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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. National Security Adviser Tests Positive For COVID-19; Interview With District Of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser (D); U.S. Deaths Top 147,000, Averaging 900 Deaths A Day Over Past Week; Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 27, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're tracking the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, as we stand by for my live one-on-one interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci this hour.
Also this hour, more than 147,000 people have died from the virus here in the United States, with an average of some 900 deaths a day. New cases rising right now in 22 states, with more than 4.2 million infections confirmed here in this country, the U.S. accounting for one-fourth of all cases around the world.
There's a significant new development in the fight against the virus tonight. The first large late style -- late-stage, I should say, clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is now under way, this as President Trump has been defending his pandemic response, and urging governors to reopen their states, even after the virus infected the highest level member of the Trump administration yet, the president's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien.
First, let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us from Los Angeles.
Nick, as the death toll climbs and climbs, we're learning more about how many patients are getting infected. Update our viewers.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, the one question we all have is, why is this virus still spreading?
So, the chief medical officer in Mississippi asked people who were in the hospital. And he says 80 percent of them told him, I think I got it at a social gathering where people have let their guard down.
And, you know, a nurse here in California told my colleague Sara Sidner something very similar. She asked the young people, where do you think you got it? And they said parties.
The governor of California has just called on everyone to wake up.
WATT (voice-over): The prick of a needle, a round of applause. Phase three trials of Moderna's promising vaccine are under way. Is it safe? Does it work?
Thirty thousand human volunteers expected to take part in 89 places across this country.
DAWN BAKER, VACCINE VOLUNTEER: we're trying to find a cure for what's troubling our whole world.
WATT: Meanwhile, more than 5,000 souls now lost to COVID-19 in Texas alone, a state now dealing with a virus and a hurricane.
DR. JOSEPH VARON, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: All these people have to go to shelters. And just think about it for a second. Shelters are going to be like giant petri dishes as far as coronavirus goes.
WATT: Google just told 200,000 employees nationwide they can work from home nearly another year, at least.
And, tonight, the Miami Marlins will not be playing their home opener, postponed after 11 more players and two coaches tested positive, according to ESPN. The Yankees-Phillies game also off, while MLB conducts more testing.
DAVE MARTINEZ, WASHINGTON NATIONALS COACH: I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Seeing those guys go down like that, it's not good for them. It's not good for anybody. Because of my heart condition, what happens to me if I do get it?
WATT: Across Florida, nearly 8,000 children tested positive for COVID- 19 in just eight days, but the governor still pushing schools to reopen in August, and won't mandate masks.
REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): He and the president have failed every child and teacher and educator in Florida and put them at risk because of their reckless, reckless efforts to reopen schools.
WATT: Some medical experts now calling for a nationwide lockdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're one big country, and we're seeing the virus spread.
DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's Whac-A-Mole. It's playing -- ping-ponging back and forth between the states. That will continue for years if we don't have a singular national strategy all in, marching to the tune of the same drummer, and that drummer should be wearing a mask.
WATT: Here's the issue. South Carolina just reported a record high death toll over the weekend, and now vacationers returning from the likes of Myrtle Beach are being blamed in part for a spike in Kentucky.
The governor just closed the bars again for two weeks, after a visit yesterday from Dr. Deborah Birx. Today, she's in Tennessee.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: And come to Tennessee, as I have, from Indiana to Ohio to Kentucky, because of the spread of the virus in this area.
WATT: And, today, she urged every mayor in Tennessee to mandate masks and close all the bars.
She's particularly worried about this spike, over the last spike a couple of months ago, because now it's not just in the urban areas. She says it is all over these states in rural areas as well. Other states on her watch list that she says need to act right now, Wolf, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, and even Virginia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nick, thank you -- Nick Watt reporting.
Now to President Trump. He just made a new attempt to put a positive spin on his handling of the coronavirus crisis, even as it hits his administration at a very, very high level.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, we heard from the president in North Carolina a little while ago. Tell us what he said.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he had been taking this tone in the last week, seeming to take the pandemic more seriously than he had been in recent weeks and months.
