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Trump Defends Testing Efforts, Urges States to Reopen; First Phase 3 Clinical Trial for Vaccine in U.S. Begins; U.S. Still Grappling with Spikes Months into Crisis; Rising New Cases Putting a Strain on Hospitals; Trump Changes COVID-19 Strategy 3 months Out from Election; Republicans Unveil Controversial $1 Trillion Stimulus Bill; study Shows Australian ICU Patients Have 85 Percent Survival Rate; Arrivals in Germany from High-Risk Areas to Be Tested; Countries in Middle East, North Africa Reimpose Restrictions. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, as the pandemic rages on and another 1,000 Americans lose their lives on Monday, the U.S. President is urging some states to loosen restrictions. Republicans are split over a new $1 trillion stimulus bill. Details on what the rescue package might include. And Google says its employees could work from home for another year. How that move might prompt other companies to do the same.

Thanks for being with us. The United States reported more than 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Monday. It's at least the fifth time in the past week the daily death toll has surpassed a 1,000. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows deaths from COVID-19 are rising throughout the U.S. 29 states in shades of red -- you can see here -- reported more deaths in the past week than in the previous week.

Despite the climbing death toll, U.S. President Donald Trump keeps trying to put a positive spin on the fight against the virus. He insisted Monday, the federal government has everything it needs to help the states defeat COVID-19. Meanwhile, the first phase 3 clinical trial of a COVID vaccine has begun in the U.S. The top U.S. disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is sure the country can defeat the virus if enough people get vaccinated.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You'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 uptake of vaccine, we can put an end to this pandemic and we can create a veil of immunity in this country that would prevent the infection from coming back. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: The coronavirus spread to 16 million people around the world in just six months. The United States alone now accounts for more than 4 million, and with infections rising in more than half the country, it's becoming harder for experts to predict when the outbreak will peak. For the very latest across the U.S., here's CNN's Athena Jones.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as the country reported the lowest number of new cases nationwide in nearly three weeks on Sunday --

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: We're still chasing the virus. The virus is out there still spreading largely uncontained over most of this country. We don't have a national plan.

JONES: Total hospitalizations remain at peak levels and 29 states are reporting more deaths last week than the previous week. The country averaging more than 900 deaths a day for the past seven days. The highest such number since the beginning of June.

SCHAFFNER: You can see many people in many parts of the country going about their daily lives unmasked, no longer concerned about six-foot distancing, relaxing into their old normal behaviors.

JONES: With Florida surpassing New York, now only second to California in the number of COVID cases, hospitals are strained.

DR. ANDREW PASTEWSKI, ICU MEDICAL DIRECTOR, JACKSON SOUTH MEDICAL CENTER: So we just got a bunch of nurses from the government, which was very helpful. The bed situation is dicey.

JONES: The state seeing a 34 percent jump of COVID infections among children in the last eight days. And the rate of positive COVID tests statewide remains high at 19 percent. The positivity rate also ticking up in California as hospitalizations rise. 37 of the state's 58 counties with significant infection rates remain on a watch list.


Meanwhile, in Texas, the weather adding to the challenge as hurricane Hannah bore down on the coast over the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19.

JONES: Medical staff in hard-hit southern counties forced to battle a surge in cases in the midst of a storm.

DR. IVAN MELENDEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY HEALTH AUTHORITY: When the storm was coming in at 1:30 in the morning I was placing a tube in someone's chest when water started coming in through the retrofitted negative pressure rooms. JONES: This as some companies are beginning to brace for a pandemic

that could drive well into next year. Google extending its work from home policy until at least July of 2021. A move that could prompt other businesses to follow suit. And just days after an abbreviated baseball season began, two games now canceled including the Miami Marlins home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. After several Marlins players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 while playing in Philadelphia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm scared. I really am. My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12.

JONES (on camera): And one more thing about Florida, the teachers' union, which is already suing Governor Ron DeSantis and others to stop the reopening of schools, is calling the recent surge in COVID-19 cases among children alarming. The unions vice president calling on the governor and other state and local officials to begin reporting on how many students and staff are testing positive for the virus arguing parents have a rate to know.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: So let's take a closer look at just how bad things are in most states. And you can see the Southern and Western states in red where the virus is hitting the hardest. Among them, Florida, where cases have surged in just the last month. Giving the state the second highest number of confirmed cases in the U.S. Statewide cases have jumped a staggering 1,500 percent since Florida reopened on the 4th. Right now 46 ICUs have reached capacity in the state. And in Arizona, a similar situation where cases growing exponentially since May. And I spoke to Dr. Murtaza Akhter , an emergency medicine physician in Phoenix, Arizona, about the situation in his state. Take a listen.


DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, VALLEYWISE HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER: The biggest challenge right now is how long it takes to get a bed in a hospital. We're gotten very used to getting the patient volumes that were getting in the emergency department. And the ones we can you know sort of stabilize and make better and sent home, great. But the ones who need to be admitted, these are sickest ones, wait for a long, long time in the emergency department for bed. I'm clocking in the course of days. I've gone into shift, admitted a patient, gone home and come back the next day and the patient is still there. That's very atypical for an emergency department. And as you can imagine that really delays care for the rest of the patients. There is more than COVID happening. So if somebody comes in with say a heart attack, his or her care is very delayed because that patient is waiting in the emergency department for so long.

