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U.S. Tops 1,000 Daily Coronavirus Deaths For Fourth Day; Doctors In Texas Hotspot Overwhelmed By Tsunami Of Patients; Money And Power Causing Disparity In U.S. Virus Testing?; Sinclair-Owned TV Stations To Air Fauci Conspiracy Theory As White House Tries To Discredit Fauci; Dr. Fauci On White House Efforts To Discredit Him: Bad News To Do That; White House Denies Trump Has Reversed Course On Coronavirus Severity, Masks, Jacksonville Convention As His Poll Numbers Sink. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 25, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN NEWSROOM: You are live in the CNN Newsroom. Good afternoon, everyone. Bianna Golodryga in for Ana Cabrera.

We begin with new records being shattered in the coronavirus pandemic. The United States reporting that for the fourth straight day, more than 1,000 people are dying daily.

Florida now surpassing New York in total number of cases, with an additional 12,000 infections reported two days in a row. In all, more than 400,000 people are sick statewide.

California has the most active cases in the nation this weekend, and this terrible figure. Friday saw the highest number of patients die from the virus in a single day, 159 people.

Now, add to that, another emergency for people in the coronavirus hotspot of Texas, Hurricane Hanna is barreling toward the state, putting hospitals already stretched thin on high alert.

And big news from the FDA. It just authorized the first diagnostic test to screen people who may be asymptomatic. Officials say the test may go a long way in helping schools and workplaces reopen.

But let's begin in Florida where the numbers are devastating. 50 hospitals statewide have hit ICU capacity. CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami. Rosa, give us the latest.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, Good afternoon. Process the situation in Florida with me. President Donald Trump has pulled the Florida portion of the RNC out of the state because of the COVID-19 situation. At the same time, Governor Ron DeSantis says that the situation in the state has stabilized.

Well, let's look at the numbers, because, yes, for the past week, there were about four days that the number of cases were at or below 10,000, but for the past two days, the number of new coronavirus cases in this state have exceeded 12,000. Now, I asked an infectious disease expert about this, and she said, well, you have to look at the hospitalizations, you have to look at the ICUs. Well, let's take a look. Statewide, 79 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the past three weeks. There are also 50 ICU hospitals across the state that are at capacity, that have zero ICU beds.

Now, take a look here in Miami-Dade County where I am. This is the epicenter of the crisis in this state, accounting for 25 percent of now the more than 400,000 cases in the state. ICUs here in this county are operating at 137 percent. What that means is that there are more

patients than there are ICUs. I can tell you that, right now, there are 556 ICU patients and only 407 beds.

Now, the good thing is that the county says that they have more than 400 beds that they can convert into ICUs. But then you look at ventilator use. Those have increased by 62 percent in the past two weeks. Right now, there are 334 people in Miami-Dade on ventilators.

The positivity rate is another thing that this infectious disease expert told me to look at. Here in Miami-Dade County, it's 19.7 percent. The goal for the county is not to exceed 10 percent. Well, you look at the 14-day average, it's 19.4 percent.

Bianna, the point of the matter here is that despite all these facts and figures, despite everything that we're seeing, these numbers that are being reported both by the county and by the state, the State of Florida still pushing for reopening of schools next week. Governor Ron DeSantis says that parents have a choice. But the point is that he's still not backing down. Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: A lot of statistics there, Rosa, none of them good. The one that stood out to me is the 79 percent increase in hospitalization. That is quite alarming. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

And now to California where officials there reported a new record in COVID-19 deaths in a single day. CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Los Angeles. Paul, what's the latest there?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, it's a mixed batch of numbers. Let's look at this test site here in South Los Angeles. You can tell there is a long line of people coming up to be tested here by driving at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. And then over on the other side, they've allowed people to walk up.

Let's talk about the numbers. We finally have dipped below 2,000 people a day being hospitalized here in L.A. County with a population 10 million. That's the good news, it was up about 2,200. And the positivity rate is steady right now, at 10 percent, what Rosa says is 19 percent (ph) in that area of Miami.

