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Florida's Virus Cases in Children Jumped 34 Percent in 8 Days; Hurricane Hanna Lashes Virus-stricken Texas; Moderna Begins First Phase 3 Clinical Trial of Vaccine in U.S.; Senate GOP to Unveil Relief Bill with Scaled-Back Unemployment Aid; National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien Tests Positive for Coronavirus. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 27, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


This morning virus deaths are rising now in 29 states across the country and test results where they're available are just taking too long. And the calls to shut down again are now growing louder. White House Coronavirus Response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says that several states should at a minimum close down their bars before things get worse.

Some of the most stunning headlines out of Florida today. The state has now surpassed New York over the weekend and has the second most cases in the U.S., just behind California. Cases among Florida's children increased by 34 percent in just eight days. Hospitalization of children increased by 23 percent in that same time frame.

HARLOW: That's right. And that's really alarming as the nation grapples with how and if to get our children back in school this fall.

We're following all of that and the race for the vaccine, which is moving forward today. An important update on that. We'll tell you how.

We're also following all of the critical details out of Capitol Hill on Republicans' new stimulus plan, what it means for people that are relying on that extra aid. First, though, let's begin with our Rosa Flores. She joins us for more on these new troubling numbers out of Florida on children.

I have -- we've all been asking so much about this after we saw especially that 9-year-old girl die from COVID last week in Florida, Rosa. These new numbers are startling.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really are. And that 9-year-old, Poppy, she had no underlying conditions. That's according to her family. Look, we did the math on these numbers this morning. This is data

released by the Florida Department of Health. Take a look. In the past eight days, the number of children that have contracted the coronavirus has increased by 34 percent. Here are the numbers, on July 16th, there were 23,170 children with COVID-19. On July 24th that number increased to 31,150.

The number of hospitalizations also went up during that same time period by 23 percent. From 246 children in hospitals to 303. The positivity rate also went up in children from 13.4 percent to 14.4 percent, number of deaths grew by one, that 9-year-old that we've been talking about.

Look, here in the state of Florida, the positivity rate for the past two weeks have been between 13 percent and 18 percent. Governor Ron DeSantis maintains that the numbers in his state have stabilized. Look, we need to include some perspective here because while for the past two weeks the number of cases have been around 9,000 to 12,000, let's not forget that on June 1st, when we first started covering this spike in cases, experts were alarmed because the number of cases per day were exceeding 1,000, Jim and Poppy.

So when you put that into perspective, it's not normal for a state to have more than 9,000 cases or between 9,000 and 12,000 a day. There's a difference between stability and normalizing the fact that there are so many cases in this state -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: I'm so glad that you said that because that really does put it into perspective, Rosa. Let us know when you hear more about the children and why that spike is happening there. Thanks very much.

This morning south Texas, communities there are being slammed on two fronts, obviously coronavirus and also the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's live in Dallas with more.

I wonder, is the hurricane affecting hospitals' ability to deliver essential health care right now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are struggling, were already struggling. Last week a doctor described the coronavirus pandemic as a tsunami of cases coming to south Texas and that was before a hurricane with 90-mile-an-hour winds came ashore.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hurricane Hanna barreled down on southern Texas this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We woke up to the worst of our fears.

LAVANDERA: Hanna made landfall on Saturday just south of Corpus Christi was a category 1 hurricane. This popular marina in the area destroyed with boats piled on top of one another. The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression but still drenched

parts of south Texas with up to a foot of rain, leaving more than 140,000 residents without power this morning, according to PowerOutage.U.S. President Trump approved a federal emergency declaration for the hard-hit state.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: This challenge is complicated and made even more severe, seeing that it is sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19.


LAVANDERA: The Rio Grande Valley seeing damage and terrible flooding from the storm, further devastating the community already struggling to contain a huge surge in COVID-19 cases. There were numerous reports of water rescues in the area due to stranded cars and flooded streets.

This comes as area hospitals are already overwhelmed with coronavirus cases. In Starr County, an ethics committee is being formed to evaluate which patients will receive care and which patients will be sent home to die.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: What's happening right now in south Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley is horrible to watch. They're making forced choices about who gets care in hospitals.

