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Texas, Florida, California & Arizona Driving Summer Surge; 23 States Recording More Infections Than Previous Week; Florida Breaks Record With 173 COVID-19 Deaths In A Single Day; Barack Obama: Joe Biden Will Listen To The Experts On Coronavirus; White House Drops Payroll Tax Cut Demand To Get GOP Stimulus Plan Moving. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired July 23, 2020 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this day with us. Bad numbers today outline in the awful pattern of the summer Coronavirus surge in rising cases, renewed restrictions and now the resurgence of job losses.

Weekly unemployment claims are heading back up meaning this summer case surge now taking a toll on the economy as well on hospitals, on test sites and on back to school planning. The overall case count will hit the 4 million mark sometime today and it has taken, get this, only 15 days to go from 3 million infections to 4 million infections.

Similar numbers again all of them sober. We are in the midst of a pandemic's worst month when you consider the case count, nearly 1.3 million added so far in July alone. The second highest number of new cases on record just yesterday Wednesday 71,695 deaths too sadly are climbing.

The United States reporting back to back days of 1,000-plus deaths for the first time since the end of May. The deaths are creeping back up job losses, too. That adds even more urgency to negotiations now about a new Coronavirus relief package up on Capitol Hill, billions of dollars in new spending.

What will they do about unemployment benefits? That's important, that's a Washington debate though. Out there in the states the immediate challenge is to slow the spread. And let's take a look if you just look at the 50-state trend map it looks a little bit better this week than last week.

It is a bit deceiving but it is good to say, good is a tough word. 23 states heading up, few days ago when I was standing here it was 38 states heading up 23 heading up in their case count 22 holding steady, five going down important among the 22 holding steady right now Florida and California two of the states. We'll get to the numbers in a second that have been driving the increase in cases. Arizona also has been part of that it is actually going down at the moment. That's encouraging. Let's hope it continues Texas another big driver in this summer surge still in the orange or the red that means its case count still going up.

Let's take a closer look including this, the total case count. This alone does not tell you Coronavirus story but the way it's growing does tell you about the summer surge and the problem. Back on April 28th, we hit the 1 million mark. It took until June 10th to get to 2 million.

Then just a month June 10th to July 8th to get to 3 million and now just 15 days to go from 3 million to 4 million. We'll hit that sad point later today. Several states driving this, the big states more than others, Florida, California and Texas way up here.

If you have three states in the ballpark of 10,000 cases a day, brand new numbers just out of Florida, they're above 10,000 again. Florida, California and Texas adding 30,000 or more new cases a day that pushes that national number up.

Arizona also has been a driver for lower number overall. Seems to be a plateau, maybe even beginning to go down in Arizona let's hope that continues. We know how this works, sadly? You have new cases, wait a couple weeks, you have higher hospitalizations. Wait another week or two higher death counts.

And you see the seven-day moving average of the death count here Texas pointing straight up. You don't want that, Florida up, as well. California up, Arizona was moving up. Let's hope that sign means it is starting to come down. But again a lagging indicator and a sad indicator after the cases waked hospitalizations and deaths tend to track it.

In fact on the hospitalization front, 15 states, 15 states reporting record hospitalizations because of this summer case surge. Joining me now to discuss their insights two doctors on the front lines of the fight our CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Saju Mathew and we have another doctor we lost this shot we'll come back to it in a minute.

Doctor Mathew let me start with you. I started this week hoping that we were going to see a plateau. Florida again just reporting another 10,000 plus cases, you know Georgia if you - record hospitalizations Texas record hospitalizations. What is the key to turning this around?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, John. Listen. We are no longer waist deep. When I was on your show the last time we were waist deep, we're now neck deep. I mean the State of Georgia with over 4,000 cases.

And listen to this, John. I trained at a large 1,000-bed hospital here in Atlanta that's very famous. And last night I spoke with an attendee who said they are at 105 percent capacity and what's worse is that a lot of these in patients that need rooms don't have rooms. They're being treated in the emergency room. I only see one option, John. And I know a lot of people don't like this, especially businesses, but we have to pull back to phase one. We need a national strategy. We need a strategy specifically for all these southern states especially Georgia because we could easily become New York.

