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Trump Cancels GOP Convention in Florida; Florida Sets New Records for Daily Deaths; China Orders U.S. to Close Consulate in Chengdu. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: This epidemic is dramatically accelerating. Now the deaths are coming.

[05:59:27]

NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We passed 4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases across this country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Districts may need to delay reopening for a few weeks. That will be up to governors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have a national strategy. Now we're just saying to all the schools, Figure it out on your own.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president went from moving the convention in North Carolina; then he's canceling the one in Florida. It wasn't that long ago that the president was holding rallies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has been told that his opponent in this election is the virus, and it was very clear that he sees that the virus is winning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, July 24. It is 6 a.m. here in New York. And this morning, the virus is winning.

More than 1,000 deaths reported for the third day in a row. Total coronavirus cases now more than 4 million and growing fast. Hospitalizations just about at an all-time high.

The virus is winning, and now the president is in full retreat. In retreat from his own decisions, actions, and rhetoric that gave the virus an edge.

He abruptly canceled his Florida acceptance speech for the Republican convention, a speech that he had moved to Florida, because North Carolina would not let him do it in a full, unmasked stadium.

It was the president who demanded an in-door rally in Tulsa last month, despite pleas from health officials and staff members getting infected.

It was the president who mocked masks and refused to wear one for months, before a reversal this week, though he still did not wear a mask last night, posing with Little Leaguers at the White House.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the president's actions finally revealed that the virus is not under control in the United States. It's not going to simply disappear, as he had claimed.

This is something most of the American public has known for a long time, as evidenced by the polls. A new poll shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by 13 points in Florida. Other polls show Biden leading in other battleground states, as well.

Overnight, the CDC released new guidelines, strongly supporting the opening of schools, but if it's not safe enough to hold the GOP convention in Florida, how is it safe enough to reopen schools?

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House with our top story. A lot happening there, Jeremy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this decision by the president is a surprising 180, this decision to cancel the Republican convention in Jacksonville. Because, remember, it was the president who, for weeks, demanded that RNC officials and Trump campaign officials find another city to host this after the governor of North Carolina demanded social distancing for an in-person convention.

But ultimately, Alisyn, it seems, as the president said yesterday, that the reality of the coronavirus in Florida forced his hand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (voice-over): After months demanding a crowded in-person convention, President Trump bowing to the coronavirus reality, canceling activities in Jacksonville next month and moving his speech away from this coronavirus hot spot.

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.

DIAMOND: But Trump has downplayed the severity of the virus for months.

(MUSIC: "God bless the USA")

DIAMOND: Even holding campaign events in Arizona and Oklahoma, without requiring masks or enforcing social distancing. Now, the president is retreating from his defiant stance, as coronavirus cases soared in Florida and across the United States.

TRUMP: I'll still do a convention speech, in a different form, but we won't do a big, crowded convention, per se. It's just not the right time for that.

DIAMOND: A source familiar with the situation says Trump was worried about low turnout, as a growing number of Republican lawmakers say they will not attend. And even as he announced much of the convention will take place online, the president is still insisting it's safe for children to return to the classroom in person in just a few weeks.

TRUMP: Districts may need to delay reopening for a few weeks. And that's possible. That will be up to governors. But every district should be actively making preparations to open. Again, the children obviously have a very strong immune system.

DIAMOND: The CDC releasing new guidelines, suggesting the same, saying, "The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children," but also encouraging officials to keep schools closed if there's uncontrolled transmission of the virus.

HOTEZ: The piece missing was to say, OK, fine, we can do that in Maine and New Hampshire, where they're already getting down to that really low level, but how do you ask teachers and bus drivers to come into the workplace, exposed to huge amounts of virus?

DIAMOND: Meanwhile, before throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Anthony Fauci!

DIAMOND: -- Dr. Anthony Fauci saying it may take over a year with a successful vaccine for life to go back to how it was before COVID-19.

[06:05:02]

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we can vaccinate the overwhelming majority of the population, we could start talking about real normality again. But it is going to be a gradual process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND: And after the president announced that he was canceling convention activities in Jacksonville, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, went on another network to praise the president's decision, calling it responsible and saying that it was one of the most difficult decisions that any president or politician might have to make.

