me explain where I am. That is the San Francisco Ferry building behind me. This is a popular destination for tourists and residents alike. I'm here because today, the city shut it down. So, it is another blow to the economy here. You got a lot of shops there that now have to shut down.
This all comes as California continues to see a record amount of cases, 12,807 cases in a single day. The state now has more cases than New York, although New York still leads on a per capita basis.
We should also point out, Wolf, that Los Angeles County now saying that coronavirus is now one of the leading causes of death there, outpacing flu deaths and is now killing more people than Alzheimer's. Governor Newsom today also saying that testing remains a huge problem in the state. It can take 13 to 14 days to deliver test results and he says the results need to come a lot quicker. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Dan, thank you. Dan Simon out in California.
We also have some breaking news here in the nation's capital. President Trump says he'll decide over the next day or so whether federal employees should follow Washington, D.C.'s strict new mask requirements.
Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, the mayor here in D.C. issued this new order as cases are also rising in the District of Columbia.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. An alarming new rise in coronavirus cases here in Washington, D.C., so alarming, in fact, that he did issue that new order. What we can tell you is 102 new cases were reported just today. That is the single most in a single day added since about June 4th in the district.
Also alarming, according to D.C. Health Director LaQuanda Nesbitt, the number of cases in people 40 years old and younger sharply on the rise in the district. Two-thirds of all new cases since July 1st, people 40 years old and younger. So Mayor Bowser, Mayor Muriel Bowser, earlier today issuing a dramatic new order about wearing face masks outside.
Here is the mayor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: In most cases, if you're outside of your house, you should have a mask on. This means if you're waiting for a bus, you must have on a mask. If you are ordering food at a restaurant, you must have on a mask. If you are sitting in a cubicle in an open office, you must have on a mask.
We know that masks are effective and are an effective tool in helping us stop the spread of the virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, as for schools returning for in-person learning, Mayor Bowser says she's going to withhold a decision on that, an announcement on that until July 31st.
But the districts around the City of Washington not waiting for her. In Maryland, you have got Montgomery County Prince George's County. in Virginia you have Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington County, Fairfax County, one of the largest school districts in the country all announcing that they're going to begin the school year with virtual learning. They are not going to send students to school in person yet, Wolf. The rise in cases in this D.C. -- the D.C. greater area very alarming tonight.
BLITZER: Very alarming indeed. You've got to err on the side of caution, especially when you're dealing with kids. All right, thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that.
Let's go to Texas right now, where coronavirus cases are clearly surging along with deaths and hospitalizations. We are joined by the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner. Mayor Turner, thank you so much for joining us.
As you know better than anyone, Texas just hit another new high for the number of deaths reported in a single day, nearly 200 in just one day. So what does that say about how your state is handling this crisis?
MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TX: Well, I'm not proud of those numbers, Wolf. I want those numbers to be going in the opposite direction. Today in the City of Houston, for example, I reported eight deaths. We are reporting anywhere between 7 and 11 per day.
To give you some example, in June, we reported 95 people who died in that month. This month in July alone, we're up to 122. In June, there were 38 cases in the month of June. In the month of July, there were roughly 18,000.
So we're clearly moving in the wrong direction even though the number of admissions to our hospitals has slowed somewhat and the ICU bed occupancy has somewhat flattened. We still have a lot of community spread.
BLITZER: We certainly do. And let me also get your reaction to these renewed briefings that we're seeing now, the second day in a row from the president. He is not including his own top public health experts in these briefings but he is encouraging people to go ahead and wear masks. How far does that go in helping all of us, the whole country, combat this virus?
TURNER: Well, it helps because it is so important for the message to be consistent from the federal government, from the president, all the way down to our governors, down to our local officials.
Look, it's just taken a lot to get people to requiring the utilization of masks, putting on the mask, encouraging people to put them on so people don't view them whether -- based on whether you are conservative or liberal. This is not a virus that cares about your political ideology.
So we do know the mask works. The science tells us it works. And so it's so important for the president, for our federal officials, state, local, for us all to be on the same page. We are dealing with a crisis. Messaging is critical. Information is critical but it's important for it to be factual and truthful information.
BLITZER: Yes, it is. You signed on to a resolution, Mayor, by the African-American Mayors Association calling on state leaders to repeal orders that actually prevent you from enacting important measures to combat this coronavirus. Have you heard any response from your governor, Governor Abbott?
TURNER: Not as of yet. Look, what's our number one priority is the health and safety of the people in our city. And what I do know is that this virus is an equal opportunity abuser, where all of the cases that we reported today, they were people of color, Hispanics, African- Americans, people with underlying medical conditions, and everyone has been impacted.
I had several of my own municipal employees, people who work for the City of Houston, dedicating their life, their service to this city who have died. The captain of our fire department died the other day, someone in solid waste, two civilians in my police department. And so we are all being adversely impacted.
And we have to slow down the progression of this virus, not only slow it down, we have to drive it down so that the positivity rate is under 5 percent. BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. The last time you and I spoke, Mayor, you had proposed a two-week stay-at-home order, something you actually can't do though without the governor's approval. Do you still think that's necessary?
TURNER: And the answer is, yes.
