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U.S. Reports 1,000 Plus Deaths for Second Straight Day; Miami Increases Penalties for Residents Who Don't Wear Masks; Trump Sends More Mixed Messages on Testing; Texas Reports Record Number of Deaths and Hospitalizations in One Day; Protesters and Mayor in Portland Oregon Tear-Gassed By Federal Agents; Over a Million Americans File for First-Time Unemployment Help. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The nation on track to hit four million coronavirus cases, that is the most in the world, after the U.S. recorded more than 1,000 deaths in a single day for the second straight day. This is how fast the virus is spreading. We have seen more cases in the past two weeks than we as a country did in all of June. Many hospitals are overwhelmed. Americans are having to wait several days, sometimes weeks, for test results which makes those results almost useless.

HARLOW: Well, tests that the president claims in a new interview are, quote, "overrated" and still falsely blames them for the rising case count, but task force member Dr. Deborah Birx offers this explanation for the surge.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We saw wide virus spread across counties, across rural areas, across small metros and big metros, all the way across the south, southwest and west. Almost simultaneously. This was an event that we think can be traced to Memorial Day and opening up and people traveling again and being on vacations.


HARLOW: A map of Los Angeles this morning shows what's happening and there are many angles to cover. Let's get to our Stephanie Elam in L.A. where officials are working to find more protective equipment for hospitals.

It's stunning that we're back at this place where they don't feel like they have enough PPE.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly what the state of California is doing, Poppy, is making sure that they have enough PPE so that they are prepared if these cases continue to go higher. This in light of the fact that the state has announced a new record number of cases in a day. More than 12,800 cases announced in the day. The positivity now standing at 7.4 percent for the 14-day period. But for the seven-day period, 7 .6 percent. That's a concern the state wanting to keep that number below 8 percent.

Now here in Los Angeles County, we did see yesterday that we had a number of deaths, 64 deaths. The mayor said that's the third highest number that we have seen here for that number. Overall we have over 4200 deaths and a total number of cases of 164,000 plus from there.

Now, it's interesting to note that this is the fourth day in a row that we're above 2200 yet. That is still down a little bit from the day before and Los Angeles County is saying for now, we are not going to go into the more restrictive stay-at-home order. They're saying overall they're seeing progress in the work that has been done and the overall positivity rate for here in Los Angeles County sticking around 10 percent.

Obviously it's stable, but at a number that's higher than they would like to see that number heading off at. But right now, they're saying things look more controlled there. They say they do have hospital capacity here. ICU beds and ventilators, all of that stable here in the county. So that is some good news as we look at those work that is being done here in the county by the people.

But one thing I want to point out, too, is about this idea of COVID deaths. They're saying that it's killing two times as many people in six months as the flu did in eight months of last year -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Stephanie Elam, thanks very much. Numbers are important there.

The city of Miami upping penalties for people who refuse to wear a mask. CNN's Rosa Flores, she's in Miami with the latest.

Rosa, the mayor says this will start immediately. I wonder, is this because folks were pushing back against this requirement?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the mayor says that it's because it's working and that they have evidence to show that the mask mandate is actually helping and that's why he says that they're upping the fines for the first and second offenses. It's $100.

For third offense you're getting a notice to appear before a judge or you're getting arrested. And here are some of the positive signs that we are seeing in the state of Florida. For the past two days the total of new cases have been under $10,000. If you look at the total COVID- 19 hospitalizations across the state, it's been hovering at about 9500 for the past two days.

Again these are good signs of possible stabilization but then you look at an area like Miami-Dade County and ICUs are operating at 130 percent. We're also learning this morning from the state that 51 hospitals in 12 counties across the state have requested more than 2400 nurses. So even though the state is reporting that there are about 15 percent ICU beds available across the state, you still need human beings to provide that care. That is one of the big issues right now in the state of Florida.


And on the day that the state of Florida recorded the youngest child death, a 9-year-old girl, Governor DeSantis delivered an address to Floridians to make the case to parents on the reopening of schools. Now his argument, what he called his, quote, "hard truth," was that children are at lower risk and that they play, quote, "the smallest role in transmission."

Back to the 9-year-old girl who died, according to the Department of Health she had no underlying conditions and there was no known record that she had contact with another COVID patient.

