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U.S. Records over 1,000 Deaths for Third Day in a Row; Starr County, Texas Issues Shelter-at-Home Order as Cases Surge; GOP Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Stalls on Capitol Hill. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


An incredible about-face in a week of presidential reversals as the U.S. 1,000 deaths for the third day in a row. The country now topping 4 million cases, the most in the world. President Trump says he will cancel the Republican Convention activities in Florida, that after he moved it from North Carolina because North Carolina wasn't giving him the big convention he wanted with no restrictions.

HARLOW: Well, despite that change, of course, the president though is not seeming to hold the same standards when it comes to opening schools, backing off -- he's not backing off his push to reopen schools for in-person classes. There are new CDC guidelines out this morning just released and they heavily emphasize the importance of getting kids back into schools.

But this comes at the same time as a group of more than 150 top medical experts are urging political leaders to shut down the country, a national shutdown and basically start over.

Let's begin this morning in Florida. Our Rosa Flores joins us in Miami. How are officials there coping as some of those hospitals are now completely full?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, officials are trying to do what they can, and medical professionals too, on the frontlines. Look, the reality here this morning in Miami-Dade County, ICUs are operating at 132 percent. That means that there are more patients than there are ICU beds. There are actually 527 ICU COVID-19 patients and only 400 ICU beds available.

The other issue in Miami-Dade County is the need for nurses. We know from the state, the Miami-dade has asked for more than 700 nurses.

As we look at the number of hospitalizations, this is according to data released by the county, those have increased in the past two weeks by 27 percent, ICUs by 37 percent and the use of ventilators by the use of 71 percent, as for the positivity rate, the 14-day average, 19.5 percent here in Miami-Dade County. As we look statewide, there are 55 ICU hospitals across the state that are at capacity with zero ICU beds available. This as Florida yesterday shattered its death toll record reporting 173 deaths in 24 hours.

Now, all of this is happening in the background of this battle over the reopening of schools. Earlier this week, the U.S. surgeon general said that the transmission rates have to go down before schools could reopen. Well, the U.S. surgeon general was here yesterday in Miami.

I caught up with him on the sidelines of this press event and shared with him that in the past two weeks in the State of Florida the positivity rate has ranged between 13 percent and 18 percent, that here in Miami-Dade, it's been at about 20 percent.

And I asked him in his professional opinion could schools in Florida reopen safely, and Dr. Adams said that there is a possibility it could be done in a month because the cycle of this virus is two weeks. But he also added that this means that everyone has to wear a mask, everyone has to social distance and wash their hands.

And, Jim and Poppy, the other thing that he mentioned is that low risk in children, and we've been reporting on this, Governor Ron DeSantis mentioned this at every press conference, the low risk in children does not mean no risk. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores, thanks very much. And that's really the key here, the CDC guidelines. Yes, it says reopen as long as that community, those communities do not have a big outbreak under way.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: That's the key standard there.

HARLOW: For sure. So let's talk to a specialist on this. Dr. Paul Offitt, he is Director of the Vaccine Education Center and Pediatrics Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It's very, very good to have you. Thanks so much for being with us.

I'm really interested in your take on the CDC new guidelines when it comes to schools given that the CDC director said just at the end of June, quote, we don't know the impact that children have yet on the transmission cycle.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, PEDIATRICS PROFESSOR, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, I think there are certain things that are true. I mean, it is true that children get this infection less commonly and when they get it, they get it less severely. There's a reason for that. Virus cells, in order to enter cells, have to be invited into the cell.

That happens because the virus in this case binds to the receptor on the surface of the cell. The receptor in this case is called an ACE2 receptor and young children don't really express that receptor much in the of their nose or throat or lungs and it's a maturation receptor. You start to express that receptor more and more when you get older, so reaching the adult levels around 25.

So that's why children get it less frequently. That's why they get it less severely. And that's why for the most part, they are less likely to transmit the virus that older people, but they still can get it. And when they get it, occasionally, they can get it occasionally fatally.


So you do have to be careful.

