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Hometown Memorial Service Underway For Rep. John Lewis; U.S. Deaths Top 1000-Plus For Fourth Straight Day; FDA Authorizes First Test For Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases; Money And Power Behind Disparity In U.S. COVID Testing?; Brazil Reports 56,000 New COVID-19 Cases Overnight; Millions Face Uncertainty As $600 Unemployment Benefit Set To Expire. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired July 25, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin this hour remembering a true champion of civil rights who's courage, honor and sacrifice to this country cannot be overstated.
In the last hour, friends and family paid tribute to Congressman John Lewis in his birthplace of Troy, Alabama. The service is the start of six days of ceremonies in cities that shape the civil rights icon's life including one last journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, tomorrow.
And today the people who knew Lewis the best spoke about his commitment to creating a better world for everyone. We heard from five siblings and a nephew, all of whom said he was humble, an uncle and a hero and we'll have more on Congressman Lewis' life and legacy in just a moment.
But first new developments in the battle against the coronavirus. Johns Hopkins University now reporting the fourth straight day of over 1000 deaths in the U.S. This as a number of cases rises to over 4.1 million. The FDA is announcing a new tool to combat the virus. Its first test to positively identify COVID-19 in people who show no symptoms.
The FDA says it's a possible game changer that could help lead to the reopening of schools and businesses. CNN's Polo Sandoval is tracking the latest on the coronavirus crisis from New York. Polo, over 4 million cases in the U.S. now so what's being done potentially to slow the spread.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Over 4 million cases Fred, as you point out and over 145,000 deaths in United States. Of course, all you have to do is look at some of those numbers. You'll certainly see that there are many parts of the United States that are not on the track that they wish they were on. California is one such example.
This week it adds itself to the list of top three stages that have been the hardest hit COVID-19 surpassing 400,000 cases here in New York. We saw that during when we were seeing the worst of the pandemic and then of course Florida still dealing with that right now. Not far behind California is Texas as well already seeing, a close at 380,000 cases.
Now when you hear from some of these experts Fred, many of them will tell you that there are some parts - not just Texas, through the country where the numbers do seem to be plateauing but in essence what you have is a flattening of the numbers on top of a mountain.
And so the concern is that these numbers, though they may be fairly steady in some parts of the country but the concerns that they may stay relatively high and that that increases the burden on some of the medical facilities across the country.
So we're hearing from medical experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert is that this certainly is a crucial time, especially during the debate about whether or not to open schools this fall. It is the right time to reflect on reopening procedures that have been implemented throughout various parts of the country and assess what works and what hasn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: My advice would be time out and maybe go back to a prior check point and from that point, try to proceed in a very measured, prudent way according to the guidelines. If we do that, I think we can control the surging that we're seeing in those states.
For the other states, I would say please take a look at the example of what happens when you open in a way that might be too quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: And just before the weekend started dr. Antony Fauci also weighed in on these recent guidelines that were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at being received by school districts throughout the country as they try to weigh all of their options here and of course Fauci making it very clear that school districts should really consider the larger scope of things.
For example, what surrounding communities are seeing surrounding their school district and also some of health complications of some of their teachers may already be suffering because of course that's the last thing that we'd ever want to do, especially to see some of these teachers headed back to the classroom, potentially be vulnerable here.
So it's really, it's just part of the latest debate that we're seeing right now when it comes to reopening of schools.
WHITFIELD: Right, there are lots of worries. Children, the teachers, families at home, lots to ponder. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. All right, meantime Georgia is now reporting its highest number of coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic. The state reporting nearly 5,000 new infections, Friday as Governor Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms continue to spar over coronavirus restrictions.
CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now from Atlanta so Natasha, what more are you learning today?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes well, the two of them are in this battle about how to fight COVID in the state. They have been ordered by a judge to go through mediation before Tuesday and keep in mind, this lawsuit, this fight is happening under the backdrop of that record number of cases that you just mentioned on Friday.
More than 4800 new COVID cases in Georgia, breaking the record from just a week ago and you can look at the seven-day moving average of new cases to see the trend of how the cases have gone since July really skyrocketing there and on Friday, the state also saw 82 new reported deaths.
