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Current Snapshot of U.S. Fight against Coronavirus is Grim; New CDC Guidelines Come Down Hard in Favor of Opening Schools. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I hope to see you on Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. if you're up early for Inside Politics. A busy news day. Stick with us. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day and a great weekend.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar and I want welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

Today, we begin with a snapshot of where America is in its fight against the pandemic. If you're angry or confused, it makes sense. The response to the pandemic by both the president and now Congress has been a failure. More than 4 million cases, more than 143,000 lives lost, more than 50 million jobs lost since mid-March and only now does it seem that President Trump is kind of bowing to the reality of the pandemic, five months into the crisis.

In politics, admitting you were wrong and changing your position can be difficult and admirable, but his reversal seems insincere, incomplete and it reeks of political calculation, and here is evidence. First, masks. He is not acting like he's been a champion of them for months, tweeting a picture of himself wearing one, calling them patriotic, four months after health experts begged people to wear them.

Look at what he was doing last night with a group of kids celebrating baseball's return, not socially distanced, not wearing masks. That is more in line with what he has been doing for months and his dismissal of masks is well documented.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The mask is 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, and that's OK.

I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know, somehow, I don't see it for myself.

I would wear one if I thought it was important.


KEILAR: He sparked a political war over masks because of vanity. He didn't like the way they looked. He thought wearing one made him look weak by the way he mocked Joe Biden. You can see that. He wanted to give off the impression that everything is fine and the president in a mask is a president admitting reality, which Trump has failed to do for months.

Now, let's look at his approach to large gatherings. He wants credit for now deciding to cancel the convention that he demanded in Jacksonville, claiming that he cares about the safety of people and that he's setting an example.


TRUMP: It's really something that, for me, I have to protect the American people. That's what I've always done. That's what I always will do. That's what I'm about.

We have to be vigilant. We have to be careful. And we also have to set an example. I think setting the example is very important.


KEILAR: But it's hard to take that seriously. For months, he mocked people who follow public health protocols, he ignored safety concerns when he blasted North Carolina, the original convention site, for raising concerns about the crowds.


TRUMP: Somebody was asking today. Will you cancel the convention? I said, no way I'm going to cancel the convention. We're not going to cancel it. It's going to be incredible.

We have a governor that doesn't want to open up the state. And we have a date of August, in the end of August. The economic development consequences are tremendous for the state. We have to know that when the people come down, they're going to have the doors open.


KEILAR: So, he hastily moved the convention to Jacksonville to ensure he had adoring crowds. It was full speed ahead until the Republican sheriff spoke up this week.


SHERIFF MIKE WILLIAMS, JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: We're simply past the point of no return to execute the event safely.


KEILAR: That is why the president canceled. So setting an example? This was last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the city experienced a COVID surge. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We expect to have, you know, it's like a record-setting crowd. We've never had an empty seat and we certainly won't in Oklahoma.

We have a 22,000-seat arena but I think we're going to also take the convention hall next door and that's going to hold 40,000.

There's just a hunger for the rallies.

There are lines of people now and we won't be there for three days.

I've been watching the fake news for weeks now and everything is negative. Don't go. Don't come. Don't do anything. Today, it was like I've never seen anything like it.


KEILAR: Well, that rally, of course, was far from full.

Yes, he is giving into reality just a little bit only when it benefits his staunchest allies and maybe his poll numbers. He's still peddling lies. Last night, he said that the U.S. is doing great.


TRUMP: We're doing very well all over the country.

We have done 50 million tests. There's nobody even close in the whole world. You look at our mortality rate, you look at our death rate, you look at different statistics, we're doing very well.


KEILAR: America is not doing well. Look at the map. Look in the hospitals. Hear the grieving families or just listen to the president's own medical advisers.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are not winning the game right now. We are not leading it.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: There are other cities that are lagging behind that and we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore.


KEILAR: On testing, one of the keys to an adequate national response to the virus and President Trump is still pushing his nonsensical lie about it.


TRUMP: To me, every time you test, you find a case and it gets reported in the news, we found more cases. If instead of 50, we did 25, we'd have half the number of cases. So personally, think it's overrated.