I think it's really largely a matter of (INAUDIBLE), making sure you wear a mask, you know, (INAUDIBLE). I don't get it. I don't get the mask thing. I don't get it why people think not wearing a mask is a matter of your freedom. It's not your freedom to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Dr. Offit, let's look at this outbreak nationally now. Let's compare the U.S. where it stands on cases and infections with Europe, Canada and other countries right now because it's not a pretty picture, the U.S. the green line there. We don't have it under control.

You now have a number of doctors and specialists saying the only way to get that green line down is to reinstitute, not just local but nationwide or perhaps largely nationwide stay-at-home orders. Do you agree with that?

OFFIT: I think, again, it's -- I don't personally think that's necessary. I think that if we just do can the common sense things of maintaining social distance and wearing a mask at all times when you're outside, I think we can get this under control as other countries have gotten it under control.

But, again in, some areas, I think, you know, where people are less willing to do that, I think you're going to have to lock down. And certainly in certain areas that seems to be true.

HARLOW: You brought up the sometimes events when it can be fatal for children. We learned this week about a nine-year-old with no known underlying conditions in the State of Florida who died from COVID. It's the fifth child death from COVID in the State of Florida. And I say this because there were at least, to these doctors and the health commissioner there, no known underlying conditions.

What -- what do you say -- I mean, all of us as parents are real scared and we're going to weigh whether or not our kids go back to school if we have that choice. What does this death indicate to you? Do we know anymore than we knew a few months ago?

OFFIT: Well, certainly, it's true that children can get what's called a multi-system inflammatory disease, which is to say the virus can actually affect the cells that line blood vessels, causing inflammation otherwise known as vasculitis, because all organs of your body have a blood supply, therefore, all organs can be affected. I think here, what happens when children die, and they die extremely rarely from this, but when they die, typically, they die because the vessels that get inflamed are the true major vessels that supply their heart muscle. And so they die essentially of a heart attack. I mean, it's awful. It's the kind of the thing we with the called Kawasaki's disease, which this can mimic. It's tragic. But it is extremely rare for this to happen.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Offit, understandably, a lot of focus on a vaccine and even Dr. Fauci as you've seen progress in some of the early small- scale trials here says possible to have one as soon as the end of this year, early next year.

Bill Gates last night, he was less sanguine. He said that you may not have a vaccine until the end of 2021. And in the meantime, it's really therapeutics that offer the best hope, treatments for this. I wonder where you come down.

OFFIT: I think in the end, vaccines, I think, will be the thing that saves our lives, that in concert with hygienic measures. But you're right, we're very early and basically small phase one dosing trials. I mean, the AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson, et cetera, are very in this.

And so we need to see what happens when we do large prospective placebo-based pre-trials of 30,000 or more. And I can't imagine that's done by the end of this year. I think it's likely earlier or middle year.

Therapeutics are not great in the world of vaccines. You'll get remdesivir, which is an antiviral inhibitor, it shortens your length of illness by about four days but it doesn't appear to save your life. And although the drugs, like monoclonal antibodies or convalescent, I think, could have a role. They would really -- in order to work have to be given fairly early in illness when people are unlikely actually to be identified as ill.

So I think our best chance, as always, is going to be a vaccine. Prevention is always better than a pound of cure.

HARLOW: But you need a majority of the population here but also globally to take the vaccine for it to really work, and I wonder if you are concerned about that, the anti-vax movement, people not trusting a vaccine that might view as, quote, unquote, rushed.

OFFIT: But I think if you had a vaccine, for example, that was 75 percent effective, you would need to vaccinate two-thirds of the American population to stop the spread. I think that's doable. And I think once we know what the characteristics of this vaccine are, I'm optimistic that the public health community and academic community can explain the characteristics of that vaccine and hopefully get people to get this vaccine knowing that 500 or 1,000 people are dying every day in this country, so the benefits are great.

HARLOW: Dr. Offit, we appreciate you very, very much. Thanks.

OFFIT: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, an about-face for the president, Republicans scrapping plans to host the in-person parts of the GOP Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.


SCIUTTO: Yes. And, remember, the president moved it there from North Carolina because we wasn't getting the wide-open convention he wanted. CNN's Dana Bash joins us now to talk more about the president's thinking here.