But of course, that was a decision that Joe Biden and Democrats made weeks ago, deciding to move their convention to a virtual convention. And of course, it didn't take these hundreds of thousands of more cases of coronavirus for that decision to be made -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, Jeremy, I wonder if Mark Meadows thought it was a brave decision to move the speech from North Carolina to Florida in the first place, when North Carolina said, You can't do it in a packed indoor stadium without wearing masks.

DIAMOND: That's right.

BERMAN: Interesting what Mark Meadows considers brave this morning. Thank you very much, Jeremy.

Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's a senior editor for "The Atlantic." And Ron, this convention move, in many ways, is a microcosm, emblematic of the larger story here, which is that the virus is calling the shots. The virus is --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the president looks --

BERMAN: Yes. Go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: The president looks chaotic, and reactive, and impulsive, not decisive. I mean, he has tried for months to deny the reality. His view, I think, has been pretty clear that projecting normalcy, even when it doesn't exist, is the key to his re-election.

So on every front, from his convention to the public schools to sports, he has pressed every institution to reopen without regard to public health. And besides being catastrophic from a public health point of view, it's also been politically myopic. Because pretty clearly and pretty steadily, two-thirds of the country have said they want to prioritize public health over economic reopening, as important as that is.

And this kind of progression from, you know, jilting North Carolina, abruptly moving to Jacksonville, and then deciding that you can't do it when the case loads are simply too high, as you say, really is emblematic of the way he has handled the entire struggle.

CAMEROTA: Ron, this week has been so interesting to watch the president's new positions, about-faces on so many things that he had been adamant about. He now believes that people should wear a mask.

BERMAN: Well, he's not doing it, though. Let's just be clear. He says he believes it, but he didn't do it at the White House last night.

CAMEROTA: Agreed. Actions speak louder than words, but his words have changed this week about it. His words on schools have changed. He's canceling the RNC.

And you know, Ron, I was interested in what you wrote. You say reality counts. For a long time, at least in journalism circles, we wondered if reality still counted over the past couple of years, because it seemed that the president was able to say things that were not fact- based. But reality is back with a vengeance now.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely, Alisyn. It's good to see you guys again.

Look, the president, the overwhelming fact in this election is that consistently in polling, 60 percent of Americans say he has failed on responding to the virus. And 60 percent also say that he's failed on responding to the challenge of race relations and racial equity in the country. And as long as that verdict holds, it is virtually impossible for him to get fully back into the race.

I mean, the evidence from history, Alisyn, is just so clear, that there's only so far an incumbent president can go to make the race about his opponent.

You know, in our national polling now, you know, virtually every poll, almost exactly half of Americans say they strongly disapprove of his performance in office.

You go back to 2012, Barack Obama lost 97-1, I think it was, among people who strongly disapproved of his performance. In '04, Bush lost 96-2 among people who strongly disapproved. In the ABC/"Post" poll, it's 94-1 for Biden among people who strongly disapprove about Trump.

He can do all that he wants to kind of raise doubts about Biden and say the cities are kind of burning with violence that is coming to get you in the suburbs, but as long as a clear majority of the Americans believe he has failed on the biggest challenge facing the country, he is going to be looking up in this race.

BERMAN: You know, Alisyn says reality counts. Reality kills --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BERMAN: -- when it comes to a pandemic. Reality kills. And the important number is a thousand people dead in America for the third day in a row. The important number is Florida every day near or at record deaths and record hospitalizations.

But there are political numbers here, too, Ron, which could be driving the president's situation, as I'm sure are. I am fascinated by seniors in Florida. And I think this tells you an incredible story.

In the Quinnipiac poll that came out yesterday, look how the president is doing with seniors there. Joe Biden is leading the president by three points among people 65 and older. OK?

Look at 2016, if we have that. In 2016, President Trump won people 65 and older by 17 points. Seventeen points. That's a huge reversal.

[06:10:04]

And I'm bringing this up not to talk about what might happen in November, but to talk about what's happening now, which is that the people most affected by the pandemic have just turned on the president.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. No Democrat has won seniors on a national basis since Al Gore in 2000. And, you know, the president, as you say, was very strong among not only seniors, but whites 45-64.

One key fact about seniors is they're much more white than the population overall. The Baby Boom was 80 percent white.

Now, reality counts. I mean, look at Florida. Look at the polling in that polling you cited, Quinnipiac. Seventy percent of the state say the virus is out of control. Roughly 60 percent disapprove of the way the president is handling. Roughly 60 percent disapprove of the way the governor is handling it.

