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The U.S. Approaches 4 Million Positive COVID-19 Cases; Interview with Miami Police Department Deputy Chief Ron Papier; President Trump Describes Cognitive Test. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 23, 2020 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Top of the hour, I am Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Take a look at the right side of your screen. In the coming hours, perhaps even in the next hour, America will be watching its total number of cases cross yet another devastating threshold: 4 million, the most of any nation in the world. And of course, this crisis is far from over. Hospitalizations are hitting record numbers, deaths are trending upward and the testing delays are so long that the results are basically worthless, as the U.S. surpasses 50,000 new cases a day for 17 consecutive days.

How did our country get here? January 21st, the CDC reported the first U.S. COVID infection. It was 99 days after that that we hit 1 million; it only then took 43 days to hit 2 million; only 28 days to hit 3 million; and today, just 15 days later, we are expected to cross this 4 million mark.

And there is still no national plan to get a handle on all of this. The president is downplaying the need for testing, he is sharing misleading details at newly revived coronavirus briefings, where he is the star and no health experts are present.

Listen to this audio obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. You'll hear the voice of the White House Coronavirus Response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx. But instead of seeing her on television where she should be, you'll hear her warning local and state health officials in private.


DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE (via telephone): There are cities that are lagging behind that and we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Baltimore.

So we're tracking this very closely. We're working with the state officials to make sure we're responding together. But when you first see that increased test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts.


KEILAR: CNN national correspondent Athena Jones is joining us now on this story. And, Athena, the numbers are dire, but some health experts say the nation does have solutions to these problems.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna, you're absolutely right. We all have, at our fingertips, these basic tools -- low-tech, but high-impact -- tools that can stop the spread: wearing a mask, frequently washing your hands, keeping your distance from others. They're -- study after study, doctor after doctor. And the experience of the countries who have managed to get their infection rates down have proven that those basic steps work.


JONES (voice-over): In perhaps the strongest signal yet the coronavirus is still raging out of control across much of America, the country is on track to reach 4 million infections nationwide today, a jump of a million new cases in just over two weeks. Deaths across the country, topping 1,000 for the second straight day while total hospitalizations, back up to April levels with 15 states setting new records.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATOR: In the United States, probably, you know, by the end of the year, we could have upwards of 300,000 if we continue on the current trajectory.

JONES (voice-over): A new study, reinforcing the effectiveness of simply public health measures to stopping the spread of the virus.

Authorities in Miami, now increasing the penalty for not wearing a mask from $50 to $100 for the first offense, and assigning a dedicated police unit to enforce the mandate. The mayor, touting those efforts while acknowledging the challenge delayed COVID test results present.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: People get home. Obviously, when they get home, they're not practicing social distancing, they're not wearing their mask inside and they've been exposed, and they don't even know it. By the time they get tested, with the test lags that there are, we're eight days in of exposure to the entire family, and so the entire family's getting sick.

JONES (voice-over): In California, COVID-19 is swiftly becoming a leading cause of death in Los Angeles County.

BARBARA FERRER, LOS ANGELES PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: COVID-19 is on track to claim more lives than L.A. County than any disease except coronary heart disease. It's killing more people than Alzheimer's disease, other kinds of heart disease, stroke, and COPD.

JONES (voice-over): Texas, one of the states with record hospitalization levels, also set a record for new COVID-19-related deaths, one doctor calling for the government to send the Navy hospital ship Mercy to help. [14:05:05]

IVAN MELENDEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS HEALTH AUTHORITY: This morning, we're, what, 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning central time, we're already ready to report another 30 deaths. And it's already 9:00 in the morning. So our numbers continue to escalate.

JONES (voice-over): And in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey, still mulling whether to open schools while facing pressure from parents and teachers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to go back to work, we want to support our kids, we want to keep doing what we love doing, but we also want to feel safe. And we also have family to worry about.

JONES (voice-over): One potentially bring spot? Sports. Even as cases surge in the Sunshine State, the NBA is set to begin practice games at Disney World. And Major League Baseball is back, an abbreviated season beginning today, with teams planning to pipe in crowd noise and other sound effects as they face off in empty stadiums.


