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U.S. Surpasses 4 Million Reported Virus Cases; Trump: Most of the Country 'Has No Problem Whatsoever'; Trump Cancels Republican Convention Events in Jacksonville; U.S. Unemployment Claims Rise for First Time Since March; U.S. Senate Republicans Delay Release of Latest Stimulus Plan; China Orders Closure of U.S. Consulate in Chengdu; Brazil Sets 2 Daily Records for COVID Cases This Week; Scottish Leaders Fare Better with Public in Handling Virus; Watchdog Group to Investigate Federal Forces in U.S. Cities; Egypt Jailing Some Doctors Critical of COVID-19 Response; First Friday Prayers Held in Turkey's Iconic Hagia Sophia. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired July 24, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A million new cases in just 15 days. As the pandemic surges across the U.S., debate rages over if and when to reopen schools.
America's most senior diplomat warns Beijing the good old days are over. This century, he says, will not belong to China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Person, woman, man, camera, TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: After passing a test which screens for dementia, Donald Trump boasts how he easily recalled five words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Person, woman, man, camera, TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause. A busy two hours ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.
The first million cases took about 3 months. The next million came 45 days later. Another million cases after that recorded in 27 days. And now, the jump from 3 to 4 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. has taken just over two weeks.
Despite that grim reality, President Trump stood alone at the lectern in the White House briefing room and told the nation it will all work out. But the president did cancel the Republican National Convention, which
last month had been shifted to Florida, because Trump wanted a stadium filled with cheering supporters, none of them required to wear a mask. Now, he says it's not the right time.
But the time is right, according to Donald Trump, for tens of millions of children to return to school. Within hours of that statement from the president, the CDC issued guidelines, stressing the importance of reopening schools.
With this pandemic is spiraling out of control, especially in the state of Florida, the mayors of Miami and Miami-Dade County are urging residents to wear masks while indoors, at home, with family. CNN's Nick Watt begins our coverage. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred seventy-three people reported dead today in Florida, an all-time high for that state.
MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI: One person is getting exposed or sick, and they're infecting every single member of their Household.
WATT: Today, we passed 4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases across this country.
Now, getting to the first million cases took 99 days. The next million took 43 days. The next, 28. And getting from 3 million to 4 million just 15 days.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL FOR TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: There's no end in sight in the sense that, if there's no plan to control the virus at a national level, it's not going to go away by itself.
WATT: We're now six months in, and the president still thinks testing is overrated.
TRUMP: If instead of 50, we did 25, we'd have half the number of cases. So I personally think it's overrated, but I am totally willing to keep doing it.
WATT: Doesn't he realize that a case is a case, whether it's found by a test or not? And a known case can be contained. That's largely why we test.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR (via phone): Finding and tracing those very early individuals is really critical.
WATT: So says Dr. Deborah Birx, who right now is privately worried by recent upticks in test positivity rates in these 12 cities. Among them, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Baltimore.
BIRX: I know it may look small. And you may say, Well, that only went from 5 to five and a half, and we're going to wait and see what happens. If you wait another three or four, even five days, you'll start to see a dramatic increase in cases.
WATT: So in all of Oregon, bars and restaurants must now close at 10 p.m. Anchorage, Alaska, now reintroducing restrictions on the size of gatherings.
Listen to this from a just-published study. "If the United States had collectively waited longer, opened more slowly, and then kept our gathering sizes small, we might have reduced case counts like Europe or Canada and experienced a relatively normal summer."
Instead, baseball's opening day is today, late July, with no fans and no spitting. Last year, opening day was late March.
Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch at the Nationals. Who'd have ever thought a mild-mannered 79-year-old immunologist would be on that mound? A sign of our times.
(on camera): Here in Los Angeles, a record death toll. The state reporting 157 people dying of COVID-19 within 24 hours. Also, the past couple of days, more than 12,000 new infections. So right now, Californians are being infected and dying at record rates.
Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.
VAUSE: Dr. Ashish Jha is the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. He joins us this hour from Cambridge.
Dr. Jha, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Thank you for having me on.
VAUSE: I want to start with the assessment we heard from the U.S. president about where this country stands right now when it comes to the pandemic. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of the country is -- has -- has no problem whatsoever. Most of the country, actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: "A lot of the country has no problem whatsoever." Yes? Right, wrong? How do you see it?
JHA: Unfortunately, I see it differently. A majority of Americans are now living in hot zones, in areas with large outbreaks happening. There's only a small proportion of the country that is really in good shape, mostly the northeast and some parts of the Midwest.
But the majority of the country is really living in areas with large outbreaks happening. So I think my assessment is different from that of the president.
VAUSE: Very different, by the sounds of things.
On Wednesday, the head of the White House coronavirus tax force, Dr. Birx, privately contacted state and local officials, warning that 11 cities needed to take urgent action. This was a private phone call. And this comes from reporting from the Center for Public Integrity.