Of course reporting deaths, sometimes there's a lag there but you can still see the trend of from the 7-day average of new deaths reported, a similar very disturbing increase. Now Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did say that she is trying to iron out some of the disagreement she has with Kemp, that they had a good phone call of the conversation on Wednesday.
And that the two of them agree that masks save lives. At the same time, Governor Kemp has tweeted within the last 24 hours, a list of things he's done to try and combat the virus and the state and one of those things that he listed was filing this lawsuit to stop the business closures.
He's referring to this lawsuit against the Atlanta Mayor because he feels he's doing this on behalf of Atlanta businesses, that felt they needed to roll back to Phase 1 under the Mayor's order but that really was a set of recommendations for businesses like restaurants to go back to curbside pickup or delivery only.
In fact, a lot of those restaurants have decided to stay open, knowing that the state allows them to do so. The governor has also tried to reiterate some of the messaging to the state to try and curb the spread of this virus.
He launched a campaign this week to ask people to do four things for four weeks that includes wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and following the guidance of the state health department. So there is definite concern here given the numbers we've seen, the graphs we've seen.
At the same time a very different approach to how to combat this, Fred.
WHITFIELD: And then, there are a lot of parents in an Atlanta suburb and in the county of Gwinnett who are expressing their concerns because they really want their kids back in school as does everybody but they have very specific demands. What are they? CHEN: Yes and the trouble is Fred, that from the Gwinnett county
school standpoint, there have been multiple protests, those parents protesting Friday wanted to have the option of sending their kids back into a building but there were also teachers earlier in the week protesting that they didn't feel comfortable with that.
So it really is a tough situation for district officials to be in. They said that they changed their plan from offering both virtual and in classroom to an all virtual plan starting August 12 when they saw how serious the numbers are and of course that presents a problem perhaps for some parents who need to work outside the home and now this becomes a child care issue, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right Natasha Chen in Atlanta, thank you so much. All right now to Florida, where officials today reported more demoralizing numbers there. 124 Floridians lost their lives to the coronavirus on Friday and that marks the tenth day since the start of the pandemic deaths have surpassed 100.
All of which happened this month officials say another 12,000 new cases reported on Friday. Johns Hopkins University put the total number at over 414,000 which now exceeds New York's total case count.
The state of California also becoming a troubling new hot spot in this pandemic. Officials there reporting 159 new deaths on Friday. That brings the death toll up to more than 8300 in the state, more than half of those happening in Los Angeles county but despite those numbers, the state is moving ahead to allow elementary schools to reopen for in-person classes.
Students in districts on the state coronavirus watchlist can return by signing a waiver. Governor Newsom says the state is providing a waiver process because younger students are a lower risk of spreading the disease.
And then there's Texas reporting 196 coronavirus related deaths, Friday, marking that state's second highest number of COVID deaths in a single day. The daily number of fatality is climbing over recent days as hospitals become overwhelmed and some doctors are forced to decide which patients get treatment and which patients get sent home to die.
CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the daily routine for Dr. Federico Vallejo, a critical care pulmonologist. When he gets dressed, it looks like he's getting ready to be launched into another world. That's exactly what it's like to work in the COVID-19 unit of a South Texas hospital.
DR. FEDERICO VALLEJO, CRITICAL CARE PULMONOLOGIST: It's overwhelming. It's a tsunami that what we're handling now. LAVANDERA: Coronavirus patients have filled the hospital where Dr.
Vallejo works. On most days, Dr. Vallejo says he's treating about 70 different patients, four to five times more than he usually sees in a single day.
VALLEJO: I have never had to sign so many death certificates that I have been signing in the last couple of weeks. Talking to these families has been very, very difficult.
LAVANDERA: Can you describe the suffering that you've seen among these patients?
VALLEJO: This is a disease that affects the lungs and they would have trouble with the breathing and when it happens, it's heart breaking. It's is so difficult to watch them, many saying goodbyes to their relatives by picking up the phone and saying, I'm having more trouble, I'm having more trouble, I don't know what is going to happen next.
I see nurses crying all the time. I see doctors breaking down all the time. But then again that is what we do.