Look, the positivity rate right now in the city of Houston hovers between 22 percent and 25 percent. That's way too high.
Until we can get that positivity rate down to 5 percent or below, our contact tracing and testing will not be nearly as impactful. That's what they've successfully done in New York City, in New York. That's what they've done in Boston, gotten the positivity rate down below 5.
When you achieve that you can have a great, a lot of more confidence in sending our kids to school, having people and the fans, and moving forward and managing this virus instead of chasing the virus.
So, wearing masks is very, very helpful. You need maximum compliance, 90 percent or more, for it to be effective. But to really drive this virus down in terms of the spread, I think you need a lot of social separation. I think you're going to -- you need to dial things back a little bit more. A two-week stay-at-home I think would certainly help to drive it down much quicker.
So, all of those things need to be on the table. We need to be able to utilize all of the tools at our disposal.
BLITZER: All right.
TURNER: That's what we had in March and April, and I think that's what we're going to need in this month -- and this is a critical month -- as we move forward.
BLITZER: These are life and death decisions you have to make.
Mayor Turner, thank you so much for joining us. We'll stay in close touch.
TURNER: Thanks. Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, as the U.S. prepares to roll out a coronavirus vaccine as soon as one is ready, we're going to take a look at the debate over who should receive it first.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Right now, the Trump administration is making plans to produce hundreds of millions of doses of an effective coronavirus vaccine once one is ready and safe. But it could still take months before its widely available. So, who gets the vaccine first?
CNN political correspondent Sara Murray is looking into this.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: After bungling everything from testing to personal protective equipment, the Trump administration is aiming to prove it can roll out a coronavirus vaccine to millions of Americans as soon as one is ready.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Operation Warp Speed.
MURRAY: The debate is already underway over who should get the first doses.
FRANCIS COLLINS, NIH DIRECTOR: I think the people are uneasy about the government calling the shots here.
MURRAY: To reassure a skeptical public this decision will be apolitical, the NIH director called the National Academy of Medicine, an esteem nongovernmental organization and asked them to advise who should be first in line.
A second group of CDC advisers are also asking who counts as an essential worker. Should race and ethnicity factor in? And where do teachers fall on the priority list?
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: But, clearly, the vulnerable are going to be, if not the top priority, one of the top priorities.
MURRAY: The Trump administration is tapping top health officials and industry experts to lead vaccine plans rather than politicians. But the administration's vaccine effort, Operation Warp Speed, is shrouded in secrecy.
DR. MATT HEPBURN, OPERATION WARP SPEED: Certainly ask for both your latitude a little bit in terms of my lack of ability to provide a lot of specifics about what we're doing.
MURRAY: Vaccine developers already have contracts with the government to stock pile their product, and the administration hopes to have 300 million doses available early next year, a timeline vaccine experts believe is overly optimistic.
VIJAY SAMANT, VACCINE EXPERT: This is a big task. Even if you have a vaccine, getting these people vaccinated is a humungous step, humungous because you need to convince people you can get an optimistic message that the vaccine is going to be out in December, come December, you don't have a vaccine, people are wondering what happened.
MURRAY: The distribution alone is a monumental challenge.
ALEX AZAR, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We're right at the beginning of Operation Warp Speed, work to lock down fill-finish capacity, as well as syringes, needles, and glassware. So, we've secured that to be able to ensure we're able to vaccinate the American people.
MURRAY: The federal government has shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to companies like Corning for glass vials needed to transport the vaccine.
BRENDAN MOSHER, CORNING INCORPORATED: I think the U.S. is going to set a bar. Glass won't be the critical bottleneck and there will be a plenty to go around at the point a vaccine is ready.
MURRAY: Hundreds of millions of syringes are on order too, from companies like BD. Though contracts and industry experts suggest the government may come up short.
ELIZABETH WOODY, BECTON, DICKINSON AND COMPANY: It is, I think, the beginning of the process. The U.S. government is preparing for two shots of the vaccine. And so, you know, assuming a population of approximately 350 million people, we're looking at, you know, a total of 750 million -- or excuse me, 700 million syringes, at least.
MURRAY: Once the vaccine is available, it could take a year to inoculate enough Americans to slow the spread. And that's if Americans agree to get the vaccine at all.
Safety concerns, politics, and fears among minority communities that they may be exploited or left out are all contributing to Americans' hesitation.
MURRAY: Wolf, I talk to a senior HHS official earlier today who says they know they have a transparency problem, they know they have to win over the American public, and they have big PR campaign coming, including some television spots that will feature some of these doctors who've gotten, we used to seeing in the past, like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, and the surgeon general -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll watch it.
Sara Murray reporting. Thank you. And we'll have more news right after this.
BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we honor some of those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.
Jose Leopoldo Procel Yepez of Ecuador was 73. His daughter says he was a dedicated father, grandfather and partner to his girlfriend, a true people person who would strike up a conversation with anyone and make them feel important.
Alyce Chenault Gullattee (ph) of Washington, D.C. was 91. She was a renowned psychiatrist and oldest faculty member at Howard University. She also was a civil rights advocate and a family-oriented mom who enjoyed parties and dancing.
May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.