What's interesting about this is that here at Drew, at this test site, they were having a hard time getting through to many of the residents of this predominantly Latino community to come in and get tested.


So by walking up, they address the concerns of some people who are going by public transportation. And also they had a very, very active campaign to go on social media, the other people tell everybody to get in here to get tested. L.A. County also saying that if you're a Latino, you are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 than a white resident here in L.A. County.

Back to you now, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: A lot of concern about the Latino community. Paul Vercammen, thank you.

Joining me now, Infectious Disease Specialist, Epidemiologist and CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Celine Gounder.

Dr. Gounder, thank you so much for joining us.

So, the U.S. coronavirus cases have doubled in just six weeks. More than 1,000 people have died every day for four days in a row. What is it going to take at this point for things to get under control?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Bianna, I think the sad truth and one that many of us are still in denial about is we probably are looking at reinstituting shelter-in-place orders in these hotspots. It's going to be very difficult to reverse what is now a spiking exponential curve without really getting people to shelter in place and to minimize contact with others.

GOLODRYGA: I want to ask you about something you talked about on your podcast this week. I'm a fan. I listen every week. Epidemic, everyone else should listen as well. But you talk about the work done by contact tracers. At this point, is there a chance that solid contact tracing can help bring the rate of infection down, or is it too late without the U.S. having another full shutdown, as you just mentioned?

GOUNDER: Well, think of it like a big bowl, a messy bowl of spaghetti and you're trying to spot the end of one particular strand of spaghetti all the way to the other end. And when you have this much messiness, this much widespread community transmission, it's very difficult to do that.

Contact tracing is much more feasible and very important where you have contained community spread, so in places like New York City. And that was the program I was highlighting in the podcast episode. And that really does help because it helps you, one, identify chains of transmission and block those, but it also tells you where the transmission is currently occurring, and that can be a moving target.

GOLODRYGA: Like you said, this is a huge bowl of spaghetti we're dealing this at this point, so I want to get your response to how the federal government has been acting. Because the White House is denying that the president has reversed course on matters related to the virus. But I want you to listen to what he said just last month, applauding people for attending a rally in the middle of a pandemic.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You are warriors. I've been watching -- I've been watching the fake news for weeks now and everything is negative. Don't go, don't come, don't do anything. Today, it was like -- I've never seen anything like it.


GOLODRYGA: Okay. So that was last month. I want you to listen to what he said just this week.


TRUMP: We ask all Americans to exercise vigilance, practice social distancing, wear a mask, do whatever is necessary so we get rid of this horrible situation, this horrible disease.


GOLODRYGA: You might have whiplash watching that right now. But what does this do to public trust in the country when the White House lies will changing the message, when clearly they have? At this point, what should Americans be thinking?

GOUNDER: Well, this makes it very difficult for us as scientists, doctors and public health officials to be messaging about this, because we really like to stick to the facts, to the evidence and not engage in the politics of this. And in a sense, we have no choice but to make what are essentially political statements when we are having to debunk what political officials are saying, whether it's the president or various governors across the country.

I think, unfortunately, the messaging has been led by politicians and really needs to be turned back over to folks like Dr. Fauci and who really should be the one leading the White House coronavirus task force briefings.

GOLODRYGA: And one could only wonder where we would be in this country if we actually started wearing masks months ago as opposed to just hearing the president finally say that Americans should and it would be patriotic just a few days ago.

Let's move on to new CDC guidelines that are coming down hard on having schools reopen brick-and-mortar. Look, I have been covering this bit. Everybody wants schools to reopen and, obviously, we want our children back with their peers and their teachers, but, obviously, we want to keep them safe as well.

Let's listen to the education secretary, Betsy DeVos.


BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves. So we should be in a posture of -- the default should be getting back to school, kids in person in the classroom. (END VIDEO CLIP)


GOLODRYGA: Okay. Last I checked, Secretary DeVos is not a doctor. And I do know that Dr. Birx said that we do not have that much information and data on how children are affected by coronavirus in terms of being vectors. What is your take on the new CDC guidelines and should schools reopen, particularly those in hotspots right now?

GOUNDER: Bianna, I think the number one message here is that schools should absolutely not reopen. That should be a nonstarter, at least from a public health scientific perspective where you have widespread community transmission, so places like Florida and Texas and many other states in the south.

That said, if you have your local transmission under control, so places like in the northeast, that's where this data on children under the age of ten versus over the age of ten may be helpful, just as we've taken a very step-by-step phased-in approach to reopening the economy, you could look at a step-by-step approach to reopening schools in those settings, probably starting with the youngest of kids, those under ten, who are the least risky in terms of transmitting onto adults in that context, again without widespread community transmission, and who are also standing to benefit the most from in-person teaching.

GOLODRYGA: Well, trust me, Dr. Gounder, my fingers are crossed that my kids can go back to school here in New York come September. They are under the age of ten and they do much better in school.

But we'll have to leave it there. I appreciate it. Everybody listen to the podcast as well and thank you so much for joining us.

GOUNDER: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And coming up, as cases surge in Texas, we'll take you inside one hospital where the situation is growing more dire by the day.


DR. FEDERICO VALLEJO, CRITICAL CARE PULMONOLOGIST: I have never had to sign this many death certificates that I have been signing in the last couple of weeks.


GOLODRYGA: Hurricane Hanna will make landfall today in parts of Texas already hard-hit by a surge in coronavirus cases. That includes the City of McAllen, where doctors say they're not handling just a wave, but a tsunami of patients every day.

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the daily routine for Dr. Frederico 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.

VALLEJO: It's overwhelming. It's a tsunami, what we're seeing right now.

LAVANDERA: Coronavirus patients have filled the hospital where the 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 this 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 will have trouble with their breathing. And when it happens, it's heartbreaking. It's so difficult to watch them, many saying goodbyes to their relatives by picking up the phone and saying I'm having more trouble, I don't know what's 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 hotspot inside the Texas hotspot. 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, you know, Doc, please don't put me on that. Don't put me on that. And you struggle because 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 talk to. So, please, tell my family, tell my parents, tell my kids that I love them and that I fought hard.

JESSICA ORTIZ, JUBAL ORTIZ'S TWIN SISTER: 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 at a jewelry store.

ORITZ: It hurts. And I think that for someone (INAUDIBLE).

LAVANDERA: Jubal died on July 3rd.

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 it wasn't him. 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 good-bye.


LAVANDERA: You saw the shield over the casket of Jubal Ortiz. We should point out that medical experts have told CNN there is no evidence that people are still contagious after they've passed away. But it really speaks to the fear and uncertainty that so many people have.

And one of the other themes that stuck out as we interviewed the people for this story is that they're all dealing with a sense of frustration and anger as they're living the nightmare of this pandemic and say what bothers them most is looking around and seeing so many people living their lives as if everything were normal and they're urging people to take this far more seriously.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


GOLODRYGA: It's just so heartbreaking to watch that.

Joining me now is Dr. Joseph Varon, Chief of Staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Doctor, I want to ask you your response as a doctor, as somebody who is there and witnessing all of this suffering, and you've spent 100 straight days working there. You've got nurses surrounding you. What kind of a toll does this take on you emotionally?

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: I mean, clearly, we're going to have a very emotional situation. I have been working today 128 continuous days, 16-20 hours a day. I mean, people say, how can your body do that? And I guess we're running on adrenaline.

I mean, just like you saw earlier today on Dr. Vallejo's unit, I mean, we see the same. I mean, last week, I had to sign the largest number of death certificates that I have ever signed in my entire life. And I've been practicing medicine for quite a bit. It is a toll. You see the nurses, just like he was (INAUDIBLE), they break down, they start crying. They say, I cannot do this anymore. I mean, you see a patient that is doing fantastic, and then two minutes later, they're not here anymore.