LAVANDERA: South Texas is the COVID-19 hot spot inside the Texas hot spot. Health officials are warning that hospital bed and ICU space are running out. Nursing and doctor teams are stretched to the limit.
Do you feel when you walk into these COVID units that it's like a parallel universe?
DR. IVAN MELENDEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY HEALTH AUTHORITY: It's definitely a parallel universe. If they only knew what lurked behind those walls, if they could only have X-ray vision and see the pain and the suffering.
LAVANDERA: Dr. Ivan Melendez is the Hidalgo County Health Authority based in McAllen, Texas. He says the COVID units are filled with the sound of patients gasping for air, many needing ventilators and gut wrenching conversations.
MELENDEZ: So you have people telling you Doc, please don't put me on that, don't put me on that and you struggle because you know that's what they need and then finally they just give up and they say. Go ahead but you know, you may be the last person that I ever talked to so please tell my family, tell my parents, tell my kids that I love them and - and that I fought hard.
Jessica Ortiz: It's a necklace with his ashes.
LAVANDERA: Jessica Ortiz says her twin brother Jubal Ortiz fought the virus for almost two weeks. The 27-year old worked as a security guard at a jewelry store.
ORTIZ: (inaudible) Sorry.
LAVANDERA: Jubal dies on July 3. At the funeral, friends and family paid their respects through a plastic shield over the casket. There was a fear his body still might be contagious. ORTIZ: He meant the world. I just wish he was here. I wish I had him
with me because he didn't live his life yet.
LAVANDERA: Jessica is left with this last image of her brother. A screen recording of one of their last conversations. Jubal Ortiz waving goodbye. Ed Lavandera, CNN Dallas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Coming up, remembering Congressman John Lewis. People coming together to honor the late civil rights leader in his hometown of Troy, Alabama and we'll hear from his family. Next.
WHITFIELD: A hometown memorial service celebrating the life of Congressman John Lewis wrapping up in his hometown of Troy, Alabama as you see all those proceeding and past his casket. Just moments ago however, we heard from Lewis' five siblings who described the late civil rights leader as a humble family man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY GRANT LEWIS, BROTHER OF REP. JOHN LEWIS: He was always concerned about the health and wellbeing of his family and numbers of others. His last word was how is the family doing. How's everybody doing today? I said they're doing fine. He said well, you make sure to tell them I asked about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: He said that was the last conversation before Lewis passed away. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Selma, Alabama where another service will be held later on this evening. Martin, all of his brothers and sisters made it a point to say that you know, the world knew him as Congressman John Lewis but they called him Robert.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was my favorite part. It was learning of course of that because everybody knows it was John Lewis Congressman but they all know him as no, we're talking about Robert, right?
And that's the way they refered to him and of course that was to me, the highlight of listening to that service in his hometown so John Lewis back home for the last time with his family. They're celebrating his life, his legacy but then they began telling the stories and they decided that they were going to tell the stories everyone knew and not the history.
They wanted to talk about the person, talk about the brother that they knew and so you know, here's his sister and this is Rosa Mae Tyner talking about some of those memories and who he was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSA MAE TYNER, SISTER OF REP. JOHN LEWIS: He lived with a never ending desire of helping others. He often told us if you see something wrong, do something. His action showed up just that. In a time when going to jail was perceived as trouble, he reminded us that it was good trouble, necessary trouble. See something, say something, do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Good trouble, that's a phrase that has been tied to John Lewis for decades. That is something that is known for standing up for at the right time. Speaking of standing up, there was a moment that clearly was unscripted and it involved John Lewis' very young nephew. Just take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON LEWIS, GREAT-NEPHEW OF REP. JOHN LEWIS: My name is Jackson Lewis and Congressman John Lewis was my uncle and my hero And it's up to us to keep his legacy alive. Thanks everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: I mean just a precious moment that is personal and yet every family knows, just wonderful so the service there, out of all the services that are going to take place over the next six days, this is probably the most personal. I mean it's his family that are speaking about him. He will lie in repose there for a couple more hours and then begin the journey here to Selma. It takes about an hour and a half and then tonight, there will be another service inside Brown Chapel.
