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THE SITUATION ROOM

FDA Authorizes First Test For Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases; Florida COVID-19 Hospitalizations Up 79 Percent In Three Weeks ; First U.S. Phase Three COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Set To Begin Next Week; U.S. Tops 1,000 Daily Coronavirus Deaths For 4th Day; New CDC Guidelines Strongly Favor Opening Schools. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 25, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: It's brilliant television, the connection you have with those who you interview is just amazing. So thank you so much for joining us and giving us a preview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: "United Shades of America" airs tomorrow night at 10:00 right here on CNN. I'm Bianna Golodryga my colleague Wolf Blitzer picks up CNN's special coverage with a special edition of "The Situation Room" right now. Good night everyone.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of "The Situation Room."

Now we start tonight with very grim numbers. For the fourth straight day the United States has reported more than 1,000 Americans have died daily, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Florida, this weekend, surpassing New York in the number of total new confirmed cases on Friday more than 12,000 new infections were reported.

The state currently has more than 414,000 known COVID cases. Right now, the state with the most active cases is California where just yesterday alone 159 people lost their life to the virus. And big news from the FDA right now. They just authorized the first diagnostic test to screen people who may be asymptomatic. Officials say that test may go a long way in helping schools and workplaces eventually reopen.

First, let's go to Florida right now where 50 hospitals are reporting they have already reached ICU capacity. Our Rosa Flores is in Miami for us. Rosa, 8 of those hospitals are in Miami-Dade County where you are. So, what is the Governor, Ron DeSantis saying about these dramatic spikes? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, Governor Ron DeSantis maintains that the number of cases in his state has stabilized. If you look at the numbers this past week for about four days the numbers were at or around 10,000. But for the past two days, those numbers have spiked over 12,000.

I asked an infectious disease expert about this, and her take is it is too early to claim victory. She said Rosa look at the hospitalizations, look at the ICUs. That's exactly what we did. And take a look hospitalizations across the State of Florida in the past three weeks have increased by 79 percent.

This is according to state data right here where I am in Miami-Dade County which accounts for 25 percent of the now more than 400,000 cases in this state. ICUs are operating at 137 percent. What that means is that there are more patients than there are ICU beds. What the county is doing is they are converting beds into ICU beds.

Now when you look at the number of ventilators being used, those are up 62 percent in the past two weeks according to county data. Right now in Miami-Dade County, there are 334 people on ventilators. And then you've got to look at the positivity rate, she said.

Here in Miami-Dade County, according to county data, it is 19.7 percent. The goal for the county is not to exceed 10 percent. Well, the 14-day average has been 19.4 percent and then also this week, we learned of a shortage of medical professionals in this state with 51 hospitals asking the state for help with more than 2,400 nurses, Wolf.

BLITZER: And amid these surging numbers, Rosa, this is hard to believe. There's what an actual push right now to reopen the bars in Miami-Dade County whether in Miami Beach or in the City of Miami itself, is that right?

FLORES: You know, we learned about this from a tweet. And the push to reopen bars is statewide, Wolf. Take a look at this tweet because this is from the Secretary of Business and Regulation.

He wrote, next week, starting Friday, I'm going to set meetings throughout Florida with breweries and bars to discuss ideas on how to reopen? We will come up with a safe, smart and step-by-step plan based on input, science, and relative facts on how to reopen as soon as possible?

Now, I'm not sure what relative facts are, but here are the relevant facts. A month ago, the State of Florida closed bars. This was when the number of cases exceeded 9,000. Well, now, that record has been broken. It was broken two weeks ago when cases exceeded 15,000.

Now, another important metric Wolf that we've got to look at is the positivity rate across the state because that's an indicator of spread. If you take a look at the data and this is data released by the state Wolf in the past two weeks, the positivity rate has ranged between 13 and 18 percent right here in the State of Florida.

BLITZER: Yes, very disturbing numbers indeed. Rosa, we'll stay in very close touch with you Rosa Flores in Miami. Joining us now, the Mayor of Miami Beach Dan Gelber, Mayor Gelber thanks so much for joining us.

More than 100,000 cases total now in Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach of course is in Miami-Dade County. We see that eight intensive care units there have now run out of ICU beds.

[19:05:00]

BLITZER: ICUs countywide, Miami-Dade countywide are at 137 percent capacity. So, how bad are things right now, Mayor, from your vantage point?

