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THE SITUATION ROOM
Coronavirus Surging; Interview with Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Interview with Thomas Friedman; Texas Reports Nearly 200 Deaths in a Day, Second Highest Toll in 24 Hours; CDC Says, Kids Should Go to Schools Unless Transmission Uncontrolled; North Carolina City Confronts Racism With Reparations for Its Black Residents. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 24, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news.
The World Health Organization just reported a record number of coronavirus cases around the world at the close of a very, very deadly week here in the United States, the U.S. death toll now topping 145,000 and more -- after more than 1,000 deaths a day here in the U.S. for three days running.
Also, tonight, as the rate of new infections appears to be plateauing at very high levels in several key states, a top coronavirus task member is warning that the danger remains very, very urgent and very, very real.
Dr. Deborah Birx likening the threat in Florida, Texas, and California to three New York, her words, three New York, the former virus epicenter here in the U.S. California just reported its highest one- day death toll yet, but also tonight, the White House is arguing that children should go back to school, even if future studies find they are transmitting the virus.
The CDC issuing new guidance today on how to make that happen.
Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's in Los Angeles for us.
Nick, California, unfortunately, setting yet another record in this pandemic.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
According to the state, 159 lives lost in just 24 hours, and that is a new record, because it's two more than yesterday. And, meanwhile, the deputy secretary of education says that, across this country, come the fall, the default needs to be schools fully open and operational.
WATT (voice-over): The president, backed by new CDC guidelines, pushing hard for schools to reopen, brick and mortar.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Being at the school, being on the campus is very, very important.
WATT: But is it safe? The CDC says: "Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low," emphasis on "suggest" and "may."
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We certainly know from other studies that children under 10 do get infected. It's just unclear how rapidly they spread the virus.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think we still need to learn a lot about children, elementary school children, getting infected and whether they either spread or not efficiently to adults.
WATT: In hot spots, schools should figure out a plan with local health officials, says the CDC. They define a hot spot as a county with more than 5 percent of tests coming back positive.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: The majority of the nation right now actually has positivity rates that are less than 5 percent.
WATT: Across the country, in more than half of our states, average new case counts are right now steady or falling. That's good, case counts generally falling in Arizona after a very difficult month, and hard- hit Florida?
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I do think South Florida has definitely stabilized, and I think Miami is showing some signs of improvement as well.
WATT: He's right. New case rates in Florida are leveling off, but leveling off very high. And average daily deaths in the state are at an all-time high. And in Miami-Dade County, ICUs are now operating at 132 percent capacity.
DR. AILEEN MARTY, HERBERT WERTHEIM COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We're drowning. We're absolutely drowning here. It's just an overwhelming number of cases, 527 individuals in the ICUs.
WATT: Tennessee just suffered a record daily death toll, still no statewide mask mandate, but they launched this PSA today.
NARRATOR: This is the face of a fighter. Face it. Masks fight COVID- 19.
WATT: Washington state has made masks mandatory everywhere, except inside your house.
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Our suppression of this virus is not at the level it needs to be. WATT: Starr County, Texas, just ordered everyone to shelter at home.
According to the county, "Our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment and who is sent home to die by their loved ones."
One major model projects around another 75,000 Americans might die before November. So, now we should hit the reset button, say 150 prominent medical experts and others who signed an open letter to our leaders: "Shut it down now and start over."
DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: I don't personally think that's necessary. I think that, if we just do the commonsense things, we can get this under control, as other countries have gotten under control.
WATT: So, the absolute opposite of this tight-packed, unmasked religious service in Northern California.
WATT: And, as of today, to walk into any Chipotle in this country, you must be wearing a mask. And McDonald's is going to do the same from next weekend.
And they are clearly anticipating some issues. They say that if somebody arrives without a mask, they will try and deal with them in a friendly, expedited way. They will offer them a mask, and if they refuse it, that customer will be told to stand in an area away from everybody else, so that staff and other customers can stay safe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's not difficult. Just wear a mask.