This is another place he knows extremely well and Brown Chapel of course was the headquarters for him and Dr. King as they planned the marches to Montgomery. So another service tonight, another chance for public viewing but all of this having to take place with the restrictions of COVID-19 so it may not have looked like there was a huge crowd there.
They had to limit it even though it was inside an arena for the purposes of public health and public safety. Many, many more tributes still to come. Tomorrow will be a remarkable day, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Absolutely and the family wants to send that message for everyone to be cautious while they're not encouraging everyone to try to get to any number of these services and tributes, whether be in Troy or Selma or even Washington DC or Atlanta. Instead, they're asking everybody to tie a blue or purple ribbon on your door at home as a way of signaling - signaling you're thinking about him too.
And that he is close in your heart. Martin Savidge, thank you so much. We'll check back with you. Joining me now to talk more about Congressman John Lewis' towering legacy is Reverend William Barber, Senior Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina and co-chair for the Poor People's Campaign.
Reverend, good to see you.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, SENIOR PASTOR, GREENLEAF CHRISTIAN CHURCH: Thank you so much Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So perhaps you heard as we all have been listening to the five siblings and the nephew really you know pay homage to the congressman and I loved what his sister Rosa Mae had to say, that he was fearless, trusted in God because he was chosen.
He had this awareness you know, of his position, his power. Yet at the same time, we heard it from all the siblings, he was extremely humble and he still made himself accessible. Are those some of the things that you'll remember always makes this Congressman so special in memory?
BARBER: Indeed. He was a man of the movement, he was a man of deep moral conviction. I had a chance to talk with him in his office. He encouraged me when we decided to join with the Poor People's Campaign. I had a chance to walk with him at least twice across the Edmund Pettus bridge and he was always talking about continuing and not forgetting.
But he was a man of the move which you know, he went to Selma to join a movement, not to start one. Jimmy Lee Jackson had been killed. When he was on that bridge, one of the reasons he was beaten so badly because he cared had enough to stop and cover Ms. Burlington who had been knocked out.
He was a man of that kind of calling, leaving himself called to be a part of the movement and the lift up the least of these. In 1963 Frederick, when he spoke at the march on Washington, he opened it, saying this is about jobs and justice but then he said, let's remember all those who are not here.
And he even said to President Kennedy in that speech if this bill of civil rights, what would become the civil rights of 1964, did not care for the sharecropper who loses his land when he tries to vote or cares for the maid that makes $5 an hour, $5 a day in the household that makes $100,000 a year, then it is not enough.
That's what makes John Lewis so powerful is that he was not an isolated person. AN island unto himself but a man of the movement with deep moral convictions.
WHITFIELD: And that tenacity. I mean he demonstrated the very mantra that he would always say, which was never give up and we thought, down to his last breath at 80, we hear the descriptions from his siblings. He never gave up.
So I want to play for you another clip from Lewis's brother today, one of his brothers today. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRANT LEWIS, REP. JOHN LEWIS' BROTHER: When John was first sworn into Congress, I think I got my year right in 1986, I was there and during the swearing in ceremony, right before the swearing in ceremony, he looked up, he knew where I was sitting. And he looked up and he gave me the thumbs up and I gave him the thumbs back. So after the event was over, we was together and I asked him. I said, John, what were you thinking when you gave me the thumbs up. He said I was thinking this is a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: I mean that's an example of really never forgetting where you've come from and Rev. Barber, there seem to be countless moments throughout the Congressman's life where he reminded people. He may be in Washington, he may be serving the people, he may be a global icon but he really never forgot where he was from, that he was the boy from Troy as Dr. Martin Luther king always liked to call him.
BARBER: And that was the power of his positions in public policy. Some people will acknowledge that they're from a place but they try to run from it and they try to get around it and they don't - they say they're from it but they try to leave it. He never left and even in public policy which is why he was always fighting for the poor.
He was always fighting for voting rights. He was always fighting for healthcare for everybody and living wages and it's one of the reasons, in this remembrance, we have to be careful. There's a scripture in the Bible in the Gospel where Jesus said, Woe unto those who love the tombs of the prophet.
And the suggestion is we don't often love prophets when they're alive. What if we had passed everything John stood for while he was living? What if we had really done that? And so I believe the way we have to honor the boy from Troy is remember what the boy from Troy fought for. We all have an omnibus bill.