KEILAR: That is why we are in this position, a public health crisis that has also become a man-made disaster.

So what's this pivot really about? The president is letting his biggest supporters off the hook of convening a mask and a show of public admiration of him as he tries to convince you to take the risk of fully reopening the economy, of sending your kids in person to school.


TRUMP: It isn't about politics but something very, very important. This is not about politics.


KEILAR: Now, it's important to note at this point the CDC did a 180 because of this pressure. Today stressing that kids should go back to school, there is a small caveat for local officials making decisions based on where they are but the president isn't known for reading the fine print.

And a new study this week shows that children ten and over just as easily transmit this virus as adults too. And when it comes to younger kids, well, here is the task force doctor just this morning.


BIRX: What I can't tell you for sure, despite the South Korea study, is whether children under ten in the United States don't spread the virus at the same as children over ten. I think that is still an open question that needs to be studied in the United States. We certainly know from other studies that children under ten do get infected. It's just unclear how rapidly they spread the virus.


KEILAR: And yet listen to the United States secretary of education.


BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I am urging all schools to open and to be providing their students a full-time education.

More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves. So we should be in a posture of the default to be getting back to schools, kids in- person in the classroom.


KEILAR: That is a lie, a gross misrepresentation of the data. It's no wonder that parents having trouble trusting what the people in charge are saying. It's also interesting how the president is citing northeastern states, like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as the great examples of how the U.S. is lowering the curve.


TRUMP: You see from that, it's in great shape, lots of it. The northeast has become very clean. The country is in very good shape other than if you look south and west, some problems. That will all work out.


KEILAR: But remember, he blasted those same states for not reopening faster. In fact, they succeeded in part because they ignored his pressure to reopen quickly.

So did the president suddenly feel sorry for Americans suffering? Hardly. CNN reports that he was primarily motivated by his floundering poll numbers. A senior White House official telling CNN the push to reopen schools is designed to curry favor with suburban women who he is struggling with in the polls.

It's not just the administration as well for this failing here. It's now congress. When both parties start calling the other names, remember this, the Senate right now is on a three-day weekend despite the fact that relief expires today. A federal eviction moratorium expires tonight. And the Senate just got back from a two-week recess.

In August, they're still planning on taking the month off. Just look at the calendar there. Those red days, they are the days that they aren't in D.C. to vote in the middle of a historic, deadly pandemic that is killing Americans and taking jobs. They're leaving when the work is unfinished and Americans are struggling.

Frontline workers didn't leave. Healthcare workers aren't leaving. More than 50 million Americans have lost their jobs. Millions more are worried that their jobs may be next.

On top of this, they are stressed with working and taking care of children at the same time. They're stressed whether to send most precious treasures into the unknown. They're stressed about being infected. They're stressed about their loved ones being infected. Many are infected. They're stressed about living to see tomorrow and the Senate leaves.

They're still employed. Their portfolios are doing OK. The stock market, which only 14 percent of Americans are directly invested in, that's not tied to a retirement account. It's doing fine. Largely, they're disconnected to the reality on the ground.


It doesn't resonate until it impacts them personally.

Case in point, listen to the former White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, back in February when he still had a chance to make a difference as a member of the administration.


MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The reason you're paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That's what this is all about.

But I might think they calm the markets, just tell people to turn the televisions off for 24 hours.

But it's not a death sentence. It's not the same as the Ebola crisis.

This is something we deal with. This is something we know how to deal with. That's why we sit there and watch markets and there's this huge panic. And why is it that there's panic single year over flu, because so many people get it?

We are the best country in the world prepared to do this. We have been preparing for this for years.

Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure. But we do this. We know how to handle this. And so that's one of the things that you -- that's the message you try and get out. There are professionals who know how to handle this. Those professionals are handling it.


KEILAR: Now, fast forward to July, he is out of the administration but finally spoke up to call out this disaster when it impacted his own family because he says his son had to wait five to seven days for test results and his daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents but she was told that she didn't qualify to get the test.

The president and Congress are abandoning Americans in the middle of a pandemic.

Let's dive deeper now into these new CDC guidelines for reopening schools as they push hard for students to return to the classroom. They throw in an asterisk there, areas undergoing a surge should consider closing schools to in-person instruction.

