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Unemployed Prioritize Essential Bills as Congressional Negotiations Continue; Interview with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Interview with Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 10:30   ET



ASHLEY PAMPLIN, FURLOUGHED RESTAURANT MANAGER: And I think nobody really knows what's going on and it's kind of like almost like a downward spiral.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now, Ashley Pamplin has joined nearly 18 million Americans as unemployed. And those job losses have laid bare a significant hole for those individuals.

RACHEL GARFIELD, VICE PRESIDENT, KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION: Particularly a time like this when people are losing their jobs at unprecedented levels, they're losing their health insurance coverage at a time when we're facing a health crisis in the country, and many people have a need -- more than ever -- for health insurance coverage.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Nearly 160 million Americans, or about half the U.S. population, received health insurance through their employer in 2018. Now, as many as 26.8 million people could become uninsured due to those job losses, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

And while the group estimates that more than 20 million would likely quality for Obamacare subsidies or Medicaid, that leaves more than 5 million people faced with paying their own way, all as a crucial $600 federal unemployment benefit is about to expire on July 31st.

PAMPLIN: That was actually, like, my saving grace. It really was.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): As Pamplin confronts the need to purchase insurance on her own, she's faced with a stark reality.

PAMPLIN: It was between food or utilities and the mortgage and my car insurance. Like, yeah, it would just -- I feel like, sadly, yes, health insurance would probably be on the last priority.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And as lawmakers urgently debate an extension of that federal unemployment program, it's a decision millions may be forced to make with jarring repercussions.

PAMPLIN: I just don't know if I could afford that now. And that's really saying something too, because I felt like I was finally blessed to be in a position where I felt a little bit comfortable.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Pamplin had a job, health insurance. She closed on a new home just days after her restaurant shut down. Now, she still never stopped smiling, but the uncertainty has taken its toll.

PAMPLIN: I don't want to lose everything I've really worked really hard to get, and then realize how hard it would be to get it back again.


MATTINGLY: And, guys, this is why this kind of lost week of negotiations this week matters. These aren't theoretical discussions, these aren't 30,000-foot talks. These are real policies that will have very real impact on people, and real impact on how people make decisions, going forward.

Now, where things stand right now, Democrats have already passed a bill in the House to extend those $600 and then (ph) federal employment enhancement through the end of the year. Republicans right now are looking to scale it back -- not eliminate it altogether, but scale it back to about 70 percent of wages.

The big question now? How do they reconcile those two proposals. Well, first the Republicans have to have a proposal, and then they have to decide how to actually make a deal -- guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes. With so many people unable to pay their rent, get enough groceries, et cetera, it's critical that they get something done soon. Phil, thank you very much for bringing us your reporting.


So up next, we're going to speak with two mayors of two cities on opposite coasts, but two cities that the White House Task Force says have seen a concerning rise in COVID cases, next.


HARLOW: Welcome back. White House Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is sounding the alarm about a dozen cities that she says are seeing a concerning spike in COVID cases -- take a look, here they are.

TEXT: W.H. Tracking COVID-19 Increases in 12 U.S. Cities: Miami; New Orleans; Las Vegas; San Jose, CA; St. Louis; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; Cleveland; Nashville; Pittsburgh; Columbus, OH; Baltimore

HARLOW: And among those cities? San Jose, California and also Miami. And here's the situation in the counties where those cities are. Since July 1st, Miami-Dade County has seen a 250 percent rise in cases. Santa Clara County, more than an 86 percent increase. This information, coming from Johns Hopkins.

I'm joined now by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. Mayors, very good to have you.

And, Mayor Suarez, let me begin with you. Given that the CDC did lay out today their new guidelines for opening schools -- as you saw -- strongly recommending that schools open, but also recommending local officials should consider closing schools if they have an uncontrolled transmission of the virus.

Given 20 percent positivity rate in Miami now, 250 percent increase in the last three weeks, should Miami-Dade schools open or not in a few weeks?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: Yes. I -- they certainly shouldn't open today if the numbers were the same. I don't know how much improvement we can make within two to four weeks, to be honest with you. And I don't think it looks good for day one opening right now, given the numbers that you've just cited.

You know, obviously, you're talking about, in the case of Miami-Dade County, it's one of the largest school systems in the nation. You're talking about 350,000 students plus another 40,000 teachers. So you're putting a tremendous amount of people back into the economy in a way that could end up being a super-spreader event.

So it's something that, you know, right now I know our superintendent has been very careful in his public comments and even the governor has said that if they're not ready, they should not open on day one (INAUDIBLE) as well.

HARLOW: It's interesting you say that you're not -- you're just unsure if things can really be turned around there in, you know, two to four weeks.

Because the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, when questioned yesterday by a reporter in Miami -- Rosa Flores, who obviously you know -- about if they can turn things around, he said, "I do think it's possible within about a month. We've seen places in the United States and around the world turn things over in just a few weeks. The disease course is only two weeks."