It is very tough. By far, it's the disease that has caused the most stress in my entire life.

GOLODRYGA: What is the saddest at the hospital right now? What share of your patients are COVID-related?

VARON: We have about 85 percent of the hospital is for COVID. We even have the U.S. Army sent a series of clinicians, of nurses to come and open up a wing so we could accommodate all the people that were in the Houston metropolitan area that don't have a hospital to go to, but need to be cared for.

GOLODRYGA: As a Houstonian myself, just hearing that 85 percent are COVID-related when you know that there are so many others in the city that probably have health conditions as well and just can't get to a hospital in time and are fearful of that.

I want to ask you about a report in the Houston Chronicle this week talking about a nearly $300 million contact tracing program that was launched by the state back in May, which Governor Abbott, at the time, cited as a reason why he felt comfortable with reopening the economy sooner because of this program. Well, it turned out to be a complete bust. The software was faulty.

And I want to quote for you something from the piece. A lead epidemiologist spent five weeks and only completed one call and later oversaw an 11-member team that had zero calls for days. Are we currently seeing the consequences of not being able to track and trace?

VARON: I mean, we clearly opened before we should have opened. You see, the problem is even if you are going to close something down, you need to have an educational (ph) component that goes with that. It's not just a matter of let's close the state and then open it again, because by the time you get to the end of the closure, everybody has cabin fever, everybody wants to get out. And if you don't do this gradually, for example, like New York did, we get in trouble. And we are seeing that.

We were not ready on May 1st when we reopened the state. I can tell you that in a frustrated way because I ended up taking care of all of those very sick patients that didn't listen, did not listen when they said the state is open, they forgot the coronavirus was still around.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and many cities there had closed earlier in March, only to reopen and obviously seeing the devastation that they're seeing now and that you're witnessing firsthand.

Meantime, you've got to prepare for something else, mother nature, and that is the Gulf Coast is now bracing for Hurricane Hanna. We are in hurricane season. Houston knows hurricanes all too well. How concerned are you that resources will be stretched perhaps even more thin than they are right now?

VARON: There is no question about it. We will have an issue. We're going to have an issue because we're dealing with COVID on the one hand and then if one of these hurricanes really hits hard, what's going to happen? I mean, people are going run out to the streets or they're going to have to get out, we're going to have to have shelters and we're going to be -- shelters are going to become giant Petri dishes. So it's going to be very, very difficult.

And I don't know how the state is going to do as far as money goes, but where are you going to select to send the resources to? That's the primary concern that I have.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Dr. Joseph, Varon, we appreciate you coming on with us. 128 days straight for you. I don't know how you do it, but our hats off to you and all the great work that you continue to do, as we like to say, Houston Strong. Thank you.

VARON: So strong. Thanks to you.

GOLODRYGA: And coming up, the pandemic power dynamic over who can get a test and who can't. It's highlighting a real social divide in the United States.

Plus, W. Kamau Bell digs into the truth on farming and how the people growing your food are fighting to keep their land. A brand new United Shades of America airs tomorrow tonight at 10:00 on CNN.



GOLODRYGA: Need a coronavirus test? Well, being rich and famous may help. While everyday Americans face long lines and short supplies, some celebrities seem to have it easy, highlighting the divide between the haves and have-nots.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For some people, coronavirus test results come quickly.

TRUMP: You do a test, boom, and you have it in five minutes.

TODD: 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. JEWELL MULLEN, ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR HEALTH EQUITY, DELL MEDICAL SCHOOL AT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-AUSTIN: When you have resources, when you have power, when you have access, when your insurance 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.

TODD: 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, too.

JOE ROGAN, COMEDIAN, MMA COMMENTATOR: I've been tested twice already. Got tested yesterday and I got tested two days before that.

TODD: 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.

TODD: 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 DISEASE, 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.

TODD: 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.

TODD: 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 line.

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.