MAYOR DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, I think the problem is we talk about the processing of people in our hospitals like, you know, just because we can that just makes it fine if we're able to. Every day Miami-Dade County right now about 200 people go into our hospitals because they're too sick.

20 to 30 of them will likely die. A good portion of them will end up two weeks in ICU, and another portion will be on ventilators and survive. That's I mean, we're normalizing something that should never be normalized just because we're able to process this many doesn't mean we should.

We have to focus on the reason they're coming in and the positivity rate because right now I can't imagine why anybody in Tallahassee, our state Capital, like the Governor is declaring success about this? We are in a very bad position right now.

BLITZER: Extremely bad. Miami Beach began issuing, as you well know, obviously, $50 fines this week for those individuals who go outside and are not wearing a mask. It's been nearly about a month since the order started. Are people obeying the order or simply ignoring the rules?

GELBER: I think a lot of people are obeying it. My residents are actually terrific. I took a walk this morning, and even though it's exercising, everybody had masks on and they would - you know, if they didn't, they would put them on when they came near you. It was very compliant and responsible.

There are a lot of folks that are not that. But also there are a lot of house parties going on. We think boat parties and things like that. And a lot of this is just the messaging. When you hear something about how we're going to open up bars next week, people think well it must be fine?

But we're hovering our positivity rate like 3,000 a day in just Dade County. Think about that. So, that means that a certain percent are going to the hospital and a certain percent are going to ICU and another percent are going on vents and a group are going to die probably 20 to 30 a day. That's an enormous amount of human suffering. If we can't bring this virus down we're going to have to take more extreme measures.

BLITZER: And as you heard, the state, they really want to open up the bars and there are a plenty of bars as we all know in Miami Beach where you are. I want you to listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci said a few weeks ago about opening bars. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Bars, really not good, really not good. Congregation in a bar inside is bad news. We've really got to stop that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Really got to stop that. So, where do things stand when it comes to the bars in Miami Beach?

GELBER: We never opened up our bars since we closed our economy. We've never opened them up. We're the last to open. Look we have a wonderful entertainment and hospitality industry. But right now - and I feel for them because that's exactly the kind of industry where the kind of - you don't have social distancing and things like that.

So, our bars have been closed from the beginning. But, again, this messaging, there's just disconnect in Tallahassee about what needs - what people need to be thinking about because if we can't get the - I mean, it's hovering at this incredible level right now.

Even if we level it off which a lot of people are saying we're doing. We're leveling it off at multiples of where it was months ago. It's so much higher. And that means that there's a direct correlation with how many people are going to end up, you know, in this sort of assembly line into our hospital system? And that is a very bad thing.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly is. You imposed an 8:00 pm curfew across South Beach which is in Miami Beach of course a week ago tonight. Are people respecting that curfew?

GELBER: Yes because we have police out. So, they're respecting it. We clear everything in the entertainment district at 8:00 pm. It's a real imposition on restaurants who can only serve outside anyway. So, we've limited a lot of activity.

But it really is, you know, a group of people are just not - they're not caring about it. Many are and perhaps most are but a group is not. And I don't know whether they're listening to the Governor or the Head of - telling everybody that the things are opening actually.

But we can't send that message out to people. People need to realize that this is on them. This is not on someone else's problem. It's self, it is everybody's problem to solve together.

BLITZER: Yes, there is. Good luck Mayor Gelber in Miami Beach. Appreciate it very much. Thanks for joining us.

We're going to have a much more on the Coronavirus pandemic this hour. We also have some sad news to report this evening, the legendary TV Host Regis Philbin has died at the age of 88. He died of natural causes. Regis Philbin was an absolute legend in the business, a legitimate television pioneer. [19:10:00]

BLITZER: He spent 23 years hosting the ABC Show "Live" first with Kathie Lee Gifford, then Kelly Ripa. He spent years hosting the widely popular game show "Who wants to be a millionaire?" We're going to have much, much more on his life later tonight here in "The Situation Room". Regis Philbin unfortunately has passed away.

As medical experts rush to find a Coronavirus vaccine, there are now growing concerns that simply many Americans may not even get vaccinated. We'll be right back.