Do you agree with him or do you think that's a real long shot?

SUAREZ: I think it's a long shot. I mean, I think it is possible; anything is possible. We are seeing -- our high point was July 10th, where we had our -- the rate of incline of cases was 125 in the cases (ph) to date. That was the steepest that it's been throughout this pandemic.


We're now seeing a flattening. So just today, we got the information this morning that we're at 17 new cases per day. So that's a significant flattening, but we're still not seeing -- we're not in the decline yet. We are seeing a decline, a slight decline in our percent positive, which is --

HARLOW: Right. SUAREZ: -- you know, one-tenth of one percent per day at this

particular moment.

So the improvement -- there is improvement, but it's gradual right now and I don't know that it will be fast enough unless we implement other measures.

HARLOW: And to you, Mayor Liccardo -- given that San Jose is on this list that the White House is really concerned about -- the Santa Clara County statement, issued just yesterday, reads, "Our numbers remain much lower than most of metropolitan areas in the state and in the country.

But your count -- you know, your city accounts for 65 percent of the cases in the county. You're up 86 percent in terms of cases in the last three weeks. How worried are you that you are on a trajectory to get to the situation that Mayor Suarez is dealing with in Miami?

MAYOR SAM LICCARDO (D), SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA: Well, certainly, you're starting with a much lower base than many other cities and regions. But the fact that there's an increase is concerning, and there's no question that regardless of where we are in the country, we need to do more. And it comes down to the basics. We all need to be wearing our masks and socially distancing and doing the basic things that our public health authorities are telling us to do.

And although we've been paying a lot of attention to what's happening in the workplace. Increasingly, we're really seeing that the contagion is spreading at home and in social settings, where it's up to each one of us individually to step up and to help (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Do you agree with the assessment by Santa Clara County's CEO, Jeff Smith, who said this week that the solution is basically a shelter in place for six weeks? And the reason he says that -- nationwide, not just there.

And the reason why he says that is that he argues that without that, quote, "The Bay Area will be dealing with the virus and its economic fallout for 10 years."

Do you agree with his proposal?

LICCARDO: Well, certainly, the county is the public health authority, I am not. And so I defer to their expertise. But I would say, as we look around the world, is that we have seen countries (ph) do far better than we have. And they've done it certainly with some shelter in place, but more effective contact tracing and testing and all the basic tools we know it takes to address contagion.

And in this country, we simply haven't implemented it at that scale that's necessary to really defeat this virus. We're smarter than this virus is, but we need to be far smarter and bring more resources to bear. So whether it is the process (INAUDIBLE) by Dr. Smith or simply the approach that has been followed by so many countries around the world, we need to step up our game.

HARLOW: Yes, we may be smarter than the virus, but we're not more patient than the virus, as I think this country has certainly shown.

Finally, Mayor Suarez, to you, the surgeon general of the U.S. also told Rosa Flores yesterday that that study on children out of South Korea that shows that children over 10 years old are basically the same kind of vectors of this disease as adults are, is credible. And he also said low risk does not mean no risk in terms of kids.

But the governor of Florida -- your state -- just yesterday, said children play, quote, "The smallest role in transmission of the virus."

Those are two very different statements. Who should parents in Florida believe as they decide whether or not to send their kids to school?

SUAREZ: Well, they should definitely believe the surgeon general of the United States. I mean, he's the chief medical officer for the U.S. and he's a doctor. And I would say -- and I was with him yesterday as well, and he did reiterate that statement in my presence.

And so I think what he's saying is, you know, you have children that are 10 and older that are just as capable of spreading this disease as adults. And even kids that are younger than 10 can act as spreaders.

So when you look at the numbers, you're talking about, again, 400,000 people being reintegrated into the system and when we're just trying to control it right now, where we've sort of reached a plateau with new cases and with percent positive, I don't see how throwing 400,000 people into the mix -- children and adults -- is going to help us right now.

HARLOW: OK. We wish you both a lot of luck, you have very difficult jobs right now. Good luck to you. Thanks, Mayor Suarez, Mayor Liccardo.

LICCARDO: Thank you.

SUAREZ: Thank you.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, as cases surge across California, Los Angeles is now stepping up enforcement of health mandates meant to stop the spread of the virus. We're going to have more on what they're doing, next.


HARLOW: As Los Angeles County reports a fourth straight day of more than 2,000 new COVID cases, California saw the most coronavirus deaths the state has seen in this entire pandemic in a single day, just yesterday.

SCIUTTO: In total, more than 8,200 people have now lost their lives to COVID-19 in California, more than half of those deaths coming in Los Angeles County. Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Muntu Davis. He is the Los Angeles County health officer. Dr. Davis, thanks so much for coming on this morning. I wonder what we

can learn from your experience here, because California acted early, seemed to have the outbreak under control; now it's coming back. What can we learn from the resurgence there? What did L.A. do wrong?

