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White House: Summer Surge Hitting Plateau In Some States; Infection Rate In California Steady After Weeks Of Summer Surge; Arizona Abandons Mandate For In-Person Schooling; President Donald Trump In Retreat As Cases Surge Across U.S.; President Donald Trump Cancels RNC Events In Florida As COVID-19 Cases Surge. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And the Yankees won, Mookie Betts versus Dodger. And I was happy to be mad about baseball if you get the point that was normal, if you will.


KING: Coy Wire, thank you so much.

Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Top of the hour, I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. We'll hear from the Centers for Disease Control officials this hour.

The CDC now says schools should get children back in the classroom. That even as a top Trump Administration Doctor says the science around how quickly children can spread this virus remains unsettled? Today that official Dr. Deborah Birx did offer some hope amid the worst month of this epidemic.

Dr. Birx saying she sees evidence of a plateau in states that have been crushed by the summer Coronavirus surge. So is Dr. Birx right, when she sees signs that might be happening? Well, the national numbers if you look at them are still sobering you might say even depressing.

The United States now well over the 4 million case mark. Another nearly 69,000 cases added just yesterday, Thursday 920,000 plus wow that's a big number in just the past 14 days. In that two-week time frame the United States has registered its four highest days of new infections.

When you shift from cases to deaths, the signals from the data are also quite alarming. Now a third consecutive day of 1,000 plus American lives lost to the Coronavirus and something we have not seen since back of the end of May.

Still we know deaths like cases and we know the national numbers will go down or at least stop going up so fast only when the big states get their act together. So let's take a look at the numbers as we walk through here.

First just our new case map and if you look at it from a 50-state perspective, this map is better than days ago, weeks ago and month ago. There were days in the last week or so I have been here saying 38 cases are going up only 18 cases as of today reporting a higher case level today than they did a week ago.

So 18 states heading up, 26 states holding steady, 6 states going down what's important is some of the drivers of the summer surge are in better shape today. Florida heading down today although they had a high case - an individual one-day case counts. The trend line is still heading down.

Texas holding steady, Arizona heading down and California holding steady those states have been a big part of the summer surge. At the moment it looks a little better especially now if you look here. New deaths, this is a problem and it lags.

Remember, cases then hospitalizations and then deaths. You have 28 states reporting a higher death count this week than the previous week. And if you look at as in terms of new cases the seven-day moving average and again the summer surge.

If you just think about our summer holidays, Memorial Day just shy of 19,000 new cases. July 4th, 45,000 new cases, yesterday just shy of 70,000 new cases. This is a depressing climb up the hill in the summer surge. The question is can you get to a plateau?

If you look at the State of Florida, one of the big drivers of the summer surge, again this is almost straight up at one point. We're bouncing around a little bit. Right now, the question is can they get a plateau?

But if you look at the short-term trend here, yesterday 10,000 cases but they were back above 12,000 today. So you - maybe woke up this morning thinking Florida was starting to push this down above 12,000 cases today. It remains an open question we will carry that debate into another week.

You look at Texas. Jumping in June and July, as many as 15,000 cases just a week ago, now the question is can they get to a plateau in the State of Texas? Again 9,000 - 9,400 cases yesterday, they've been above 10,000. The question is, is it a daily blip or can you continue and get to a plateau?

And California the most populous state in the country, a very diverse state, now the state with the highest case level. Very depressing summer in California sometimes getting above 12,000 approaching 13,000 cases on a daily, the question is have they pushed this down?

You look at the short-term trend here. 9,400 just shy of 9,500 cases yesterday again you see these days above 10,000. You want do get below. You need to stop this here. The question is can you stop it and then start to push it down?

Stephanie Elam leading our reporting live in Los Angeles which is the epicenter within the largest state. Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right John. And when you look at the number that is California itself put out for the number of cases and the number of deaths using their numbers as opposed to the Johns Hopkins numbers which may not sync up exactly right here according to what you see.

But the numbers coming out of the state 12,040 new cases announced yesterday and 157 deaths. That is a record number of deaths for the state and is the second highest number of one-day total of cases announced in a day.

The positivity rate at 7.6 percent has been holding pretty much steady. This is over the 14-day period. I can also tell you from the day before we did see ICU patients drop about 4 percent. Hospitalizations down almost 5 percent but that's just from the day before. Just to keep that in mind.