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BLITZER: The first Phase Three Coronavirus Vaccine Trial in the United States is expected to begin next week. This phase is expected to involve around 30,000 volunteers testing whether the vaccine protects people against infection? But as CNN's Brian Todd reports, another major challenge lies ahead, getting people to trust the science.

[19:15:00]

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's what millions of us have been hanging our hopes on to get past this crushing pandemic, to return to work, to school, to go back to our favorite restaurants and bars, to work out at the gym, a deployable vaccine for Coronavirus, which experts say could arrive late this year or early next. But experts are now worried that when it comes, many Americans will reject the vaccine.

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DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Already surveys are showing us and nearly half of people are not inclined to take a COVID- 19 vaccine even if it was available today. That's a shocking number, and it's deeply concerning.

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TODD: In May, one poll from the "Associated Press" and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed only about half of Americans said they get the vaccine. 20 percent said they wouldn't, 31 percent weren't sure.

Other polls from CNN and "The Washington Post" and ABC News showed about 2/3 of Americans said they would get the vaccine. Still, experts are worried about any significant numbers of people rejecting the vaccine.

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DR. PAUL OFFIT, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: If a large percentage chose not to get vaccine then we would never get herd immunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Experts say there are several reasons that people don't trust a potential Coronavirus vaccine.

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ED YOUNG, SCIENCE WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: A lot of people are going to resist the very idea of getting it because they've been told for months and years now not to trust experts.

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TODD: Until recently, President Trump went against the advice of his own task force experts and rejected mask wearing, and during the pandemic he's questioned the guidance of America's top scientists on reopening the country.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Dr. Fauci has made some mistakes a little bit of alarmist.

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TODD: But the mistrust of a vaccine cannot be placed only at the President's feet. Experts say the very name of the project to push the vaccine through fuelled skepticism.

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DR. OFFIT: I think when people hear the term warp speed they assume its steps are being skipped. They assume that there are corners that are being cut and therefore this may be a vaccine because it's made so quickly it's less than optimal, it may have poorer safety qualities or effectiveness qualities.

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TODD: Doctors acknowledge the vaccine likely won't be a magic bullet for Coronavirus. That even after it comes out, it could be several months before we know how effective it is? But they have a simple stark message for those who are rejecting it.

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DR. OFFIT: The choice not to get a vaccine is a choice of taking the real and very serious risk of being infected by this virus and being asked to suffer or be hospitalized or dies from this virus.

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TODD: Dr. Pail Offit says a crucial part of this vaccine program is for the President, the task force, any leaders involved in this to be as transparent as possible with the public about the vaccine even before it rolls out and that means being honest with Americans about what our leaders know and don't know about the vaccine every step of the way. Brian Todd, CNN Washington. BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much. I want to bring in Dr. Seema Yasmin she is CNN Medical Analyst, Former Disease Detective at the CDC. Also joining us, Dr. Jeremy Faust, he is an Emergency Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Dr. Yasmin so many of us are pinning our hopes on a vaccine but what happens if people decide they don't want to get a vaccine?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So, that's exactly what I study, Wolf. And this anti-vaccine movement is not new my any means. It's been around for decades. And unfortunately some of its strength is down to us in public health kind of ignoring the anti-vaxxers to some extent not doing enough work and not working hard enough to counter some of that false narrative.

But there are two things to bear in mind. One is whether it's because people refuse it or because we're not quick enough to develop it, we have to be ready for the eventuality that there's no vaccine. Look at HIV, decades almost four decades of research we're trying to find an HIV vaccine. We haven't been successful.

So, on the one hand we could see a few vaccine candidates available towards the end of this year, early next year. But if we don't or if we do have a vaccine and people just outright refuse to take it, we will be back to square one looking at very basic public health counter measures like sheltering in place, physical distancing, and wearing a mask.

So we have to make sure that we remember even if we have a vaccine, those public health counter measures still very important.

BLITZER: Yes, that's absolutely right. Dr. Faust, how many people actually need to get vaccinated for all of us to have what's called herd immunity? Do you think enough Americans will decide to get vaccinated to make a real difference?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: I hope that we find out, and by that I mean that we decrease the spread of this virus in time so that when there is a vaccine there are people who can benefit from it. We're not acting that way. We need to get there.

The other answer to the question, it really depends on how long the immunity would last? We're learning a little bit about how long maybe antibodies which is a sign of immunity will last? We don't know how long the vaccines will be effective or whether you'll need a booster?