LAVANDERA: Local officials in Hidalgo and Starr Counties are issuing stay-at-home orders. On Sunday Texas reported more than 5800 new cases. The state has seen over 390,000 cases to date and surpassed the grim milestone of more than 5,000 fatalities, with nearly 1,000 of those deaths coming in just the last six days.

MAYOR RON NIRENBERG (I), SAN ANTONIO: Seriously, our deaths have tripled, nearly tripled within the last three weeks or so. So, you know, we are seeing the results of a careless reopen in the state and we are committed to not allowing that to happen again.


LAVANDERA: And one of the concerns, of course, in these types of situations is the pressure on emergency rooms. The good news is that the worst of the storm has pushed inland and has begun falling apart. So the worst of the storm should be over as the day continues here -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Ed Lavandera, double blow there to southern Texas. Thank you very much.

A key moment in the long race for a vaccine. The first injections were given this morning to subject participants, study participants, as Moderna entered phase three of its clinical trials, becoming the first in the U.S. to do so.

HARLOW: Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Good morning, Elizabeth. You sat down with the first person to receive phase three COVID vaccine injection. What did she say?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. She's the first person in the United States. Her name is Dawn Baker. And we were there when she got this shot. It was really a historic moment for the medical crew working there, broke out into applause after she got that jab. Now they'll eventually give shots to 30,000 people in this Moderna phase three clinical trial.

About half will get the actual vaccine. The other half will get a placebo, basically a shot that does nothing, and then they'll follow them to see who fares better. I got to sit down with Dawn right after she got her shot.


COHEN: Now, you don't know if you got the vaccine or the placebo, but either way you're hoping to find a cure.

DAWN BAKER, PHASE THREE VACCINE VOLUNTEER: Either way it's a really important role to have to be a private researcher. I never thought that I would do something like this.

COHEN: You are the first person in the United States to get a shot in a phase three COVID trial. What does that feel like?

BAKER: It is very exciting. I'm very anxious about it. I just hope that they're really, really good results. I know a lot of people are doing a lot of different vaccine trials and things going on but, for one, I feel so proud.


COHEN: Now, with this site here in Savannah, Georgia, they hope to give shots to about 350 study subjects and even the doctors don't know who's getting the vaccine and who's getting the placebos but they will follow these people really closely to see who gets infected and who doesn't, who gets sick and who doesn't -- Poppy, Jim.

HARLOW: Elizabeth, good to hear from her. We'll watch this closely. Thank you.

Now to Congress and the push for more economic relief as millions of unemployed Americans, this is tens of millions of people, at the end of this week will lose that extra $600 a week in additional cash that they were getting on unemployment.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Joe Johns, he's at the White House.

Joe, Senate Republicans, they're basically proposing, are they not, a slimmed down plan that would just address extension of this initial unemployment benefit, strip out all the other stuff, trillions of dollars that Democrats want?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Just about. And obviously, this is just a starting point so we don't know what the final package is going to look like. But there are a couple other things you have to throw in besides the unemployment insurance to sort of describe what they're doing, we think. This includes a $1200 to $2400 payment. It includes something called reemployment bonuses, which is essentially paying employers to keep people on the payroll. It also includes -- well, it includes retention bonuses as well.


There are tax credits in there for small businesses and restaurants, and there's the extension of the federal eviction moratorium. But one of the biggest sticking points, obviously, is this $600 employment benefit.

The Democrats just want that extended as is. The folks over here at the White House would like to make that 70 percent of wages, and it's a real fight, just to put it simply. There are a number of other things that are still up in the air including limitations on liability. The Republican Senate majority leader would like to see some type of limitation on liability. The president over here has said he'd really like to see a payroll tax cut. But according to the Treasury secretary, it's pretty clear that is not going to make the cut.

Back to you all.


SCIUTTO: Joe Johns at the White House, thanks very much.

We have some breaking news now coming in regarding the extent of the outbreak here. We will bring that reporting as soon as we have it. Meanwhile -- do we have a reporter? Actually, we're going to come back briefly after this break with some news regarding the extent of the outbreak and it's touching on the Trump administration. We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: This is the breaking news just in to CNN. We wanted to make sure we had it right before we reported it. It is our understanding now that the National Security adviser to the president, Robert O'Brien has tested positive for coronavirus recently. This is from a senior administration official speaking to our Kevin Liptak at CNN. The official said that O'Brien has been working from home since last week.