I also want to point out some really discouraging data coming out as far as the Latino population here in California. They make up 45 percent of the deaths and also more than 55 percent of the cases. A lot of this pointing to the fact that this population's a lot of frontline workers keeping what's been of the economy, keeping the food moving into this county and across the state.


ELAM: They're really getting hit hard. Also, worth noting that half of the deaths, more than half of the deaths in the entire State of California are right here in Los Angeles County. We did see that the County announced more than 2,000 cases yesterday, 49 deaths, hospitalizations above 2,200 for the fifth day in a row.

Obviously, that is a concerning statistic there. And the positivity rate, it is at 10 percent. It's been holding steady there just about for a while, but it is still of concern. They would like to see it getting lower but still because it did not go beyond that we are not going into a further stay-at-home order.

However, to that end, the County is now going to start fining businesses that are not making it a priority to follow the guidelines and they're saying that this compliance and enforcement plan. They will have fines ranging from with $100 for the first offense up to $500 and a 30-day suspension of their license for these businesses that don't fall in line.

Although they say that for the most part companies are doing their best to fall in line and to make this happen. But again it is so simple. Wear a mask. It would make such a difference if everyone wanted to get this economy back on its feet. Wear a mask, stay at home as much as you can and keep your hands clean. Those fines by the way John, they will begin at the end of August.

KING: Stephanie Elam in the thick of it in California, those numbers are still sobering and the complications and the state as big as that. Stephanie, I appreciate the live reporting. With us to follow up and share her expertise and her insights our CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Dr. Yasmin, so let's start with California. Dr. Birx today says she started to see some evidence of a plateau. She says that and then we get 12,000 cases in Florida. You just heard Stephanie go through it and you're well aware you live there, the numbers in California. Is that overly optimistic to say we see evidence of a plateau? Is it too soon or do you see at least maybe the building blocks of it?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It is overly optimistic, unfortunately, John. And as a California resident I would love to say that we are heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, we are heading in exactly the opposite direction as Stephanie just carefully outlined for us.

Record number of deaths here in California and of course this is happening three months after we saw the crisis situation in New York and in those northeast states. There was absolutely no reason why we should be in this crisis point right now?

Unfortunately, I think too much optimism is part of the cause of that and also it can feel very hopeless John. And just thinking about the doubling of the number of cases right now compared to what we saw in April can make you feel, we have no control over the virus that is not true.

Just another study published yesterday shows how important wearing a mask is? How important is to do physical distancing? And reminds us again that had we stayed in lockdown a bit longer? Had we re-opened more gradually more carefully we would be having a different and much better summer right now.

KING: Well, I wish we were having a much better and a much different conversation about the prognosis. So you mentioned people being overly optimistic. We have had a lot of that from the Trump Administration. The President in recent days has been more disciplined. I'm not going to say he has been disciplined.

But listen here because again you are the medical expert. The President offers proof in the positivity rate. He sees a glimmer of hope. I think it's optimistic. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nationwide positive test rate is beginning to decline and is currently at 8.8 percent compared to over 16 percent at its peak in April. It's coming down. It is coming down fairly rapidly.

The country is in very good shape than if you look south and west some problems. That will all work out.


KING: The country's not in very good shape. I want to focus on that positivity. Yes, yes, it is better. You would rather have 8 percent than 16 percent positivity rate, but an 8 percent positivity rate is horrible. Explain why?

YASMIN: Absolutely. So, we're talking here about the number of positive COVID-19 tests that come back divided by the total number of tests that we are doing. And John the World Health Organization tells us that for a country or a region to be safely reopening it needs to have a test positivity rate of 5 percent or less than 5 percent.

So here in the U.S., we have been around 9 or 10 percent. We're about double that safe level but here's the thing. We can look at the country as a whole but how can we ignore the hotspots in the country?

Because it is one thing for the President to say well, test positivity rate is about 8.8 percent overall but look at Arizona where the test positivity rate is about 25 percent. That means one in every four COVID tests in Arizona comes back positive.

We're seeing about 16 percent positivity rate in places like Texas, Georgia and Florida. So it's really - you don't want to get complacent about viruses and I say that as somebody who has investigated in many, many epidemics.

You fail when you start to get overly optimistic and you fail when you start to become complacent. We really need to focus on these hotspots because in a month's time John you could - even I could be having the same conversation.


YASMIN: But about Minnesota, about Wyoming and without a national cohesive plan to end this virus that's what we are going to see, we're going to be playing whack-a-mole for many months to come.