John Lander is an English teacher at Guyer High School in Denton, Texas, in the Dallas area, joining us again. Thank you so much, sir, for being with us.

Texas, of course, is one of the top five state in the nation for total cases as well as new daily cases and we spoke about a week-and-a-half ago and you had major fears then about returning to your classroom. Your first day is in a month. Do these new guidelines make you feel better about going back?

JON LADNER, HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER: Thank you so much for having me, Brianna. No, not exactly.

So a quick update on the Texas Education Agency since last time we spoke. Last time we spoke, the TEA was mandating that all schools in Texas provide a full academic schedule of face-to-face instruction. Since then, they have relaxed that and given more decision-making power to the local levels and specifically to county health officials.

In Denton County where I live, according to Georgia Tech's COVID-19 risk assessment tool that they have online, that a lot of people have been using, there's currently an 88 percent chance of encountering the virus in a gathering of 100 people in the county where I live, 88 percent. That's already up 9 percent from last week. And schools, as we know, are much, much larger than that, even if we're just counting the teachers there, the school, the I.T. chat (ph) has over 200 teachers.

Now, the county officials, the county health officials in Denton are, at the moment, declining to make a judgment one way or the other. And what they're saying specifically is that because the counties around us, specifically Dallas County, Tarrant County, they have higher levels of risk than we do. They're saying that it's appropriate to hold off on making that decision.

But like I teach my kids every year when we are -- when we get to Hamlet, choosing not to choose, choosing not to make a decision is still a decision and it's still a decision that can lead to a disastrous outcome.

KEILAR: No, that's a very good point, right, decision by indecision. So, as you're looking at that, do you trust what the CDC is telling you?

LADNER: It's really hard to trust what seems like a political move rather than one that's based on science. And it's also difficult to trust that people are going to be interpreting what they're saying.

You were talking earlier about some of things in the fine prints there that people have been just overlooking, something else in the fine print of the CDC's new guidelines is they say that it is critical. And the word they used is critical that administrators take whatever steps they can to mitigate the spread of the virus, including social distancing.

But that's something that's still getting lost in the conversation because returning to school face-to-face, as a lot of school districts are currently on track to do is just not going to be possible to do that.

KEILAR: And if I can just ask you before we part and hopefully we'll speak again soon because this is going to keep progressing, when would you normally reopen the school year as you wait to see exactly what is going to happen?


I mean, you don't know even know what's going to happen. When would that normally occur?

LADNER: This is -- this is a very unprecedented situation, right? Our school district, a lot of school districts in Texas, and this is something that T.E.A. has allowed, they pushed back the start date. Ordinarily, we would be going back to school sometime in the middle of August. Currently, our start date is set for August the 26th.

Teachers are still reporting back at the same time, you know, for various reasons. We need to be trained on how to be prepared for any number of things that might come up.

KEILAR: Yes, wow, August 26th. I mean, that is just right around the corner to not have questions answered. That uncertainty is just awful.

Mr. Ladner, we wish you luck. We'll be checking in with you. Thank you.

LADNER: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: Just in, some new revelations about the long-term impact of the virus and what happened to people two, three weeks after their positive test.

Plus, dozens of leading health experts say that it's time for the U.S. to shut down again and to start over. One of them will join me live.

And 75 percent of ICE detainees test positive at a facility in Virginia.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: For the third day in a row, the United States reported more than 1,000 deaths from coronavirus in a single day. And for the fourth day in a row, the number of new cases exceeded 56,000. Again, that is a single day.

At this hour, the U.S. cases are soaring past 4 million, deaths beyond 144,000. But there are some signs of hope. White House Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says she is seeing cases beginning to plateau in hotspot states, like Texas, California, Arizona and Florida. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, who works with Birx on the White House task force, says that states can get their outbreaks under control.


FAUCI: In the states that have been trying to open, particularly the southern states which have gotten into trouble, I would say the first thing is you don't necessarily have to go all the way back to a complete shutdown, but you certainly have to call a pause and maybe even a backing up a bit.

What my advice would be, timeout and maybe go back to a prior checkpoint, and from that point try to proceed in a very measured, prudent way according to the guidelines.


