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Dire Warning From Some Of The Top Medical Colleges, Scientists And Physicians On The Coronavirus; California Reports A Sharp Decrease In Coronavirus Cases; Dr. Davidson Talks About The Amount Of Work Needing Put In To This Pandemic While Awaiting A Vaccine. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We're glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jim Sciutto. Act now as a country, get control of this virus or risk seeing, quote, "multiple hundreds of thousands of deaths in the country." That is the warning this morning from leaders of the nation's top medical colleges, physicians and scientists. So why is this administration at odds? Why does it remain at odds with the science and notably with itself again?

Today, manufacturing and trade adviser Peter Navarro note the title, he's not a doctor, promoting again an unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine that the FDA says is not a treatment as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci saying the same. But the White House contradicts its own response with misinformation is not new. It's a pattern throughout this pandemic.

HARLOW: That's right, and the president said there are parts of the nation virus free; that is an actual claim he made yesterday, and task force member Deborah Birx said it's spreading. The president's claim completely unfounded by CDC data, CDC Director Robert Redfield admits also on top of this, that the administration was slow on the information from Europe. Health officials plead for another shutdown and the president pushes governor to reopen. Here are the facts this morning. Joe Johns is joining us at the White House with more. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Poppy. The president is headed out to west Texas this morning and there is no indication he's going to hold a coronavirus event even though that state has certainly been hard hit by COVID-19.

What we know about the schedule is that the president is expected to go to a fund-raiser. He's also going to see an oil rig and apparently push one of the big messages for his campaign which is regulatory reform and U.S. energy independence.

Now, meanwhile, the story that's been developing here at the White House this morning is the White House message machine really leaning into the president's arguments and support just last night, once again, of the controversial drug that the president says he believes is effective in order to help people and treat them for coronavirus.

And the problem with all of this of course also Kayleigh McEnany, the president's press secretary, was on TV during an interview as well, talking about hydroxychloroquine and how the president believes in it.

The problem is that the scientists including the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, which has essentially pulled its emergency use authorization of the drug, the NIH, National Institute of Health, they actually stopped a study because they found the drug would not be effective in treating coronavirus patients.

But meanwhile, the political people over here at the White House continue to push this drug. And what does that do? It sends a message to Americans that there's a split on whether this stuff works and the fact of the matter is the people who matter most, the scientists say, no it doesn't. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: The FDA was the director appointed by this president, does not recommend it. Listen to the doctor's folks, not to the trade advisor. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks very much. Now to Florida the state just reporting the deadliest day since the pandemic began.

CNN's Rosa Flores joins us now from Miami with more. Rosa, tell us what the numbers are showing there because Dr. Birx and others have said that Sunbelt states including Florida are beginning to plateau in terms of numbers but we hear that it's the deadliest day in terms of deaths so far. Where do the numbers stand and why?

ROSA FLORES, CNN ANCHOR: You know, you're absolutely right. If you just look at the numbers the numbers do appear to be stabilizing when you look at the daily number of cases and that's what experts will tell you. But they also warn that human behavior...

SCIUTTO: Rosa, Rosa, hold that thought for a moment. This is a moment we cannot miss on this broadcast. This is the casket of legendary civil rights campaigner, long-time congressman John Lewis being brought down the steps of the capitol. Let's listen in.


HONOR GUARD: Ready step. Forward march.


HARLOW: There you have it, the moment that will be marked in history that we will always remember as the body of former Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was carried down the steps of the Capitol. His last trip down those steps. A lion for so many and someone who, in his words got into good trouble, for all of us. He's in our thoughts. We'll take a break, we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We continue to cover all the latest developments with the coronavirus outbreak. We were interrupted a few moments ago as we honored Congressman John Lewis, the departure was spotted from the capitol. We were speaking at the time to CNN's Rosa Flores, she's in Miami.

So Rosa, walk us through, because you're hearing of a plateauing of cases in a state such as Florida, but also yesterday marking the deadliest single day of the outbreak there. What exactly is happening on the ground in Florida?

FLORES: You know, experts put it this way. Yes, the numbers have stabilized, but they stabilized at a very high number. We can't forget that in early June experts sounded the alarm because there were more than 1,000 cases a day. Well, now, just yesterday, Florida reported more than 9,000 cases a day.