KING: Dr. Seema Yasmin, grateful as always for your expertise and insights. And we'll continue the conversation both about California and about these national hotspots. As you mentioned long way to go on this path. Doctor I appreciate it.

Up next for us, is it safe? This is part of that same question, safe to send your kids back to school? The CDC says, yes. Top White House scientist says it's a bit more dicey.



TRUMP: 30 million American students rely on schools for free and reduced meals. Over 70 percent of the students who receive mental health services do so through their schools. We cannot indefinitely stop 50 million American children from going to school harming their mental, physical and emotional development.



KING: President Trump there reiterating his call to get children back in the classroom, the CDC now releasing new guidelines and how states can do that? Just moments ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci putting his stamp of approval on those guidelines but also saying the decision depends on where you live?

Out of the top ten school districts nine of them are in states with rising numbers of daily cases states like Florida, Texas and California. Arizona's case count is beginning to level off even down a bit but the state has decided to abandon earlier plans for in-person learning to start August 17th, now these decisions most of them up to local school leaders.


KATHY HOFFMAN (D), ARIZONA SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: Many of our school districts have already opted that they will not offer in-person instruction until October. So we do expect that schools will have different start dates depending on local circumstances. - executive order is creating a framework that identifies the different data points that they can use with their county health officials to determine whether or not schools should be open for in-person instruction?


KING: CNN's Miguel Marquez is there live in Phoenix. Miguel, just to listen to the Superintendent there, complicated and not what they wanted?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Complicated indeed. So the problem for Arizona, while the retransmission rate is coming down, if I get it, how many do I pass it on to? Hospitalizations are trending downward. Even overall cases are trending downward.

The problem is as they continue to test, that rate of positivity is stuck at a stubbornly high almost quarter of the people being tested are still testing positive for the virus, that means there's a lot of virus out there. The other problem for Arizona is it takes on average about 7.5 days for a test to come back.

Against all of that, the Governor's just basically punted, said we can't open schools because if you do kids, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, they all become vectors for the disease to spread even further.

When they shut down and just as the Governor was about to reopen back in May, the rate of positivity, the 7-day moving average was about 6.5 percent or so. It is at about 24 percent now. CDC, W.H.O., other organizations say it should be around the 5 percent mark or lower. Some say you can be 10 percent or lower.

But they have a long way to go. If they halved the rate of positivity right now they still have a long way to go. That is the problem for Arizona, so they kick the can down the road. The Department of Health Services in Arizona has got to come up with a matrix basically of when and how schools can start to reopen? What those numbers have to be? Once they hit those numbers statewide then they can get to how do we arrange the schools physically? How do we keep students separated? Do they wear masks in school? How do they wash? How often they wash hands, all those sort of things about how you do it not only for the students and the teachers but for the bus drivers and the cafeteria workers and everybody else that rely on those schools.

It is enormously complicated and a state - that has a lot of Arizonans upset because they shut down in March, they brought the numbers down. They expected to reopen but instead they reopened too quickly and here we are today with tons of virus out there. John?

KING: All right. This virus more a lot more stubborn than I think a lot of people thought it would be. Miguel Marquez, great live reporting for us in the ground in Phoenix. I appreciate it so much. Up next, President Trump pulls the plug on his own big convention speech. We'll tell you why?



KING: Election is 102 days away and at the moment including fresh evidence today the President is losing in the polls losing big times which could explain why he is doing a 180 on much of the Coronavirus stance? Masks the President now says patriotic.

He concedes the Coronavirus outlook this might get worse before it gets better. And now this canceling plan for what the President loves the most, a big rally crowd, the President bowing to reality just yesterday pulling the plug on plans for a big speech with a big crowd at next month's Republican National Convention.

Joining me now Asma Khalid she is a National Political Correspondent for NPR and also CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. And Dana, let me start with you. The President canceling a big speech with an adoring crowd is a big deal.

This was not a one day decision. You see fresh evidence of this today in the Fox News polling, the President losing big time in Minnesota, loosing in Pennsylvania and loosing in Michigan. There's a Quinnipiac Poll that shows the President is losing in Florida. It took a couple weeks for the President's team to get him to understand those numbers.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure did and they were working very, very hard from as many angles as they could find to convince the President that he has to stop ignoring the Coronavirus and hoping that that makes it go away, that this is the dominant issue and that nothing else matters for the country obviously.