But then he made a comment, saying he believes there are some governors that are not doing enough to reopen their states, even though the conversation, as you just saw from people like Dr. Birx, has been about certain areas that are doing too much too quickly, and actually need to scale back their reopenings.
Yet the president is pushing ahead with that positive message, even as the coronavirus hits incredibly close to home here at the White House.
COLLINS (voice-over): COVID-19 breaching President Trump's inner circle tonight, after his national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, tested positive for coronavirus.
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: Trump didn't say when he last met with his national security adviser, whose office is in the West Wing.
O'Brien is the highest ranking official to contract the virus. And in a statement with no name on it, the White House confirmed that he's self-isolating and working off-site.
Shockingly, O'Brien's own staff was never formally told about his diagnosis and several found out that their boss had tested positive from the press.
O'Brien was last at the White House on Thursday, when a source familiar said he got a call and abruptly left campus. O'Brien recently returned from a trip to Paris, where he met with his counterparts from the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy. He was photographed on multiple occasions not wearing a mask or social distancing.
The president in North Carolina today to tour a facility helping manufacture key elements of a possible vaccine candidate. It's part of a larger effort to course-correct, after several polls showed voters rejected Trump's handling of the coronavirus.
TRUMP: I really do believe a lot of the governors should be opening up states that they're not opening.
COLLINS: Trump recently went two weeks without a single COVID-19 event on his public schedule. But after a round of golf with NFL star Brett Favre this weekend, he announced he won't throw out the first pitch at the Yankees game because of his -- quote -- "strong focus on the China virus."
On Capitol Hill today, Republicans unveiled their $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal after a tense weekend of negotiations with the White House. The GOP wants to cut enhanced unemployment benefits from $600 to $200, allocate billions for testing and top federal health agencies, and put $105 billion toward reopening schools.
But there's no sense that all Republicans will support it.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Half the Republicans are going to vote no to any phase four package. That's just a fact.
COLLINS: Benefits from the last bill are set to expire in a matter of days. And the White House has even suggested passing a smaller bill that would temporarily extend jobless benefits.
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Perhaps we put that forward get that passed, as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come.
COLLINS: But Democrats are adamantly opposed to that idea and have put forward a bill of their own three times the size of Republicans'.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I have never, never -- this is so frustrating, because so many people are suffering -- seen a party in such total disarray in the midst of a huge, huge crisis.
COLLINS: Tonight, Vice President Pence is scheduled to pay his respects to civil rights icon John Lewis as he lies in state at the Capitol. The president told reporters he won't be joining him.
TRUMP: No, I won't be going, no. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, as far as those talks go between Republicans and Democrats, the chief of staff and the Treasury secretary just showed up in Nancy Pelosi's office to meet with her and Chuck Schumer.
Meadows said, "We are just getting started." We have certainly got a long way to go before they come to an agreement. But, Wolf, I do want to note something the president said in South Carolina today -- or in North Carolina today, when he was finally asked about that reported intelligence about those reported Russian bounties to the Taliban for the lives of U.S. soldiers.
He was asked if he actually brought it up during his call last week when the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and he said, Wolf, that he was not going to talk about what they had discussed, though certainly he has talked about what he and Putin have discussed in the past.
BLITZER: Certainly has.
All right, Kaitlan, thank you, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Let's discuss all these late-breaking developments.
Joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dr. Jha, just a short while ago, California's Governor Gavin Newsom told residents to wake up to the reality of how deadly this disease continues to be. Those are his words, adding -- and I'm once again quoting him -- "What more evidence do you need?"
So, Dr. Jha, what more evidence do people need to understand how deadly this virus is?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Wolf, thanks for having me on.
I think the challenge is, there's so much misinformation, both from our political leaders and from social media circles, downplaying the virus, that I think people genuinely do get confused.
And we need very consistent public health messaging. And that messaging is that this is a very serious virus. This is not the flu. It's substantially more serious than that. And people have to take it seriously.
We're seeing almost 150,000 Americans having died from this. So I appreciate the governor's statements. And I think they're right. And I think they need to be echoed by all of our political leaders.