CHURCH: Right. I mean, that is a real concern because thee COVID-19 patients also waiting to get a bed or are you talking about non-COVID- 19 patients? AKHTER: Yes, it's both of them actually. So the COVID patients are

challenging because you have to be able to place them in a COVID unit. And if you have a result back enough quickly enough to know if the patient has COVID, it's doable. But one of the things -- one of the issues with is that we are running out of the rapid tests. And so when you do a test, if your result takes many hours or even days to come back in a hospital setting, you don't know where to put the patient. So the patient you think might have COVID is just sitting in the emergency department or an intermediate floor waiting to get placed so he doesn't get placed next to someone who doesn't have COVID. And then for the non-COVID patients who are coming in gallbladder infection or heart disease, they're waiting for extended periods of time too because we have only so many non-COVID beds left. So it's really affecting everybody.

CHURCH: Yes, that is a real concern because of the ramifications, of course, of COVID-19 spreading through the hospital. So how are you and the other doctors and nurses coping with all of this, with the level of hospitalizations?

AKHTER: It's funny you should ask that because I was actually feeling kind of rough today. I got really nervous. Am I picking up something or am I just fatigued? Then I contacted my chairman and he said let's hope it's fatigued because there are a lot of staff who feel that way. You know, we go in every day and do our best to do our jobs and we know we're in a high-risk environment. But it's what we signed up for. What's particularly frustrating and demoralizing, is after everything you do you go home and on your way home you see people who are clearly flouting guidelines.

Just a couple of days ago I was filling up gas and I thought I was in weird apocalypse land. Because there were hundreds of people milling about. I guess there was a car show. Nobody was wearing masks. They were all hanging out with each other. And I asked, what's happening? Are you guys not listening to everything going on around you? And I think my colleagues feel the same way. Where a lot of us, you know, are working really hard and long hours and then to see other people treating it as if it's nothing is really frustrating.


CHURCH: Many thanks there to Dr. Murtaza Akhter speaking to me a little earlier.


Well, the pandemic has forced millions of Americans out of work, and now as their emergency jobless benefits are about to run out, Republicans are producing a controversial new relief package. This as the virus hits close to home for President Trump. Kaitlyn Collins has the details.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): COVID-19 breaching President Trump's inner circle 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 is 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 in top federal health agencies, and put $105 billion toward re-opening 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, and this is so frustrating because so many people are suffering, seeing a party in such total disarray in the midst of a huge, huge crisis.

COLLINS (on camera): Now just hours after Republicans unveiled their version of the bill that they'd like to see, you saw the chief of staff and treasury secretary up on Capitol Hill meeting with Democrats. And of course, this is expected to be the first of many meetings. They had not spoken since Friday and now they are going to try to hammer out those negotiations so they can get a bill passed. And the ultimate question really is, how long it's going to take given how far apart we know the two sides are.

Kaitlyn Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And CNN's Hadas Gold joins us now live from London. Good to see you, Hadas. So what has been the reaction so far to this new Republican stimulus plan and particularly the reduced enhanced unemployment payment?

HADAS GOLD, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, as you heard from there from Kaitlan, as the Democrats are -- say that they're appalled. Chuck Schumer called the proposal totally inadequate. And it's partly because as you noted there, reducing those weekly checks that people had been getting by $400 to just $200 a week. And if you look at the differences between the Republicans and Democrats, it's a lot of money. There's a hung gap there. It's 1 trillion bill versus 3 trillion bill from the Democrats and that they had passed in May.

And the Democrats are also pointing out that there's still divisions between the Republicans themselves, between the White House and between Republicans on Capitol Hill. For example, within the stimulus bill there is funding for a new FBI headquarters. And when Mitch McConnell has asked about that, he said you'd have to ask the White House about that. Which is probably not exactly something you want to hear from a bill that you're putting forward.

So as Kaitlan said, they are now negotiating with Democrats. But the question of course is about whether they can come to an agreement but also the time. Because a lot of these benefits that people have been relying on, these weekly checks, including the eviction moratorium, those are all either lapsing this week or have already lapsed and people are hurting there. They're not back at work yet. They haven't been able to get jobs. We're still seeing a lot of cities in lockdown, completely shut down. People need to get the support as soon as possible.


And it seems it would take a miracle really for it to get all together by the end of the week when these are expected to last.

And so right now, it's going to be a crunch time on Capitol Hill between Republicans and Democrats to see if they can come together. To see if Republicans can even come together and reach some sort of an agreement that can help support people. Because clearly, we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic. But also, there's politics at play here. We have to think about the election, we have to think about Republicans looking at the election, Democrats looking at the upcoming election and how this bill will affect that outcome.

CHURCH: And for some people, this is a matter of survival. Hadas Gold joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well, this just into CNN. According to Reuters, China is suspending its Hong Kong extradition treaties with Canada, Australia and the U.K. The move comes just days after the U.K. suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the controversial national security law implemented in the city by mainland China.