Here they -- This is what they reported. "It's unclear who heard the warnings and who was invited to the call. Baltimore and Cleveland were two of the cities Birx warned who were facing rising test positivity. But a spokeswoman for the Cleveland mayor's office said they did not participate in the call. And Baltimore Health Department leaders didn't know about it."
So while there is a president who is either lying or misleading about the severity of the outbreak, his task force is secretly warning some cities they're facing dire circumstances. So we don't know who was warned, because there's no transparency.
But there seems to be one message coming from the president publicly, which is clearly wrong, and privately, this message is going out about just the reality.
JHA: Yes, so this is a very unfortunate situation, and it's not a very productive way of handling a pandemic.
You essentially have a task force where people are trying to send out signals to governors and mayors about how dire things are and what they need to do. But all of that is done in secrecy. It's done in secrecy, presumably to not contradict the president. Or, potentially, to not put pressure on the governors.
And one of the points that I like to make on this all is that all of this is being funded by taxpayers. The task force is U.S. taxpayer- funded. Governors and mayors. American people have a right to know what is the task force's recommendations, and whether their governors and mayors are listening to it or not.
And this is not a national security issue where we don't want the virus to find out what our strategy is. This is a situation where we need openness and transparency in communication. And we're just not getting that from this administration right now.
VAUSE: Yes, I always thought that was, you know, sort of Pandemic 101. Be open and honest and calm with the public.
CDC guidelines have been released for reopening schools. Just over a week ago, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine also came out in favor of reopening, especially for K through 5, because of the benefits to children and families.
They also recommended surgical masks for teachers; hiring more teachers for smaller class sizes; hand-washing stations; social distancing for students; no group get-togethers, no assemblies, that kind of stuff. For a typical district with about 3,000, the cost would be around $2
Would that be enough, in your view, to reduce the health risks to an acceptable level, especially considering the benefits of reopening schools?
JHA: Yes, so I've carefully read that report. I've looked at other reports in the American Academy of Pediatrics. And I agree fully about the -- with the idea that there are massive benefits, very large benefits to kids of getting them back into school.
One of the things that this report unfortunately, I think, punted on is that it's not simply about what happens in the schools. It's actually largely about what's happening in the community.
When there are large outbreaks happening, as there are in many, many parts of America, you can do all the social distancing you want in schools. You can do all of the handwashing and mask wearing. It won't be enough.
So the No. 1 point of getting kids back to school this fall is that we have got to suppress these very large outbreaks. America is the hot zone for the world right now, and in many, many communities, there's too much transmission to open up schools safely.
VAUSE: And besides that point, none of that is actually happening in many of the schools anyway, because there's been no coordinated plan from a federal level.
But I want to finish up with the question which I guess, you know, everyone would like an answer to. And that is, when will all of this and? When will there be some kind of normality? This is what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: So the timetable you suggested of getting into 2021, well into the year, then I can think with a successful vaccine, if we could vaccinate the overwhelming majority of the population, we could start talking about real normality again. But it is going to be a gradual process.
DAVID AXELROD, HOST, "THE AXE FILES": That's -- that's -- You're really talking about a year from now?
FAUCI: Yes. Yes. Absolutely, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: I -- I don't want to put you at odds with America's doctor, but do you see the timeline as being, what, optimistic? Is it cautious? About right?
JHA: I think it's about right. And we're not at odds at all.
And actually, I feel like I'm on the optimistic end of this. I think Dr. Fauci has been on the optimistic end of things. I do think that is a good possibility that it will be next summer. The chances that it will be much earlier than that, I think, are low.
There are some people who are propagating the idea that it might be 2020. It's almost impossible for me to imagine that a large proportion of Americans could get vaccinated this year.
So 2021, probably somewhere in the spring to summer of 2021 a majority of Americans will be vaccinated. And hopefully, a majority of the world will be vaccinated.
VAUSE: Dr. Jha, thank you. And just think, if we'd done all those things right from, you know, a couple months ago, a couple of weeks ago, it would have been a lot sooner than that, I guess. But never mind. That's where we're at.
Dr. Jha, good to see you. Thank you so much.
JHA: Thank you.
VAUSE: One of the hardest jobs in American politics this year surely must be the planner for the Republican National Convention.
At first, it was scheduled for Charlotte, North Carolina. But when the state governor would not promise a mask-free event, Trump pulled it and gave it to Jacksonville, Florida.
But according to a Quinnipiac poll, 62 percent of Florida voters now believe the convention would be unsafe. And sources say the president was convinced by aides that doing the right thing for public health, and canceling, would show leadership. Hours later, at a White House briefing, the president claimed it was his decision and his alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I looked at my team, and I said, The timing for this event is not right. It's just not right with what's happened recently, the flare-up in Florida, 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. That's what I always will do. That's what I'm about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein joins me now from Los Angeles.