JONES: And one more bit of interesting news from Florida. You heard the Miami mayor there, talking about how this disease, how COVID is spreading within households. He is now suggesting that people who live particularly in a multigenerational household, consider wearing a mask and keeping their distance from others just to stop the spread of this virus -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a stunning warning --


JONES: While at home (ph).

KEILAR: -- Athena Jones, thank you so much. Thank you, Athena.

So as you just heard Athena report there, Miami's mayor is cracking down on his mask mandate. He's assigned 39 officers to enforce it, and is increasing fines for violators. So far, the city has issued 115 tickets; 59 of them have been warnings. And they have also closed 15 businesses for up to 24 hours.

Ron Papier is the deputy chief of the Miami Police Department. Thank you so much for being here, Deputy Chief. And just explain what these officers are going to be doing.

RON PAPIER, DEPUTY CHIEF, MIAMI POLICE: Thank you. So our officers are out and we're going around in the community. We initially started giving out warnings, as was giving out masks. We've given out thousands of thousands of masks throughout the community.

At this point, the violation for not wearing a mask is a civil citation, which is $100 fine. So we do come across people who are not wearing a mask, our officers are issuing the civil citation for $100 and we are also giving them a mask as well, so they could put it on immediately.

KEILAR: OK, so we've seen enough videos at this point to know that tempers flare when it comes to asking people to wear a mask when they don't want to, so how often are you running into confrontations/

PAPIER: Well, luckily, so far, everybody we've come in contact with has been cooperative. They're not necessarily happy about it. We are very sensitive to the issue, but these are difficult times and really, it's become no choice, that we have to give out the citations. It is the legislative mandate.

KEILAR: Are you noticing a trend with who is not wearing masks at this point? Is it mostly young people?

PAPIER: It's kind of all across the board. But yes, I would say mostly young people.

KEILAR: OK, all across the board, mostly young people. So I wonder how busy are your officers here?

PAPIER: They're pretty busy. They're going around, but they're also doing a lot of other things. We're also inspecting businesses to make sure businesses are complying. And for the most part, we have found people are in compliance. So the numbers you gave out, as you notice (ph), there are really not a lot of citations so far. We did a big warning, we have signs up, advising people to stop the spread of COVID and to wear a mask, that it is the law now.

KEILAR: Do you think that the city will consider shutting down?

PAPIER: I really couldn't answer that right now.

KEILAR: OK, you can't answer that right now. Thank you so much --


KEILAR: -- it's really interesting to hear about what your officers are doing. We appreciate it, Deputy Chief Papier. Thank you.

PAPIER: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: President Trump, lying again about testing in the U.S. He calls it overrated even though it can save lives and stop the spread. Plus, he also wants everyone to know that he can identify an elephant and tell you what day it is: the bizarre new chapter in his cognitive test drama.


And they're calling him Miracle Larry. I'll be speaking with a man who spent 128 days in the hospital battling coronavirus. Hear about the moment that his family came to say goodbye.


KEILAR: The president of the United States is yet again bragging about the results of the cognitive test that he took last year. It's a test, by the way, that is meant to detect cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer's and other dementias.

In a nearly two-minute-long rant on "Fox News," Trump detailed the questions asked. He described how amazed the test administrators were by his ability to recall a simple string of words.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the last time I was at the hospital -- oh probably a year ago -- I said to the doctor -- it was Dr. Ronny Jackson -- I said, Is there some kind of a test, an acuity test?

And he said, there actually is.

And he named it, whatever it might be. And it was 30 or 35 questions. The first questions are very easy; the last questions are much more difficult, like a memory question. It's like you'll go, "Person, woman, man, camera, TV." So they'd say, Could you repeat that?

So I said, yeah. So it's "Person, woman, man, camera, TV."

OK, that's very good.

If you get it in order, you get extra points. If you -- OK, now he's asking you other questions, other questions.

And then, 10 minutes, 15, 20 minutes later, they'd say, Remember that first question? Not the first, but the 10th question? Give us that again, can you do that again?