Here's what the governor did not address during his speech. A safety plan, a safety plan that would reassure parents that it's safe for them to send their children to school. What he did say was that parents had a choice and, Jim and Poppy, he also said that schools could feel free to delay their reopening for a few weeks, which we learned yesterday that Palm Beach did. They decided yesterday, the board members there, that they're going to delay reopening for a few weeks -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Rosa Flores, thank you very, very much. Again the story of the 9-year-old just harrowing.

This morning there are more mixed messages from the president when it comes to testing for COVID. Jeremy Diamond joins us at the White House with more.

Good morning, Jeremy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim and Poppy. President Trump has repeatedly sought to put testing in the spotlight and make it really one of the scapegoats of the federal government's response to this pandemic and the most recent surge in coronavirus cases that we have been witnessing across the country. And the president last night on FOX News talking about testing being overrated. His latest comments on that issue. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I personally think it's overrated but I am totally willing to keep doing. It makes us look bad but they say it's good. I don't mind looking bad if it's a good thing.


DIAMOND: Now you can see the president saying there that ultimately he will go forward with additional testing if indeed it is good. Of course the scientific evidence is overwhelming that testing is a key part to containing further outbreaks of coronavirus, but the president has repeatedly made false claims about testing and this pandemic.

Meanwhile, as the president is saying that, we're hearing additional concern -- growing concern from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, on a call with some state and local leaders. She talked about testing in a different way, talking about the importance of testing and the fact that the rising positivity test rates that she is seeing in 11 major American cities is concerning and requires immediate action in order to stem those outbreaks.

The president also addressed the question of school reopenings yesterday during his coronavirus briefing saying that he would indeed be comfortable with his son and grandchildren going back to school. But he also made this claim that lacks any scientific evidence about children not being able to spread this virus as much. There is not any evidence to back up the president's claim on that front.

And as the president is still continuing to at times downplay this crisis, we are seeing another case of coronavirus here on the White House grounds. This time it is a cafeteria worker on the White House grounds who works in the Eisenhower Executive Office building just across from the West Wing testing positive. An e-mail, though, to White House officials saying that there is no reason for panic or alarm, and insisting that they have done contact tracing and no White House officials are required to quarantine at this point -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: To that point, the president says testing is overrated. Testing happens all the time at the White House for all staff. Anybody who comes into contact with the president, as does contact tracing. It happens there. It's got to happen for you and me as well.

Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.

Joining us now to discuss, Michael Osterholm. He's infectious disease expert and director at the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Mr. Osterholm, it's always good to have you on.

Good morning. Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: I like to start big picture with you because you have such a good perspective on this and knowledge base. So the U.S. leads the world in cases and the number of cases per month, new cases, accelerating here. And look at the comparison to the European Union, just night and day. You have the president still says testing is overrated.

Given those problems, can the U.S. effectively get this outbreak under control or is that just not possible without a national plan?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, it's not just about a national plan. It's actually what is in that plan. And what's important to understand is that a number of other countries around the world that had as much of a challenge with this virus last spring as which did have demonstrated to us how they can actually bring it under control.

What they did is they did the lockdown or the restriction of movement to such a degree that they got the virus level down so that it was between one to three new cases per 100,000 population each day. And with that they could do the testing and tracing at that level that would then continue to keep these numbers down.


The countries today that are struggling with this virus are struggling at the level of 200 and 300 new cases a day. You know, we're struggling. So until we actually have a commitment to getting this virus to a very, very low level we're not going to really do much except continue to put out this raging forest fire the best we can.

HARLOW: It is a forest fire indeed. And you've been saying that for months. Bill Gates weighed in in a really interesting interview that Norah O'Donnell did on CBS about vaccines and he talked about first generation vaccines and the efficacy of them versus second generation that tend to take longer to developer, but be much more effective. Can you explain that to the American people who may believe that the, you know, panacea is coming in a matter of months?

OSTERHOLM: Well, we have to realize that there's been a great deal of work done in vaccines and we commend the world for that. But the challenge is this virus is a very difficult virus for which we're trying to develop a vaccine and then induce immunity or protection in people. And you've already heard over the course of the past several weeks about the concept of losing that protection. Does the antibody wear off or decrease?

Are there other parts of the immune system, a thing called T-cells which are very important in supporting the immune response, do they play a role? And so we're really in a unchartered territory kind of environment where we're hoping that we can have a vaccine that would work like a measles vaccine does, but I think all of us recognize that's probably a bridge far too -- much for us to cross right now.