So Ron, an epiphany, it seems, from President Trump. Indoor events with lots and lots of cheering people, many older with underlying health conditions, many overweight, not safe, apparently.
But that's where it ends. Because reopening schools while a pandemic is raging out of control, that's not a problem. So square that circle. RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, no. I
mean, the messages collide instantly. I mean, the president gave into reality here, after among others, the sheriff of Duval County, which is where the -- where it would be held, said they did not think they could -- they could do this, you know, in a safe -- in a safe manner.
And he kind of conceded to reality by not having an indoor event at a time when Florida is absolutely out of control with the virus. Seventy percent of Floridians in the Quinnipiac poll today saying the state is out of control.
But yet, simultaneously, as you point out, John, in the same breath, he kind of returns to his initial instinct, which has -- has been to open any -- everything as quickly as possible, regardless of the public health implications, because he believes that the return to normalcy, or projecting a sense of normalcy, is key to his reelection. And he's talking about reopening schools.
I mean, there have been polls this week by Quinnipiac in both Florida and Texas. Roughly 60 percent of each state -- and this is not -- you know, these are not California and New York. I mean, these are, you know, Republican-leaning states. Sixty percent in each state say they do not believe it is safe to send K to 12 students back to school. And that majority, every age group, every regional, urban, suburban, rural in both states, all -- all of those possibilities say it is not safe.
VAUSE: I'm glad you mentioned that Quinnipiac poll. Because we do have it here, at least part of it. A 20-point lead in Florida for Joe Biden when it comes to who is most trusted to handling this pandemic. And that is significant, because Biden's numbers are way up in Florida.
Biden is up by 9 points or more in three battleground states in the Midwest. And it seems those numbers are a direct result of the president's lack of leadership on the pandemic: hoping it would go away, hoping it wasn't there.
But when it comes to the sort of Trumpian fiction of American cities engulfed in flames and wrecked by violence, the president is all in. Listen to Donald Trump speaking to Sean Hannity just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP (via phone): If they invited us in, we'd go in with 50,000, 75,000 people. We would be able to solve it like you wouldn't believe, and quick. But they just don't want to ask, maybe for political reasons? But they don't want to ask. It's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: What seems to be becoming apparent here is that, just because the president wants the pandemic not to be true, or violence in Democrat-run cities to actually happen, doesn't mean it really is true. And it seems that that's something he hasn't quite got a hold of right yet -- right now. BROWNSTEIN: There are a couple steps in this progression. I mean, the
first thing is that, clearly, what the president is trying to do is sell the idea to suburban -- white suburban America that the cities are now a hotbed of insurrection and chaos and violence, and that he is the human wall standing between them and all of these marauding bands, you know, running through urban America.
You know, an updated version of the law-and-order pitch to the silent majority that Richard Nixon ran on in 1968.
First, this is a very different country. The suburbs are much more diverse than they were. There are many more college graduates. And many in both of those groups, and for that matter, many of the blue- collar whites have concluded that Trump's approach, rather than making them safer, is making -- putting them more at risk. Not only in violence, but in terms of the coronavirus. Because it is so volatile, confrontational, and belligerent.
The larger point, though, John, is that history is overwhelmingly clear. There's only so far an incumbent can go in making the race about his challenger.
You know, in the -- in polling right now, roughly, almost exactly 50 percent of Americans say they strongly disapprove of the way Trump is performing.
In 2012, when Barack Obama ran for reelection, 1 percent of the people who strongly disapproved of his performance voted for him against Romney.
In '04, Bush got 2 percent of the strong disapprovers.
And in the ABC/"Washington Post" poll a couple of days ago, Trump was losing 94 to 1 among people who strongly disapprove. There's only so far he can go in shifting the focus to Biden, no matter what argument he makes.
Really, the only way he gets back in the race is if people conclude -- change their view of the way he is handling the presidency, particularly on the virus.
VAUSE: I just want to go to this really head-scratching boast that we keep hearing from the president about acing a test which was actually meant to be easy, and it's designed to screen for mental impairment. Here he is on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The first questions are very easy. The last questions are much more difficult. Like a memory question. It's -- like, you'll go, Person, woman, man, camera, TV.
But then, when you go back, about 20, 25 minutes later, and they say, Go back to that question. They don't tell you this. Go back to that question and repeat them. Can you do it?
And you go, Person, woman, man, camera, TV.
They say, That's amazing. How did you do that?
I do it because I have, like, a good memory. Because I'm cognitively there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, I'm kind of lost for words. I mean, what do you say about that?
BROWNSTEIN: We're kind of in Mary Trump territory at this point.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, where the president is insecure. I mean, the insecurity is the need to constantly have, you know, people at the cabinet table in a kind of North Korean -style, you know, forced meeting, where they're all telling him how great he is, or you know, saying how -- how much he understands. Doctors are shocked by how much he understands.