When the community transmission is that high, we only have one option and that is pulling back to phase one and ramping up testing.

KING: Dr. Saju Mathew, stand by. We have also re-established our connection with Dr. Richina Bicette. She is an Emergency Room Physician in Houston. Doctor, thank you for your dealing with the technical issues and for your time today. Do we need to go back to phase one? Your community one of the fastest growing, most diverse communities in America also in the middle of this summer surge in dealing with record hospitalizations what is the answer?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Absolutely, John. We have already proven that social distancing and wearing masks work. The spike that we're seeing in cases it began after Texas began to reopen.

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BICETTE: You can see that Texas began to reopen on May 8th and all of a sudden there was a spike in cases about three weeks later which is usually how long it tacks for us to see the Coronavirus cases start to appear.

KING: And Dr. Mathew, you mentioned - both of you have mentioned social distancing, both of you have mentioned masks or some sort of stepping back. If you look at the IHME projection you do have more states, not all, but you do have more states moving toward mask mandates.

You do have the President very belatedly urging people to wear a mask. They say that November, by November 1 the death projection will be about 185,000 just shy of 186,000 there. That's down a bit 34,000 from the current scenario but it is based on people deciding, it is based on if 95 percent of Americans wore masks. The question is, can you get to that level and then can you sustain it?

MATHEW: Yes. So, John, you know, just like you said we can actually decrease, 45,000 people dying, if all of us here in the State of Georgia will wear mask consistently. And one thing that I really like as a public health specialist is performing a test and seeing later what those results are?

If we all wear masks like I said in Georgia at least, 90 percent, in 2 to 4 weeks we can cut down that community transmission. Listen John, we're talking about schools opening. How can we even talk about a school opening if the community transmission is so high?

It would just be a matter of weeks before our teachers fall sick. It is the same thing with businesses here in Atlanta. Yes, you want to keep our business open but the problem is if you don't mandate masks you're putting that responsibility on a restaurant owner to tell a client that walked in that listen, you have got to wear a mask otherwise I'm not going to serve you food.

So for me I've said this before. It's a no brainer, John. We need to all wear masks and we know that it will decrease the transmission and cut down deaths.

KING: And Dr. Bicette, help me here connect the medicine to the math in the sense that a lot of people, the President of the United States has said this many times. A lot of these Governors in the states experiencing the surge have said this.

Don't just focus just on the case count alone and they're right to say that. We knew with reopening there would be some inevitably some increase in cases but then it gets to a point where if the baseline gets too high this becomes very hard to handle.

I want to show you a case, the case growth since we go back to just before the Memorial Day weekend. And you start seeing the cases grow across the United States. And you see that red line that's your average of cases moving up.

The issue is your hospital system, maybe you can deal with a basic number but then if it grows by a third or if it doubles over that, if your baseline is high you're looking at 60,000 cases a day, at that point, the count does matter, doesn't it?

BICETTE: It absolutely does matter, John. What we are not looking at it's not just the number of cases, it's the number of hospitalizations, it's the number of ICU beds that are being utilized. That is a better indicator of exactly how many resources are being funneled into caring for these COVID-19 patients.

And while we have seen just a slight decrease in cases as of July 21st, this is about three weeks after Governor Abbott reinforced the mask mandate. So further just demonstrating that masking does work.

KING: And let us hope, leave the politics aside for a minute, whether you're for or against Governor Abbott or you thought he opened up too soon or whatever. Let's hope that the mask mandate, that we're having a conversation a week and two weeks from now, things continue to go down.

Dr. Mathew, if you look at the regional impact of this. This is my question again you're both in Sunbelt states that are dealing with part of the summer surge right now. If you look at the south, it is the south and the west right now that are the biggest source of the problem if you will because poorest of the numbers, the seven day average of confirmed cases.