TODD (on camera): Some cities and states are ramping up their testing for underserved communities.

In Boston, mobile testing labs will soon be moving throughout the city.

And in Philadelphia, at the start of the pandemic, one doctor, rented a van and moved through predominantly black neighborhoods giving free tests.

But experts say, even in areas where tests are being ramped up, there are still way too many delays in getting test results back.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


GOLODRYGA: Interestingly enough, the president was asked about celebrities getting access to testing back to March and he said it shouldn't happen, but, quote, "perhaps that's been the story of life."

Coming up, the president makes a series of head-snapping reversals on the coronavirus surges and his poll numbers sink.



GOLODRYGA: Today, more evidence of a campaign to discredit the nation's top coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. CNN has learned that TV stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group are set to air a segment with a baseless conspiracy theory that Fauci was responsible for the creation of the coronavirus.

This is hardly the first time Fauci has faced attacks. CNN has previously reported that the White House had tried to discredit Fauci with what amounted to opposition research.

Still, Fauci says his relationship with the president is fine.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The one thing that's interesting that I think people don't appreciate is that I do have a very good relationship with the president, in the sense of no animosity at all. In fact, it's quite a good relationship.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE AXE FILES": Did you mention to him that maybe it isn't helpful when the White House sends out opposition research documents to besmirch you or --


AXELROD: -- and write op-eds talking about trying to besmirch you?

FAUCI: Well, I don't like that. If I sit here and tell you that's OK, it's not OK. I think that's really bad news to do that. AXELROD: And have you mentioned that to the president?

FAUCI: I think it's pretty clear on the White House that that's the situation. I don't think, in some respect, the president is not happy about that either. I can tell you he's not personally happy about that.


GOLODRYGA: And joining me now, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, Chris Cillizza, and senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson.

Welcome both of you.

Nia, let me begin with you.

So the idea that our top coronavirus expert has to defend himself against conspiracy theories and attacks from his own administration, while also dealing with a raging pandemic, that's something that happens in banana republics or failed states.

What does it say that it's happening here in the United States?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it certainly says that this administration has failed in terms of their handling of the coronavirus.

And what they're trying to do in going after Dr. Fauci, even though he says the relationship with the president is good, what they're essentially trying to do is shift blame to him.

You hear folks in the conservative chattering classes trying to undermine him and question his credibility. We do know that average Americans, certainly the majority of Americans, see him as a credible figure, as well they should.

He's essentially a living legend in terms of his work in medicine, in terms of his work in terms of infectious diseases, all around the world, which is a good thing, which is why he is in charge.

But listen, this is an effort that we know the president backed. The president is a conspiracy theorist so it's not surprising a lot of his followers and the media that's sympathetic to him is following along the same path when it comes to Dr. Fauci.


It's fortunate, because when you undermine the credibility of somebody like Dr. Fauci, not only now but later on down the line, when Dr. Fauci ideally is going to be out front talking about vaccines and the need for people to get vaccines, say, a year or so from now, then people might not believe him then.

So this is a real dangerous path of this administration, and it only underscores their overall failure in terms of the coronavirus. GOLODRYGA: And yet, Chris, it's pretty predictable, too. You go back

to march, when there was the visible tension, the disagreement between the president and Dr. Fauci on the use of Hydroxychloroquine, and Dr. Fauci is saying, non, he doesn't believe it will be effective and the president is saying yes.

That having been said, you heard Dr. Fauci say that they have a good relationship, that he has a good relationship and he speaks with the president.

What do you make of that, given that the president has said things like this? Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dr. Fauci has made some mistakes, but I have a very good -- I spoke to him yesterday at length. I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR; But, sir, this week, this weekend, your White House put out a series of statements, so-called mistakes that Dr. Fauci had made.

One of your closest aides, one often your right-hand men, Daniel Scavino, put out this. Have you seen this?

TRUMP: Well, look --


WALLACE: Dr, Dr. Faucet, which shows him as a leaker and as an alarmist.