The best we can hope for I think is a vaccine that protects most of us for at least months and maybe not years. That next level of vaccines would try to do more with the immune system than we have now. But they're far, far off into the future. They're not going to have any impact on what we're doing right now.

SCIUTTO: To your point there that if there is a vaccine and it's effective, that perhaps the best you could hope is immunity for a period of time and not forever. What is your reading on the latest data as to whether people who have been infected once can be re- infected? What do you believe?

OSTERHOLM: You know, this is again one of those areas that we've actually talked about here on this very show, about our need for humility. We don't know. And we have to tell the public that. Basically we are hopeful but as I've said so many times hope is not a strategy. We just don't know. This is a tough virus in terms of trying to protect ourselves against it. If we look at other coronavirus infections including MERS and SARS, we know that waning immunity is a huge challenge. And so we're going to have to confront that here.

I worry that sometimes we find ourselves in such a need for good news that we end up in happy talk land where basically we want to convince ourselves that the problem is solved. Again, I want to emphasize we're making incredible progress. I think everything that can be done is being done, but Mother Nature is in control here and we're going to have to see how any vaccine will go -- is actually going to work.

HARLOW: We have 20 seconds left, you heard Dr. Fauci say he doesn't see us being able to eradicate this. Is COVID something unlike polio where you can largely eradicate it in nations?

OSTERHOLM: Well, thank you. Actually in fact I wish I could tell you we've eradicated polio. We're very concerned that because of the coronavirus --

HARLOW: There's been an uptick in some places.

OSTERHOLM: Have been a big uptick, yes.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

OSTERHOLM: So what -- we will never eradicate this virus. It's just like HIV. Once it came into the world, started to spread around the world, we can do a lot to control it. This is here for the rest of all human humankind. This is a virus we're not going to get rid of it.

HARLOW: That says it all. Michael Osterholm --

SCIUTTO: Sobering.

HARLOW: Yes. Jim and I are always so glad when you can come on and you just give it to us straight. Thank you very much.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, Texas COVID cases are spiking and so is the tension between the governor in that state and local leaders about handling it at this point. We'll take you there live.

SCIUTTO: And unrest in Portland, Oregon, as protesters and federal forces clash overnight. The mayor was teargassed. We're going to have the latest from there.

Plus, Senate Republicans say they have reached a deal with the White House on a key piece of their stimulus package. The proposed package. What is it in? What is not? What it means for you, just ahead.



HARLOW: Well, in Texas, that state recording the highest single-day number of COVID deaths and hospitalizations just yesterday. Our Ed Lavandera joins us in Dallas this morning with the latest. And despite these numbers that you cannot refute, the governor is still resisting a statewide stay-at-home order despite local leaders pushing for that, is that right?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have a number of local leaders here in Texas that have pushed to shut down the economy here in Texas once again to help get the virus under control. You've seen the mayor of Houston doing that. The county judge in Hidalgo County in south Texas, and this comes as we've reached almost 200 deaths reported yesterday.

That is a record high. Record high number of statewide hospitalizations as well. But there's also some other medical data in there, Poppy, that kind of suggests a mixed bag of information that we have at this point. And perhaps, some information that perhaps, the situation here in Texas is starting to plateau. It's plateauing at a very high level, but hopefully, plateauing nonetheless, as the number of new coronavirus cases has dipped below 10,000 in areas that were considered kind of hot spots like here in Dallas County.

The case numbers have been below a 1,000 a day for a little while. So, there are some slivers of good news, and the overall positive infection rate of the new cases being reported has dropped to just over 14 percent. Last week at one point, it was at 17.5 percent, but, you know, there's still a great deal of concern as the death toll has mounted extremely high over the course of the last several days and as well as the hospitalization.


And that is a great deal of concern as we've heard from hospitals, especially down in south Texas which is considered the highest priority area in Texas right now, where you've heard doctors there describe the situation as a tsunami of patients that they're dealing with. So even though there is some mixed data on exactly where the trend lines are going here, still a great deal of concern over the number of deaths and hospitalizations here in Texas. Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow, Ed, we appreciate that very much. Jim?

SCIUTTO: As we said, deaths in Texas are rising. Joining me now to discuss is the mayor of Arlington, Texas, Jeff Williams. Mayor Williams, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

MAYOR JEFF WILLIAMS, ARLINGTON, TEXAS: Thank you for covering this.