And as you mentioned, yesterday Florida also shattering its death toll record reporting 186 deaths in over 24 hours. Now this, as we know that this pandemic is testing the hospital system in the state of Florida. We know this morning that there are 54 ICU hospitals at capacity with zero ICU beds. Ten of them are right here in Miami-Dade county where I am.


Here at Jackson Health, we've learned from a spokesperson that 25 percent of their COVID-19 patients require ICU care. So what this hospital system is doing is they are converting regular beds into ICU beds to meet demand. The other big problem is the need for medical staff because you have to have medical staff to provide that level of care.

And according to Jackson Health, the state of Florida has deployed 200 nurses here, 50 respiratory therapists and 100 nursing staff to help. And Jim and Poppy, you and I have been reporting about this battle to reopen schools in the state of Florida.

Earlier this week we reported on the increase in the number of hospitalizations and cases in children. This morning we learn that there are seven child patients that are battling COVID-19 right here where I am at Jackson Health. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Rosa Flores, important update. We appreciate it. Thanks very much. Let's go to California now, our Stephanie Elam is in Los Angeles again for us this morning. And Steph, the state of California reported a sharp decrease yesterday in new COVID cases yesterday. That's good, but the 14-day average still stands at more than 9,000 new cases a day and very concerning new numbers under the state's agricultural and farming heart land.

ELAM: Yeah. Poppy, when you look at the numbers overall you think, okay this is great. And just to give you some perspective, California announced 6,000 new cases in that 24 hour period yesterday. Last week, at one day last week, we hit our all-time high of number of new cases of more than 12,800.

So this number is markedly lower than that. But you're right. When you look at the 14-day average here, it is still trending higher. The positivity, however, has been holding steady at 7.5 percent. This -- the goal for the state is to keep that below 8 percent. But you're right, the numbers, at first, look good. They're going in the right direction, but that was just one day and does not make a trend here.

Also worth noting that there's one county in California that has managed to stay without having any infections, well, that has now changed. That's Modoc County, it is in the far upper right corner, far eastern corner of California and they now have two cases there. They're in the same household.

The good news for these two people is that they are at home, they are not hospitalized, but the health department there is saying that people need to really make sure that they get in, go through that contract tracing so it does not become more of an issue. They're talking about a county of 9,000 people almost, so much more remote there. Jim and poppy?

SCIUTTO: Well one consistent lesson of this is that no one, no place is entirely immune from this. Stephanie Elam, thanks so much from Los Angeles. Let's go to CNN's Miguel Marquez, he's in Phoenix, Arizona. Another Sunbelt state that's showing at least a flattening of cases there despite alarming infection rates along the southern border. What are we seeing and do we have any sense of what's working there?

MARQUEZ: Well, it's the mask orders that they've finally allowed to go into effect. The governor disallowed them early on and then finally allowed cities and localities to put them into effect and now about 90 percent of the state has those mask orders in effect. And for the first time in many, many weeks Arizona does not hold the dubious title of being first in the nation when it comes to that seven day average of positivity cases.

For literally weeks and weeks in July, June and July, Arizona was about a quarter of those people testing -- tested positive. Now it's at about 20 percent. Mississippi now has that dubious honor of being number one. And there is a -- just a very high number of cases though still. Even at 20 percent positivity across the entire state, most health officials suggest about 5 percent or lower is the point where you can really get on top of it and do the sort of contract tracing necessary.

That said, places like Santa Cruz County, Yuma County, both on the southern border, Navajo County up north, all showing very, very high cases despite pop -- small populations. Santa Cruz County, the state now moving resources in there to test people more readil., hoping to get those tests back in about two days.

The problem that Arizona has had, Quest, Sonora Quest laboratory says they are addressing it and they will soon be through a backlog of tens of thousands of cases but if they cannot test and get those results back quickly, that basically makes contract tracing pointless across many parts of the state. That's what they're trying to get on top of now and hopefully those

numbers will stabilize at the high level and then just continue to sort of step down over time until they can get in a better place.

The problem for Arizona, they have students coming back to college. Schools might be reopening in some form not too far in the distance, they have snow birds coming back, and they have the flu season coming up. All those things need to be addressed or they are facing a much bigger problem. Back to you.

HARLOW: Miguel, thank you very, very much. It's evident what a difference masks have made in that state as Miguel said.