If we really want to honor him then in that omnibus bill restore the Voting Rights Act that was McConnell has blocked for 2,586 days today. Pass universal health care immediately so we can have it in the midst of this COVID-19. Pass living wages that John fought for. Even in 63, he was talking about it.
What we need to do is not just have ceremony but to really emulate his life and lastly, if we really want to honor him, if the boy from Troy was still alive, he would be saying to his colleagues, pass a stimulus bill that truly protects essential workers, that truly protects the people who we're calling heroes. Stop letting people die. Give them healthcare. Give them sick leave.
Give them unemployment. Give them rent forgiveness. Give them moratoriums on their utilities. That boy from Troy never forgot where he came from. He never forgot the people there and he always remembered it in public policy. That's what makes him so powerful and why we must continue to emulate his legacy today and in the days to come.
WHITFIELD: And wouldn't that be something Rev. Barber. That would be completely in step with what his sister said, Rosa Mae Tyner who says you know he stood for see something, say something, most importantly do something.
All right, appreciate it Reverend.
BARBER: Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. Still ahead, the waiting game of a coronavirus test. Why are some people getting the results in hours while others have to wait weeks?
WHITFIELD: All right the ability to get a coronavirus test in the U.S. right now may depend not so much on where people live but rather who they are and how much money they have. Here's CNN's Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For some people, coronavirus test results come quickly.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You do a test, boom, and you have it in five minutes.
(voice-over): But experts worry that during this horrific spike in coronavirus cases, the effectiveness of testing is in some areas of the country a matter of the haves and have nots.
DR. JEWEL MULLEN, ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR HEALTH EQUITY, DELL MEDICAL SCHOOL AT UT AUSTIN: When you have resources, when you have power, when you have access, when your insurances is able to pay for it or you're able to pay out of pocket, it's much easier to get the testing that you need.
(voice-over): Early in the pandemic, it was reported that movie stars could dial up their so-called concierge doctors and get tested during a period when much of the country didn't have that access. In April, comedian and MMA Commentator Joe Rogan was criticized when he revealed he'd been tested multiple times a week and got a friend tested to.
JOE ROGAN, COMEDIAN, MMA COMMENTATOR: I've been tested twice already. Tested yesterday and I got tested two days before that.
(voice-over): Months later, that same power dynamic is still at play, like with professional athletes. NFL, NBA players, and others are being tested every day, their results coming back within hours. While CNN has reported this week that some people, especially in communities of color, are waiting as long as three weeks to get test results back.
MULLEN: Which means we're even farther behind in being able to minimize the impact with regard to disease and death in those communities.
(voice-over): Experts say Blacks and Latinos are not only more vulnerable to the virus, but also often have less insurance coverage, lower incomes and less testing availability in their neighborhoods.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: It does break my heart to see folks who are able to pay for these tests and pay to get them quickly, have rapid access, rapid turnaround and yet the most vulnerable communities who are the ones who are suffering are the ones waiting 14 days and, in fact, maybe the ones that are transmitting in the interim.
MULLEN: Good afternoon, everyone.
(voice-over): Dr. Jewel Mullen's case illustrates sometimes it's not only a matter of who you know, but where you go. Mullen and her husband Herb Knight, both doctors, had to get tested recently in Connecticut. She went to a prestigious hospital and got her results back in eight hours. But as for her husband --
MULLEN: My husband went to a drive thru at one of our local pharmacies, and it took him nine days to find out that his test was negative.
(voice-over): Experts say given the disparity, it's time for new guidelines from the federal government on down to move only symptomatic people and those most at risk to the front of the testing lot.
MULLEN: Given the inequities that we're talking about, yes, we need to take into consideration who's most vulnerable and make sure that we prioritize the testing that's being done there.
WHITFIELD: All right, Brian Todd, thank you so much for that. Let's bring in Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, a primary care physician and pediatrician in Austin, Texas. Doctor, good to see you. So how concerning is that, to hear, you know, that it's who you know and how much money you have in terms of your access to a test and finding out a positive or negative result?