And why not? I mean, they're going to cross 400,000 cases today or tomorrow. Sometime next week, they will probably pass New York as the most cases in the country. On a per capita basis, they have two times as many cases as any other state at this -- as California, which is, you know, not exactly doing great either.

So, yes, the president is paying a price.

And I would say, John, that his kind of cultural message of, you know, the cities are out of control, and they're coming to get you, if there's an audience that might work with, elements of it, it would be older white voters. But again, there's only so far you can push that, as long as there is this consensus that you have failed on literally a life-and-death issue, probably the greatest life-and-death challenge that Americans have faced in our lifetime.

CAMEROTA: Of course, there's a nexus between the crime in cities and coronavirus. I mean, we in the past week have had the commissioner of New York's police department on, as well as the mayor, who said that the court systems had to shut down because of coronavirus, so crimes weren't being prosecuted. I mean, there's a connection between people being released -- criminals being released out on the street and coronavirus.

But in terms of if that pivot to law and order will work, Ron, you know, President Trump has been talking about how white housewives -- suburban housewives, I think was his expression --

BROWNSTEIN: His friends, yes.

CAMEROTA: -- really care about this. Do you see evidence that, if he pivots to law and order, it could help him?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, look, his message is obvious, right? It's that the cities are these breeding grounds now of in insurrection and violence, and they are coming to get you in the suburbs. And I am the human wall. I am the last line of defense between you and these marauding mobs from the cities that are coming to get you.

Look, there's always an audience, as he has shown, for kind of this overt kind of fanning of racial resentment, but I -- it's pretty clear I don't think it's anywhere near a majority.

I mean, what's happening, I think, very consistently around the country is that people in the suburbs are finding that they identify more with the viewpoints of kind of the urban centers nearby than they do with the rural areas 30 to 40 miles further out.

You know, it's -- the dynamic -- you know, in 1968, when Richard Nixon promised law and order, most people in the suburbs, I think, probably believed he could deliver it.

Today, it's pretty clear in polling that many, many suburbanites believe that President Trump's approach is increasing the amount of violence, because he is fanning the flames of kind of racial discord in the country.

And for that matter, they've certainly reached that same conclusion about his approach to the coronavirus. Don't forget that, in these Sun Belt suburbs, which are kind of the new battleground of American politics -- outside Phoenix, and Dallas, and Houston, and Atlanta, and then the I-4 corridor -- these are places where local officials are being stopped by Republican governors acting, really, on President Trump's cues from imposing local lockdowns, despite the surging cases.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, explicitly, you're seeing the governors do that. And I think both of these combine in the same way to kind of blunt the impact of that message, although there is probably some audience for it.

BERMAN: Look, yes, it was the president who pushed to reopen, probably sooner than these states should have. It was the president who pushed to pack stadiums. It was the president who was mocking masks. And it may be hard for voters to forget that.

Ron Brownstein, great to see you in the morning. Thanks so much for getting up for us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Florida smashed another record for coronavirus deaths. The highest daily death toll that state has seen. We're going to get an update on the situation, which in some ways is getting worse this morning, live from Miami, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:18:23]

CAMEROTA: Florida breaking another record yesterday, with 173 coronavirus deaths. This morning, much of the focus remains on what schools should do about reopening.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Miami with the latest. What's the thinking this morning, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning.

The state of Florida shattered its death toll record yesterday, reporting 173 deaths within a 24-hour period. Now, if you look at the number of daily cases, they've been around

10,000 for the past four days. Governor Ron DeSantis yesterday very quick to say that the cases have stabilized, that Miami is improving.

I asked Dr. Aileen Marty. She is an infectious disease expert, and she says it is too quick to make that call. She said just look at the ICUs in Miami-Dade County, which according to the county, are operating at 132 percent capacity.

And look at the hospitalizations, which according to the county, in the past two weeks have increased by 27 percent; ICUs by 37 percent. Ventilators by 71 percent.

And the 14-day positivity average here in Miami-Dade County is 19.5 percent.

As we look statewide, 55 ICU hospitals are at capacity this morning.

As for the most vulnerable in this state, seniors, seniors in long- term care facilities and deaths linked to long-term care facilities account for 46 percent of the more than 5,000 deaths now here in the state of Florida.