SCIUTTO: Well, we know your community has been hit hard by this. Right now, Congress is considering another round of stimulus. Couple things in there that I want to ask you about how they relate to you specifically. One is that, the president is threatening to withhold federal funding from cities that do not reopen their schools. I wonder how you feel about that, and do you feel that, that ties your hands to make your own local decision about what's safe?

WILLIAMS: Well, certainly, we are in a natural disaster right now, and of course, our schools are an important consideration that, you know, right now schools opening is different all the way through our state and certainly different throughout the nation. But basically, we have been fortunate to be able to get a lot of state and federal help for emergency and medical services. But yet, now we're at a point where we need to rebuild our cities.

It's much like a hurricane or a flood or a tornado. There you need help from the federal government for emergency medical services, but also you get help for rebuilding your community. And we're at that point and of course, we don't know how long this virus is going to go, and we certainly don't know how long the economic recovery is going to be.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a good comparison. It is sort of like a public health hurricane sweeping through towns and communities here. The current federal aid only goes to cities with a population greater than 500,000 people which has left smaller communities in a lurch here. Does that need to change so that you get the help that you need?

WILLIAMS: Well, as I just mentioned, we really do need more help to be able to rebuild the -- our communities.


WILLIAMS: And we do need more help, and then of course, it's hit all sized cities. It doesn't matter what size the city is, and it definitely doesn't pay attention to city limit lines. This virus goes --


WILLIAMS: All across the nation and cities need help all across the country.

SCIUTTO: Yes, given as you mentioned there, the different communities, even within communities, you have different levels of outbreak. You know, there's this tug of war going on between states and the federal government and many state leaders and local leaders as to requiring masks or stay-at-home orders or other steps. I wonder who you think should be making these decisions on these things.

Should it be the state governors, should it be the federal governors or should it be the leaders of communities like your own who say, listen, we've got a problem here, we want to say -- we want businesses to close or certain businesses close again or we want to require masks or we've determined it's not safe for schools to open yet. Who should make those decisions?

WILLIAMS: Well, you're asking a question about a lot of different things, and I think it definitely falls in different categories depending on what the category is. Here in Texas, we --

SCIUTTO: But don't you as the mayor want to be able to decide whether it's necessary to require a mask or whether it's safe for your schools to open? Should that be up to you or should it be up to the governor or the president?

WILLIAMS: Well, it has helped a lot because our governor has come forward with mandating the mask because then, we have --

SCIUTTO: Yes -- WILLIAMS: So many people traveling around our state. It has been a

huge help, and of course, I think that's one of the problems. Many people question whether the masks work or not. And in all of the research from the major medical professionals, the masks help and social distancing helps, and we are plateauing now in Texas we believe because of the mandating of the mask and the behavior of our citizens has gotten much better. You know, everyone is getting tired of the virus, needless to say that --


WILLIAMS: Yet, it's still going on, and we have to wear the mask and basically, this mask is one of the few things that we can do to fight the virus and to -- and it's not something --


WILLIAMS: We want to do. If we can help other families and to be able to go to work and to be able to lead our lives, it's still a small price to pay to put that mask on.


SCIUTTO: Absolutely, just very quickly before I go, because this decision is coming very soon. Is it safe or at this point or unsafe to reopen schools for in-person learning next month?

WILLIAMS: Well, you're asking the wrong person there. You know, we're relying on our medical professionals and so forth there. But here in Texas, we -- and specifically here in our county, we have put it off until September the 28th there, so that we can have more time to monitor this virus. Now, if we're fortunate and the virus does lit up, and we start seeing our numbers go forward and the behavior of our citizens is such, we may be able to reconsider that.

But this virus is so unpredictable. You know, we've got --


WILLIAMS: To be able to be flexible, and then we also ask for the patience of our citizens because --


WILLIAMS: We're in uncharted waters. We don't know what is ahead. But what we do know --

SCIUTTO: Well --

WILLIAMS: Is we want to rebuild our cities because we are a major economic engine, and we need to be able to lead -- in rebuilding America.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I hear you, a lot of people suffering. Mayor Jeff Williams, we wish you the best of luck going forward.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, another mayor, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, along with several protesters was tear-gassed overnight as confrontations between protesters and federal officers there continue. We'll be live.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, take a look at futures, mixed right now. We're watching how investors react to not good news on the job front, that another 1.4 million Americans filed last week for first-time unemployment help. It's the first time in nearly four months that, that number has actually increased week-to-week. We know why the surge in cases, states rolling back reopenings and makes finding a job very difficult.