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Biden Leading Trump in Polls; Hurricane Hits Texas; Coronavirus Outbreak Hits Major League Baseball; U.S. National Security Adviser Tests Positive For COVID-19. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 27, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Monday. Thank you so much for being with me.

We start with a series of breaking developments, as the coronavirus rages across the country. With more than 4.2 million cases, the United States still makes up a quarter of all infections worldwide.

And maybe even more concerning, coronavirus deaths are rising in over half of the states, and hospitalizations are climbing at alarming rates. And just in this morning, the virus inched one degree closer to Trump.

His national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, tested positive. And just as the baseball season was getting into swing here, an abrupt stop in play, after a sudden outbreak on one team. Two games now scheduled for tonight have been postponed, after a number of Miami Marlins players and two coaches test positive.

Meanwhile, Google, one of the largest tech companies in the entire world, now bracing for long-term implications of the pandemic. The company announced its employees will continue working from home -- listen to this until -- at least July of 2021. We will come back to that.

Today also marks a major step toward the race for a vaccine. Right now, phase three trials are under way for a possible vaccine from the drug company Moderna. This is the very first U.S. candidate to reach this testing stage.

So, a busy start to the week. We have got you covered on all angles.

Let's start, though, at the White House, the president's national security adviser, as I mentioned, now the highest ranking Trump official to have tested positive for COVID.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is our White House correspondent.

And, Kaitlan, when is the last time O'Brien was anywhere near the president? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, that's a good

question, and one that we still have not gotten the answer to, which is kind of confusing, given his stature, that he is such a senior top aide to the president.

Yes, the president was just asked a few moments ago, when he was leaving the White House, Brooke, about this diagnosis of one of his highest ranking officials with COVID-19. And this is what the president told reporters:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I haven't seen him lately. I heard he tested -- yes. I have not seen him. I'm calling him later.


COLLINS: So, he said he's calling him later. He said he has not seen Robert O'Brien lately.

What we do know, Brooke, is that Robert O'Brien, who works out of an office in the West Wing, was last here on Thursday. And we're told by several sources that he abruptly left the office. It wasn't clear why.

But what's really stunning about all of this and finding out about this, this morning is that we were finding out about it around the same time that the National Security Council staff was finding out about it. They said they did not know.

Several of them were not formally informed about their boss testing positive for COVID-19 until the White House put out this statement to reporters, a statement that did not have a name on it, where they confirmed that he tested positive.

Brooke, they said he had mild symptoms and was self-isolating and working from a secure location off-site, of course, given how sensitive his job responsibilities can be.

They say there's no risk to the president or the vice president, but they do not say when it was that they last met. And, of course, we just heard from several top officials who were kind of surprised that that's how they found out that Robert O'Brien tested positive for coronavirus, not that he told them or anything like that.

One more twist to this is that O'Brien just got back from a trip to Paris recently, where he met with his counterparts from Germany, from Italy, from France, several countries.

And in several photos of that trip, people pointed out that he was not wearing a mask on that occasion, when -- several meetings that he was in. And so now we found out that he has tested positive.

And we should note Larry Kudlow told us earlier, another top aide here, told us that he believes that they got it from O'Brien's daughter, who recently tested positive for coronavirus as well, Brooke.

BALDWIN: This is why testing and contact tracing are all so important, right?

Let me ask you quickly, Kaitlan. We know we will see the president in North Carolina just a little while from now. Why is he there?

COLLINS: This is part of this effort that you have seen from the president over the last seven days or so to really reboot, course- correct and say that his focus is on the pandemic that's happening.

He's going to tour this facility that's helping manufacture basically components of a vaccine candidate that's being done by Novavax. And so the president is there touring that. He is expected to take questions from reporters, so we will see if he comments more on vaccines and therapeutics, like he's been talking about, if he says anything about O'Brien.

But this is part of this larger effort by the White House to try to make the optics of this look differently, because, of course, the president recently went about two weeks with no public COVID-19 events. And they are trying to change that, given so many polls show that voters have rejected his handling of the pandemic so far.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you. We will look for President Trump in a little while.

Let's turn now to the sudden halt in the world of sports, two Major League Baseball games postponed due to a virus outbreak within the Miami Marlins.