But I am confident that when that comes, the numbers that we're hearing about that says people don't want to be vaccinated might actually go in the right direction.

[19:20:00]

DR. FAUST: Physicians like me, frontline we have a lot of experience talking to our patients' one on one saying okay what are your concerns? How can I address them? And it's not about scaring them. It's about giving them the power, the information, to make a great choice.

And when we do that in my experience, we get a lot of yeses. So that's my hope is that we'll find out and that a lot of people will go along with this.

BLITZER: Let's hope and Dr. Yasmin the first so called Phase Three Coronavirus Vaccine Trial in the U.S. expected to begin next week. Thousands of people are volunteering for that trial. How significant is this?

DR. YASMIN: This is unprecedented speed of vaccine development, Wolf. Thinking back to when the Phase One Trial of this Moderna vaccine happened, it was only 66 days after Chinese scientists has decoded the genetic sequence of this virus.

So, we're already breaking records in terms of amping up these trials. A Phase Three Trial is particularly exciting now because this is the stage of the trial where about 30,000 people will receive the experimental vaccine and we will actually get data on vaccine efficacy.

And that's because Phase One and Phase Two Clinical Trials are very much focused on just checking for safety, looking for optimal dosing. So, we'll be waiting to see what the data comes out of the Phase Three Trial?

And baring in mind that Moderna is not the only the vaccine in Phase Three. There are 3 other vaccines at this stage of testing and overall about 26 vaccines that are currently being tested in people.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci says he's cautiously optimistic we'll all get a vaccine by the end of this year, let's hope. Dr. Seema Yasmin and Dr. Jeremy Faust as usual, thanks so much.

And in the next hour, we're going to go live to a testing site out in California where new cases in that state have spiked in recent days. Meanwhile, the President is making a series of head snapping reversals on the Coronavirus as cases across the country surge and his poll numbers, right now, they are sinking.

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[19:25:00]

BLITZER: President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not always see eye-to-eye during this Coronavirus pandemic. But on the subject of putting kids into school classrooms this fall, both the President and the CDC at least right now strongly want it to happen. They seem to be on the same page.

The CDC has a new set of guidelines about reopening schools and child care at this stage of this pandemic. Our National Correspondent Kristen Holmes is joining us right now. She's in Bridge Water, New Jersey, that's right outside the President's Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Kristen this new public health guidance coming out from the CDC. It

comes at a time when the President is seeing very low approval ratings on his handling of the Coronavirus emergency. So, is this good news for the President that he and the CDC at least right now seem to be mostly on the same page?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's not surprising news given that, as you said, these are new guidelines. Keep in mind that these guidelines came out from the Director of the CDC through that process after President Trump slammed the original guidelines saying that they were too tough and too expensive.

So, when we heard that there were new guidelines coming out in response to that, it's not surprising that they align with President Trump's views. Now, I will say one thing that was very surprising to hear this week when we saw really an about-face from President Trump on all fronts.

One of the things he said about schooling after pushing and pushing for reopening for months now, he said that some schools in hotspots might have to delay reopening. Now that's very interesting because it was one of a series of things President Trump did and said to change his tone on Coronavirus.

He started having those daily briefings again. He said at one point that the virus was going to get worse before it gets better, something that we've almost never heard him say, if we have at all, it was likely months ago and this is all because of polling. That's what sources tell us.

I want to pull up the approval poll here. This came out earlier this month. It shows you that this is about his handling of Coronavirus. 60 percent of people in the U.S. disapprove of the way that President Trump has handled Coronavirus. 38 percent approve.

Now this is compared to May when 53 percent disapproved and 46 percent of people approved. So, that's a stark difference that a month can make here. And that is what sources tell us is the reasoning for President Trump really doing this about-face and seeming like he's taking the virus much more seriously.

BLITZER: And it's interesting because I just checked that most recent Fox News Poll asked the question regardless of how you might vote, who do you trust to do a better job on the Coronavirus? Biden 51 percent, Trump 34 percent. Not encouraging numbers for the President on that front either.

And Kristen, you're in New Jersey. You're not far from one of President's Golf Clubs, as we mentioned. So what was on the President's agenda today?