Nick Watt, reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's go to the White House right now, where officials are publicly in denial about the president's reversals, as his coronavirus missteps weigh in on his bid for reelection.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, there was no briefing from the president today, after three in a row. We did get some new spin, though, from over at the White House.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Spin and denial, Wolf.
White House officials are demonstrating their tortured relationship with reality, insisting President Trump hasn't changed on the coronavirus, one day after he scrapped his convention plans in Florida. The misleading rhetoric is not doing much to mask the administration scrambling, though, to get a handle on a pandemic that is raging out of control tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): Just as the president is changing course in his response to the coronavirus, White House officials are trying to pull a fast one, falsely claiming Mr. Trump has been consistent all along.
QUESTION: What changed this week? Why did his tone change?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There has been no change. He hasn't changed, in fact, and just speaking on COVID generally, the way I have heard him talk privately in the Oval Office is the way he's talking out here.
ACOSTA: But that's not true. The president just pulled the plug on his big convention speech in Jacksonville, citing concerns about the virus.
TRUMP: But 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.
ACOSTA: Contrast with his rally in June, when the president praised his supporters as warriors for risking their lives to cheer on Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: You are warriors. I have been watching. I have 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 have never seen anything like it. I have never seen anything like it. You are warriors. Thank you.
ACOSTA: A GOP Convention official described the party's decision to move some of its events to Jacksonville before scrapping them as "a multimillion-dollar debacle. And think of where that money could have gone."
Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it's a good thing the president is now listening to warnings about large crowds.
FAUCI: I believe he and others in the White House have heard us speak about that, so I would hope that that maybe had some influence in the decision, but I think it was a good decision.
ACOSTA: New polls also explain the president's recent reversals, as he's down double digits in Florida and in Pennsylvania, while also trailing badly in Michigan and Minnesota.
While the president is moving to protect his party's delegates, he's determined to send most U.S. schoolchildren back to the classroom.
TRUMP: Given these considerations, we believe many school districts can now reopen safely, provided they implement mitigation measures.
ACOSTA: The administration is pointing to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, advising schools to reopen with strong safety measures.
MCENANY: It is our firm belief that our schools are essential places of business.
ACOSTA: That's despite the warning from Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Deborah Birx, who is comparing Texas, Florida, and California to the situation in New York at the beginning of the pandemic.
BIRX: I just want to make it clear to the American public, what we have right now are essentially three New York with these three major states.
ACOSTA: Fauci said the president's recent about-face on masks may help.
FAUCI: As you can see, the president has come around now about wearing a mask and has actually been recommending it. So I think we're moving in a really positive direction in that regard.
ACOSTA: And yet there were missed opportunities this week, from a Medal of Freedom ceremony.
TRUMP: Coaches, here they are.
ACOSTA: To this photo opportunity celebrating the return of Major League Baseball, where there were few masks in sight.
The president does sound regretful about one thing, his Twitter account.
QUESTION: Do you ever tweet out and be like -- wake up and, oh, man, I wish I didn't send that one out?
TRUMP: Often. Too often. We put it out instantaneously. We feel great. And then you start getting phone calls. Did you really say this? I say, what's wrong with that?
And you find a lot of things.
ACOSTA: Now, as for the president's recent slide in the polls, a Trump campaign adviser said it is far too soon to give up on the November election.
But the adviser said candidly, the president is running out of time to turn things around. If the polls look this way at the end of August, the adviser said -- quote -- "Then we worry."
As for Mr. Trump, he sounds like he is missing his life as a private citizen, telling Barstool Sports earlier today in an interview that his best days came right before he announced he was running for president -- Wolf.
All right, thank you very much, Jim Acosta at the White House. Joining us now, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. surgeon general
during the Obama administration. He's currently advising Joe Biden's campaign.
Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for joining us.
And, as you heard, the last 24 hours saw a record number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported globally. The World Health Organization says more than 284,000 cases were reported within the last day alone.
At this stage of this pandemic, are you surprised, Dr. Murthy, that these numbers are still clearly heading in the wrong direction?
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Wolf, it's good to be with you today.