So, you have the New York Yankees. They were supposed to play in Philadelphia tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. And the Baltimore Orioles were to play the Marlins in Miami.

But, now according to ESPN, 11 players and two coaches from the Marlins tested positive while playing in Philly last weekend, bringing the total number of cases to the team to at least 13.

Rosa Flores is in Miami.

And, Rosa, the Marlins, as I mentioned, they were supposed to play their home opener in Miami tonight. What are you hearing from the team?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, We're learning more from the MLB.

They issued out a statement saying that these two games that you mentioned are postponed, and that the Marlins are staying behind in Philly, so that they can get tested for COVID-19. We're also learning from the Marlins' CEO, who has issued a statement, who is saying in part -- quote -- "After a successful spring 2.0, we have now experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight's home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation."

And, Brooke, as you mentioned, the Marlins are now testing their players, testing their coaches, the entire traveling team. They're staying in Philly. And the statement went on to say that they're expecting to get those results today. So, we're hoping to learn more soon.

Now, all of this as, of course, the surge in cases here in the state of Florida continues. Today, we're learning about an increase in the number of children that have tested positive for COVID-19. In eight days, the number of children that tested positive increased 34 percent.

If you look at hospitalizations, those increased by 23 percent during that same time period. And the positivity rate with children increased from 13.4 percent to 14.4 percent. Now, this, Brooke, as we're getting more feedback from individuals who are, of course, monitoring what is going on with COVID-19 in children, as this ongoing legal battle in the state of Florida continues.

We're hearing from the largest teachers union in this state, and they're saying that these new numbers are -- quote -- "very alarming" -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: They are. And to your point about kids, we're talking to a woman coming up who, sadly, lost her daughter, her grown daughter, to COVID, and her daughter's two itty-bitties tested positive for coronavirus. That's coming up later.

For now, Rosa Flores in Miami Beach, thank you.

Joining me now to discuss just all of this is Dr. Seema Yasmin, CNN medical analyst and former CDC disease detective.

And so, Dr. Yasmin, as you heard, talking to Kaitlan off the top, the highest-ranking Trump administration official now has tested positive for COVID. We don't know the last time he was with Trump, per se, but you heard Kaitlan report out we know he was recently in Paris, met with some of his counterparts in Europe.

A, how significant is this? And, B, does this not underscore the need for testing and tracing, despite what maybe the White House has said?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's very serious, Brooke, especially when we think about the kind of global travel that high- ranking officials are doing, even now, at the height of this pandemic in the U.S.

And, of course, it's really concerning that we have seen pictures of this adviser not wearing a mask while in public meetings. It totally reinforces the need for testing. We are now told, though, that senior White House officials get daily testing. I really hope that is the case, because at least then you have this reassurance that people are getting diagnosed really early on, the contact tracing is happening, and that other people who are exposed can at least get tested.

But, certainly, it really reminds us that everyone in America who has symptoms should be able to get tested and to get their results in three days or less.

BALDWIN: Turning to sports, just talking to Rosa about the Miami Marlins, right? I mean, they were supposed to have their home opener tonight in Miami, all systems go.

Record scratch, where you have at least a dozen, reportedly, players and coaches testing positive. And you think baseball, like, it's not exactly,Dr. Yasmin, a contact sport. How could this happen? And then what might this mean for other sports who are more contact?

YASMIN: It can so easily happen, Brooke. I can tell you, from having investigated so many epidemics, all you need is one person who is infected to spread it to another and another.

And, unfortunately, sports and having athletic groups in close contact with each other can be the perfect environment. And, look, we had one player in the Marlins test positive on Friday, three more test positive yesterday, and yet still a game went ahead yesterday?

And I know the team says that they did contact tracing, that they pulled out the members, the players that tested positive, and did let -- made sure that everyone else was negative.

But, still, we know enough about this virus that people can test negative in the very, very early stages of viral infection. So, it really speaks to our need to not be complacent, to be really careful. And, also, it's just really humbling.


It's taken four months for the MLB season to get started up. And now, what, less than four days into that, things are getting canceled already.