BLITZER: They certainly do. And, Dr. Offit, you're an expert in vaccine development. How
significant is the fact that the start of this phase three clinical trial beginning this week -- how optimistic are you that we will soon have a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: I'm willing to wait to see the data. I mean, typically, vaccine development programs take 15 years, on average. This vaccine development program is probably going to take a year-and- a-half.
We just had the strain that causes this infection in January. But the key thing, the one thing you can't truncate or coalesce or overlap is the phase three trial. This is -- this is -- the proof is in the pudding. The phase three trial is the pudding.
And now you're going to test, hopefully, tens or 15 -- 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people that will get this vaccine, 15,000 people that will get placebo, and you will see to what extent this is really safe, and you will see to what extent it's effective.
What you can do with this phase three trial is, you can mitigate risk. If you test it, say, in 15,000 or 20,000 people, and you find that it's safe, you can say it doesn't have an uncommon side effect problem. You can't say it does have a rare side effect problem. You're only going to know that post-approval.
And you can say it's at least effective for a certain period of time.
BLITZER: We should find out if this phase three is going to be successful certainly in the next few months.
Dr. Jha, once a vaccine -- and let's hope a vaccine has been successfully developed and manufactured and is safe -- how challenging, at the same time, will it be to convince the public to get vaccinated? There's a lot of people who are going to be nervous about side effects and all sorts of other things.
JHA: Yes, absolutely.
This is why it's so important to do phase three well, and to have large numbers of people, and to carefully monitor those people for an extended period of time as long as we can, so we have good data on safety, because, as the old saying goes, vaccines don't save lives, vaccinations do.
We got to get the vaccine into the arms of people. And I believe we can do that. I believe we can generate that evidence to get people comfortable. But we really are going to have to let science and evidence ride that.
And we're going to have to fight the misinformation that will almost surely come as soon as the vaccine is ready.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens.
Dr. Jha, thank you so much. Dr. Offit, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, I will speak with the mayor of Washington, D.C., about the city's new quarantine order targeting travelers from coronavirus hot spots.
And also this hour, I will go one-on-one with Dr. Anthony Fauci for an extended interview on the state of the pandemic and the prospects for a vaccine.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: The nation's capital is responding to the surge in coronavirus cases around the country with a new 14-day quarantine requirement for residents and visitors from 27 so-called high-risk states.
Let's discuss what's going on with the mayor of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Mayor Bowser, thank you so much for joining us.
And I want to be precise, because, starting today, you're requiring people who come to Washington, D.C., from those 27 high-risk states to self-quarantine for two weeks. Included on the list are popular summer destinations, for example, for D.C. residents, North Carolina, Delaware.
Why are you requiring this self-quarantine now?
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, Wolf, what's important to us is to contain the virus before we lose the ground that we have made with our stay-at-home order and our very meticulous phased reopening.
We know the virus is still circulating in our city. And what our contact tracing is telling us is that too many cases are related to travel. So we need our residents to be vigilant about their travel. And if they're doing nonessential travel to locations where we know that the virus is circulating, we ask -- have to ask them to be careful for their own families, their neighbors and our entire community.
BLITZER: How do you plan, Mayor, to enforce this self-quarantine for people who enter the District of Columbia from these 27 states?
BOWSER: What we have seen from our residents is that they are very focused on doing the right thing and following medical guidance.
And so our health officials have told us that it's going to keep us safer and help us contain the virus if our residents and people who visit our city, whether they're visiting our hotels or staying with friends, that people are going to be mindful of our guidance and quarantine at home.
BLITZER: So, they have to stay inside their home or hotel, for that matter, if they're coming from out of state, if they're a tourist or whatever? They have to stay for 14 days, before they can go out into the city? Is that what you're saying?
BOWSER: If they're coming from a hot spot.
Now, let's be mindful, Wolf, we're in a global pandemic.
BLITZER: Let's say, Mayor -- let's say somebody's coming to Washington, D.C., from Miami. What does that person -- what should that person anticipate?
BOWSER: If they are on nonessential travel, then they should plan to quarantine at their place of lodging, be it at a hotel, or at a friend's house or Airbnb. They should have the provisions that they need during that quarantine time.
And they should only plan to leave those locations if they need food or medical help.