When you're talking about a man with sort of a bottomless level of insecurity, in some way.
Now, politically, obviously, what he's trying to do is, you know, create the -- they want to argue that Joe Biden is no longer up to the job. But the president's own ramblings and kind of, you know, digressions and nonsensical statements, and talking about bleach and ultraviolet light shining inside of people. There was a poll this week that had, you know, more people thought -- more Americans thought that Biden was capable of doing the job cognitively than -- than Trump.
So I mean, there is kind of a point at some level to this, in politically, in that he wants to make that argument against Biden, but really, it's at some level we're watching a psychodrama play out, kind of on national TV, with enormous consequences for the lives and livelihood of millions of Americans.
VAUSE: Yes, I keep getting this phone call from the bottom, asking if we're there yet? And you know, I just don't know when we're going to hit bottom with this guy. It's --
BROWNSTEIN: Sending the troops into cities is pretty -- sending the federal agents into the cities is pretty close to the -- close to the bottom there. And praising the idea of teargassing the mayor of an American city.
I mean, he is the president of red America, and he is kind of trying to create this image in red America that blue America is this dangerous, seething hotbed of violence, and only he stands between you and them. It is kind of the most racially -- the most openly racist kind of line of argument that we've seen from a national candidate since George Wallace in '68. And there may be some audience for it, but I don't think there's a majority audience for it.
VAUSE: I think you're right, Ron. And we will find out in about 100 days. Good to see you. Thank you.
BROWNSTEIN: Wow. Thank you.
VAUSE: U.S. unemployment claims are up for the first time in nearly four months. One point four million Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week.
CNN's Eleni Giokos is with us now live for more on this.
You know, it's one report one week, but it comes as the pandemic gets worse. And there's -- I guess there's this concern that, you know, the worsening state of the pandemic, you know, the economy going south. Is this now impacting what looked to be an economic recovery?
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's such a good point, right? And these numbers have honestly been a barometer in terms of the health of the U.S. economy, and of course, the health of the U.S. consumer.
Now, these numbers are really important. Sitting above one million for the past 15 weeks. But also, this is an important number that shows that the numbers are not going to get any better. We've seen a downward trend for quite some time. This is the first uptick in a long time: 1.4 million Americans are filing for claims.
Another really important figure is the amount of people that are continually filing for claims, sitting over 16 million. These numbers absolutely are directly correlated to the rise in coronavirus cases.
If you really delve into the report, you see that the state that had the most number of claims, the likes of California, we saw a big spike there, sitting close to 300,000. And then, of course, the likes of Florida and Georgia also are hitting quite high.
You've got to remember here that the U.S. economy, it was a hope that you would have people getting back to work. You would have economic activity kind of being revived.
And now, with the rise in coronavirus cases, you have companies saying, Hang on, this isn't the right time as yet. And also companies not feeling comfortable to start reemploying.
This is going to have a very big impact in the next few weeks. And of course, policy makers and markets look at this number in terms of what the sentiment is going to be in the next few weeks.
VAUSE: So Eleni, we have a situation now where you have the Senate Republicans negotiating with the Republican White House. They can't agree on this pandemic financial aid package, in particularly, this extra $600 a week for those who have lost their jobs. So they can't even agree on a plan, which they knew was never, ever
going to get through the House anyway. So where does this go from here?
GIOKOS: Yes, I mean, it's such a good point, right? Because you're sitting with intraparty issues and disputes that need to be worked through. And then you, of course, have to get the Democrats at some point to agree. And there's such a huge divergence in thinking here.
Democrats are talking about $3 trillion, by the way, which has been approved since May. And then you have Republicans looking at one trillion.
The sticking point here is the exact thing that is going to be impacting vulnerable Americans, that 600-dollar-a-week enhanced benefit.
Now Republicans are saying, Look, we've got to revise this. We've got to bring that down to around 200 to $100 a week.
And then, of course, you also have a lot of people saying, Look, can we maybe look at 70 percent of earnings that have been lost.
So I want you to take a listen to what Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, yesterday said about the negotiations and discussions that are going on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The president's priority for the moment is to get money into Americans quickly. And one of the problems with the payroll tax cut is it takes time. So we are much more focused right now on the direct payments.
We're going to come back again. You know, there may be a CARES 5.0. The president, again, is focused on money in American workers, in American pockets, right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Yes, so enhanced benefits come to an end, expire this weekend, essentially. And we know that that is the big sticking point. We're hopefully going to have something on the table by Monday, and then it's all up to Democrats and Republicans, to find common ground, and who knows when that will happen. Time is of the essence, though, John.
VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. It's Steven Mnuchin, by the way.
Eleni, thank you. Good to see you. Appreciate it.
Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, fighting words from the U.S. Secretary of state to China, as Beijing announces retaliation for the closure of its consulate in Houston.
Also, a formal investigation underway into the federal law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon, who have been clashing with protesters for weeks. That's ahead.