DR. PRITESH GANDHI, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Deeply concerning. We're living it here right now. As you know, I work at a nonprofit clinic on the east side of town, where more than 80 percent of our patients are people of color. And we have test results that take 12 to 13, even 14 days to return.
And the reality is, look, this isn't a surprise for folks that work at the intersection of public health and policy. We make up 5 percent of the world population, but 10 percent of firearm homicides, 20 percent of global energy use, 25 percent of the global prison population, 25 percent of COVID cases. And so, you know, we've always had a crisis in the ability to deal with complicated issues. And so no surprise, we can't get cotton swabs and chemicals at the right place at the right time.
WHITFIELD: So now let's talk about, you know, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just authorized the first test for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases the FDA says the test could be a game changer. Why is this test potentially so significant?
GANDHI: Sure. Look, I think it's great progress. The reality is that asymptomatic spread is a major driver of transmission in hotspots and all across the country. And our ability to diagnose asymptomatic spread earlier to cut that transmission off at its roots, that's the way to go. The problem is, is that without a model in place to scale this, right?
I mean if we can't scale basic community testing, particularly in communities of color especially where essential workers are working, how are we going to scale this? And so, while I am optimistic, I also need to see the proof here. What is the operational model? What does it look like to scale? And how much is it going to cost because it seems that without a profit motive in place, we're not able to get this work done, the government should step in.
WHITFIELD: And if you're asymptomatic, what would compel you to want to take the test or what should compel you, you know, to take a test for asymptomatic patients?
GANDHI: Yes. And so I think the application here really is when we start thinking about schools being able to open again, right? I had a conversation last week with about 15 heads of schools here in the Austin region. And we were talking about the guidelines on how we can get students tested, how we can get teachers test, and how to do this rapidly.
There isn't a way to do this. And so when we talk about how to re instill confidence in our schools and in the leadership of our schools and with teachers, having a quick test to be able to gauge who is transmitting and who isn't, that may help. We're still a ways away from that though.
WHITFIELD: And then this new CDC report showing that coronavirus, you know, can be a prolonged illness, even for some young adults without chronic medical conditions, 35 percent of people who turn apart in a recent CDC survey say they still weren't back to their usual good health, even two, or perhaps even three weeks after a testing positive for coronavirus. So how important is it for people to understand, you know, the length of time in which you could feel terrible?
GANDHI: Absolutely. There is so much we don't know about this virus. And we're learning these things every single week and month. And the reality is, is that we are starting to see longer term sequela, both in your respiratory system, neurologic symptoms as well. That's why it's so important to play the prevention game.
The reality is that we have 25 percent positivity rate in the Houston area. We although we are pleased, it seems like some of these trends are starting to go down in Houston and Austin and statewide with a resumption of the mass mandate a couple of weeks ago. We're still a ways away and because there are so many unknowns, the best step is prevention and that's basic measures wearing the mask and social distancing.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, thank you so much.
GANDHI: Happy to be here.
WHITFIELD: Be well.
Still ahead, after three positive coronavirus tests, the president of Brazil announced us today that he is now negative as the rest of that nature reports a record number of cases.
WHITFIELD: Health officials in Brazil reporting 56,000 new coronavirus cases overnight. With Friday's new cases, Brazil has added a total of nearly 300,000 new COVID-19 infections in just the last seven days.
Meantime, Mexico is reporting some 7,500 new cases in 24 hours as that country struggles to contain the outbreak. CNN's Matt Rivers is in Tijuana. So Matt, what can you tell us about this spike in cases across the region?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, as we've seen since the beginning of this outbreak, the spike in new cases being driven by the region's most populous countries, namely Brazil and Mexico. Let's start in Brazil, though, where President Jair Bolsonaro announced that more than two weeks after first contracting the coronavirus he has now tested negative for the coronavirus.
And he celebrated this morning in the capital of Brasilia by taking a motorcycle ride around town and he consistently told reporters today as he's told them in the past, that the cure to the virus can't be worse than the virus itself, urging people to get back out despite the fact that he was lucky and managed to not get bad symptoms from this virus.
It was just about a week ago, that the emergency director for the WHO said that Brazil's cases had basically plateaued. But in the last week, we've seen cases in that country top 60,000 in a day, twice, so that's obviously not good news there.
