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Trump Cancels Jacksonville Portion of GOP Convention; Trump Under Pressure as Virus Spreads, Poll Numbers Sink; Nobel Prize Economist, Paul Romer, Discusses Reinvigorating Economy By Sacrifice to Get Virus Under Control; Dr. Michael Saag Discusses the Sunbelt Seeing Dangerous Rise in Cases; Dr. Fauci Opens MLB Season with First Pitch. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is, well, in retreat. He's now for wearing masks. Concedes the coronavirus outlook could get worse before it gets better.

And now this, cancelling plans for what he loves the most, adoring crowds at big rallies. The president bowing to reality yesterday, pulling the plug on a big speech with a big crowd at next month's Republican convention.

So why so many 180s? The election is 102 days away. And right now, the president is losing and losing big time. Just in the last day, new polls show Joe Biden leading in Florida, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan and in Minnesota.

Joining me now, Lisa Lerer of "New York Times" and CNN's Abby Phillip.

Abby, I want to start with you.

You spend a lot of time in the White House briefing room. And let's listen to the president of the United States, who, for weeks and weeks -- pulled the convention from North Carolina because they wouldn't let him have a crowd. He said he was going to Jacksonville and insisting on having a crowd.

And yesterday, the president said, I can't do that. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To have a big convention, it's not the right time. It's really something that, for me, I have to protect the American people. That's what I've always done. And that's what I always will do. That's what I'm about.

They said, sir, we have to make this work very easily. We have great enthusiasm, incredible enthusiasm. Even the polls say about the most enthusiasm they have seen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There's been a lot of talk about the president's different tone in the last few days. That is truly an eat-your-peas moment.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. Although it's -- it really kind of reminds me of something that our fact-checker, Daniel Dale, says. Whenever the president starts a story with "sir," it's a tell that something that comes after it is not quite right.

And in that sentence, he says we can make it work very easily, is what he was claims he was told by the advisers. But I think the fact that he's retreating from that position.

And what we all saw in Tulsa, what I witnessed when I was down in Tulsa, is that, yes, there are people who might show up for an event like this.

But what the campaign realized the hard way was that many of even the president's own supporters were not willing to put themselves at risk in that way.

And they could have been facing a situation in Jacksonville where, you know, even with sort of a smaller crowd, by the president's standards, he could not get people to do that kind of thing in a place where cases are going up and the pandemic is worsening.

So this is reality setting in for the president. And in some cases, it's a victory for his advisers, just to get him to read the paper in front of him that says we don't think this is a good idea at the moment and we're going to go with another plan.

KING: Lisa, part of that is that the president's advisers have been telling him -- and he can read the numbers himself -- people view you as dramatically out of touch with the reality of the coronavirus. You keep saying it's going to go away. You keep saying it's fine to have rallies. You were going to go to Jacksonville. We disagree.

And if you see -- that you see the coronavirus approval and that people don't trust them on it. You see them in the horse race. Again, we're 102 days away from the election.

FOX News poll just in the last 24 hours, Joe Biden up 13 points in Minnesota. Hillary Clinton won Minnesota last time by a point, point and a half. Joe Biden up 13 there. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania last time. Joe Biden up 11 there. Donald Trump won Michigan last time. Joe Biden up there.

A new Quinnipiac poll out today says Joe Biden is up in Florida.

Again, this president has pulled rabbits out of a hat before when it comes to politics and polls. But this is -- it was about a four-point race against Hillary Clinton at this point four years ago. He's in a much deeper ditch right now. LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, the president is

losing this election right now. And he's been losing it consistently by a fairly deep margin.

I know, 2016, everyone got it wrong, all this kind of angst that people have about that race. But these are not 2016 numbers. This is a race far less close than it was at this point in time in 2016. And these numbers have been consistent for a long time.

So I think, in some ways, Jacksonville is, as Abby put it, bowing to the reality of the president's situation, both in terms of the virus, given that Florida is really is, a, if not the, epicenter of the crisis in the country right now.

And also -- an acknowledgement of the reality of this race, which is that Donald Trump is losing. And that, by a vast majority, Americans do not think he's handling this incredible national crisis particularly well.

One number that I've been watching that I find fairly interesting is two-third of voters who say the president responded too late to the coronavirus.

Which means that, when they are looking at this response and they are looking at their situation economically in terms of their health and in terms of their kids in schools, which is a top-of-mind issue for every family and grandparent in America, they are thinking about who is to blame for the country not moving quick enough.

And right now, polling shows they are blaming the president. That's not the kind of numbers you want to see as an incumbent president running for re-election.


KING: It is harder to bend the numbers and change the numbers when you are the incumbent. He was the outsider last time around. We'll see in 102 days.

Lisa Lerer and Abby Phillip, appreciate your reporting and your insights.