VAUSE: Breaking news now, just into CNN. Beijing has ordered the U.S. consulate in the inland city of Chengdu to close. This move is retaliation for Washington's order to shutter the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout following all of this live from Hong Kong.
OK. So this is not quite at the escalation level. If it was, like, a Shanghai consulate. Certainly not at the benign level of a Wuhan consulate, if you like. Kind of somewhere in the middle, but it doesn't look good.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it doesn't look good, but China has done what it has vowed to do and has retaliated on the back of the announced closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and other U.S. actions.
We heard of this development by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its website within the last half hour. We've translated the statement, and in it, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it informed the U.S. to shut down its consulate in Chengdu. Quote, "It informed the U.S. embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu."
The ministry also made specific requirements in the ceasing of all operations and events by the consulate general.
Now, John, this was, of course, expected. On Wednesday, Beijing said that it would retaliate on the back of the forced closure of its consulate in Houston, Texas.
State media for days now have been pointing to the possible closure of an American consulate in China. Overnight, we heard via tweet from the editor-in-chief of "The Global Times," Hu Xijin -- This is a nationalist newspaper in China -- saying that he had information that an announcement would happen today, that a U.S. consulate in China would be asked to close. And we have found out indeed, it is the one in Chengdu.
There was even that report from "The South China Morning Post" that said that China may close the consulate in Chengdu because of its strategic value and because of its proximity to Tibet.
All this happening after Pompeo's fiery speech, that fiery speech by the U.S. secretary of state that he gave at the Nixon Presidential Library. His China policy speech, in which he blasts China but also blasted U.S. policy of engagement with China.
He called for the U.S. and its allies to be more assertive and more creative in order to get the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways. But at this moment, all eyes on how the United States is going to
respond, now that China has asked the U.S. to shut down its consul in Chengdu.
And also, what is going to happen at the Chinese consulate in Houston? Because overnight, we learned that the Chinese consul general there, Cai Wei, he gave an interview to "Politico," saying that that outpost may defy the order to close on Friday and remain open, quote, "until further notice" -- John.
VAUSE: OK. There's a lot to unpack here. We don't have a lot of time. But very quickly. So let's go -- let's listen to Pompeo. He was speaking at the Nixon Library almost 50 years since Nixon went to China, the first U.S. president. Basically, he told Beijing the good old days are over. Let's listen to this. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: We have to admit a hard truth. We must admit a hard truth. This should guide us in the years and decades to come. That if we want to have a free 21st Century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won't get it done. We must not continue it. We must not return to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: This should not go unpassed or unnoticed, because that is a very big statement, essentially resetting relations between these, you know, two emerging -- or one emerging superpower and the only superpower left in the world.
STOUT: It is a powerful statement. He's saying the policy of engagement with China that's been in place since the Nixon era is effectively over.
But that fiery speech is being seen in a quite transparent way by people like politicians in China and across Asia. Because it comes at a time of not only unprecedented friction between the U.S. and China, but also it's election season in the United States.
And how China is going to respond with this ongoing escalation is very important. You have pressure from the nationalists who want to see China get really tough and to really lash back against the United States.
But there are also others who are saying that we need to make sure that we don't play into the hands of the United States and end up helping Trump's reelection bid -- John.
VAUSE: And then we've got the pressure points along the way. The next 72 hours, the Friday for the closure of the Houston consulate -- by the China consulate in Houston. Will that happen? If it doesn't, then what goes on?
And then you've got will they close down the U.S. consulate in Chengdu if they refuse to follow that point? Is there an off-ramp?
STOUT: There doesn't seem to be an off-ramp at the moment. And there's also the additional pressure point. Don't forget, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco where a Chinese scientist is, according to U.S. prosecutors, hiding out after being accused of visa fraud.
And then the other pressure points: South China Sea and assertions of sovereignty; Hong Kong and the fate of autonomy here; Human rights in Xinjiang; the trade war; the tech war; Huawei, TikTok. The list goes on, John.
But remember, it was last week when U.S. President Donald Trump, after he announced the end of the Hong Kong special trading status, when he was asked is he talking to Jinping. He said no, nor does he have any plans to. There does not appear to be an immediate diplomatic off-ramp here -- John.
VAUSE: 2020, with a pandemic, an economic crisis like the Great Depression, and now a standoff and a new Cold War between the United States and China. It's looking up to be a great year.
Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.
We'll take a short break. New polling is showing a rise in support for Scottish independence. Just ahead, why the perceived handling of the coronavirus in the U.K. could be bad for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.
And it's proving to be another bad week for Brazil as it sets daily records in coronavirus cases. Health officials on Thursday reported nearly 60,000 new infections, second only to Wednesday, when they reported nearly 68,000.
CNN's Shasta Darlington has more now from Sao Paulo.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brazil reported another big spike in daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday, almost 60,000 new infections and more than 1,300 additional deaths.