Our Joe Johns is at the White House. Of course, Joe Johns, this of concern, he's a very senior official in this government, but also one as National Security adviser to the president who meets with the president face-to-face often. What do we know?

JOHNS: That's -- well, that's absolutely right. And the president has said that he does get tested virtually every day. So the question, of course, is when was the last time he was with Mr. O'Brien? What we know is that Robert O'Brien did travel very recently over to Europe, meeting with his counterparts in Paris, broke a little bit of news there. Now, he's back.

We're told that he is working from home. The big question, of course, is the severity of the coronavirus disease in his body and how it's affected him. Not clear as of yet, the National Security Council has not issued much more information than the fact that the National Security adviser himself has tested positive for coronavirus. So we're going to have to try to fill in the blanks at some future time, Jim. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Joe Johns at the White House, we'll bring you more details as we have them. Again, confirming there, CNN reporting the National Security adviser to the president has tested positive for coronavirus. We're joined now by infectious disease specialist Dr. Carlos del Rio, and Dr. Peter Hotez; he's dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, if I could begin with you, just the significance of this reaching the highest levels of the U.S. government and Trump administration. Of course, President Trump himself has said repeatedly, he thinks that testing on a national basis is overrated, but it is something that his own staff, his own advisors and he himself are subjected to frequently.

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR & DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, I mean, to protect the president, it's going to be very important to do frequent testing. In this particular case, we don't know if this individual was infected in Paris, in Europe and then was quarantined back in the U.S. and never saw the president after that. We just have no details to know what the risk of exposure is to the president.

But you're right, we've never really fully gotten up to speed with testing, and this is one of the many issues facing the country right now. I mean, the big worry right now is there's so much virus transmission going on across the south, and now as Dr. Birx points out, it's moving into the Midwest, into Indiana, Ohio. Is just going to be the next big piece of the resurgence? It's not even the second wave yet, we're still talking about the resurgence from the first wave. It's massive.

And we're going -- we continue to head down the wrong path in this nation, and until we confront the national strategy and take this on, this will continue to spiral out of control.

We're going to hit 150,000 deaths probably by the end of this week, and those deaths will continue to accumulate. I don't know what the wait is for. Why not implement a strategy now? I have put one out, others as well. I've put out a plan where we can get the nation back on track by --


HOTEZ: October 1, it's actually not that difficult, but we have to do it.

HARLOW: Dr. del Rio, I want to get to the Moderna vaccine in a moment because you know, you're part of selecting people for this trial. But just on this breaking news that the National Security adviser Robert O'Brien has indeed tested positive for COVID, it goes without saying, we hope he's going to be OK.

We know that he recently returned from Europe. And we know in Europe he and his deputies met with top officials from the U.K. from France, from Germany and Italy, and that's part of the job, right? But that raises a whole host of questions.

CARLOS DEL RIO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: It raises a lot of questions, but it also again reminds us of the transmission of this virus. This is a highly transmissible virus. And I think we need to remember that it's not only important to wear a face mask, but also to social distance and to limit gatherings. And you know, if you have gatherings for more than ten people, it is advisable that still you wear a face mask and you still social distance.

And I bet you in many of those meetings, you know, they were all close to each other. And while people are getting tested, especially some of the tests being done, the rapid tests while they're quite sensitive, you know, they can have false negatives, and a false negative will give you the sense of security that you're not infected when you really are.


SCIUTTO: We had a moment this weekend when Admiral Giroir, who's been in charge of big portions of the administration's coronavirus response, acknowledged that testing is not happening quickly enough. I want to play his sound Dr. Hotez, I want to ask you a question about it. Have a listen.


BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT HEALTH SECRETARY, HHS: I started out -- I started out by saying that we are never going to be happy with testing until we get turnaround times within 24 hours, and I would be happy with point-of-care testing everywhere. We are not there yet.