And, Dana, it's notable, is it not, that the numbers that seemed to have moved the president here, not those numbers on the right-hand side of the screen, is 144,000 dead, 4 million cases, but internal polling numbers showing danger in November.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Those are the numbers that matter to the president. I'm not saying that he doesn't care about those numbers on the screen but he was trying to tactically ignore them without really focused on a federal plan. We still can't really seen that, but we have seen him try to appear more engaged and understanding of what is going on.

Which is why we have seen over this week a series of moves, tactical, political moves that he has made from the tweet of him wearing a mask. Never mind we haven't really seen him in that, it's been in his pocket, to the dramatic move that he made yesterday, which was to cancel this kind of impulsive change that he made a couple of months ago or maybe even less than that. And it was because he was so insistent that he wanted the crowds.

He couldn't be convinced that crowds were a bad idea. He couldn't be convinced that the 2016 magic that he saw could not be replicated in 2020 given the pandemic. And starting with what happened last month in Tulsa up until his poll numbers declining after that and, you know, because of the surge that we've seen across the country, especially in the states that he relies on, you know, reliably red states, that is what pushed him to change.

And the latest was Jacksonville, a whole host of reasons he change. One of them was, I'm told, that it was the sheriff who I know you reported on that actively when the sheriff came out and said this is a bad idea. He is an elected official there, and so he felt that he had the political power to do that, and that was a very telling sign for people around the president.

HARLOW: Dana, poll numbers, this is your reporting earlier in the week, what moved the president to wear a mask, to tweet, that et cetera. Then you look at these new Fox News poll numbers on critical states for the president to win, and they are striking. Minnesota has Biden at 51 percent and the president at 38 percent, Michigan, 49 percent for Biden, 40 percent for the president, Pennsylvania, 50 percent for Biden, 39 for the president. Not only did Biden is ahead there, but ahead by wide margins.

What's your reporting on how this is tipping the hand of the president, influencing his decisions?

BASH: Big time. I mean, those are public polls. I mean, it's one thing for your home State of Minnesota, Poppy, which has been trending blue.

HARLOW: That's huge for Minnesota, yes.

BASH: Exactly, despite the fact that before the pandemic, the Trump campaign was very sort of bullish that maybe they could win it back. And if those polls, you know, stay the way they are, it's going to be hard, never mind Michigan and Pennsylvania which are at least recently more traditional swing states that the president won last time and that is the reason he is the president. It's all of these things, guys. It is all of these numbers. And, again, these are the public polling. What they are seeing privately, it's very similar.

SCIUTTO: Dana, just before we go quickly, does this change Biden's response? it seems that part of the Biden campaign strategy here has been let the president, you know, damage himself, right? As the president is more public, does that change Biden's approach?

BASH: That's such a good question. You know, my sense in talking to people in Biden land is just to keep on keeping on, remind people not just what the president is saying this week but what he has done or has not done since this pandemic started.

One of the arguments, I'm told, that the president got and that helps sway him in cancelling Jacksonville was you can look like a leader. Well, that is the word and that is the term that Joe Biden has successfully been using since this pandemic started to help him rise in the polls despite the fact that he can't campaign either.

So they are -- you know, whether or not they can disabuse people of seeing that, quote, unquote, new Donald Trump and the way he's trying to present himself is an open question, is a challenge for the Biden campaign, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Watch what they do and not what they say, as our mom's told us. Dana Bash, thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Los Angeles County is reporting its fourth straight day with more than 2,000 cases daily. This as officials are outlining new enforcement measures for those who do not follow the health mandates.


HARLOW: Also, Dr. Deborah Birx warning of a concerning rise of cases in a dozen cities. We'll speak to mayors of two of those cities, ahead.

And time is running out for millions of Americans whose unemployment benefit, extension or top-off, if you will, it's going to go away. That extra $600 a week it ends very soon, making matters worse, the potential loss of their health insurance, their stories, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


Now to Texas, one of four states where White House Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx says cases are starting to plateau, come off their highs, but they are still very high. And now, one county has issued a shelter-at-home order for the next two weeks.

HARLOW: Ed Lavandera joins us from Dallas with more. I mean, it's important there that at least they have the right now, the counties, to do this and make this decision by themselves.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this has been, you know, the one thing that has been a struggle between local authorities and state officials here in Texas for several months now, as many of these counties, Starr County is the latest issuing this order. That is down in the South Texas area, which has been the hot spot within this Texas hotspot.