This, a day after the interim health minister declared the virus seemed to be under control, with what he called an effective response preventing a collapse in the health system.
But while the rate of infection appears to have plateaued in big urban centers like Sao Paulo, the virus continues to spread in smaller cities and towns in Brazil's south and inland, with the total number of cases nearing 2.3 million.
In the three southernmost states, the number of infections has tripled in the last month. Meanwhile, a new study led by researchers in Brazil found that the use
of a controversial malaria drug, touted by President Jair Bolsonaro, does not help COVID-19 patients. According to the study, published in "The New England Journal of Medicine," hydroxychloroquine did not improve the conditions of hospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.
Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.
VAUSE: Columbia reporting its highest daily death toll so far: 315 COVID-related deaths on Thursday. Also reporting almost 8,000 new cases.
The capital of Bogota has put five more parishes on lockdown. That means five million people out of seven million are now on lockdown in the city.
Bolivia is delaying its presidential election again, originally scheduled for May, then delayed until September. Now, with coronavirus cases still on the rise, it's being pushed back to October 18. The head of the supreme electoral court said it's appropriate elections be held, quote, "adequate and solid measures on health and protection."
Belgium is tightening its coronavirus containment measure as it sees a spike in new cases. The country's prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, says cases have risen dramatically, up 91 percent from the week before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOPHIE WILMES, BELGIUM PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Reproduction number, which indicates how fast the virus is spreading, has risen above one since last week. This is a parameter that should be treated with caution, but it indicates that the epidemic is spreading again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And with that, face masks will now be required in public places, including outdoor markets and shopping areas. Contact tracing measures will be put in place for bars and restaurants. And those standing in these establishments will be required to wear a mask.
New rules also require shops to close by 10 p.m.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is marking an eventful first year in office by vowing not to be defeated by the coronavirus. He issued the statement saying, in part, "Today I want to make this pledge: I will not let the virus hold this country back. We must harness the unity and purpose of -- and resolve we have shown as a country in fighting coronavirus and use it to build back better."
Mr. Johnson made those comments following a trip to Scotland on Thursday. Leaders there are viewed as dealing with the coronavirus pandemic far better than their English counterparts.
CNN's Nic Robertson explains why that could mean trouble for Prime Minister Johnson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Tourists' favorite, yet, a week from Edinburgh's famous "Fringe Festival," COVID-19 is choking off customary crowds and the cash they bring. Even so, Scots count themselves luckier than the English.
(on camera): What do you guys think about how the government's handling coronavirus here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's been not too bad, to be honest. If I could say so.
ROBERTSON: And yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's better than England.
ROBERTSON: Which is really kind of weird, because the Scots have had COVID-19 as bad as the English. These are the figures. But perception is proving key.
(voice-over): Compared to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is getting a thumbs up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very clear: people first. And that's how it should be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No confusion, straightforward leadership, how it should be.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Up here, Sturgeon is viewed as putting health ahead of the economy. Masks are an issue where she outpaces Johnson. They've been mandatory in stores up here two weeks ahead of England.
(voice-over): Another COVID-19 comparison, boosting Sturgeon's polling, getting back to work.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's very important that people should be, you know, going back to work if they can now.
NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTLAND'S FIRST MINISTER: The virus is still circulating in Scotland. We allow it to, it is capable of, and will, spread rapidly.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And it's not just here in Scotland. It's in Wales and Northern Ireland, too, where 20 years ago, the British government devolved substantial powers, including health, education, and transport. Political pollsters say those governments are now getting a chance to shine.
MARK DIFFLEY, PRO-INDEPENDENCE POLLSTER: This is really the most significant time where devolution has been the most obvious to the ordinary citizens.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): And in Scotland, that's translating into trust in Sturgeon.
LINDA BAULD, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We've not had the debate about face coverings, as happened, for example, at U.K. level. People have been more positive about the whole approach.
ROBERTSON: All of this, recent polls show, driving up a desire for independence. For the first time in generations, a majority want to leave the U.K.
TOMMY SHEPPARD, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY MP: People are willing now to look at the prospect of independence with fresh eyes, and many people who never even thought of it before, are now aware of the differences between Scotland and England because of the different responses to the public health emergency.
ROBERTSON: So significant the shift Johnson's brief visit to Scotland this week, his first since the pandemic began, which even despite the secrecy surrounding it, drew protesters, was dubbed locally an effort to save the union.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your mask, Boris?
JOHNSON: The union is a fantastically strong institution. It's helped our country through thick and thin.
ROBERTSON: According to pollsters, Johnson has a lot of ground to make up.
DIFFLEY: Nicola Sturgeon's approval ratings up over 80 percent. And the prime minister in kind of negative -- quite significant negative territory.
ROBERTSON: With Scottish elections just nine months away, Sturgeon's party can almost taste the freedom they've longed for.