This as we learned this morning that the state, according to state officials, is initiating a reassessment of the COVID-19 situation at long-term care facilities. They're going to go and reassess nearly 4,000 long-term care facilities across the state.

[06:20:17]

And all new this morning, we're learning from a Quinnipiac poll that Florida voters disapprove of both how Gov. Ron DeSantis and the president are handling this pandemic. Take a look.

When you look at how voters believe that President Trump is handling this, 59 percent disapprove. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of how Gov. Ron DeSantis is handling it.

And Alisyn and John, we know that the president and the governor are in constant communication. We learned from the governor's office that they spoke about COVID-19 just Wednesday. We didn't learn any more details, because the governor's office did not release more details. But we do know that they spoke about the pandemic on Wednesday.

CAMEROTA: Very interesting to see those numbers this morning.

FLORES: John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, Rosa.

So President Trump for the first time conceding that some schools may need to delay their reopening plans.

Joining us now is the expert that Rosa --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: -- districts delay reopening for a few weeks. And that's

possible. That will be up to governors. The decision should be made based on the data and the facts on the grounds in each community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. Joining us now is the expert that Rosa just cited, Dr. Aileen Marty. She's an infectious disease professor at Florida International University in Miami.

OK, Doctor, there's been a lot of mixed messages this week about schools, but we -- as we end this week, does it seem to you that the consensus is sort of gelling around next month, schools are not going to be able to reopen in-person five days a week?

DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROFESSOR, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: I think it's very clear that it's very unlikely that we could meet our own standards for opening within that time frame, especially with how things are going on right now. So it's very unlikely we'll be able to open face-to-face schools on time.

BERMAN: It's interesting. Look, the CDC finally put out their guidelines, which are sort of to wrap around the gating criteria that they issued months ago on schools.

And in it, they had a sentence which I think tells the whole story here. They say, "If there is substantial uncontrolled submission [SIC], schools should work closely with local health officials to make decisions on whether to maintain school operations. The health and safety and well-being of students, teachers and staff, and their families is the most important factor to determining whether school closure is a necessary step."

So while the president is still publicly urging schools to open and while even these guidelines that CDC released leaned on reopening as the goal, they made clear there's this huge backdoor. If there's serious uncontrolled transmission, don't reopen. And that's California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi. You can go on and on and on and on. So the CDC is basically saying, without saying, pause.

MARTY: Absolutely. I had a meeting last night with some of the charter school individuals, and they have the same thoughts as the public school individuals, that it is way too dangerous here right now to have face-to-face schools.

And we're drowning. We're absolutely drowning here. It's just an overwhelming number of cases: 527 individuals in the ICUs. And our doctors and nurses and respiratory technicians are all on overtime. It is just exhausting.

CAMEROTA: We hear you, Dr. Marty. We hear you. I mean, you don't say that often to us. And we can feel your frustration. I mean, you've been trying to cry out and sound the alarm on this for weeks. And it feels like today just feels different to you. MARTY: Yes. And I'll tell you that the docs and nurses and so forth

that I work with gave a sigh of relief and joy when we heard that the conventions in Jacksonville were going to be not happening.

BERMAN: Very quickly, cases plateauing. The idea that the growth in new cases may have flattened, is that important, and is it real?

MARTY: Well, you know, you've got -- you've got to see things -- you have to watch a trend. And remember, these numbers go up and down a little bit every day, depending on, you know, a lot of different factors.

I think we have to wait -- of course, it's hopeful that we admitted a few less people yesterday than we did the day before, but our sense is it's still way high and higher than it was yesterday for admissions, as well as for the ICU beds and ventilators.

[06:25:05]

CAMEROTA: Dr. Aileen Marty, take care of yourself. Try to get some rest. We really appreciate being able to call upon you to give us a status report of what's happening down there. We're thinking of all of you.

Now to this. China retaliates, ordering the U.S. to close one of its consulates. Details in a live report from Beijing about all of this escalation, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, breaking news. China striking back. We learned overnight that China has ordered the U.S. to close its consulate in Chengdu in retaliation for the U.S. ordering the Chinese to shutter their consulate in Houston.

CNN's David Culver live in Beijing with the breaking details on this. Again, the relationship continues to trend downward.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Deteriorating with each passing day, John. No question.

The Chinese said they were going to retaliate. This is it.