And I'm as concerned as anyone about direction of the numbers. I think what they tell us is a few things, that, number one, this is a very, very challenging virus to deal with. It is far more infectious than we may have originally thought. It affects far more organ systems in the body and causes more health complications than we had originally thought.
And even countries that did a great job early on in tamping down the number of infections are finding that they have to really remain vigilant in testing and in contact tracing, because many infections do crop up and they have got to tamp down on them.
So, in the United States, unfortunately, we never went up and came all the way down, the way most countries did. We went up, came down a little bit, and then surged again to new highs.
And so we are still trying to get to where many other countries are, which is a point where we have control over the number of infections.
BLITZER: Yes, we clearly don't have control right now.
All this comes, Dr. Murthy, as U.S. -- the U.S. records more than 1,000 deaths for the third day in a row. What does this troubling trend tell you about where we are in the United States, specifically, in our fight against this virus?
MURTHY: Well, Wolf, what it tell us is that we are nowhere close to having COVID-19 under control in the United States.
And we have had several opportunities to do that. Early on, in the beginning of this pandemic, we had a chance to step in and to take measures to reduce spread and to really build up testing capacity and contact tracing work forces.
We missed that opportunity over the last several months. We -- it's still not too late, though. But what we have got to do is, first and foremost, we have to get infections under control. And that means mandatory mask orders. It means closing indoor spaces that facilitate transmission, like bars and indoor dining at restaurants. It means prohibiting crowds of more than 10 people in places which are
hot spots. But we have also got to, in parallel, make sure that we are increasing our testing capacity dramatically.
In the spring, we saw a gradual uptick in testing, but what we really needed was an explosion in testing capacity. And the result is that we're now running short once again, which is reminding us just how critical that testing function is.
And, finally, contact tracing, Wolf. It is so important to have people who are trained and able to trace contacts once we identify somebody who's infected. That's how you actually contain the infection. And we are far, far short, actually, of the numbers of contact tracers we need in order to actually contain this infection.
So we have got to be working on all of these in parallel. We actually know how to do it. The science is actually -- is clear enough for us to know what steps to take. We just need the leadership and the political will to take those steps.
BLITZER: Yes, we certainly do.
Dr. Deborah Birx says the threat of this virus in Florida, Texas, and California, specifically, is like three New Yorks. We saw the devastation of this virus in New York a couple of months ago. Are those states prepared for what is clearly going to be a very heavy toll?
MURTHY: The states in the Sunbelt, I think, are really struggling. I'm speaking to you today from Miami, Florida. This is a place where I grew up. I love this state, but we're really struggling here in Florida to get a handle on this infection.
Write I am in Miami-Dade County, there may be some recent improvement in numbers. There's an order in place here to wear masks. There have been restrictions in place which have closed down a lot of in-door settings like bars, and I hope those are helping.
But this is going to get worse before it gets better. We know that there's a trajectory to this, that first people's exposure increases, then we start to see symptoms develop, then we see case numbers go up, then we see E.R. visits and hospitalizations and ICUs fill, then we see deaths rise.
And we're still in the phase of seeing deaths rise. And we should expect that that will be the case for several days.
What hurts the most, though, Wolf, about this, when looking at the lives lost and at the dreams deferred of young people who are not able to go to school, and looking at the economic pain that so many people are experiencing, what hurts the most about this, Wolf, is that so much of this was, in fact, avoidable.
Our current COVID-19 crisis represents not a failure of science, but a failure of leadership. And we didn't have to be choosing between public health and our children's education in the fall. The pathway to opening schools, to opening our economy, to restarting
sports and recreation is a strong and effective COVID-19 response. And it's not too late for our leaders to step up and provide that response.
BLITZER: Otherwise, tens of thousands of Americans are going to die over the next few months.
Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for joining us.
MURTHY: Good to be you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we will have more on President Trump's belated efforts to retool his public response to the coronavirus by holding briefings and by backtracking.
"The New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman -- there you see him -- he's standing by live. We will get his reaction.