BLITZER: So, when you say nonessential travel, I take it members of Congress who are coming in from Florida or Texas or California, they don't have to self-quarantine; is that what I'm hearing?
BOWSER: They are doing government work. And while they're doing their government activities, they would not be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
That doesn't mean, however, that we don't want people to be mindful of their activities.
BLITZER: You issued a new stricter mask mandate last week requiring residents of Washington, D.C., to wear a mask if they're likely to come into contact with another person for more than just a fleeting moment or so.
BOWSER: That's exactly right.
BLITZER: Would you like to see the rest of the D.C. metropolitan area, suburban Virginia, Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland, for example, enact similarly tough policies?
BOWSER: I would like to see the rest of the country enact these policies, Wolf.
What we know is that we're a porous nation. People travel back and forth. And when we see the rise in cases in the Sunbelt, in the South, and in the West, we know that our fellow Americans could be visiting us and transporting that virus.
So it doesn't make sense in a lot of ways for us to act in this piecemeal way. We need a national strategy for testing, a national strategy to make sure that we have the appropriate levels of PPE going into the fall and perhaps another peak in our country.
And we need some national rules to contain the spread of the virus before it's out of control. Some would argue it's already out of control.
How do you plan on enforcing these requirements, wearing a mask, for example, 14-day quarantine?
I know, in Miami, for example, if you don't wear a mask, you could get a citation, could be fined $100, $500 if a business isn't dealing with the requirements. What's happening in D.C.?
BOWSER: All of the mayor's guidance, the mayor's orders that put these -- the mask guidance and the quarantine guidance into plays are by executive order, and all have enforcement provisions, some with fines and significant fines.
Obviously, we don't want our police department to be policing things that adults can decide to do for themselves, like wear a mask. We don't expect our police department to answer the call from the neighbor who said, my neighbor went to Florida last week.
And so these are things that, as people who are concerned about each other and getting life back to normal, we have to start making the right decisions for each other. And that includes nonessential travel.
So, Wolf, I am very concerned that our children all over the country aren't going back to normal school. Right in the District, we're still looking at our health data very closely to make some decisions about in-person school.
So we have to ask ourselves, if our kids, our K-12 kids, cannot go back to school, why are we doing so many nonessential activities in our country? And so we're going to have to be prioritizing the things that are going to get us back to normal the fastest.
And having our kids back to school is tops on the list. That also will get our people back to work. And then, when that vaccine is available, we know that we will have more large venue events that we can get back to that we so enjoy.
BLITZER: I know you have to decide by July 31 what kind of school -- reopening of the schools, some sort of hybrid performance there might be necessary.
Before I let you go, a different subject altogether, Mayor.
You stood with the late congressman, the civil rights icon John Lewis during his final public appearance before his death right here in Washington at the Black Lives Matter Plaza.
You presented Congressman Lewis' family with a gift commemorating that moment earlier today. What does his legacy mean to you? What does his legacy mean to our city?
BOWSER: Well, I think, personally, if I could, Wolf, I had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Selma with the congressman, where I really got to spend some time with him.
And for him to choose to come to Black Lives Matter Plaza in the twilight of his life, when I'm sure he knew that his days were numbered on Earth, quite frankly, meant a lot to me.
He shared with me right there on 16th Street at Black Lives Matter Plaza that he had stayed at the Hilton that's right at that corner just before he was going to give his speech, as the youngest speaker on the March on Washington.
And those were special moments, certainly, for me and for the people of Washington, D.C. His life is a tribute to sacrifice, to hanging in there, to being persistent and, in his words, in getting in the way and making good trouble.
So, he leaves a legacy for us all to follow.
BLITZER: He certainly does.
And that was the motorcade from earlier in the day, a truly, truly great American who made our country better.
Mayor Bowser, thank you so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on. We appreciate it very much.
BOWSER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, I will speak live and at length with Dr. Anthony Fauci about coronavirus testing troubles, new vaccine trials, and the risk to President Trump now that his own national security adviser has been infected.