My question here though is on the cycle here. If you are the northeast and back in - little typo there in the graphic, if you were - back in March and April you were the "Problem" and now you feel like you're in a better place. How do you keep it from cycling back to other parts of the country? MATHEW: So that's also why John I think that it is not just enough for us to think that we live in a bubble like in the State of Georgia. I really think that all the Governors need to get together with the public health specialists and we need one strategy.

It doesn't matter if you mandate masks in Texas but you don't mandate masks in Georgia. People travel we are very much a mobile society. And for every hour and every day that we are not pulling back to phase one, we are going to have more and more people die.

Just as the doctor mentioned, a second ago, the way you look at as whether a COVID-19 is truly an infection to worry about is you look at the positivity rate. You look at the hospitalization rate and eventually the deaths that lag behind.

So really it is a no-brainer John. We really have to pull back to phase one that all the southern states need to have one plan otherwise it doesn't matter what happens in one.

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MATHEW: And it will trickle over to the other.

KING: Coordination between and among the states also in national level would help greatly at this moment. Dr. Saju Mathew and Dr. Richina Bicette, thank you both so much for joining us on this day please come back again as we continue the conversation.

Let's continue it by moving now to the new epicenter that would be Florida. Again reporting more than 10,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, the number of deaths which we know lag behind hospitalizations just set a new record, 173 yesterday alone in the State of Florida. Rosa Flores live for us in Miami Rosa, the numbers yet again grim?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yet again today the State of Florida shattering its death toll record reporting more than 170 deaths within a 24-hour period. Now when you look at the number of cases and you look at the graph, it looks like the number of daily cases is plateauing, specifically in the past two days they have been under 10,000.

Well today yet again that number jumps above 10,200. Look there are 51 hospitals across this state that have asked the State of Florida for help with nurses. That's one of the big needs in the State of Florida right now. The county that is requested the most nurses here where I'm in Miami-Dade County that requested more than 700.

ICUs in Miami-Dade County are operating at 130 percent capacity. But the county is doing is they're converting regular beds into ICU beds but of course they still need nurses, they still need human beings to provide that care. In the City of Miami, however, a glimmer of hope. Take a listen.

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MAYOR FRANCIS SAUREZ, (R) MIAMI, FL: Just a few days ago we were at 16 new cases per day. Obviously our peak was 125 we were down to 20 new cases a day which means that the remediation efforts that we have taken including the mask in public rule are working. We are being patient and now we're letting those remediation measures take full effect before making any decisions.

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FLORES: Now, about that mask mandate, John, according to city officials now it is going to cost you more money if you don't wear a mask in the City of Miami, the fines for the first and second offense are up to $100. Third offense could land you in jail. John?

KING: Rosa Flores on the ground for us live again in Miami. I had hoped when they got under 10,000 they stay there back above 10,000 new cases today. Rosa, as always I appreciate the hustle and the live reporting from Miami.

Up next for us the President calls Coronavirus testing overrated but he is changing the tone a bit he says he'll keep funding testing if the experts say he should.

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KING: A new tune from President Trump on Coronavirus testing. Remember all those times he said it's because we're testing so much? That's why we have the spike in cases. We don't need all these tests. Now though the President says listen I think it's overrated but the experts say keep it up, I'm good.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are doing tremendous amount of testing but if the doctors and the professionals feel that even though we're at a level that nobody ever dreamt possible that they would like to do more. I'm okay with it. I personally think it's overrated but I'm totally willing to keep doing it. It makes us look bad but they say it's good. I don't mind looking bad if it's a good thing.

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KING: CNN's Kaitlan Collins with us from the White House. It is an interesting shift in tone. We'll see if it sticks but the one thing we do know, President back again in the briefing room today or at a briefing today. He is enjoying his resurgence here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, what we're really seeing from answers like that is how different the President is when he is reading from prepared remarks and when he is actually saying what he really thinks about what's going on?

Because yesterday in the briefing room the President was talking about why we are seeing such a surge in cases across the United States? And it attributed several reasons including many but not only limited to an increase in testing.

