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Trump Wants 100 Percent of School to Reopen Regular Classes; Cafeteria Worker on White House Grounds Tests Positive; Hong Kong Struggles with Third Wave of COVID-19; Doubters Persist in Mexico Despite Increases in COVID-19 Cases; Trump Says He Wishes Ghislaine Maxwell Well. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 23, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Now we mentioned the breakthrough in Washington over the next round of stimulus. That plan should include $105 billion for schools. Regardless of the money, multiple districts from New York to Washington are already preparing for remote learning this fall. But the president says he wants all schools to open. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What you understand, the children who go to school then go back to home there with some live with their grandparents that 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, John, 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. They're looking at that fact. That is a factor and we're looking at that very strongly. We'll be reporting about that.


CHURCH: And we're doing the fact checking. We wanted expert reaction to President Trump's statement about children and COVID-19. And I spoke to Dr. Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and he said he understands how difficult this is for parents and children, but the priority should be safety.


DR. ANISH MAHAJAN, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, HARBOR-UCLA MEDICAL CENTER: This prolonged pandemic, it's been five months, and it's going to go on much longer, is very challenging for kids and parents. Now it is irresponsible to reopen schools when we have so much community transmission of the pandemic occurring while at the same time we simply don't have enough testing to go around. And so this is a very dangerous time to reopen schools, especially in those states and jurisdictions that are so heavily affected.

CHURCH: Now I also wanted to talk to you about the key model from Washington University because that projects nearly 220,000 U.S. deaths by November. That's about 5,000 fewer than their last forecast due to mask mandates in some states. It also predicts that if there is a national mask mandate, that another 34,000 lives could be saved. So how important is it to you that President Trump makes that call for a national mask mandate?

MAHAJAN: It's everything. At this point we don't have very effective treatments for COVID. We certainly do not yet have a vaccine but we do know for a fact that masks work. Masks work in protecting others and they work in protecting youth from contracting coronavirus. We have seen it in so many other countries across the world where they are wearing their masks and they are socially distancing. They don't have anywhere close the problem we have here in the United States.

CHURCH: Dr. Mahajan, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

MAHAJAN: My pleasure. Thank you.


CHURCH: Well, staffers at the White House are being urged not to panic after a cafeteria worker on the grounds was diagnosed with the virus. The news was sent to staff by e-mail which was seen by CNN as Kaitlan Collins explains.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They wanted to tell them that a staffer who works in one of the cafeterias on the White House grounds has tested positive for coronavirus.

Now this is not the one that's in the actual West Wing. That's the White House mess where staffers typically go. You can actually sit down but there are two restaurants one inside the building right next to the White House where the vice president's office is, where the National Security Council staffers are, and hundreds of others. And then there's another one in the new executive office building which is also here on the White House grounds.


Both of those have been closed after a staffer tested positive. And the White House Medical Office said they've conducted contact tracing. They don't think anyone who works in the West Wing needs to self- quarantine at this time.


CHURCH: Well, meantime, counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, has been defending President Trump's handling of the coronavirus. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, she appeared to shift blame onto the states themselves.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think what added yesterday is him saying some of these states blew through our gated criteria, blew through our phases, and they opened up some of the industries a little too quickly, like bars.


CHURCH: But here's what the president himself has said over the last few months.


TRUMP: We're very close to completing a plan to open our country, hopefully even ahead of schedule. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter. I'm not going to do anything rash or hastily, I don't do that, but the country wants to get back to work. The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized. I want fans back in the arenas. I think it's --


TRUMP: No, whenever we're ready. I mean, as soon as we can. It's time to be open. It's time to stay open. And we will put out the fires as they come up. Ultimately the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy. Could go on for a while, but we win.


CHURCH: Well, on the issue of masks, here's what Conway had to say.


CONWAY: He thinks about -- he said in April if people want to wear a mask, they should wear a mask. He said that. And you've got to go back and pull it. I think that's not very honest if you're not putting that as part of your reporting it. He was way ahead of other people on that.


CHURCH: Fact check. Here's what Mr. Trump said in early April.


TRUMP: So with the masks, it's going to be really a voluntary thing. You can do it, you don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it but some people may want to do it.


CHURCH: Now of course he's saying to do it and so that's what we're going to do, we're going to wear our masks.

And this is CNN NEWSROOM. Coming up, Hong Kong is struggling with its third wave of the coronavirus. We are live there. That is next. Stay with us.



CHURCH: All right. We want to take a look at how the pandemic has been handled around the world, and we begin in Hong Kong which is dealing with its third wave of cases. And CNN's Will Ripley is there, he joins us now live.