TRUMP: Well, I don't know about --


TRUMP: He's a little bit of an alarmist. That's OK. He's a little bit of an alarmist.

WALLACE: He's a bit of an alarmist?

TRUMP: Well, a little bit of an alarmist.


GOLODRYGA: Chris, it takes a lot of you-know-what to highlight Fauci's mistakes and not identify mistakes -- many mistakes that were made by this president and this administration.

What is going on between these two?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I mean, I think Dr. Fauci, this is survival for Dr. Fauci. He thinks it's very important his voice is heard, at least in part, in this room, you know, on this Coronavirus Task Force. And he knows that the way in which that can happen is to not say, yes, Donald Trump got a lot of things wrong, too. Because Donald Trump will get rid of him.

And I think Anthony Fauci - "Hamilton" is all the rage, but I will borrow "the room where it happens" metaphor because I think it's important.

I think Fauci sees this as, it's more important that my voice is in here, whether school openings or vaccines or what have you, it's more important that my voice be heard than that I worry about making sure I'm going tit-for-tat with Donald Trump. Because you know how that story ends.

And for Donald Trump, he's knowing what Nia said, he's doing what he always does. He's scapegoating and ignoring the past, which, by the way, multiple times in which he said it's one person, it's 10 people, we've got it under control. Because he doesn't take any blame. So that part I'm not surprised by.

The Fauci part, I think there's a reason he served under six presidents and has been in that job since 1984, because he knows the way Washington works and he knows how to deal with politicians.

GOLODRYGA: Yet, I don't think in those six administrations he's dealt with anything quite like this.

Nia, let me ask you --

CILLIZZA: I don't think any of us have.

GOLODRYGA: There's a first for everything.

The White House, Nia, is denying that the president has made this about face on the severity of the coronavirus.

Here is Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been consistent on this. He wore a mask back at the Ford facility. He carried it around in his pocket and he's shown it to you multiple times.

He hasn't changed. In fact, just speaking on COVID, generally, the way I've heard him talk privately in the Oval Office is the way he's talking out here.

The only thing that changed is the president taking dozens and dozens of your questions each and every day because he felt the best way to get information to the American people was for him to be out here answering your questions and providing this directly.


GOLODRYGA: I mean, come on.

Nia, can you just do us all a favor and fact-check what she said right there?

HENDERSON: Listen, Kayleigh McEnany, she's serving a boss who is known for not falling a truth so she falls into that trap, too.

Though, the president has changed tactics. There were no coronavirus briefings for weeks and weeks and now he's doing that. He was very skeptical about mask wearing. He still is skeptical about mask wearing. The changes that he's carrying it in his pocket and shows it during this briefing. That's certainly a slight change.

He backtracked on these large gatherings. He had one in Tulsa and now he's canceling one in Jacksonville next month for his nominating convention. So he has changed.

He hasn't fully changed because you hear him say something about masks in a press briefing, saying that masks are a good idea or testing is a good idea, and then later on, he might give a different interview and reverse course.

This is a president looking at terrible poll numbers in the swing states. His handling of the coronavirus is clearly hurting him. It's hurting him nationally.

So now, about 100 days before this election, it isn't almost 150,000 deaths, it isn't the four million cases that have brought him to this moment. It really is those terrible poll numbers that shows him in deep, deep trouble in terms of getting re-elected because of his failed, failed handling of this terrible, terrible epidemic.


GOLODRYGA: Yes, it does seem to have force his hand.

Chris, let me end with you. Because it wasn't that long ago that the president said he didn't want to give the press the satisfaction of seeing him in a mask. Now he's calling it patriotic to wear one. I'm not sure how convinced I am that he will hold that line going forward.

What are your thoughts?

CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, if past is prolog, Bianna, that won't happen. He's never held the line on almost anything other than saying the news is fake because they report what he says.

So I would say when it comes to masks, when it comes to the coronavirus -- you don't have to believe us. Just go and search what he said on masks.