There you see Dr. Fauci. We have lots to discuss.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news on the coronavirus crisis as the U.S. death toll is climbing above 147,000. Let's talk about the crisis with the nation's most prominent expert on infectious diseases, we're joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and key member of the White House coronavirus task force. Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for joining us. We've got lots to discuss. I appreciate it very much.
We're now, what, months into the pandemic, the death toll is inching closer and closer to 150,000 Americans. Last week, you said, I am quoting you now, you said, I'm not even sure we're halfway through. So if we're not halfway through, Dr. Fauci, where are we right now?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Wolf, it's very difficult to really make a definitive statement. We know have a considerable amount of activity, you know the numbers. We're still seeing 50,000, 60,000-plus cases a day. We've just mentioned the total number. This is something we have got to get under better control.
Hopefully we will as we get into coming weeks and further into the summer. But if you look where we are now, even globally, Wolf, even countries right now who have handled it well and have gotten to a lower baseline than we have, as they're starting to open up their economies and open up their countries, we're starting to see resurgences in other places like Hong Kong and Australia, places like that.
So when we say we don't know where we are in it, it really is very difficult to predict. It's very difficult.
BLITZER: But we might see tens of thousands of Americans dying over the next few months, is that right?
FAUCI: Well, that is conceivable. I mean, that's something we hope to be able to avoid. But if you look at the deaths as they're occurring right now, about a thousand per day, unless we get our arms around this and get it suppressed, we're going to have further suffering and further death.
And that's the reason why, as I have often said many, many times, there are things that we can do right now in the absence of a vaccine that could turn us around. The fundamental things of avoiding crowds, physical separation, universal wearing of masks, closing the bars, hand hygiene, those things matter and they can make a difference. So, hopefully, we'll appreciate that and do it in a very strict way.
BLITZER: Hopefully is the keyword because these are not difficult things to do, we just got to do it.
Let's go through some of the specifics while I have you, Dr. Fauci. As you know, the first phase three trial of a vaccine candidate here in the United States got under way today. We're talking about the Moderna vaccine. Tell us how the trial will work. As you say, researchers hope to have 15,000 volunteers enrolled by end of the week. Tell us what's going on.
FAUCI: Well, this is a phase three trial, Wolf, which is determined to find out if, in fact, the vaccine works, in addition to getting information further on safety. The safety data thus far looks good. But now, it is crunch time. We are trying to figure out, does it actually work. So it is a 30,000 person trial, 15,000 will get the vaccine, 15,000 will get a placebo. The trial was launched today.
This is truly, Wolf, record time. The virus was first put on a public database, the sequence early on in January. We did a phase one trial very soon thereafter. And this is phase three now, which will take several months to determine if, in fact, it does work. [18:35:06]
So to go from not even knowing what the virus was in early January to a phase three trial is really record time, and I might add it was not done compromising safety nor was it done compromising scientific integrity. It's just the technologies we have now and the ability to move very quickly have brought us to where we are right now, doing a phase three trial.
BLITZER: Well, how diverse is this group of volunteers? You say 30,000 volunteers will be involved, how diverse is the group in terms of race and age, for example?
FAUCI: Well, first of all, they're going to be stratified. There will be people from 18 to 65, and then 65 years of age and over. We're getting a diverse group that was one of the main goals of this to be representative of our society and for those at risk.
Right now, if you look at the people who have enrolled, they haven't yet gotten the vaccine, but who have enrolled, about 19 to 20 percent of them are African-Americans and about the same proportion are Latin X, which is good. We really want to do that. In fact, we want to even get a greater proportion because you want representation in the trial of those who are most at risk for adverse consequences of getting infected.
And we know from the data that we've collected thus far that African Americans and Latin X are at greater risk not only of getting infected but of having deleterious, negative, severe consequences of getting infected.
So it's very important to get a diverse representation in the clinical trials. And I believe we're on the way to that goal.
BLITZER: Yes, that's really important. I understand you briefed the president on the vaccine trial earlier today in the Oval Office. Is that right?
FAUCI: That is correct. We did. We spoke to him about what we started today, the first individual volunteer, got it at 6:45 this morning in Savannah, Georgia. And there are now 89 sites throughout the country that will be enrolling individuals in the trial. So we explained all of that to the president.