And you go, "Person, woman, man, camera, TV."

If you get it in order, you get extra points. They said nobody gets it in order, it's actually not that easy. But for me, it was easy. And that's not an easy question. In other words, they ask it to you, they give you five names, and you have to repeat them, and that's OK. If you repeat them out of order, it's OK but, you know, it's not as good.

But then, when you go back, about 20, 25 minutes later and they say, Go back to that -- they don't tell you this -- Go back to that question and repeat them. Can you do it?

And you go, "Person, woman, man, camera, TV."

They say, That's amazing. How did you do that? I do it because I have, like, a good memory, because I'm cognitively there.


KEILAR: I want to bring in Dr. Art Caplan, who is the head of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine. I mean, Art, what do you -- this is not -- look, this might be the

most descriptive the president has gotten when it comes to this cognitive test, this easy cognitive test, but he brings it up over and over and over. What do you make of this fixation he has with it?

ART CAPLAN, HEAD OF MEDICAL ETHICS, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, somehow, Brianna, he seems to think that he's been taking an IQ test or an intelligence test. He's taking a test that was intended to diagnose whether you've had a stroke, Alzheimer's disease, prefrontal dementia or Lewy body syndrome. In other words -- or Alzheimer's -- this is a test that's used to find out if you're really mildly cognitively impaired due to disease. He's completely confused about the purpose and point of this particular quick examination.

My belief is he is trying to establish himself as the stable genius that he wants us all to think that he is. He's politicizing the issue, both of is Joe Biden able -- because he keeps suggesting that Joe Biden take this test, although you have no reason to think that Joe Biden has Alzheimer's disease, it's not the right test to take.

And he's also, I think, trying to address his own -- people who have concerns about his own mental capabilities and physical health by saying he's done wondrously on a test intended to prove that he's not demented.

KEILAR: So if someone were taking that test and a doctor responded to correct answers with, "That's amazing," I mean, what would that mean?

CAPLAN: That would mean that that's a doctor who hasn't given that test very much. I mean, literally, you'd sort (ph) of say, is it amazing to be able to recognize an elephant? Probably not amazing to come up with 10 words that begin with the letter F in 60 seconds, which is another part of this exam. It's probably not amazing to know what date it is and where you are. Those are all the kinds of levels of questions that you see on this quick cognitive assessment test.

I simply -- I mean, I'm going to say those doctors are currying favor with the president. But their astonishment? No, I don't buy that.

KEILAR: OK. So after falsely blaming testing for the spike in U.S. coronavirus cases, let's listen to how the president is now approaching the issue.


TRUMP: We are doing a 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 OK with it.

I personally think it's overrated, but I am 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.


KEILAR: All right, we fact-checked this, I mean, I don't know how many times. It's -- this isn't true, it's a lie.

CAPLAN: It's a straight-up lie. We are not seeing more cases because we do more testing. We know that because we know the hospitalization rates and the death rates in many parts of the country are going up faster than the testing rate. So, look, the president is, just as he is doing on his cognitive assessment test, he's really playing deceptively with numbers.

We want to be sure that we have accurate numbers. And part of the reason testing is crucial is that not only does it reveal cases, but it then lets you contact trace and isolate people who have the disease or who may have been exposed. We stink at that. The epidemic is raging out of control in the south and the southeast, and did in the northeast because we didn't have enough testing and contact tracing. The notion that we should do less testing in the middle of a plague squares with no science.

KEILAR: Art, thank you so much. It's good to see you, we appreciate it. Art Caplan.


They are calling him Miracle Larry, and for good reason: He spent 128 days inside the hospital fighting the coronavirus. He almost lost his battle, but there he is, alive, surviving.


KEILAR: A coronavirus survivor known as Miracle Larry walked out of a New York hospital just yesterday, after spending 128 days as one of its sickest patients.


Larry Kelly spend 51 of those hospitalized days on a ventilator. He suffered seizures and infections. And at one point, his wife had to stop doctors from pulling the plug on her husband, they say.