BALDWIN: Then you have folks like Google announcing that its 200,000 employees will work from home until July 2021.

Do you think that is -- just tell me your reaction to that. And do you think other companies should follow suit, given we don't even have definitive answers on a vaccine?

YASMIN: It's a clear signal that this massive company is bracing for a long pandemic.

And I think that their decision would be very different, Brooke, if they were not based in America, but they were based in New Zealand or Germany or one of the many other countries around the world that are seeing cases trended downwards, as opposed to in the U.S., where we are still seeing cases and deaths increase and be a lot worse than they were just a few months ago.

I think what this company is doing will be followed by many other companies. And I think, really, this is saying to employees that, look, you live in a country that does not have a robust pandemic response. There isn't a cohesive national federal response. There's so much uncertainty, and we're just seeing things get worse and worse.

At least one thing we can do, as your employer, is say to you, here's one piece of certainty. You will now be working from home for the next year. And especially in the context of how awful the situation, how mismanaged the situation is here in the U.S., Brooke, I think that might be the safest thing for employees and for their families.

BALDWIN: I'm just sure everyone's sitting at home, new viewers and talking to you, especially, who normally would be at work at this time in the afternoon, and just you hear things like this from Google about, what, July 2021, and you start thinking, my goodness, that maybe I won't be going back into the office in the fall.

We will take it as it comes. In the meantime, Dr. Seema Yasmin, thank you so much.

YASMIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Texas suffering a brutal one-two punch, a spike in COVID cases, plus flooding, power outages and widespread damage from a Category 1 hurricane. We have those details, as we will take you to Texas.

And testing problems continue to plague large sections of the country, as so many people wait for up to two weeks for their results. So, let's talk to a doctor about this who says they are simply overwhelmed.

And we are now officially fewer than 100 days from the election. Can you believe that? And more polls show how the president's handling of the pandemic is seriously hurting his chances for a second term.

So much to talk about. Stay right here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Texas, already suffering from surging coronavirus numbers, is now reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna. This storm brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of the state over the weekend. Thousands of homes and businesses are still without power.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas with more.

Ed, what are you seeing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Last week, a critical care doctor described the coronavirus pandemic in South Texas as a tsunami of cases. And that was before Hurricane Hanna came roaring ashore as a strong Category 1 hurricane.

This storm comes at an absolutely devastating time for that region of South Texas. It's been described as the hot spot within this Texas hot spot. And it had been the number one priority for state officials, trying to get this virus under control. The storm brought heavy flooding, strong winds throughout the region, obviously putting a lot more pressure on hospital systems that have already been pushed to the brink because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes at a time when, fortunately, the number of new coronavirus cases is starting to show signs plateauing in here in this state. But the death toll, it continues to rise, topping 5,000 fatalities in this pandemic, and 1,000 of those deaths have come in the last week. That is a troubling statistic.

But the good news right now is that it appears the worst of Hurricane Hanna has pushed through the region. The storm has deteriorated. And the worst of the winds and rain appears to be over

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas, Texas.

BALDWIN: All right, thank you so much.

COVID testing continues to be a problem across much of the country, with some people waiting as long as two weeks to get a result. And now a top Trump administration official has admitted that we need to do better on testing.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: 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. We are doing everything we can to do that.


BALDWIN: The situation is particularly dire in California, where some hospitals and testing centers are quite simply overwhelmed.

In parts of Los Angeles, long wait times are hurting black and Latino populations in particular.

So, with me now, Dr. Grace Neuman, head of the testing program at South Central Family Health Center in L.A.

So, Dr. Neuman, thank you so much for being on with me. And thank you for all of the just so necessary work that you guys are doing.

I know that your health center serves thousands of people, but you are not able to test nearly as many people as you would like. You heard Admiral Giroir say that he wants test results in 24 hours.

Are you anywhere close to that, A? And, B, when you are able to test people, how long does it take for people get the results?

DR. GRACE NEUMAN, SOUTH CENTRAL FAMILY HEALTH CENTER: Yes, those are great questions. And the answer is no. And that's the main issue here.

As we wait for testing to get done more than 24 hours, the results coming back, it will diminish the value of the test itself. Patients are very frustrated if they have to wait 12 -- I'm sorry -- 14 days or longer, because, by that time, they either know that they haven't or they don't have it.