Up next for us, we shift to the economy. A Nobel Prize winning economist who says getting this virus under control is going to require some serious sacrifice.



KING: The spike in unemployment claims last week is the latest warning sign about the pandemic's economic impact. The summer case surge came after many states reopened. And then jobs were lost again when those states had to re-impose some restrictions.

So is there a path to reinvigorate the economy while also keeping the virus under control?

Paul Romer says, yes, but says it takes discipline. He's a Nobel Prize laureate and professor at NYU.

Sir, thanks so much for being with us.

You mentioned three pillars that you think are critical. One is aggressive widescale testing. One is aggressive widescale training. And one is major isolation, meaning stay at home.

I would assume you would agree we're nowhere near aggressive widescale testing at this moment.


KING: Walk me through what you mean by aggressive widescale training.

PAUL ROMER, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS & NOBEL PRIZE LAUREATE IN ECONOMIC SCIENCES, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, we have to teach people how this virus spreads and encourage them to do the things that will slow the spread, especially wearing masks. This -- this message is still not, you know, understood.

There are some other things that we thought mattered a lot, washing hands, surfaces. Those probably don't matter. We now know. What really matters is wearing masks.

KING: And so walk through your take on what has just happened. Many of these states reopened.

ROMER: Yes. Yes.

KING: Many of them reopened probably a week or two too early and then they reopened too aggressively. And so now you see a bit of retreat. And 27-plus states -- that number may have change - re-imposing some restrictions, rolling back some of the reopening.

In terms of the economic impact, does that do even more damage when you have it -- not an economics terms -- but in a herky-jerk way as opposed to a slow, steady build?

ROMER: Yes. Sure. No, this will stop-go kind of experience just increases everyone's uncertainty about, how will this play out. It makes everybody realize that we don't have any plan.

And there's a simple analogy that I've been trying to get people to use to understand the issue here. Imagine that 2 percent of our cars had turned into time bombs. So we drive them and they blow up and kill people.

And then, of course, everybody stops driving. And then we decide, well, we've got to drive so we drive slow or only drive on Tuesday. But when you drive, some people get blown up because the cars are time bombs.

Now -- and it's not because the government says don't drive. People stop going out because they don't want to get sick or die.

Now what's the answer? The answer is figure out which of the 2 percent of the cars that are these time bombs. We just test and figure out which cars are safe because most of them are safe. Find the ones that are dangerous and isolate them.

And then in my analogy, you only have to wait two weeks. It's not like you've got to buy entirely a new car.

But we've totally failed to put the resources into the testing, which would just help us know who -- who are the 2 percent of the population who are sick and let's get them into isolation so we don't have to constrain everybody else.

KING: And as you well know, fixing something that's a mess, it's easier -- I'm not saying it's easy, but easier to build from scratch and try to build a good testing system and training system. When you have are these 50 states and now you have a mess and sort of a disparity, it gets difficult.

In the middle of that, you know, the president wants to reopen. He wants to push to reopen schools. He's talks about this "V," that the economy will come firing back. The evidence before us is that's simply not the case.

What is your long-term view -- and not just the United States. You were once chief economist at the World Bank. We're connected in this mess.

ROMER: Yes. Yes. The CBO made a forecast before we saw this recent uptick. They were projecting that it would take us until 2028 to get back to where we would have been if the pandemic hadn't hit.

Now what we've seen since that forecast came out is this acceleration and the spread of the virus and another slowdown. So at this point, we're looking to now beyond 2028 to get back to where we need to go.

Frankly, we're never going to get there until we take the other measures that will get the virus under control.

KING: We'll see if that lesson is learned.

Paul Romer, I'm grateful for your time and insights. That's a new one for me. I like the car analogy. The car analogy is a bit jarring but it does get your attention and make you think about it. I appreciate you sharing it with us today.

We'll talk again. Thank you, sir.


Up next, a closer look at the Sunbelt's role in the summer coronavirus surge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Where you live is a major factor in your personal coronavirus risk assessment. Here's one way to look at it. At the moment, the south is the biggest driver. You see the green line there. The south is the biggest driver in the summer surge followed by the West.

The Midwest and the northeast, as you see, are doing a better job controlling the spread, at least at the movement.

Let's discuss this with Dr. Michael Saag. He's an infectious disease expert and associate dean for global health at the University of Alabama.

Dr. Saag, I'm thankful for you being with us.

You have a way of looking at the risk assessment that's helpful to people. I want to put up the rate of infection per 100,000 people and then have you walk us through the other factors here.

So if you look at the rate of infection for 100,000 people, it's a higher rate in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and California, as you see there. So you see 1.4 percent in Vermont.

Walk us through your assessment. I know the idea that, if I'm in Vermont, I'm safer going into a crowd of 10 people. I'm still a little bit safer going into a crowd of 100 people or 1,000 people, than I am if I'm in Florida because the infection rate is so much higher.