We will also talk about the latest guidance on school reopenings with two top officials from Miami-Dade County.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news on the coronavirus crisis, including a new one-day global spike in confirmed cases, the tally pushed up by the spread of the pandemic right here in the United States.
And this comes as President Trump is trying to reboot his pandemic response.
Joining us now, "The New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman.
Tom, thanks very much for joining us.
As you know, the president is back holding his coronavirus briefings this week, not today, but he did it three days in a row, after spending months downplaying, even ignoring this virus.
The White House press secretary insists his approach hasn't changed. What do you say about that?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, you know, Wolf, the thing that I think history will say about Donald Trump, I don't think they will be particularly harsh on him for what he didn't do back in, say, December, when the right thing was hard and it was uncertain.
I think what history will really damn him for is not doing what is now easy, clear, known. And what is so crazy about it, Wolf, is that, for his own self-interest, if I were Donald Trump, I would be telling everyone, you do not come out of your house without wearing a mask. If you do, you are an unpatriotic American, number one.
And, number two, you do not gather in any large group, and I'm closing all bars and restaurants.
If we just did those two things, every study shows, Wolf, if we just did those two things, everyone wears a mask everywhere in public and ban all kind of gatherings, we could really break the back of this thing. That's proven. It's clear.
And if I were Trump going into a fall election, wouldn't I want to be riding that momentum, not a bunch of schools closed from coast to coast? So, I really don't understand what he's doing, frankly.
BLITZER: Yes, more than 145,000 Americans have died over the past five months or so.
Many of them would be alive right now if he would have recommended, if he would have strongly told the American public, you have got to go out and wear a mask at all times and don't engage in any of these crowds, social distancing.
The president's return to the White house Briefing Room this week came not after a surge in cases, which is awful, or in response to the crisis, but after a series of polls painted a very, very bleak picture for the president in his reelection campaign.
What does that tell you, Tom, about his priorities?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I think we have always known his number one priority is himself and his reelection, even though he can't even describe what he wants to do when he's reelected.
So, none of that really surprises me. But I guess what surprises me is his unwillingness to recommend the easy and the obvious.
And what surprises me, Wolf, is the reluctance of his own party to demand that of him, given the fact they, too, could go down with this ship.
BLITZER: You know, the president once again is pointing to the results of a cognitive test he took maybe a year or so ago. I want to play part of a bizarre exchange he had.
Listen to this.
(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 will go person, woman, man, camera, TV.
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."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Seems to be trying to prove his mental fitness, Tom, but is this an example of -- is this example of what he's doing having the opposite effect?
FRIEDMAN: Wolf, if Martians came to Earth and saw that clip, they would be utterly scratching their head.
We're in the middle of a pandemic, and this guy is trying to prove that he can repeat five simple phrases. It's really out of another galaxy, is all I can tell you.
And I think when we -- if and when this presidency ends in November, I think we will look back and say, what the hell was that all about? That was so crazy.
We're in the middle of the greatest public health crisis in our -- in the last 100 years, and this guy is simply trying to prove, you know, that he can -- he can repeat five words better than Joe Biden.
And if you're going to repeat something, Mr. President, how about masks, masks, masks, masks, and masks?
BLITZER: Critically important.
Tom Friedman, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Always great having you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay safe out there.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks. You too, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead: As Texas reports another staggering one-day death toll, we're learning about painful choices being made at local hospitals.
And we will get an update on the packed hospitals in Florida right now, where new cases may be leveling off, but the crisis is not.
BLITZER: We have breaking news on the coronavirus crisis in Texas right now. The state reporting nearly 200 deaths in a day. That's the second highest daily death toll there. This as the governor just announced a joint task force of more than 1,000 members of the military to assist in the hospitals.
Let's go to CNN National Correspondent, Ed Lavendera, he's in Dallas for us. Ed, I understand hospitals are so overwhelmed in one county, in Southern Texas, that doctors have to choose who to send home to die. What are you learning?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Well, this is happening in Starr County, down there in South Texas, an area that has been the hotspot within this Texas hotspot. County officials there saying that the county hospital in Starr County, that they're going to create essentially ethics and triage teams to go through the patients and determine which patients can be treated there at the hospital and which patients might be too sick to be treated and have to go home and wait to die, essentially. This because the number of COVID patients has exploded there over the course of just in the last month.