HOLMES: Well, we just got an email roughly an hour or so ago that President Trump spent the day golfing with NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre. And I will note I want to give a special shout-out to my producer Jason Hoffman who taught me everything that I need to know about who exactly Brett Favre is before he did this hit? But I want to know while he was there playing golf, taking pictures, sending them out to the press, member of his own administration were trying to get a deal done on the stimulus bill. This is still not happening. There is no Republican proposal.

Senate Republicans are at odds with the White House over what exactly that's going to look like.

[19:30:01]

And Wolf, we're out of time where the unemployment, that extra benefit, $600.00 a week that 20 million Americans are relying on, that's going to expire at the end of the month, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of cohesive proposal, anything to tell those people that it's going to be okay or that are going to get the relief that they still very badly need -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He was a pretty decent football player, I must say. Kristen, I am just giving you a little background on this person the President was playing golf with today.

Thank you very much, Kristen Holmes, outside of the President's Country Club in New Jersey.

And joining us now to take a closer look at the political fallout for the President, our senior political commentator, David Axelrod. He's also a former adviser to President Obama. He's the host by the way of the very excellent "Axe Files" podcast.

You know, David, let's talk a little bit more about coronavirus and the impact of that on the political situation. But first, I want to get your take on the new polling that shows Joe Biden with a wide lead over the President in these three key battleground states.

A Fox News poll shows Biden up 13 percentage points in Minnesota, nine points in Michigan, 11 points in Pennsylvania. President Trump won two of those states in 2016. In fact, he flipped them from states that went for Barack Obama in 2012.

So what does that tell you about the state of this race right now, 101 days left before the election?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, Wolf, the state of the race is reflected in the change in the President's behavior. The reality is that the coronavirus is the dominant story in this country. This country still is grappling with it. He is seen as wanting in dealing with it and so he has changed his view and it's the coronavirus that is really dragging him down in many of these polls in each of these statewide polls.

Biden is seen by a wide margin as the person better suited to deal with the coronavirus and Trump's ratings on his handling of it are very low. But there are trends in these polls that are national in scope that should be worrisome to the Trump campaign.

He is losing independent voters by a wide margin. He is losing voters ages 65 and over. He is losing suburban voters. These are all groups, Wolf that he carried in 2016 and they are moving away from him.

You can see his concern about that. He has tweeted in the last couple of days that Biden would destroy the suburbs. They're running very, very tough ads suggesting a kind of dystopia in urban areas that are clearly geared toward trying to win some of those suburban voters back.

So look, there are a hundred days left, anything can happen. But right now, the Trump campaign is in some distress.

BLITZER: So is it panic time for the Trump campaign, you think?

AXELROD: Well, you know, you never want to panic in a campaign, but you know, the history of this is not good when you look at Presidents at this stage in the campaign, with approval ratings about where Trump's are in the high 30s, low, you know, 40 around that zone.

They have not been successful in winning reelection, and all of these different indicators that I mentioned earlier are deeply disturbing. And the bigger thing, Wolf is that it's not as if the coronavirus is going to get significantly better between now and November.

It's very clear now, that until there is a vaccine and until that vaccine is widely disseminated, we're going to be struggling with this virus. So, it's not clear what is going to change these conditions between now and November. He may announce a vaccine, I expect he will announce a vaccine, whatever the state of the search for a vaccine is, but the vaccine won't be here and the conditions will still be difficult.

So this is a problem he's going to have to grapple with between now and November.

One other thing I should say though, that is, it is something that mull over and that is why was it -- why would it take negative poll numbers to persuade the President that he ought to acknowledge the seriousness of the coronavirus?

Isn't the death of 145,000 Americans -- aren't the surging numbers of people who need hospitalization, who need to be in intensive care units in states across this country? Wouldn't that be enough to say to the President of the United States, we better get very serious about this?

So I think that's his problem in the final analysis, everybody sees what he is saying now, but they know what he has done to this point, and the dissonance is not resolving itself in his favor.

BLITZER: Does the Biden campaign, David, risk getting overconfident right now?

AXELROD: Well, they'd be crazy if they did for a number of reasons. One is, there is a lot of question about how the votes are going to come down and whether there are going to be problems relative to people's trying to -- people trying to vote.

[19:35:10]

AXELROD: By mail, people trying to find polling places amid all of this COVID concern. That is one set of concerns.