SHEPPARD: From our point of view, to be honest, those who wish to see Scotland become an independent country welcome as many trips as possible by Boris Johnson to Scotland, because every time he sets foot in Scotland, support for independence increases.
ROBERTSON: It's been a long time since the future of the union was this finely balanced.
Nick Robertson, CNN, Edinburgh, Scotland.
VAUSE: There are two things almost every doctor, scientist, health expert throughout the world agree on. It's this: that social distancing and wearing a mask will help contain this pandemic. But at an outdoor religious event in Northern California, nada. No
social distancing. Not a mask to be seen. But plenty of raised voices and probably a lot of droplets being spread.
The organizer says the freedom to warship is a constitutional right.
Local officials want everyone who attended to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Stay with us for a CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS." Like going to one of those events in Northern California. Hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta with special guest Bill Gates. It plays a little over an hour from now, at 7 a.m. in London, 2 p.m. in Hong Kong.
Well, already overwhelmed by the coronavirus, now doctors in Egypt are facing jail time from a government highly sensitive to any criticism. Details in a moment.
VAUSE: It took about 75 years, but justice has finally caught up to a former S.S. guard convicted for his role in the Holocaust.
The man, 93 years old, identified as Bruno D., found guilty in a Hamburg court of aiding and abetting in the murder of more than 5,000 people. He received a 2-year suspended sentence.
He was 17 years old at the time, an S.S. guard at the Stutthof camp in Poland from 1944 to 1945. That's where an estimated 65,000 people were murdered at the camp.
The U.S. Justice Department's independent watchdog says it will investigate how federal troops have been using force against protesters in Oregon, as well as the capital, Washington, D.C. The fact those federal troops have been policing American citizens has sparked outrage across the country. David Shortell explains what's coming next.
DAVID SHORTELL, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Violent crackdowns against protesters now under scrutiny by federal government inspectors. The Justice Department inspector general announcing on Thursday that he will be opening an investigation into the use of excessive force by federal officers in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.
Those two American cities are really the site of some shocking violence as Americans have taken to the street in recent weeks to demonstrate against police brutality.
You'll remember in June, it was Attorney General William Barr who ordered a group of federal law enforcement officers to disperse a crowd of peaceful protesters who had gathered outside the White House. That, of course, preceding President Donald Trump's infamous walk across Lafayette Park and to a church nearby that had been vandalized by protesters for a photo opportunity.
Now, the Justice Department inspector general saying he will be specifically reviewing the training and the instructions that those federal officers got before that incident.
At the same time, the Justice Department and homeland security inspectors general announcing on Thursday that they will be reviewing the use of force by federal officers in Portland, a city on America's West Coast, where rioters have clashed nightly for the past several weeks with federal law enforcement that have been dispatched there to defend a group of federal buildings that have come under siege by some of these protesters.
There have been some harrowing scenes captured on video that have gone viral from Portland and really galvanized outcry from the public but also from key law enforcement leaders and congressional Democrats, who urged these inspectors general to step in.
In one of those instances, a group of U.S. Marshals beating and pepper spraying a protester who they say refused to move back from them. Another incident shows federal officers dragging a protester into an unmarked police van for questioning. Now, those questionable tactics under review by these two federal inspectors general.
David Shortell, CNN, West Hartford, Connecticut.
VAUSE: Portland's mayor told crowds of protesters that federal troops sent there by the president are taking part in an unconstitutional occupation. After that he was teargassed.
Video shows Mayor Ted Wheeler wearing a mask and goggles, coughing in a cloud of gas. That was early Thursday morning. Mayor Wheeler later told CNN's Chris Cuomo why he is urging Donald Trump to withdraw his troops from the city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR TED WHEELER (D), PORTLAND, OREGON: The fact of the matter is, before the Feds arrived, the situation was contained. The nightly violence had dissipated. We were seeing smaller crowds. The energy had gone out of those crowds.
And then when they showed up, the entire thing blew up. They kicked the hornet's nest.
And I saw firsthand last night the indiscriminate use of tear gas and -- and other munitions. And it had no effect except really angering people and frustrating people. And now they're outraged.
And so this chaos, this unrest that we are now seeing on the streets of Portland, the thousands of people that are now coming out to demonstrate, this was created directly by the Trump administration's heavy-handed, unwarranted, and unconstitutional tactics in our city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The mayor of Portland there, speaking a short time ago with Chris Cuomo.
A new U.N. report says the coronavirus pandemic has led to the resurgence in ISIS attacks in Iraq and Syria. The report says ISIS has "exploited security gaps caused by the pandemic and by political turbulence in Iraq to relaunch a sustained rural insurgency as well as sporadic operations in Baghdad and other large cities."
ISIS still has an estimated $100 million in reserve, allowing it to invest in legitimate businesses in both Iraq and Syria.