And this is CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, several countries around the world thought they had gotten a respite from the coronavirus only to see cases rise again. And we will be live in one such country, Germany, to find out what's going on. Back in just a moment.


CHURCH: China is reporting another major jump in new cases. The health ministry says of the 68 infections reported today, 64 were local. Most of the new cases stem from an outbreak in the western region of Xinjiang. It hadn't reported a new case in nearly five months.

Well elderly care residents in the Australian state of Victoria are being moved out of care homes and into hospitals. Premiere Daniel Andrews says he has no confidence in the ability of private facilities to provide the care hospitals can.

Meantime, an Australian government study reveals that ICU patients have an 85 percent survival rate from COVID-19 and this compares to only a 30 percent survival rate in U.S. intensive care units. And I spoke with ICU Director Dr. Craig French about what he thinks Australia has done better than other countries.


DR. CRAIG FRENCH, ICU DIRECTOR, WESTERN HEALTH: In Australia we've been very fortunate that we've had a close collaboration between our federal governments, our state governments, senior scientists and clinicians such that scientific data has informed our response. And that has been the basis for the government's response literally at the state level since this pandemic began.

Accordingly, we've had relatively fewer number of patients becoming infected with COVID-19 and also that's meant we've had fewer patients that because there have been fewer patients infected, there are fewer patients critically unwell. And as a result of that we've had the ability to treat our patients in intensive care unit where the system is not over stretched.


CHURCH: And according to the study, survival rates of ICU patients, 56 percent in China, nearly 60 percent in the U.K. and just repeating, 30 percent here in the United States. Well, two European countries who thought they had the virus under

control are now seeing cases rise. In France cases were up by a daily average of 850 over the last three days. A higher number than when the country eased its lockdown. That's according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Germany says it will require mandatory tests to travelers returning from high-risk areas. Angela Merkel's chief of staff says the recent rise in cases is a cause for concern. And Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from Berlin. Good to see you, Fred. So what is driving these new cases across Germany?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. Well, it's interesting because actually right now a press conference going by the German Center for Disease Control. And they are saying that one of the things that really concerns them about this new situation is that these are not localized outbreaks, they say anymore. They say this is something that is happening in broad areas of the country. It's still something that seems still to be in the early stages.

They say they recorded around 800 new infections on two subsequent days last week. And that's certainly something they say is a cause for concern. Because it had been at around 500 new infections in the days before, really in the weeks before as well. And they say that's basically what they need to be able to continue that contact tracing that has been so effective here in this country. And they say that there's generally two things that they believe are responsible for this new spike as they call it in coronavirus infections in Germany.

On the one hand, they say that people have simply become somewhat lax with some of the measures that have been in place, the physical distancing, the sanitizing and the mask wearing as well. And they say that they really urge people to continue to do that. Because of course, they say they don't want a situation like, for instance, in the United States where then the new infections really do start to spiral out of control and contact tracing becomes completely impossible.

And the other thing has been travel. One of the things that's happened over the past month or so is that cross border travel has become possible again here in Europe. And they say some of the folks who have tested positive for COVID-19 have come from travel abroad and so now they're making the tests mandatory as you just mentioned before -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, still learning as we go along, right. Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Berlin. Many thanks.

All right, now to the Middle East and North Africa where several countries are re-imposing virus restrictions as the upcoming Eid holiday draws near. Iraq is ordering a ten-day curfew starting Thursday. Oman is under a nationwide lockdown until August 8th after a rise in cases. And Morocco is banning travel to and from several major cities like Casablanca and Marrakesh. \

Meanwhile, Lebanon has decided to reimpose some measures. Bars, beaches, convention centers and many other gathering spots will be closed from Tuesday through to August 10th.

And for more, senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Beirut, Lebanon. He joins me now. Good to see you, Ben.


So what's behind the surging cases across parts of the Middle East and how will these lockdowns work in the various locations?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's important to keep in mind that basically people in Lebanon, for instance, and other parts of the Middle East are simply suffering from coronavirus weariness. Here in Lebanon, for instance, when the first case showed up in this country in February, the country went into lockdown and people observed it and the numbers were pretty much under control until the beginning of July when we saw a surge.

What is happening is that people are more concerned, certainly here in Lebanon where you have a collapsing economy, they're more concerned with the danger of losing their livelihoods and basically being destitute seems to be more of a threat than a virus that until now hasn't even infected 4,000 people in this country. And probably the same applies to most countries in the Middle East which have been spared the kind of numbers of cases that we've seen in parts of Europe and certainly the United States and South America.

Now one of the reasons why these countries are imposing these new lockdown measures is that Thursday Eid al-Adha, which of course is the festival that marks the end of the hajj, is a time when there are lots of social gatherings. People go out and they clearly the governments want to avoid large social gatherings where coronavirus could be easily spread -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely. It is a very wise decision. Ben Wedeman joining us live from there from Beirut. Appreciate it.

And still to come on CNN. A vaccine remains the best hope for beating COVID-19. And there's some good news on that front. And could a new vaccine help President Trump win the 2020 election? We will ask a political expert to weigh in. Back in just a moment.