But the way that they marketed it to him personally was, of course, for his re-election which is where he is almost singularly focused right now. So that is why you saw the change and the shift and those various data point that you showed throughout the week.

With regard to yesterday John, that took some time. And I'm told that the RNC Chair, the Campaign Manager went to him and gave him options.


BASH: One is to keep going saying it is an option. It will be difficult but doable. And the second would be to cancel and to play it as a sign of leadership. He took the second. And they were very relieved that he took the second. They kept it very close hold, a lot of people in the com shop and elsewhere in the President's campaign didn't know about it.

They were left flat footed because this President is known to make a decision but then change at the last minute. They wanted to make sure that he actually said the words at the press conference yesterday.

KING: That's an understatement - that's why he makes a decision. And to that point, though Asma, the President - I'm not going to say that the President has been disciplined because a lot of what he said even in these recent new briefings, needs to go through the fact check machine and it tends to break some of the widgets as it does.

But he has been better if you will except listen here this is about him talking about we live in a new world and sometimes he can't help himself.


TRUMP: It's a different world and it will be for a little while. We want to get the world back to what it was and I think we'll have that, including great job numbers, including so many things that are happening so positive.


KING: You get it any politician 100 days plus a couple from the election wants to be positive. But there is not a lot great happening right now, treading water at best in many states and going in wrong direction in others.

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NPR": Yes. I mean, he's made a number of pretty overt appeals in recent days to kind of this white grievance politics, right? Yesterday he had this tweet out that's certainly was mocked in certain political circles targeting the housewives, suburban housewives of America.

And you know, a lot of people saw that as a sort of anachronistic type of messaging just given the fact that a lot a families are dual income families. But beyond that the bigger issue is that when you look at the suburbs the President is trailing in the polls and he won the suburbs in 2016.

And, you know, a lot of his racial grievance politics is not trending particularly well in those places but yet that is the messaging that he feels most comfortable with and is the messaging that he keeps going back to in this moment because given COVID, given the economic troubles it is where he just feels most sort of most at ease in messaging. KING: Right. It is an excellent point you make. Will it work in the sense that Pennsylvania Poll by Fox News had him down 26 points in the suburbs in Pennsylvania? You can't win without the Philly suburbs or at least being competitive.

He was down a dozen points in Minnesota you just can't win that's in the suburbs. Down a dozen points in the suburbs you can't win unless you're at least competitive. Dana, to that point the President is trying to re-run 2016 in many ways. Some race baiting, some other issues there, it is sending troops into these - agents.

I should say - agents into these cities and President Obama just in a new video with Joe Biden try to him out. This is President Trump's take on the reemergence of Barack Obama in the campaign.


TRUMP: Today I saw President Obama with him and remember this. I wouldn't be there if it weren't for those two. If they did a good job, I ran against what they did. And I won.


KING: He did in part run against what they did. He also ran pretty tough campaign against Hillary Clinton. But he did in part run against what they did, but I think what the President sometimes - you talk to his team all the time. Does he understand the dynamic is so different when you're the incumbent?

BASH: No, that's not true. He ran against what they did, but he also ran against who he was. And when I say he I mean Barack Obama.

KING: Right.

BASH: I remember the President was only the President because he got himself on the political map pushing conspiracy theory that was just completely bogus and it was race baiting. But on the question that you asked about him being the incumbent, his team completely understands that which is why at the same time they are trying to get the President to acknowledge that the Coronavirus matters more than anything.

They're trying from a place - from a defensive crouch in a way that they really hope that they wouldn't be trying desperately to define Joe Biden. They're very behind on that. Traditionally an incumbent President starts do that the minute that person becomes the presumptive nominee of the opposing party.

And COVID made it very hard for them to do that. They're starting to be much more aggressive on that and they're insisting that there are signs that that is starting to gel because although Joe Biden is - has very high name ID when it comes to who he is and what he stands for?

The Trump Campaign insists that there is a lot of - that they have a lot of leeway on that and that they have some work that they can do to help the President. But it doesn't change the fact that the Biden campaign believes in whether they're right or not a lot of what they have to do is sit back and just continue to make this about Donald Trump.

And in a referendum on Donald Trump and Donald Trump so far has been playing right into those hands.

KING: Right, usually it works that way when you're an incumbent, especially an incumbent in crisis.