Meanwhile, here in Mexico, we set two new records in terms of newly confirmed cases in a single day, just the last week. But Mexico's President yesterday told reporters that in his view, the pandemic is slowing down here, despite the data, obviously showing at least right now that it is not. He also said remarkably, that he doesn't wear a mask because it's been scientifically not -- it's not been proven scientifically to actually help, despite the fact that it obviously has been. But it's not just Brazil and Mexico that we're concerned about. The WHO is seeing spikes in new cases in places like Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Peru is seeing some of its highest daily case total increases since mid June.
And, you know, we're just seeing that trend continue across the region. And finally, Fred, China announced that it's going to be providing a $1 billion total amount loan to several countries across Latin America with the aim of helping these countries in this part of the world, get a vaccine when it is eventually produced. That is something that these countries are desperately going to need.
WHITFIELD: They are indeed. Matt Rivers, Mexico, thank you so much.
That $600 unemployment benefit that millions of Americans are able to collect right now is set to expire. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill have yet to nail down a new stimulus plan. We'll talk about that next.
WHITFIELD: Just as a federal unemployment benefit of $600 a week is set to expire. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are at a standstill on a new stimulus package that could extend the benefits. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now warning that a new deal may take a few weeks. The standoff and uncertainty are leaving millions of Americans with jobless aid on edge here. Here's CNN's Phil Mattingly.
ASHLEY PAMPLIN, FURLOUGHED RESTAURANT MANAGER: And I've always been someone very optimistic and smiling like, you know what, it'll be OK.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite a furlough, Ashley Pamplin managed to stay positive in the first few months of the pandemic.
PAMPLIN: Unemployment and everything, that's what made it a little bit easier to be like, OK, I can stay at home and be OK.
(voice-over): But the Pittsburgh restaurant group where she worked just days ago decided it had to make cuts.
PAMPLIN: There's just so much uncertainty. And I think nobody really knows what's going on. And it's kind of like almost like a downwards spiral.
(voice-over): Now, Ashley Pamplin has joined nearly 18 million Americans as unemployed, and those job losses have laid bare a significant hole for those individuals.
RACHEL GARFIELD, VICE PRESIDENT, KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION; Particularly a time like this when people are losing their jobs at unprecedented levels, they're losing their health insurance coverage at a time when we're facing a health crisis in the country and many people have a need more than ever for health insurance coverage.
(voice-over): Nearly 160 million Americans or about half the U.S. population received health insurance through their employer in 2018. Now as many as 26.8 million people could become uninsured due to those job losses according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And while the group estimates that more than 20 million would likely qualify for Obamacare subsidies or Medicaid, that leaves more than five million people faced with paying their own way, all as a crucial $600 federal unemployment benefit is about to expire on July 31st.
PAMPLIN: That was actually like my saving grace. It really was.
(voice-over): As Pamplin confronts the need to purchase insurance on her own, she's faced with a stark reality.
PAMPLIN: It was between food and utilities and the mortgage and my car insurance, like, yes, it would just -- I felt like sadly your health insurance would probably be the last priority.
(voice-over): And as lawmakers urgently debate an extension to that federal unemployment program, it's a decision millions may be forced to make with jarring repercussions.
PAMPLIN: I just don't know if I could afford that now. And that's really saying something, too, because I felt like I was finally blessed to be in a position where I felt a little bit comfortable.
(voice-over): Pamplin had a job, health insurance. She closed on a new home just days after her restaurant shutdown and she's still never stopped smiling but the uncertainty has taken its toll.
PAMPLIN: You know, I don't want to lose everything I've really worked really hard to get and then realize how hard it would be to get it back again.
Phil Mattingly, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: And coming up, from mandatory temperature checks to PPE stations, schools are about to look a lot different when they reopen. But how safe is it going to be for students and teachers? We'll talk about the new recommendations from the CDC.
But first a programming note W. Kamau Bell is in Oklahoma digging up the truth on farming in America from no profit crops to bank discrimination that people growing your food are fighting to keep their land in all new episode of United Shades of America tomorrow night at 10:00 on CNN.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with more devastating numbers as the Coronavirus surge in states across the country. The U.S. death toll now sits at over 145,000.