KEILAR: More than 150 top medical experts, nurses and teachers are warning that it's time to shut down the country again, to start over, they say, and this time, to do it right. They sent a letter to Trump administration and other political leaders urging the shutdown as coronavirus cases soar past 4 million.

And joining me now is one of the medical experts who signed the letter, Dr. Seth Trueger, who is an E.R. doctor in Chicago. Dr. Trueger, thanks for being with us.

And your letter comes as the CDC is issuing guidelines in favor of reopening schools. What are people supposed to believe at this point when we're seeing all of these mixed messages?

DR. SETH TRUEGER, EMERGENCY MEDICINE, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: You know, I certainly understand that this is very difficult for a lot of people. This is a new situation for nearly all of us. This is an unprecedented, historic pandemic. But, unfortunately, what we are seeing is that what we have been doing has been working. The patchwork of partial shutdowns, of partial activity, of a lot of pushes to return to open and opening too quickly and clearly not working and cases are going up in a lot of cases.

And what I'm very concerned about is that a lot of places that have already been through creeping pretty big curves, like Chicago, where we were hit badly in March and April, we're going to start see it bad again. We don't seem to be anywhere near herd immunity.

KEILAR: I want to listen to what Dr. Fauci said this morning and then we'll discuss this. Let's watch.


FAUCI: I don't think it's necessary to do that, you know? It might come to that. But right now, I think, if you look at what's going on in some of the southern states, particularly, having the resurging of cases, you can put a pause on what you are doing or even maybe take a step back.

Let me give you an example. If certain of the states or cities are in a phase two of the guidelines of opening America again, you might want to either pause or go back to phase one, or if you're in phase one, go back to the gateway component of the guideline. So I'm not so sure you need to all of a sudden everybody go back to a complete lockdown.

It could come do that. You always have got to leave it on the table. But I think we can probably get around what we're doing now and put a lid on it.


KEILAR: So what do you make of that? Because like you heard him says, he thinks it's not necessary to do that, to have a shutdown, but he is still talking about pausing or dialing it back in certain areas.

TRUEGER: It's really tough, and I have a ton of respect for Dr. Fauci. He's been doing great work under incredibly difficult circumstances.

It's, however -- I mean, what we are seeing is that partial measures don't seem to be working very well. And I think part of it is the fatigue of what's been going on. And we've been dealing with this for months and months and it's really hard to ask people to make sacrifices for such a long time, especially when it's such an abstract threat to most people.

KEILAR: Yes. And to that point, I mean, it is not welcome for people to hear your and other experts say, look, there needs to be a shutdown. And part of that is because they've been through it but the reality is that it was also largely squandered, right? The shutdown was largely squandered.

So how would you do another shutdown and do it differently so that that time is not squandered, because I don't know if people have the appetite for doing this all over again.


They're not going to have the appetite for doing it a third time.

TRUEGER: Right, yes. I mean, the way I think about it is it's not a question of a second or third time, it's that we're going to be doing some measure of this for years if we don't do it right. I, like Dr. Fauci, I'm not sure that we need to shut down completely. I can't tell you that's the exact right answer. But, again, looking at what we are doing, it's certainly not working.

And for me, one of the most painful things about what's going on is we went through some of the worst parts in Chicago a few months ago, and now we're hearing the same exact same experiences in a lot of other places that are now only in the last few weeks being hit. And it's the same story, not enough PPE, not hospital capacity, not enough ICU capacity and not enough testing capacity. There's, you know, what seems to be very little test and trace capacity for trying to stamp down individual outbreaks.

We have been doing this for months and we barely made any progress in what we can do and it's terrible.

KEILAR: Yes, it's frustrating enough to not have learned from Milan, but to not have learned from Chicago is incredibly frustrated.

Dr. Trueger, thanks for being with us.

TRUEGER: Great. Thank you for having me. KEILAR: Just in, a county in Texas issuing a shelter-at-home order as the situation grows more dire. We're going to take there.

Plus, parents in one town are now cooperating with a potential -- they're coping with a potential cluster that broke out after teens had a house party.

And Actor Mel Gibson revealing details about his hospitalization from the virus.