BLITZER: You say this phase three trial, 30,000 people will be involved, is truly historic, and it is, but at this point, is there any guarantee, Dr. Fauci, that this vaccine will actually work, that will provide immunity and save lives?
FAUCI: Well, Wolf, there is never a guarantee when you're doing a clinical trial. If there was a guarantee, you wouldn't have to do the trial. So that's one of the reasons why you do a trial of this type and this magnitude is to determine definitively does the vaccine work and does it protect, so, no guarantee.
However, I must say in the same breath, Wolf, that if you look at the early data, particularly data from phase one trial and you looked at the kinds of responses that were induced in those volunteers, there were robust antibody responses.
They were of magnitude that you would see in convalescent plasma of individuals who have recovered from infection. And that's one of the hallmarks of prediction of the success of a vaccine. If you can induce a response with the vaccine that's comparable to or even better than a response of natural infection, then that's really a good start.
So that's why it makes me cautiously optimistic even though we can't guarantee anything, but cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine that works.
BLITZER: Because you've said several times, you're hoping the vaccine will reduce a person's risk of infection by at least 60 percent. Do you think other vaccine candidates end up beyond Moderna, for example, end up potentially being more effective, Johnson and Johnson, for example, the Oxford study that's under way?
FAUCI: Well, certainly. We would hope that they would all be substantially effective. In fact, we hope the Moderna candidate that we're talking about right now is even more than 60 percent effective. We would hope we can get it as effective as we can.
The good news, Wolf, is that, as you mentioned correctly, there are multiple vaccine candidates that will be going into advanced phase three trials within the next few months. So, hopefully, we'll have more than one successful candidate because we need vaccine not only for the United States but for the rest of the world. So the more we have, the more vaccine that's being produced, the better off that we are.
BLITZER: We have known about the coronavirus since at least January.
The country still, still it's hard to believe, this is the United States of America, can't deliver as much as necessary rapid test results. So why should we believe right now that the government, the private companies, for example, will do a better job actually getting people vaccinated once we find a safe and effective vaccine?
FAUCI: Well, this is a public, private partnership, Wolf, that I can assure you is on track and doing very, very well. You know, this vaccine was developed here at the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with the Moderna company. We have a vaccine trial network set up to conduct the trial. So the idea about getting this off the ground and getting the trial conducted, you could almost guarantee that is going to happen, Wolf.
I can't guarantee you the success of the vaccine because only a clinical trial will determine that. But I can virtually guarantee you that this has got off to a good start and we will get this trial completed.
BLITZER: I know you're cautiously optimistic. And I have spoken with your colleagues who are also cautiously optimistic.
Once there is a vaccine, and we all hope there will be one, who will get priority being vaccinated, elderly people, people with underlying health conditions, minorities who are more vulnerable, let's say, right now, healthcare workers, who gets priority?
FAUCI: Well, the standard way is an advisory committee to the CDC, advisory committee on immunization practices. And now that's going to be supplemented from a National Academy of Medicine group to come together to fortify getting ethicists, vaccinologists, public health officials, community representatives to make a prioritization.
But you're correct, Wolf. you said it likely correct, that what will happen is that the people who can benefit most. Also you want to get the healthcare providers who are going to putting themselves at risk in taking care of coronavirus infected individuals, also the elderly and those with underlying conditions that make them more likely to have a severe and serious outcome.
The final decision will be by a committee that makes that recommendation, but, generally, that's the kind of thing that they do recommend.
BLITZER: Even if there is a safe and effective vaccine, Dr. Fauci, a poll from May found that only half of Americans say they would get vaccinated. How much of a problem is that, that there are a lot of people out there who simply don't trust vaccines?
FAUCI: Well, Wolf, you make a good point, and that's something that we are concerned about. And that's the reason why we are going to take very seriously the issue of community engagement and community outreach.
We've got to get out there with people who are trusted at the community level to get individuals to understand that this is extremely important for their own health and importantly for the health of the community and the health of the nation. Because if we get a widespread uptick of vaccine, we can put an end to the pandemic and we can create a veil of immunity in this country that would prevent the infection from coming back.