But then when he is speaking contemporaneously off of a script then he starts to say he believes it's only because there's an increase in testing in the United States. Many health experts even the ones who work here at the White House say that is not the case that is not the reason you are seeing a rise in cases.

It's because the virus is spreading in the United States and the positive test rates are what show that. And what the task force is watching closely. And to give you an indication of what we are not hearing from the health experts since they are not appearing with the President at these briefings any longer?

Yesterday the Center for Public Integrity obtained audio of a call that Dr. Birx held with several leaders of several cities in the United States. And basically they said that there are these 11 cities they're watching where the test rate may have even gone up just a little bit, that positive test rate, but she say this is deeply concerning and that's something those cities need to be watching.

So we'll see the President today. It is unclear if he is going to bring the health experts with him. Based on his answer to me yesterday about why they're not with him for the past two days it doesn't sound like he thinks that they need to be out there.

Because John what he says is they brief him and then he briefs us. And he feels like it is more concise. Though of course the question is about some of that information that they're giving to cities, to leaders that they're not making public to the general public that is just watching these briefings and the question is how does that affect their response really in the long run?

KING: Especially in those southern more conservative states where those Mayors and Governors could use some cover if they need to do more. It would help if the President really want saying let's do it. Kaitlan Collins live from White House, I appreciate that.

Let's continue the conversation. Now Dana Bash is our Chief Political Correspondent Toluse Olorunnipa White House Correspondent for The Washington Post. Toluse let me start there on the point that the President clearly, this was a risk coming back out and giving briefings. We know how much all the briefings earlier hurt his poll numbers? He is back. The question is he thinks it's helpful. When will we know if it's really helpful?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, the White House and the President's advisers have tried to limit the risk by putting some parameters around these briefings.

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OLORUNNIPA: They have made sure that the president has a scripted opening. He spends a lot of time reading from the scripted remarks and tries to focus on a message that is in line with the public health experts. And then he only takes a few questions. They try to keep these briefings under 30 minutes. They try to keep them short and tight so that they don't become these long marathon briefings that he had back in March and April.

It's not clear whether or not this will help him especially because he continues to do these interviews where he continues to veer from the public health expertise that he gets from his advisers. And he sort of goes with his gut instinct and talks about things that are not related to the pandemic.

So he's still continuing to be the same person that he was back in March and April when he was holding these marathon briefings and talking about injecting bleach and talking about Hydroxychloroquine and all these other unproven magical cures for this virus.

And it's not clear yet that he has taken it to heart that this virus is going to define his presidency, especially this last year of this first term and in a major way it's not something that it can be wished away it is not something that can be just sort of talked through or spun out of.

And because of that it's not clear that he will be able to stick to the message that the public health experts want him to be pushing at this moment.

KING: But Dana, he clearly is hoping and his team is clearly hoping. They have to find some way to try to turn around these horrible numbers. Six in 10 Americans disapprove of his pandemic handling. Nearly two thirds of the Americans say they don't trust anything or at least not much at all of what he says about the pandemic.

And the Democrats see this as well, Joe Biden hopes leadership is an issue. He hopes to convince enough voters that President has failed and he is getting some help from a high profile friend. Listen here he had a conversation with Former President Obama and they have released more of it including this snippet about leadership at a time of crisis.

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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You and I had experience dealing with health crises, public health crises, and in each instance what you and I understood and why I have so much confidence that you're going to be able to deal with COVID in the way that other countries with our kinds of resources are dealing with it right now, which is smartly, I have confidence that you're actually going to listen to the experts.

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KING: There are so many ways to look at this but the big message is, you know, President Obama, well liked, especially among Democrats, well liked in the suburbs which is a big battleground right now essentially saying I trust Joe. You should trust Joe at a time we know the President has a trust problem. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A big trust problem and a big leadership problem. I mean, this is why Joe Biden said from the beginning that he decided to run in the primaries and the fact that he is doing so now as the Presumptive Nominee in the middle of a pandemic puts the discussion in his sweet spot and he is trying to capitalize on that as much as possible with this very unique and sign of the times kind of video that he did with his former boss and the Former President of the United States.