SCIUTTO: I imagine Dr. Hotez, given the quick and widespread testing has been what every healthcare official, yourself included, and every other country that's managed to get a handle on this outbreak has undertaken, has recommended. What does it mean that the administration is only now acknowledging a major shortcoming in this testing? I should note that the president is not. He continues to say he thinks testing is overrated.

HOTEZ: Yes, I mean, we -- you know, Dr. Giroir appropriately points out, we need that point-of-care testing. I mean, what's the point of doing a test, and then getting the results three or four days later at some point out, it's like getting a weather report, that's three, four days old. It's completely useless. And so until we can fix this problem, we're always going to have an issue. And this also makes contact tracing problematic as well. And now we -- and now compounding that is the fact that we've got so

many cases across the south, now moving into Midwest, I'm not even sure that contact-tracing is going to be effective. Remember, for every case that we find that's confirmed, there's probably at least three to ten cases that are unconfirmed, that are out there in the community. So when you talk about 1,200 cases a day in Houston where we are, we're really talking about maybe 5,000 or 6,000 cases a day.

HARLOW: Right --

HOTEZ: I don't see how you can do contact-tracing. And so this is a crisis that we've got to address.

HARLOW: Dr. del Rio, on Moderna entering phase three of its trial of the vaccine that is different than so many that are being tried right now, and that is because it uses mRNA or essentially teaches the body how to fight off the virus.

It's fascinating and if it works, it would be groundbreaking, right? Because there has been no successful mRNA vaccine that had made it all the way to market. Can you talk about how big a game changer this would be, not only for COVID in this crisis, but for medicine as we know it, if it works?

DEL RIO: Absolutely. I think we have seen really innovative ways of developing vaccines. You know, the -- when we think about vaccines, we think about the old-fashioned, you know, Louis Pasteur way in which you took a virus, you're going to activate it, you inject it into an animal and you hope for the best. Nowadays -- genetic engineering to develop vaccines. And while you're correct, no mRNA vaccine is currently available on the market, that doesn't mean that it cannot be available.

And I think this really is changing the paradigm of vaccinology, and I would only also see that this may only not only impact vaccine against COVID, but we may have a better vaccine against influenza and better vaccines against other viruses. So in fact, this technology, this groundbreaking technology is really helped science, research and basic science leads to changes at the clinical level.

And why investing of the government and research really matters because it's through that investment that now we have not only the Moderna vaccine, but we're actually going to have four vaccines entering clinical trials -- entering clinical trials over the next several weeks.

HARLOW: Thank you both. It's an exciting day on the vaccine front to see what happens in this next phase. We appreciate it very much, too, Dr. del Rio and obviously Dr. Hotez as well. We want to take a moment to tell you more about that little girl we mentioned on Friday who died, 9 years old from coronavirus. The youngest victim of it in Florida.

Well, over the weekend, we learned her name. Her name is Kimora Lynum. Her family says she went -- Kim, there she is. And they remember her as a girl with a big heart who wanted to be everybody's friend. Her mother says she went to the hospital with a high fever, but was sent home. Less than a week later, she never woke up from her nap. Listen to this.


MIKASHA YOUNG-HOLMES, MOTHER OF KIMORA LYNUM: I was shaking her, yelling at her. I yelled at my mom, and you know, I told her to come in here because Kim is not breathing.

MASHELL ATKINS, GRANDMOTHER OF KIMORA LYNUM: Yes, I was just trying to -- trying to bring her back. I tried. I tried everything I could to bring her back.


HARLOW: Well, this is all so important as you see the beautiful image of them releasing balloons for her. It's not believed that she had any underlying health conditions. She was tested for coronavirus only after she passed away. That is when it came back positive. Obviously, our thoughts are with her entire family. We'll be right back.



HARLOW: OK, we have learned that the National Security adviser Robert O'Brien in the Trump administration has contracted coronavirus. Let's go to Ryan Browne, he joins us at the Pentagon with more. What can you tell us? And do we know how he's doing?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are told that he is working from home as U.S. officials telling our White House team that the National Security adviser Robert O'Brien has, in fact, contracted the coronavirus and is working from home. So he's not in a hospital at this point in time, continuing to do his job. Now, interesting enough, O'Brien who had just visited Europe a few days ago, meeting with several of his European counterparts during a working visit in France.