We have got to get these people convinced, and you have to do it by extending yourself to the community, not by a dictum from Washington, but by engaging the community at the community level. And I hope we can turnaround that reluctance to get vaccinated.
BLITZER: That public health campaign is going to be so critically important.
Beyond the vaccine, we are also talking about therapies, therapeutic issues that potentially might not prevent you from getting coronavirus but might prevent you from getting really sick and, God forbid, even dying. Where does that stand right now because there are a bunch of therapies out there that being studied now? Which ones give you the most optimism? FAUCI: Well, there are two that randomize placebo control trials, Wolf, have already shown to be beneficial. One was a trial of remdesivir, which showed in people hospitalized with lung disease that diminishes significantly the time it takes to recover.
Another randomized placebo controlled trial showed that the steroid, dexamethasone, and people on ventilators and requiring oxygen diminishes significantly the death rate.
What we do need now, and there are multiple trials that are ongoing or that will soon be initiated, to what happens if you treat people early, one of these is monoclonal antibodies or a natural product that the body makes that directly attacks the virus. That's one trial. And there are multiple candidates for multiple companies that are looking at that.
We're also trying to evaluate the efficacy of the passive transfusion of convalescent plasma. And in addition, there are a whole bunch of drugs that are being screened for and developed that are directed against the virus so that we can hopefully block it early on so that people don't go on to advanced disease.
FAUCI: A lot of activity going on right now even as we speak, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. In varying (ph) -- from what I hear, the potential therapies out there are very, very encouraging. Let's hope that they work.
Another issue, the school year fast approaching the next few weeks, supposed to start in class teaching. The administration is still encouraging schools to fully reopen in person, but in one hot spot, we're talking Florida right now, the number of coronavirus cases in children, Dr. Fauci, has risen by 34 percent over the last week alone.
Do you see any way schools in hot spots, let's say Florida, Texas, Arizona, California can safely reopen at the start of the school year and a lot of the school years start in August or early September.
FAUCI: Well, Wolf, I think you have to start by saying what is the default position that you would like to hold and that is we should try as best as possible to open the schools for a number of reasons, and we know that the downstream unintended ripple effect consequences of keeping the children out of school is something that can really have bad effects, not only on the children but also on working parents who will have to stay home to take care of the children.
However, and I underline however, having said that, what is paramount is the safety and the welfare of the children and of their teachers. And so, we live in a big country that has a lot of diversity with regard to the level of infection in a particular community, and the people responsible need to take that in effect. If you can open up a school safely because you have a very, very low
level of infection, then likely that will happen, but when you have a lot of infections, you got to make a decision at the local level, making sure you account for and are sensitive for the safety of the children.
And that will vary from district to district and from state and city to city. And that needs to be decided at the local level.
FAUCI: It's not just the safety of the children, of course, that's a priority, a huge priority. You want these kids to be safe. But even if they are asymptomatic or have very little, minor symptoms as you note, especially if they're 10 and older, we're told, they can pass on, they can transmit this virus to their parents, their grandparents and to others.
How worried are you, how worried should we be, Dr. Fauci, about that?
FAUCI: Well, I wouldn't say worried. I think we absolutely need to take that into consideration and it gets back to what I said before, Wolf, that when I say the safety of the children and the safety of the teachers, I include that in what happens when the children go home.
And there was a study that recently showed that children from 10 to 19 years old can transmit the virus to adults as easily as adults can transmit to adults. These are things you have to take into consideration when you make a decision about schools.
BLITZER: The other big news today, I want to get your reaction, Dr. Fauci, the -- Robert O'Brien, the president's national security adviser, has tested positive for coronavirus.
Are you confident that this doesn't present a risk, let's say, to the president himself or other senior officials in the White House?
FAUCI: Well, you know, it depends on when Bob got -- got infected and when he knew he was infected and the exposure that he had. I mean, I've been in the same room with him, you know, a week or two ago. It depends on when he was infected.
But as you know, you have to have contact in a situation where you're there long enough and close enough to have increased risk. I don't know the contacts he had, the proper authorities are doing the contact tracing right now. So I would be reluctant, Wolf, to make any statement about the relative risk of individuals because I don't know the extent of the contacts.