County officials say they didn't have any COVID patients about a month ago. Now, they have more than 1,400, more than 40 added to the rolls there yesterday, so a great deal of concern there, hospitalizations and deaths up. The number of overall new cases beginning to show signs of plateauing, but there's still disturbing details in this medical data.
Here in Dallas County, the county judge announced that one of the people who died, reported died today, was a five-year-old child. Wolf?
BLITZER: Oh, my God, five years old. All right, Ed Lavendera, thank you.
Now, to Florida where the daily death toll has surpassed 100 for the ninth time this month. CNN's Randi Kaye is in West Palm Beach for us.
So, Randi, while the state's death toll climbs, the rate of new cases has started to level off a bit, but still at very high levels. What's the latest there?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the governor here likes to say that we're on the right course, but we still are seeing 2,000 more cases today than we saw yesterday, a total of 12,329 new cases and another 135 more deaths. Also, hospitalizations statewide are still going up, an 83 percent jump in hospitalizations since July 4th. That was certainly a time when people were out and about, so maybe that is the reason for the uptick.
Meanwhile, today, in Jacksonville, they have landed on a plan to reopen schools. They have a hybrid learning plan approved. Schools there in Jacksonville will open ten days later than planned, originally, and the elementary school students will be going back to those brick and mortar schools, Wolf, five days a week. The middle schoolers and high schoolers, they'll be on more of a phased-in plan. But, remember, this is where the president just canceled his portion of the Jacksonville RNC, and now, they're sending these kids back to school next month. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Randi, thank you.
Arizona, where thousands of new infections are being reported, but the rate of cases appears to be easing. Our National Correspondent, Miguel Marquez, is joining us.
So, Miguel, what does all of this mean for the school year where you are in Arizona?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, some encouraging signs, but they're not past the pandemic yet. There is a massive amount of virus out there in Arizona. The governor wanted to start in-person school on the 1st, as it usually does, 1st of August, then pushed he back to an aspirational date of the 17th of August. Now, he's saying all of that is off.
The Department of Health Services in Arizona is going to come up with a system of metrics, basically, where the state needs to be before schools can start opening up to in-person instruction.
Right now, school districts across the state are already making their own decisions. Many of them pushing back in-person instruction until at least October, and considering pushing it all the way back into 2021. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Miguel, thank you, Miguel Marquez reporting.
Just ahead, the CDC is now urging schools to reopen for in-person learning. I'll ask the mayor and the school superintendent of Miami- Dade County about their plans for fall classes. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: New CDC guidelines strongly favor reopening schools for in- person learning, even as a top Trump administration doctor says the science around how children actually spread the virus is unclear.
Let's bring in Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and the county's school superintendent, Alberto Carvalho.
Mayor Gimenez, I want to talk about schools in just a moment, but let me get a sense from you of the overall picture in Miami-Dade County right now, which has certainly become a global hotspot for the virus. New cases appear to have plateaued in Florida. They have plateaued though in a very, very high level and the death toll is still climbing rapidly. Give us a sense, Mayor, of where things stand in Miami-Dade County right now.
MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: Well, the good news, the hospitalization rate has plateaued. It's within the capacity of our health system to maintain it at this level. We want to see it lowered. And so, you know, so we did flatten out the curve at this point, but now we want to see this, the measures that we've taken are actually going to drive down the contagion.
We also have to deliver the message. You need to keep your social distance, got to wash your hands, got to wear a mask. You got to wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands. And if we do that, then we will continue to drive this contagion down.
There are some good signs in the last week here in Miami-Dade, but we've got to keep the pedal to the metal on the measures we've taken, on enforcement, and delivering the message.
And if we do that, then we can drive this contagion down.
BLITZER: And you'll save a lot of lives if people simply do those simple things.