Well, a number of doctors in Egypt have been jailed for speaking out about the failures of the government's pandemic response. Hospitals there are so overwhelmed that members of the public are trying to establish their own neighborhood alternative healthcare systems.
CNN's Ben Wedeman has our report.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The message from the Egyptian army is clear. The military has mobilized its considerable resources to fight the scourge of coronavirus, providing citizens with state-of-the-art facilities and treatment.
Pull back the curtain, however, and it's a different picture.
A doctor appeals online for donations of masks.
More than 120 Egyptian physicians have died from coronavirus, according to the General Syndicate of Egyptian Doctors.
But those who speak out pay a price. According to the Doctors' Syndicate, at least six doctors and one pharmacist have been arrested for criticizing the government's efforts, accused by state security of being members of a terrorist organization, spreading false news, and misusing social media.
A representative of the syndicate, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told CNN detention for those arrested is being renewed every 15 days, then another, then another 15 days.
In a statement, the syndicates said the arrests are spreading, frustration and fear among its members.
For doctors, it's a stark choice, says Amnesty International's Egypt researcher.
HUSSEIN MAGDI, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: And for them, it's either going there risking death, risking contracting the disease and this, or to risk jail if they speak about what the institutions, what they're faced with.
WEDEMAN: Officials in Cairo didn't respond to CNN's request for comment.
Egypt has reported around 90,000 cases of coronavirus and almost four and a half thousand deaths.
Yet, the pandemic has inspired private initiatives to help those in need. Mas Momostafa (ph) prepares meals for people with mild cases of COVID-19, self-isolating at home.
She started a Facebook group to make a network to make and distribute meals throughout the twin cities of Cairo and Giza, with a combined population of around 20 million. The response to her call for volunteers, she recalls, was an explosion.
"The explosion happened," she says, "because at the time, everyone felt they were alone. That if they got coronavirus, they'd have to confront it alone."
WEDEMAN: Before the meals are picked up for delivery, she writes a message on each one. "Made with love. We're with you. We love you."
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.
VAUSE: Protesters in Israel are focusing their anger on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not just over his handling of the pandemic, but also alleged corruption.
Scuffles broke out as demonstrators gathered near his Jerusalem residence. Several were arrested, and police used water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Mr. Netanyahu went on trial in May for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.
Just hours from now, Friday prayers will be recited in Turkey's historic Hagia Sophia for the first time since it was converted back into a mosque. The move by Turkey's president has drawn widespread criticism.
CNN's Arwa Damon has more now, reporting in from Istanbul.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is Hagia Sophia, truly spectacular, and inside, breathtaking. At the crossroads of both Christianity and Islam, but now at the center of a growing controversy.
Now, Hagia Sophia started out as the Christian empire's first Catholic cathedral. That's during the Byzantine era. Then, when the Ottomans took over what was then Constantinople, they transformed it into a mosque. But since 1935, under the government of modern-day Turkey's founder,
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it was then transformed into a museum. It's a UNESCO world heritage site.
But now, it has been converted back into a mosque by Turkey's current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That is because the courts annulled the earlier decision to transform it into a mosque, paving the way for the administration of Hagia Sophia to be moved from the Ministry of Culture to the presidency of religious affairs.
This is a move that has resulted in many expressions of disappointment, some of condemnation, ranging from UNESCO to the pope to other senior government leaders around the world.
But for Turkey, this is not really a big issue, even though there is a fair amount of support for this conversion among the Turkish population, even for those who oppose it. They're not really causing much of a fuss.
Some analysts, though, are saying that this right now is a move by Turkey's current president, because of the country's plummeting economy. Because of a range of domestic issues.
But others will say that this conversion is not really going to sway the political balance. And the Turkish government right now is trying to assure all of the critics and skeptics out there that, even though Hagia Sophia may officially be a mosque, the Christian artwork, the historic frescos, those are not going to be touched. They're simply going to be using technology to try to cover them up during the Muslim prayer times. And the Hagia Sophia will always be open to all.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.
VAUSE: We'll take a short break. A lot more news right after this. You're watching CNN.
VAUSE: Some terrifying moments for two young brothers, forced to jump from a burning building in the south of France.
They were left alone in the apartment. The 10-year-old boy, he dropped his 3-year-old brother out of the window, into the arms of the crowd below.
Now, with the smoke coming out of the apartment, the older boy then sat on the ledge for a while, just for a few moments, before leaping himself.
What is incredible, that neither was hurt. And the city's mayor has praised all those involved as heroes. Lucky. Well, the boys of summer are back on the diamond. The Major League Baseball season, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that abbreviated season now opened on Thursday, with the New York Yankees visiting the Washington Nationals, with not a fan in the stands.
Both teams took a knee before the game in a sign of unity for racial equality. They later stood for the national anthem.
And the leading coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. And we are grateful he is a much better epidemiologist than he is a pitcher. Epidemiologist.
I'm John Vause. CNN continues right after this.