DR. MICHAEL SAAG, PROFESSOR & ASSOCIATE DEAN OF GLOBAL HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: That's exactly right, John. If we look at this graphic carefully, the light gray is the size of a group of 10 people.

So if you focus on Alabama, where our rate per 100,000 is 39, walking into a room with 10 people, you have a 40 percent chance that one person in that room is infected If you go into a room of, say, 25 people, over 70 percent. And a room of 50 people, then you're talking over 90 percent.

And if you contrast that with Vermont, then the numbers are much, much less. Even walking in that dark bar on the far right. You walk into a room of 100 people, there's a 30 percent chance that one person's infected.

That's why where you live really matters in this epidemic. It's also why we are pushing so hard for mask wearing because you don't know who in the environment is infected around you.

KING: And so, that's a great way to look at it. Everybody has to make a personal risk assessment and it should start with where you live and what is the rate of infection in your community.

We're five, going on six months into this now. I want to put up -- in Alabama, this is the seven-day moving average of new cases. We're spending a lot of time on Florida because they're at 10,000, 12,000 cases today. We spend a lot of time in California because they passed New York.

But this is 50 states. Looking at Alabama right there, it is a smaller state but you see days where, including recently, above 2,000, approaching 2,500 cases.

What, as you watch this across the Sunbelt, and where you are in Alabama, how would you describe this? Crisis, concern, manageable? Where are we?

SAAG: Somewhere between concern and crisis. And it depends on where in Alabama you live. In Montgomery, the hospital is swamped. They're rounding on 60, 70 patients in the ICU with a few docs. So they're under a lot of stress.

But the take-home point from all of this is that we have in our control the ability to get this together, to get this under control by simply keeping distance and wearing a mask.

Everybody in the audience has heard this over and over again. But that last graphic we showed explains why. If you're in a high-impact area, then it's highly likely, when you walk into a room of people of 10 or so or more, you are around somebody who's infected.

KING: Dr. Saag, appreciate the way you connect those dots. And I wish the message came from everybody consistently. But very important for a medical expert to help people understand. Everyone should do their own personal assessment at home. And that's a great way to look at it.

Doctor, thank you so much.

SAAG: Thanks for having me.

KING: Coming up, Dr. Anthony Fauci takes the mound. Baseball is back.



KING: America's game is back, adding a very different baseball to the very different new normal. Two games kicked off the season last night.

And in this sign of the time, the nation's top infectious disease expert kicked things off with the first pitch. And science is Dr. Fauci's thing, not baseball.

And 28 teams scheduled to play today. Ouch. There's a lot of pressure but that's not so good, Dr. Fauci. And 15 games slated for tomorrow.

CNN sports anchor, Coy Wire, joins me now.

I still applaud him for doing that. It's a good sign for the nation. But he needs time in the bullpen, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Maybe a little more practice. John, good to see you. Another sign of the times, John, just hours before the game yesterday,

a Nationals star player in the title round tested positive for COVID- 19, had them miss the game. And it shows you how fragile the seasons will be.

For Dr. Fauci, after so many concerns about whether a season could or should be played during this pandemic, it was fitting to have him lead the way on opening day, right, throwing that first pitch.

Fauci's a Nationals super fan. And he said he was nervous going in and it showed. Just a bit outside, as John said. Even practiced all week he said. Throwing it in elementary school there in D.C. with his wife, Christine. Not going as he hoped, though.

And social media having fun with it. One person tweeting, "This is the perfect pitch. Dr. Fauci didn't want anyone to catch anything."

Now to game action. Stanton hitting the first home run of the season helping to lead the Yankees to a 4-1 win. The game was called early in the sixth due to rain but you can see that monster shot there by Stanton.

Before the game, the production and emotional elaborate ceremony, a pre-recorded speech of social justice, narrated by Morgan Freeman. And then every player kneeling together connected with a black ribbon as part of a tribute to Black Lives Matter.

And players standing up for the anthem. In the game in L.A., Dodgers star, Betts, and some of the San Francisco Giants, including their manager, Gabe Kapler, continued to kneel during the anthem. The Dodgers won that one, John, 8-1.

One of the teams playing today, the Tampa Bay Rays came out with a strong tweet before starting their season game, quote, "Today is opening day, which means it's a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor," unquote

With the justice movement, the pandemic, this is truly an extraordinary season. Just 60 games spanning 67 days, John, expanding the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams.

It may very well be one of the most exciting seasons we have ever seen.

KING: I will tell you, Coy, we all talk about the new normal. I woke up this morning mad. The Yankees won. Betts is a Dodger. And I was happy to be mad about baseball, if you get the point. It was normal, normal if you will.


Coy Wire, thank you so much.

WIRE: Yes. Yes.