And to contrast that with as Toluse was talking about not necessarily the briefings that the President has been doing which his team I can tell you is very happy with so far because he has stuck to script there. It's the interviews like when he said today, or last night, that testing is overrated.

I mean, that's a kind of thing that makes his team political and policy pull their hair out and it is not just that it is also the people who are trying to save him from himself and save themselves on Capitol Hill. Republicans in Congress, just for example, as we have been talking, are teams sent a note that Lamar Alexander the Chairman of the powerful Health Committee the one that deals with money and policy on health and education, said that very adamantly he disagrees with the President.

He said testing is incredibly important when it comes to a whole bunch of things within society, especially opening schools. He said imagine if we had more testing then we can test classrooms, we can contact trace and so on and so forth. So you have them not just pushing back on the President on the notion but also on the policy.

They're also going to fund more of the testing that the President and the White House had said that they wanted to cut much to the chagrin and bewilderment of not just Democrats but Republicans.

KING: And to that point, I don't want to overplay this because most Republicans are still loyal to the President but we are seeing more and more Republicans trying to stake out new positions or more and more Republicans willing to say, no.

In every round of the Coronavirus stimulus so far, the President has lost his own party has said, no, Mr. President, we will not give you a payroll tax cut. But he said yet again Toluse in recent days, he thought it was important this time and he was going to fight for it.

Listen here, his Treasury Secretary this morning, the guy who actually does the deal making with Congress on these issues says, never mind. It's gone.

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STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The President's priority for the moment is to get money into Americans quickly and one of the problems with the payroll tax cut is it takes time. So we are much more focused right now on the direct payments. We are going to come back again. There may be a Cares 5.0 and the President again is focused on money in American workers and in American pockets right now.

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KING: Well, they're having a hard enough time getting compromised on Cares 4.0 but we'll see if there is a 5.0? But Toluse to that point I guess I don't get it in the sense that - the President wants to push his own proposal but he has been told repeatedly you're not going to get this in his own party saying right out of the gates, no, sir, no.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. This was a complete cave by the White House and by the President on the issue. They knew from the beginning several months ago that there was not a lot of support for the payroll tax cut. They knew that it would take a lot of time to get into people's hands in terms of the bulk amount of money that they're talking about to reach people.

So this is not a new revelation that now all of a sudden they're in favor of direct payments instead of payroll tax cut. They just realized that the politics was not on their side and that they didn't have Republicans on their side when it came to this payroll tax cut.

And they had to cave and kind of do it in more sort of calm and gentle way to not harm the President's ego and sort of talking about a Cares 5.0 or may be another bill down the line. But essentially this shows that the President's poll with his own party is limited. He does not have the ability to sway Republican voters and lawmakers the way he may have early in his term.

In part because a lot of them see his poll numbers, they see he is a weakened incumbent and they don't want to tie their fortunes to him by going along with policy proposals that they don't agree with knowing that the President has not been able to show that he has to support of the majority of the American people.

So this was a clear instance of the President having to cave and it'll be interesting to see how much Republicans depart and show some distance from this President in the last 100 or so days before the vote?

BASH: And John, if I may real quick--

KING: Please, go ahead.

BASH: --in the last few minutes. The President tweeted blaming Democrats saying it was the Democrats that didn't want the payroll tax, that's why they pulled it back. Just a quick reality check we all know this from our reporting but it was his fellow Republicans who thought it was a bad policy idea that's why the White House caved.

KING: Now Democrats never got a chance. They would have stopped it the House Democrats would have stopped it had they gotten a chance.

BASH: Right.

KING: But this is again every time, every time the President's party has stopped this one first very important fact check there. Dana Bash and Toluse Olorunnipa thank you so much for your reporting and insights there.

Up next for us, tension building, the President's already sent federal agents into Portland. Now he says he's going to do it in Chicago. The Mayor there is issuing a clear warning to the President and those federal agents. That's next.

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