Superintendent Carvalho, let's talk a little bit about plans to reopen schools in the coming weeks, where you are. The CDC says there are new guidelines that should facilitate reopening schools, not serve as a reason to keep them closed. Do these new guidelines, which just came out today, from your perspective, lay out a viable path to reopening?
ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Wolf, to a certain extent, they state the obvious that we've known for a long time, that the best place to teach kids is in school for a number of reasons. Number one, there are deleterious conditions that can come about when kids are kept in isolation. There's the learning lost, the academic regression, the lack of socialization impact to their not only cognitive, but also social, emotional well-being, their mental health.
With that said, you know, the renewed report does provide guidelines that are helpful to parents, a number of checklists. They state the obvious regarding mitigation strategies and preventative measures. But they also mention something very important, that the mayor talked about it. It mentions that decisions need to be made in collaboration with local health departments, focusing not only on American data, but actually the health data specific to our community.
And as the mayor said, we are at a positivity rate of 19.7 percent, an ICU capacity exceeding 130 percent. We need to see those trends continue to be lowered if we are to have a safe, successful reopening of schools. We are ready. What we don't know is will the community be ready in terms of environmental conditions.
BLITZER: Right, that's really important. And, Mayor Gimenez, the superintendent makes a very important point, because the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, says counties with greater than 5 percent testing positivity rate should consider closing schools. As you know, Miami-Dade County right now is currently reporting around 20 percent of the tests come back positive. So what are the chances your county will be able to bring that number down below 5 percent in the near future and fully reopen schools?
GIMENEZ: I don't think it's going to happen within the next four weeks. I think that this is going to be a slow downward trajectory. Working with the school superintendent and we need to develop different plans for different stages of where we are here in Miami- Dade County. And so it's going to take a while for us to get down to that 5 percent rate. So I'm not mystic optimistic that in the next four weeks we'll be able to do that.
And so, again, we're going to listen to our medical experts here, we're going to talk to the superintendent, we're going to discuss it and then he'll make a decision and I'll make a decision too on, you know, whether an assembly, like a school, is something that we can open up safely here in Miami-Dade County.
It's all going to be down to the scientists, it's all going to be down to how our community drives down the level of contagion until we both feel -- we both feel safe and we both feel comfortable with taking the steps of opening up schools in the normal way.
BLITZER: You've said, Superintendent Carvalho, that if the situation remains roughly what it is right now, there's no way schools are going to be able to reopen fully in-class learning, for example, in Miami- Dade County. Is that right?
CARVALHO: That is correct. I mean, I think the mayor and I both agree. Number one, we're advised by the same excellent health and public health experts here in our community. And, you know, the metrics and the criteria that they have laid out is very clear.
If the reopening of schools were to be tomorrow, considering a positivity rate of close to 20 percent, an ICU capacity exceeding 130 percent, you know, a 27 percent increase in hospitalization over the past two weeks, even though we have recently plateaued, those are conditions that are counterintuitive to a traditional reopening of schools.
With that said, we have contingency plans, and the mayor alluded to them. We have the flexibility to delay the start of the school year. We have the ability to stagger the start of the school year with individuals with students who are less prone to develop symptoms. The concern is obviously them being vectors to older members of our community.
BLITZER: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, we love Miami-Dade County, good luck to you. I know these are not easy decisions, but as I often say, these are life-and-death decisions that you have to make. We'll stay in very close touch with you. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
GIMENEZ: Thank you, Wolf.
CARVALHO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have much more on the coronavirus.
Also, how one North Carolina city is confronting inequality amid the nationwide protests against racism.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Much more coming on the coronavirus here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But also tonight, CNN is again putting the spotlight on the struggle for racial justice in America.
One North Carolina city is taking on the contentious issue of reparations.
Our political correspondent Abby Philip is looking into all of this for us.
Abby, what are you finding out?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the killing of George Floyd prompted nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. But it also touched off a new conversation about reparations. Now, most people associate reparations with writing the wrongs of slavery.
But in Asheville, North Carolina, where we went this week, the southern city is taking a different approach and seeking to address racial inequities that are far more recent.