Good to see you, Will. So Hong Kong had this under control earlier on. Now it's battling a third wave. What is the latest on efforts to contain this?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've seen, you know, well over 600 cases over the last two weeks, Rosemary. A very small number when you're thinking about the United States and other countries that are seeing thousands of new cases every day.

Here in Hong Kong the total for the pandemic is getting closer to 2200 cases with 14 deaths. Numbers that most cities would celebrate but here in Hong Kong they are shutting this place down. And they're expanding social distancing requirements. People are encouraged to work from home. Civil servants are doing so. They've now expanded the requirement that everybody wear masks in all indoor public spaces.

This includes public transportation like buses and trains and any area where you might be inside around other people you have to wear a mask or you can be fined more than 600 U.S. dollars. Also travelers coming in from nine countries deemed high risk, which include the United States and India, they have to submit COVID-19 test results before they can even get on the flight and they have to be recent test results.

So somebody flying from the United States, for example, where tests are taking such a long time to turn around might have a very difficult time getting a test, you know, and supplying it to the airline before they can actually board a flight to Hong Kong. So it's very difficult for people to come in and bring cases into the city because they're testing everybody and quarantining them after they arrive.

But what's concerning officials here are the community cases that are continuing to spread despite these measures, despite the, you know, the city talking about a possible lockdown. The numbers keep going up. Every day we keep seeing new record highs. And the numbers are low, but the concern is the numbers could get much, much higher here if these measures are not taken. And the reason why Hong Kong is so concerned about these low numbers

is because already we have a health care system here that is being pushed to the brink. We are running out of isolation beds for COVID-19 patients and also labs that are processing these COVID-19 tests, around 10,000 or so per day, they are being pushed to the limit. In fact, we had an incident here in recent days where a woman who was actually negative got a false positive because one of the lab techs who, you know, basically was overworked mixed up the results.

So this patient who didn't have COVID-19 was put in isolation in the same room with someone who did and they were there for several hours before the mistake was identified. So you have a city that could be really, really underprepared if the numbers were to explode here which is why Hong Kong is taking such strong measures right now, Rosemary.

CHURCH: That is a horrible story. Will Ripley, bringing us up to date on the situation in Hong Kong, many thanks.

Well, the Brazilian Health Ministry says the country's coronavirus outbreak seems to be under control despite breaking the daily record for new infections. Brazil reported nearly 68,000 new cases on Wednesday. More than 16,000 just in Sao Palo. The ministry also reported more than 12,080 new COVID deaths. President Jair Bolsonaro met with supporters after testing positive for the third time within two weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says multiple tests on someone who has already tested positive are not worthwhile. And despite the growing numbers of cases, many people in Mexico's biggest cities refuse to believe the virus is that severe and others don't believe it exists at all.

Matt Rivers reports from Mexico City.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Humberto Montez Cruz sings at funerals for a living so you might think he would take this virus seriously. But he doesn't.

He says, "The truth is this virus doesn't exist. I don't know if I'm ignorant or if it's the faith I have in God. But to me, it doesn't exist." He says if it existed, he'd have gotten it by now.

(On camera): And living and working in Mexico throughout this outbreak, I've consistently heard people like Humberto say that this virus doesn't exist. And so have others. In May a funeral home director told us people constantly tell him relatives died, quote, "of the flu," not COVID.


In June paramedics told us they encountered skeptics on nearly every call. And just a few weeks ago a crematorium worker told us he's amazed how many people tell him the virus isn't real. So the question is, why? (Voice-over): Mexicans sociologist Jorge Galindo says that's a tough

one to answer but he started with a fundamental lack of faith in institutions.

JORGE GALINDO, SOCIOLOGIST, UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA METROPOLITANA: There's a mistrust in general because the governor is always kind of lying or trying to control the narrative.

RIVERS: So when officials say take the virus seriously, some do the opposite. He also points to some officials like the Mexican president downplaying the virus early on, low education levels and a lack of understanding about where this all comes from.

GALINDO: You want to believe that there's something intentional about this, but this happened just because a virus suddenly happened. I mean, and that is something difficult to believe.

RIVERS: In Mexico City's crowded central district we quickly found Jorge who says he doesn't really believe in the virus.

"I've seen so many things in the media that don't exist," he says. "I don't know anyone who's got it."

But he's in a growing minority as swiftly rising cases and deaths means the threat is getting harder to ignore.