The others is the President himself. You know, he is someone who has plainly made clear that he is willing to do just about anything to win an election, and so you don't really know what he will do next and you have to be -- you have to be aware of that.

And then we have three presidential debates and Biden is going to be measured carefully in those debates. I think the President has done him a great favor by lowering expectations for Biden to the point where Biden gives a coherent presentation.

He is going to smartly clear the bar that the President has set for him, but nonetheless, those are high pressure affairs, and both men are going to have to perform.

So there are a lot of uncertainties between now and November, but certainly you'd rather be Joe Biden, Wolf, right now than Donald Trump.

BLITZER: With 101 days left to go. David Axelrod, thank you so much. We're going to have much more coverage of the coronavirus pandemic coming up here in our special SITUATION ROOM.

But first, we'll also take a closer look at the planned tributes this weekend to honor the late Congressman, John Lewis.

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[19:40:30]

BLITZER: We'll have much more on all the late breaking coronavirus developments that's coming up. But we're also following how Americans are remembering the late civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis.

His casket arrived just a little while ago at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama for an evening celebrating his tremendous life and legacy.

CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us now from Selma. Martin, tell us more about what's unfolding today, and the very important and moving events scheduled for tomorrow and then throughout the week.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, so Wolf, this is the beginning of what will be many goodbyes. But it began today in his hometown and it began with his own family.

Troy, Alabama is where John Lewis was born and raised. It's a rural part of Alabama, and it's where they celebrated the life and legacy of the boy from Troy. That's a nickname that John Lewis received from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself when they first met in 1958. It's a nickname that John Lewis embraced the rest of his life.

So today, what was special about the service in Troy, was the fact that not only it was the first and not only the last time that he would go home, but it was very personal because all of the participants who spoke at least, the main body of them, were his siblings.

They were his brothers and his sister, and they made an agreement to those that were there in attendance, they were weren't going to talk about the icon of the Civil Rights movement. They weren't going to talk about the man who became a powerful Congressman. They were there to talk about Robert, that's how they called him. His middle name. That's how they knew him.

And the personal stories that only they could tell, including how he used to preach to the chickens and the cows on the farm, and how the formation of what would become the rest of his life started there.

Here's his brother, talking about one great moment that he recollects.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL LEWIS, BROTHER OF REP. JOHN LEWIS: 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 up back.

So after the event was over, we were 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 ways from the cotton fields of Alabama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Tomorrow, John Lewis will make one final pass over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, of course, the bridge that he crossed on Bloody Sunday, March 7th in 1965, and it's why he will be forever remembered, tied to this community, tied to Civil Rights as a leader, as a hero. And he will make that passage on his own, hauled on a horse drawn caisson.

It will be a moving moment as he makes the journey once again to Montgomery -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Truly, truly wonderful and great man. Martin Savage, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, an important note. We will have special live coverage starting tomorrow at noon Eastern anchored by our own Fredricka Whitfield and Victor Blackwell. You'll want to see this really moving tribute, our special coverage tomorrow starting at noon.

Meanwhile, Brazil right now is seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases, 56,000 new cases reported yesterday -- just yesterday, and as the nation deals with this surge, the President of Brazil a tested positive for the virus is continuing -- this is hard to believe to downplay its severity.

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[19:48:37]

BLITZER: Brazil recorded nearly 300,000 new coronavirus cases in the last week alone. This is the country's seven-day moving average -- look at this -- which includes another 51,000 just today, the fourth straight day of more than 50,000 new cases in Brazil.

Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted this photo announcing he has now tested negative for the virus.

CNN's international security editor Nick Paton Walsh is joining us from Sao Paulo. Nick, we saw Bolsonaro's messaging change after he contracted the virus. We've seen him out today, what's the latest? Update our viewers.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, not a huge change in the messaging and troublingly, I think for many who realized the drug, hydroxychloroquine doesn't stop you getting coronavirus at all. It is useless, even says a recent study here in Brazil, and in fact, it may even be harmful.

In that picture where he said he has tested negative after three positive tests over the past two weeks, he is holding up like he often does what seems to be a box of hydroxychloroquine. He has been seen brandishing it in the past.

After that picture was posted, he went out, seemingly to get his motorcycle repaired. And during that visit, in fact, was seen occasionally not wearing a mask, but also wearing a helmet with a visor. So you have to question whether he needed to wear it or not.