When he went to Walter Reed, when he went and and wore the mask publicly the first time, he was asked when he got on Marine One on the way there, he was asked are you going to wear a mask, he said I think there are times and places to wear them, like most of the time in order to set an example for the public because we know the coronavirus is surging in places where mask wearing isn't common.

So to me, with Donald Trump, what he says on any given day is not predictive of what he will say tomorrow, nor is it reflective of what he said the previous day.

He has changed positions on this for one reason, polls, all of them. Like Nia said, his polling is down. His advisers have begged him to take this more seriously.

He has to figure out a way, politically speaking, to get the public to trust him on this again. I think that we're already way down that road. I don't know if he can turn it around. But that's his only course to re-election.

As it goes with this issue, will go his chances of winning.

GOLODRYGA: Another reminder that actions do speak louder than words.

Nia-Malika Henderson and Chris Cillizza, great to see you. Thanks so much for coming on.

Quick break right now. We'll be right back.



GOLODRYGA: We have some sad breaking news to bring to you. Legendary TV host, Regis Philbin, has died at the age of 88 of natural causes. Philbin spent 33 years hosting the ABC "Live," first with Kathie Lee and then with Kelly Ripa. He also spent years hosting the wildly popular game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."

For more on his legacy, I want to bring in CNN chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, by phone.

Brian, he was just shy of his 89th birthday and this was a man who was beloved by audiences, who invited them into their homes every single morning, myself included.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (via telephone): Yes, myself included, as well, Bianna.

Regis defined the morning talk-show TV format and brought joy to the lives of many people. So many people just think of him on a first-name basis, just as Regis. He was a name of the people, and also a man of New York City, the city he loved. He exuded warmth and energy and likability.

And I think he did what so many on TV want to do and try so hard to do. He was just himself. He was just himself. He was comfortable and lively in front of the camera.

Whether you thought of him as a dad or grandpa or next-door neighbor or that celebrity you want to meet someday, he was able to bring that joy to people's lives by being easy and relaxed and conversational. He was also good at shining a light on his co-stars, even though he

was a star in his own right. He talked a lot about his wife, Joy Philbin. For many years, he hosted with Kathie Lee Gifford, then with Kelly Ripa.

And the show now known as "Live with Kelly and Ryan" is an institution of American television. And Regis deserves a lot of credit for that fact.

GOLODRYGA: You mentioned his family and his wife, Joy. They issued a statement.

In the statement, they say, "His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him for his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his ability to make every day into something worth talking about. We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss."

This is so heartbreaking for this family and for the nation because he was the pioneer of telling stories about his life, what happened the night before at the dinner party with their grandchildren. And everyone felted invited into his life by that kind of storytelling.

STELTER: You know, that's the point my wife, Jamie, made to me as well. He pioneered the idea of telling people what he was doing, whether it was a Broadway show the night before or out to dinner with friends.

He made the ordinary seem extraordinary. You wanted to hear about his life and the life of his family.

He started his career in San Diego in 1958. And he holds the Guinness world record for the most hours on television. That's because of "Live with Kathie Lee and Regis." And "How to be a Millionaire," the game show you mentioned, was a tremendous hit on ABC.

The Screen Actors Guild, which counted Regis as a member calls him a true icon of television and, of course, send condolences to family and friends.

I really think -- Hugh Downs passed away a few weeks ago, also of ABC. Now Regis Philbin. These are legends of the broadcasting business. And it's a reminder that TV is a lifeline for so many people. Mainly, TV, in particular, is about companionship. And Regis was a wonderful companion.


GOLODRYGA: Yes, a true legend, that voice, that laughter. We can all think of times we sat down and watched him with his wife, with Kathie Lee, with Kelly Ripa. And our thoughts are with all of them right now as they mourn his loss, as the nation mourns his loss.

Again, legendary TV host, Regis Philbin, dies at the age of 88.

Brian Stelter, our thanks to you.

And we'll be right back.