And if you take a closer look at the medical data now emerging from Texas, the case numbers still remain high, but it's been several days since we've seen numbers topping the 10,000 mark, which is significant, and that is why we're beginning to believe that there might be a plateauing of these cases.

Now, nearly 10,000 cases per day is still extremely high. And the other side of that coin is that the hospitalizations also remain extremely high and at record levels. The number of deaths being reported every day was over is 70. Yesterday, these were the highest that we've seen since this pandemic started. So there is still like this mixed level of information that is emerging from the medical data here, but right now beginning to perhaps see this plateau.

And then one final good piece of information is that the positive infection rate among the new cases last week was at 17.5 percent. Now, it's at around 14 percent. So that's trending in a better direction.

HARLOW: Well, good, I'm glad it's trending in a better direction in places. Ed, thanks so, so much. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, Mexico is now reporting its highest number of coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic, the spike in new infections coming as the mortality rate hovering around 20 percent in some places. This is just remarkably high.

CNN's Matt Rivers, he joins us now from Tijuana. Matt, what are Mexican health officials saying?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, it was just yesterday that officials reported more than 8,400 new cases in a day. That's the second highest record Mexico recorded in the last few weeks alone.

Here in Baja, California, which is just south of California, newly confirmed cases are slowing down but this is the mortality rate that you're mentioning. Of all the people that have gotten sick in this Mexican state, roughly 20 percent of them have lost their lives. It's one of the highest mortality rates in all of Mexico. And Mexico, as a country, has one of the highest mortality rates of any country worldwide.

And we've talked to doctors here in Tijuana over the past few months who say they have had hospitals overwhelmed. That's part of the reason why residents here in Tijuana have actually gone to California, some of them to seek care for the coronavirus. That's put a strain on California's health resources, of course.

But then on the flip side of that coin, you've got Mexican border governors in states like here Baja, California, wherein the other states like where Ed is in states like Chihuahua and Tamaulipas that are expressing public concern over the rise in infections that we've seen in border states in the U.S., like California, Arizona and Texas. They're concerned that Americans can cross back over into Mexico and make this outbreak here worst.

It really highlights the challenges in these border communities, and that is part of the reason the outbreak on both sides is why the U.S. and Mexico have agreed to keep the land border between both countries closed to all non-essential travel until at least August 21st.

SCIUTTO: It's a huge step. There's normally a lot of back and forth across that border. Matt Rivers, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Yes. The coronavirus task force is keeping a very close eye, they say, on 12 cities that are showing what they deem to be a concerning rise in COVID cases. We'll speak to the mayors of two of those cities next.



HARLOW: So the latest Senate Republican stimulus proposal has now stalled until next week at least. The plan was supposed to be unveiled today, but now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says key components will be unveiled on Monday.

SCIUTTO: So the key question is will Congress reach a deal in time to extend unemployment benefits before they run out? CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill.

The difficult negotiation was between Democrats and Republicans. But the fact is now Republicans in the Senate and the White House, they haven't agreed on the key points of this. Why and what remains to be done?

PHILI MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jim, in terms of where things are stand on the negotiation, the teams aren't actually on the field yet. They are essentially sitting in the locker room until the Republicans can figure out their own proposals.

And I think that has deep repercussions, obviously. You have more 17 million people who are unemployed, and that extra money has been helpful but not just to pay rent and bills or car notes or their mortgages, also to pay health insurance, which millions may lose because of those lost jobs.


ASHLEY PAMPLIN, FURLOUGHED RESTAURANT MANAGER: I've always been optimistic and smiling, like it will all be okay.

MATTINGLY: Despite a furlough, Ashley Pamplin managed to stay positive in the first few months of the pandemic.

PAMPLIN: Unemployment and everything, that's what made it a little bit easier to be like, okay, I can stay at home and be okay.

MATTINGLY: But the Pittsburgh restaurant group where she worked just days ago decided it had to make cuts.

PAMPLIN: There's just so uncertainty, and I think nobody really knows what's going on, and it's kind of like almost a downward spiral.