But he did say again that he was concerned that the damage done by the lockdown measures to stop the virus may actually be worse to the economy than the virus itself. Instead, also, to focusing on how he wouldn't necessarily have known that he had the virus, unless he'd had a test to prove that he was positive.

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PATON WALSH: So going back to the original messaging, sadly, of saying that it's pretty much a little flu. That's what he described it a few months ago. He has slightly modified his tone, yes, it's fair to say. And in fact, just the day before, the hydroxychloroquine treatment is a matter between a patient and his doctor.

But this focus on one man's outcome here, I think, is distracting for many Brazilians, to the extraordinary numbers we've been seeing over the past days -- 51,000 today; 56,000 new cases 59,000 the day before, and all of this are the cases that are tested.

A recent study here, which was funded by the government, they've suddenly stopped funding it, did suggest that in fact, maybe only a sixth of cases are being spotted by tests in Brazil.

So this could only be a small amount of the problem and of course, the damage here over five months of pandemic has been astounding to the economy. Yet still, we have President Jair Bolsonaro talking as though the virus was pretty much something he wouldn't even have noticed, although he did at the beginning when he had it, saying he had a slight temperature and going back to the notion that the economy must come first.

So a startling series of developments here, but frankly, one piece of good news for the President, he is now negative and out and about, controversial as this President's statements may be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, but his statement is hard to believe, given the horrendous situation in Brazil right now. Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us, thank you.

And we're going to have much more on the coronavirus pandemic coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're also following some other breaking news. The legendary TV host, Regis Philbin has died at the age of 88.

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BLITZER: Television legends do not get bigger than Regis Philbin. The longtime broadcaster and morning TV host has died. Regis Philbin was nominated for 37 daytime Emmy Awards and won six.

The current hosts of "Live" Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest posted a statement saying quote, "We are beyond saddened to learn about the loss of Regis Philbin. He was the ultimate class act, bringing his laughter and joy into our homes every day on 'Live' for more than 23 years."

Joining us now to discuss his legacy, CNN media analyst, Bill Carter. Bill, Regis Philbin's career spanned -- what -- six decades. What was it about him that audiences here in the U.S. simply fell in love with?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: You know what it was, Lou, worth more than anything, the guy was authentic. That was a real guy.

You know, if a guy had this explosive enthusiasm, which he did, and it wasn't real, people would sort of repel backwards from it, but they went for it because he was real. Everything about him was genuine. Nothing was scripted. It was always spontaneous, and I think people just felt this guy is a guy I know and I really like.

BLITZER: It's absolutely true. His game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," Bill, it was so popular. Everyone loved it. How will he be remembered now?

CARTER: Well, you know what, I think he'll be remembered as being a spectacular broadcaster. I think he had more hours on television than anyone else in history.

The game show meant a lot to him because I wrote something about it when it was the first time, it was explosively successful, and I wrote that it was a phenomenon. He called me up. He was so excited.

His whole career had been sort of like, up and down and up and down. It was finally taking off, and now he's being called a phenomenon. It was so exciting for him. It was the thrill of a lifetime for him.

He had a clothing line, all of these great things happened to him and he was such a real guy and a genuine guy. I got to know him well. He couldn't have been a warmer, sweeter guy.

BLITZER: Yes, I met him a few times as well, and I totally agree. It couldn't have been nicer, a really terrific human being and he clearly loved everything he was doing, Bill. That obviously came through whatever he was doing on the air.

CARTER: You know, it's true, and he was underrated in a lot of ways because he was a very funny guy. If you talk to David Letterman, for example, David Letterman will tell you there was no one more naturally funny than Regis. He could do anything and they often asked him. Letterman would call him up late in the day when they guests cancelled that he come in and be spectacularly funny.

Because he was natural with it. It was just part of his ability. And I think people really appreciated that. Like he didn't need a script. It was just him being himself. He was full of joy and enthusiasm. And wow, that just rubbed off on everybody.

BLITZER: Terrific, terrific guy. We will all miss him. Our deepest condolences to his family.

CARTER: We sure will.

BLITZER: His friends. A really, really wonderful guy. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, on both coasts of the United States, truly horrific news from the coronavirus pandemic. The number of people newly infected and dying is soaring higher than we've seen before.

Spotlight on Florida, for example, that's where there are now more people confirmed positive for the corona virus than in New York.

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