Martha says, "I didn't believe in the virus at first but with everything happening now I have to say it exists." And Abigail says, "I didn't believe it was true but now I have family in the hospital, there's more cases, so I'm scared."

A recent newspaper poll found 86 percent of Mexicans do believe the virus exists. Only 14 percent either don't believe it exists or aren't sure and that seems like a small number until you consider that 14 percent of Mexico's population is about 18 million people. Are those 18 million socially distancing, washing their hands, staying at home? We don't know. But if they're not, it doesn't bode well for a country already with one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: Authorities in Chile say they have come up with another way of testing for the coronavirus. Chilean police are training dogs to detect people that may have been infected with COVID-19 by sniffing their sweat. The three Golden Retrievers and a Labrador between ages of 4 and 5 the police have been using them to locate illegal drugs, explosives, and missing people.

The virus has no smell but experts say the infection causes metabolic changes in the body which produces a certain type of sweat. A professor of veterinary epidemiology says that canine detection of COVID-19 has a 95 percent accuracy rate when tested in other countries. Well, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now calling on the

military to prepare for a quadruple threat this winter. And here are the four reasons why they're working on new contingency plans. There could be a second coronavirus spike, a seasonal flu outbreak, winter flooding, and disruptions as the U.K. transitions out of the E.U. All of these at once could overwhelm national resources. A British army officer says these plans will be set by the end of August.

Well, the U.S. president speaks out about the long-time companion of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein but what he had to say has brought renewed scrutiny about his relationship with Epstein. We'll have the details just ahead.



CHURCH: Ghislaine Maxwell is facing charges for allegedly playing a role in Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking ring, but she also knew Donald Trump before he became president. But now Mr. Trump is downplaying how well he knows her, yet he says he wishes her well.

CNN's Pamela Brown has our report.


PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's return to the briefing room took an unexpected return with his response to a question about Ghislaine Maxwell, arrested earlier this month on multiple charges related to sexual abuse of underage girls by her long-time companion, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. She has pleaded not guilty.

TRUMP: I haven't really been following it too much. I just wish her well frankly.

BROWN: The warm wishes for Maxwell are bringing renewed scrutiny to Trump's relationship with her and Epstein who government officials say died by suicide in his jail cell last year after being charged with sex trafficking. Some Republican lawmakers reacted to Trump's comments on Twitter saying, "This is unacceptably obtuse for a woman accused of the most morally depraved of crimes," and, "She is despicable and he needs to say that."

TRUMP: I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach, but I wish her well, whatever it is.

BROWN: Trump says he's known Epstein since the late '80s and pictures from the '90s show the president with Maxwell who became Epstein's girlfriend, associate and allegedly his madame. One picture shows Trump with Maxwell in 1997, then again in early 2000 at Trump's Palm Beach property Mar-a-Lago with his wife Melania and Epstein. Another picture shows Trump with Maxwell that same year at a New York Fashion Show, and then again with model Naomi Campbell. Epstein's one-time business partner Steven Hoffenberg who spent 18

years in jail for a Ponzi scheme told CNN today, "There's no dispute, they knew each other well," adding, "He liked her and she liked him."

In a 2002 interview with "New York" magazine Trump showered praise on Epstein calling him a, quote, "terrific guy" and saying, "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side." After Epstein was arrested last year, Trump had a different tune claiming he kicked Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago years before.

TRUMP: He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan.

BROWN: Prosecutors say Maxwell went into hiding over the last year as more victims came forward alleging she lured them in and groomed them to be sexually abused by Epstein.


Alleged victim Virginia Giuffre has claimed Maxwell recruited her in 1999 while she was a locker room attendant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, though she never alleged any wrongdoing by the president.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: In a normal world, all eyes would have been on Tokyo this week for the opening of the Olympic Games. That, of course, isn't happening. The global pandemic saw to that, but the games are now due to take place one year from today. That milestone comes as Japan breaks its record for most coronavirus cases in a single day.

And it only took 30 years but Liverpool are finally hoisting another English Championship trophy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest lift for Liverpool. That's on top in England.


CHURCH: The Reds actually clinched the Premier League title almost a month ago, the earliest in top flight history but they didn't get their hands on the trophy until Wednesday. Despite all this partying in the bubble, the festivities were somewhat muted due to the coronavirus. Fans were urged to stay home and not gather outside the Anfield Stadium. Manager Jurgen Klopp promises there will be a proper party when it's safe.

And before we leave you, a quick programming note. Tune in for a CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS, FACTS AND FEARS" hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta with special guest Bill Gates. That's Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in New York, 8:00 a.m. Friday in Hong Kong.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.