Let's get more on this new warning also from health experts that this country risks seeing "multiple hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID if we do not get the virus under control." With us now is Dr. Rob Davidson, emergency room doctor and executive director of the committee to protect Medicare. It's good to have you, thank you for being here.

DAVIDSON: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: So let's consider that warning out today which is stunning. Hundreds of thousands of additional potential deaths if we don't change a lot and they recommend a mandatory mask mandate nationwide. They, you know, talk about federal moves that need to be made to change things. You're in the state of Michigan; you work at a rural hospital, and look at this map.

It has your state as yellow, in the yellow zone, and I bring that up because Dr. Deborah Birx warned about this and she talked about needing dire warnings for yellow states saying that they have a similar profile to what are now red states starting with the 20 and 30-year-olds presenting at a first wave and it's just a matter of time before your yellow states become red. Is your hospital ready for that if it happens?

DAVIDSON: Well, I think we're as ready as we can be. I think all hospitals have surge capacity plans, but, you know, I'm in a rural county with 46,000 people in the county, but a hospital that's basically five ventilators and 25 in-patient beds. You know, we can surge up to three times that, but like we're in Florida ineffective (ph), how do you get the staff to take care of all those patients.

So yeah, we're concerned. And actually yesterday just saw the highest increase rate of cases in people aged 19 to 29, the second highest age 0-19. So those young people getting the virus just like we saw in Florida and Texas and everyone told us how great this was, because no one was dying and we had it under control.

Now as you're reporting in Florida, the highest number of deaths and we know how this works. This is Groundhog Day. The deaths follow four to six weeks later and we want to avoid that. SCIUTTO: So, on that sad subject of deaths, you now have this new

warning from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Their words, deaths could sky rocket well into the multiple hundreds of thousands, that without decisive coordinated action to save lives. Now the fact is, on a national level, we're not seeing that.

The trump administration, the president, continues to refuse to do so. Looking at that projection, is that something that you believe the country is now headed towards without a significant change in direction?

DAVIDSON: Yeah, absolutely. I think the mixed messages from the White House, with the president wearing a mask one day and showing a somber tone and, you know, everyone was very excited that perhaps he was turning a corner on his view of the virus and then in the following week we start seeing tweets about hydroxychloroquine and end up making fun of masks and doctors telling us that masks don't matter and then the president is then retweeting this.

Those mixed messages are just presenting a real challenge, especially in places like this where our governor is telling us wear a mask it's mandated with a $500 fine. But if people who follow the president believe it's not important, we're just not going to see that happen.


HARLOW: The vice president spoke about this yesterday and he talked about what he deemed to be, doctor, encouraging signs in Sunbelt states. And I mean, we just heard from our three reporters there are some encouraging signs, but I think it's important to also give a reality check about what's going on there. So of the states that he mentioned, let's pull up the chart here, look at California, Texas, Arizona particularly, also Florida, and I wonder if you look at those, can you see that, doctor? If you can is that encouraging to you?

DAVIDSON: I don't see it on my screen but I've seen it.


DAVIDSON: Yes, you know, flattening the curve is certainly important, but when you flatten it at a very high level we're still going to see significant hospitalizations and deaths, you know, several weeks down the road. We need to bring that down and the problem is we were encouraged in New York and they've kept it down.

But as we see places like Michigan that are yellow, we're starting to go up again. I just, you know, I think this is -- we've said it before, it's like whack a mole with hot spots all over this country. It's just going to keep popping up if we don't do something nationally.

SCIUTTO: Okay, on the good side. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a voice of reason and often alarm when the data indicates that has been consistent on one thing in the positive sense that a vaccine, a workable vaccine, could be available as soon as the end of this year by December. He believes so. I wonder, looking at the data so far, the progress of trials, if you agree with that.

DAVIDSON: I may agree that that is a possibility. And probably likely we will have a vaccine. It's just been getting it to scale and then convincing enough people that this is important and that these are appropriate. I think a big movement in this country of people who question vaccines and, you know, as long as the safety data is there and they have proven that it's safe and effective, yeah, I think that could be a game changer.

But again, that's, you know, five months from now. We've only been in this for about six months and we've already had 150,000 deaths. I worry if we don't do the work now waiting for that vaccine we're just going to see a lot of pain and suffering while we await for it.

SCIUTTO: And lost lives perhaps. Dr. Rob Davidson thanks so much.