MUNTU DAVIS, HEALTH OFFICER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: You know, I don't know that we did anything wrong in particular. You know, we've had great leadership amongst our board and amongst our department heads, as well as amongst many of the residents in our county.


I think, you know, we have to really pay attention to -- the virus is still here, and it means we can't let our guard down and everyone needs to do their part from residents to businesses in order to get back to where we were at a much lower, you know, rate of infections than we're seeing now.

HARLOW: But, Doctor, if that's the case -- if sort of every entity is doing their part, citizens and government, et cetera -- then that would -- wouldn't that tell us that, you know, we can't fight this thing with universal mask-wearing?

Because I'm just -- here in Europe, when we saw the peak and where we are now, it seems like everyone wearing a mask is really what has made the difference here in New York.

DAVIS: No, I'm not saying that everyone is doing their part at the moment. I'm saying we have to get back to that. You know, when we were in the real shutdown, where there weren't many things open, we had more people who were at home, we had more people who weren't seeing others outside of their home. And at that time, we had less people going to work.

So we're seeing outbreaks inside of the workplaces that have gone back. We have protocols that are in place that must be followed in order to decrease the risk there. And so we just, you know, can't say that because things are reopening, that we cannot wear our masks, we cannot, you know, keep our distance from others.

HARLOW: Right.

DAVIS: And so that's really what we have to get back to. Just remember, the virus is still here, we still have to take the same precautions even though the economy is opening -- has opened up more.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Davis, L.A. County is doing something that not many communities around the country have done, and that is an enforcement plan for these mandates, fines up to $500, 30-day permit suspension for businesses that violate, for instance, infection control measures. Are you finding that's necessary, that you can't rely on the vast majority of people to do this voluntarily?

DAVIS: Well, you know, time is of the essence at this point. You know, when we first started and our restaurants, you know, opened up, we didn't see, you know, good and complete compliance, you know, with some of the requirements. I mean, they were at levels of 33 percent, not adhering to physical distancing when indoors. Also, 44 percent of the employees, not wearing, you know, face masks as they were required.

And this weekend, we went out and did the same, and 96 percent were wearing face masks and 98 percent, you know, customers were wearing face coverings when required. And so they were in compliance.

So we know that we can get there, and many of the other businesses have done that as well. In our hotels, we've seen improvement. But for those others, we may have to do something more in order to get quick compliance because our case numbers are high at the moment.

HARLOW: Doctor, if I could just end by asking you about this new study? It's not a surprising finding, but it's really important. And what it shows is that structural racism has been a large factor, the (ph) disproportionate impact that COVID has played on minority communities, particularly right now when you look at the numbers for the Latino community we saw them earlier on for African-Americans, and now for Latinos, especially in California, how many are being adversely impacted by this disease.

What can be done on a city and county level to fight that? Because I know you've had some success in terms of fighting it back for the African-American community at least.

DAVIS: You know, we really have to think about, you know, where the risk is. The risk is not the same for everyone. And so when we talk about structural racism, the question is, are these under (ph) (INAUDIBLE) do not have the supports needed that many of us would need to have? We have to pay attention to that. That's including in the workplace.

And I will say that many of the cases that we've seen are, you know, in workplaces, and those places need to be protected, not only for the employees but for the customers. So we just have to pay attention to where the needs are, and try to match those with what is needed.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Muntu Davis, we wish you and your team the best of luck. Thanks so much.

DAVIS: Thank you.


SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.


SCIUTTO: Brazil is reporting another huge spike in coronavirus cases, and the country's president, who has tested positive -- repeatedly -- is touting a drug that more than one study shows simply does not help.

HARLOW: Yes, that's a problem. Our Nick Paton Walsh joins us live in Brazil.

Good morning, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. President Jair Bolsonaro, pictured by Reuters, it seems, not wearing a mask, talking to gardeners on the rounds (ph) palace (ph) (INAUDIBLE) recent. It seems, also touting that drug, hydroxychloroquine, holding it in his hands.

He later told reporters that it's between a doctor and a patient whether they use it, but he uses it himself. He's been advocating it for many weeks now -- let's be blunt about it -- despite studies increasingly here globally, saying it has very little medical effect. In fact, a new on in Brazil here, confirming that as numbers continue to spike.

In the south of the country, three times as many cases now as there were a month ago. And just yesterday, in a 24-hour period, 59,000-plus new cases reported. That's extraordinary. Here, surgical masks, mandatory. But not everyone listening to that advice. Many listening to the president -- who's positive, and hopes to test negative by the end of the weekend. Back to you.

HARLOW: Wow. Nick Paton Walsh, it is not getting any better there, getting worse. Thank you for that important reporting, live from Brazil.


And thanks to all of you for being with us today and all week. Have a good weekend, we'll see you Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.