We are thrilled to have Miracle Larry Kelly and his wife Dawn here with us, as well as their daughter Jackie. Welcome to you guys. Larry, your brother gave you this nickname -- the "Miracle" part -- to Larry. Tell us about what happened, tell us about what you went through to gain that title.

LARRY KELLY, SURVIVED COVID-19: Well, I was one of the early cases. And in many ways I was a guinea pig, because they knew nothing about it. And so they threw everything at me. I was vented the day after I entered the hospital, much to the dismay of my family because I had just gone in, and I just felt like I had a cold. I guess I deteriorated very quickly.

And then while I was in the coma, I had pneumonia in both lungs and I was agitated, so they gave me fentanyl to calm me down. And I got addicted to the fentanyl, so they had to wean me down on methadone. And I had a massive brain bleed, which they say covered my entire brain. So as you just said earlier, they called my family in -- my brother,

my daughter, my wife -- pretty much against protocol, to come to the glass to pay their last respects. And they were strongly suggesting taking me off life support.

And my daughter and my wife strongly opposed that, and said, he would want to live.

And from that point on, the doctors at Mount Sinai worked tirelessly to keep me alive.

The last text message I sent to my wife when -- right before I was vented, I said, "I promise I'll never stop fighting." And I kept that promise.



KEILAR: Yes. And, Dawn, you kept that promise as well. But tell us about that call to the hospital, being called to the hospital.

D. KELLY: I -- my knees gave way, I grabbed the counter, I couldn't believe my ears. I thought -- I actually was not accepting it. I said, oh, they're just calling him in to help him. No, no, not that, you know, he was going anywhere.

J. KELLY: We were actually able to play recordings for him by his ears. They brought my phone in. I went in first, they only let us in one at a time so we couldn't even really be together and experience it together.

And they -- we all left recordings on my phone, and they played it by his ears for him because we just wanted to feel -- or make him feel that we were there for him as much as possible. So we were really glad that we were able to do that.

KEILAR: And so at that point, he's still -- he's sedated, right? At this point, when you go in for this visit?

J. KELLY: Completely, he was.

D. KELLY: And he had an EKG --

J. KELLY: He was attached to a lot of monitors --

L. KELLY: Tubes everywhere.

J. KELLY: -- tubes everywhere, EEG on his brain and EKG (ph) on his brain and he looked awful. And my sister didn't even want to see him like that, so it was kind of just if that was our moment to see him, then that was the memory we were going to have of him. And, you know, she didn't want to remember him like that, so. It was the worst day.

KEILAR: Dawn, what did you say to the doctors?

D. KELLY: I said he would want to live. We all said that.

J. KELLY: Yes.

D. KELLY: And --

J. KELLY: You were trying to find all those --


J. KELLY: -- good omens.

D. KELLY: -- when I went up the stairs to where he was in the ICU, the first person I saw was Jessica Montanaro and I saw her name. I said, Our older daughter's name is Jessica.

And then I -- she said, well, he's right over her in room 29.

I said, June 29th, he's -- that's an omen, I'm looking for omens, good omens.

And then I see that he has the sports channel on. And I'm like, oh, he'll love that when he wakes up.

I mean, I wasn't really accepting that he was going anywhere.

J. KELLY: We had to look for all the positives.

D. KELLY: And then Jessica was telling me how she was the (INAUDIBLE) and how she really made a quick connection with him, which he does with many people. And she really got attached to him quickly.

And I said, well, I can't give up hope.

And she said, no, never give up hope.

She was wonderful. And she asked me what he was like.

I said, he's the best, he's absolutely the best.

J. KELLY: So special.

D. KELLY: I -- she goes, I knew that because I loved his tattoos.

KEILAR: You know, and Larry, I look at you. I mean -- also, I hear you're quite the funny guy, which is part of the reason, I think, why the nursing staff took a liking to you. But, look, you're listening to your family, who, while you were under, walked to the precipice of losing you. What is it like to hear them talk about this?

L. KELLY: Well, Jackie actually played the phone conversations with the doctors that she had, with her crying and them telling them all the gloom and doom.