BLITZER: And another sensitive issue, I want your thoughts. We've just gotten word from Major League Baseball commissioner that the Miami Marlins won't play their games today or tomorrow for that matter while they do additional testing. This comes after ESPN reported at least 14 team members tested positive for the virus. If we see more outbreaks like this, could it get to the point where the baseball season after only a few games needs to be cancelled?
FAUCI: Well, again, I don't want to be saying things like cancelling the season. It will get taken out of context for sure.
But this is one of the things when we were discussing and I was involved in some of the discussions with the owners and physicians responsible is that when you get something like this, this is one of the things that could really put a halt in the progression of where you're going through the season.
Hopefully, they'll be able to continue and this is such an outlier that such a cluster of a number of players and personnel got infected. So, we'll just have to see how this plays out. I hope it doesn't interfere with the season because I think that the players, the managers, the owners have put a lot of effort into trying to start the season in a way that is safe for the players and safe for the personnel.
Obviously, these are being televised so you don't have to worry about safety of spectators. But they've put a lot of effort into it and I hope they're successful.
BLITZER: Yes, we all hope they are. And you and I are major Washington Nationals baseball fans, as a lot of our viewers obviously know.
Baseball, the players don't have very much up close contact with each other like football they do, basketball they do. Should we be more worried about potential coronavirus cases emerging in football and basketball?
FAUCI: I think the protocols will be a bit different depending upon the sport, Wolf. You're absolutely correct. When we were discussing what kinds of protocols would be for the best safety precautions for the baseball players, there were a certain set of things that were done. That's going to be a little bit different when you're talking about a much more contact sport. So, it's tough to predict how it is going to play out. But, clearly, they're not going to be the same protocols.
BLITZER: I want to put up something in the screen -- the limited edition baseball card. This is the limited edition baseball card of you. It's now the bestselling baseball card in the history of the company.
As I often say, you are a national treasure and now you're also, Dr. Fauci, a collector's item as well. How does that feel?
FAUCI: I feel a little embarrassed and humbled. I hope that Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle are not looking up at me saying, what the heck is going on here?
BLITZER: I'm going out to get one of those baseball cards and treasure it like I'm sure a lot of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world will as well. I think on behalf of all of our viewers, Dr. Fauci, I want to thank
you for everything you're doing. I've often said you're a national treasure. You are a national treasure. We're grateful for everything you're doing because we know you're saving lives.
Thanks so much for joining us and good luck.
FAUCI: Thank you very much, Wolf. Thank you for having me on your program.
BLITZER: We want you back as soon as possible. Thank you.
And we're going to have much more news right after this.
BLITZER: Finally, tonight, the nation pays its respects to a civil rights icon and truly beloved member of Congress, Representative John Lewis. Just moments ago, the vice president of the United States and Karen Pence, the second lady, they were there paying their respects to John Lewis.
You see Secretary Ben Carson there as well. Mrs. Carson paying their respects to John Lewis. His body now lying in state at the U.S. Capitol as the public says farewell to the Georgia Democrat. On the way to the Capitol, we have some the motorcade paused at places of significance here in Washington, including the Lincoln memorial, where John Lewis was a speaker during the historic 1963 March on Washington, and at the memorial to his friend and mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Inside the halls of Congress, members of both parties honored John Lewis as a colleague, a leader in the fight for equality, and survivor of the brutal police attack on protesters known as Bloody Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): John's friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., famously said the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. But that is never automatic. History only bent toward what's right because people like John paid the price to help bend it. He paid that price in harassment and beatings from a bus station in South Carolina to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington program. How fitting it is that in the final days of his life, he summoned the strength to acknowledge the young people peacefully protesting in the same spirit of that march taking up the unfinished work of racial justice, helping complete the journey begun more than 55 years ago.
John was revered and loved on both sides of the aisle on both sides of the capitol. We knew that he always worked on the side of the angels and now we know that he is with them. (REV. WINTLEY PHIPPS SINGING "AMAZING GRACE")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Really a wonderful, wonderful man. We all will miss him. John Lewis was 80 years old. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.