BALDWIN: And then once they -- so, you're saying it takes -- so you're -- I know that, when I was reading about you, this is the first time I'd actually ever read a quote from a doctor where you're actually having to turn some people away from getting COVID tests, period.

And that must be excruciating for you, as just a medical professional.

NEUMAN: Yes, it breaks my heart. And it's very painful to say, hey, we can't test you, sorry, come back another day. Hopefully, you will get tested. It's absolutely heartbreaking.

And we should have to fix this problem.

BALDWIN: And why is that? Why is that happening? Because of issues with labs and just being overwhelmed?

NEUMAN: Yes, labs are overwhelmed with more testing, and because of the increase in the turnaround time, because they need to test more patients as the surge has gone up.

So, there's limited reagents, there's limited test kits out there, and there's a bottleneck going on.

BALDWIN: I read a quote from you. I want to read it to everyone listening.

You said: "I feel like COVID-19 is like the Grim Reaper. It goes out and it picks on people who are the most vulnerable."

And I want to ask you about that, because I know a lot of your patients are Latino. They work in warehouses and factories and restaurants and grocery stores, where the risk of catching COVID is so, so high. Tell me, what are the complications in treating such a vulnerable population?

NEUMAN: Yes, that's true.

Our patient population is special because of the fact that they are workers in the health, food industries. They're the transportation workers. They are workers in the construction business (AUDIO GAP) at direct risk because of the need for face-to-face interactions.

So, because of that, their risk of getting coronavirus is higher. So, when they get coronavirus, they will also be disproportionately affected with complications from COVID-19 because they have health issues, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, chronic lung disease, asthma, COPD, emphysema.

So they are at more risk for what we call morbidity and mortality.

BALDWIN: This is a funny question 9to ask, but I'm just curious, because I feel you, and I feel the difficulty in your work right now. Is it at all rewarding, knowing that you are helping this vulnerable population?

NEUMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

We are talking about helping families, hardworking low-income families that have two to three jobs. And if they get sick, who's going to take care of their families? Who's going to provide for them? Their families are not going to be able to eat.

If they have to self-isolate for 14 days, they won't have a job, things like that. This is an economic hardship for them. So, we feel for them.

BALDWIN: We're glad you do. And for all your work, Dr. Grace Neuman, South Central Family Health Center in L.A., thank you.

NEUMAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Stay healthy. We need you.

NEUMAN: OK. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Meantime, the president's reelection hopes taking another hit, as another major poll in a key state shows Joe Biden pulling further ahead. We will discuss that.

And I will speak with a mother who just lost her 29-year-old daughter to the coronavirus and is now raising her three grandchildren.



BALDWIN: Any minute now, the Republican Party is expected to unveil a new trillion-dollar stimulus plan. It follows a weekend of negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans.

And so their proposal is set to include another round of checks for individuals and families. It will also extend the federal eviction moratorium that just expired last week. Meanwhile, the $600 unemployment benefit would be replaced with $200 payments, as states transition to a system that would offer income replacement to laid-off workers.

The Republican plan is also said to include about $16 billion for testing and another $105 billion to help schools reopen. In a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she accused the Republican Party of stalling to negotiate individual proposals, instead of getting this package deal.

Negotiations on this new stimulus come fewer than 100 days until the November election. So, 99 days from now, Americans will choose between President Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

New polls show President Trump trailing in states key to his 2016 victory. A new NBC News survey out today shows Trump losing in North Carolina by seven points. And other polls out over the weekend have Biden beating Trump in several critical battleground states.

So, just here to help us make sense of it all and looking ahead is CNN political director David Chalian.

Hi, David.


BALDWIN: What do you, first and foremost -- what do you take away from these polls?

CHALIAN: Well, the first thing I take away is what you just noted, which is that, across some of these critical battleground states, where Donald Trump won them in 2016, each one of these states we're talking about, they were in the Trump column in 2016, not now.

Take a look at Florida, Arizona, Michigan that -- CNN released the new polls in those states just yesterday, and you see that Joe Biden edges out the president in each one of them.