PHILLIP (voice-over): Tucked away in the deeply conservative Blue Ridge region of North Carolina, Asheville is a liberal oasis.
JULIE MAYFIELD, ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL: Asheville is by far the bluest dot west of Charlotte.
PHILLIP: But even here, this summer has been different.
MAYFIELD: The demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's murder really were different. The momentum is like nothing we've ever felt before.
PHILLIP: Black Lives Matter signs are unmistakable in store fronts across the city and in the heart of downtown.
(on camera): So, what is this?
SHENEIKA SMITH, ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL: This is a Confederate monument and it looks this way because we decided to shroud it until a task force decides exactly what we're going to do with it, remove it or repurpose it.
PHILLIP (voice-over): Recently, the city council of this predominantly white city pledged to tackle its dark past, passing a resolution promising to work towards reparations, but not without controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not responsible for what happened 200 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I find this wrong in so many ways and I strongly oppose it. The black people are not the only race that have been enslaved in America and around the world.
PHILLIP: But it's not just slavery which the city apologized for when it passed the resolution. It is also something far more recent.
PRISCILLA NDIAYE ROBINSON, ASHEVILLE RESIDENT: Before urban renewal was implemented, all down this street were homeowners.
PHILLIP: Urban renewal, which many black Americans called urban removal played out in Ashville and cities all across the country in the 1950s and '60s.
ROBINSON: The red are the areas that were acquisition by Asheville Housing Authority. Those were properties, homes and businesses that were taken, sold, however you want to put it.
PHILLIP (on camera): Yes. So, all of these were owned by --
ROBINSON: Blacks, African Americans, yes.
PHILLIP (voice-over): Houses in poor or blighted neighborhoods like the one Priscilla Robinson grew up in were acquired by the city, marked to be demolished or renovated.
ROBINSON: I can remember as a young girl seeing everyone dragging furniture. As I described it, it was like a wagon trail. People were carrying chairs. It was a community breakdown.
PHILLIP: Black residents were moved out and into public housing, told they would be able to return. But for many, that promise was never kept. Today, nearly 60 percent of people who live in low income public housing in Ashville are black, though black people make up just 12 percent of the city's population, a legacy of urban renewal and discriminatory policies like red lining.
ROBINSON: What with see now is the result. This is public housing. What could have been still homeowners up and down Livingston Street.
PHILLIP: The reparations resolution is vague. But the city council's hope is that they can create programs that will help balance housing inequity and rebuild generational wealth that was stripped from black residents during urban renewal and in decades before it.
As for cash payments --
SMITH: The language in the resolution did not directly speak to cash payments, but it did not exclude that as an option.
PHILLIP: That's the part that has made reparations a flash point in Washington.
MCCONNELL: I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.
PHILLIP: Yet cities like Ashville, Evanston, Illinois, and Providence, Rhode Island, are facing the controversy head on.
SMITH: As white people, we wake up every day and benefit from the systems that exist, that keep people of color at an economic and educational and health disadvantage and give us a straighter track in the world. Our world in this country is built for white people.
PHILLIP: Now, Wolf, the issue of reparations is by no means settled in Ashville or anywhere else, but what Ashville does decide to do could hold lessons for national lawmakers looking to address historic inequities but not just through cash payments, also through long term programs that are aimed at economic and social wellbeing of black Americans, Wolf.
BLITZER: Abby Phillip, reporting for us, excellent report. Thank you very much.
Much more news coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Finally, our nightly tribute to some of the victims of the coronavirus.
Louise "Babe" Delvecchio in New Jersey was 91. She was a mother of four, grandmother of three and had a fourth great grandchild on the way. We're told she loved to laugh and treasured her independence, working until she was 81.
Frank Fulbright of Texas was 65. He was a pastor, a U.S. military veteran and a tough but sensitive father of four daughters. One of those daughters says frank never said the words "I can't" and he encouraged others to follow his lead and shoot for the moon.
May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.
Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back here for a special edition of the SITUATION ROOM tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.