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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 150,000; Interview With Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; Republican Congressman Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Trump Continues To Push Hydroxychloroquine; Russia's Coronavirus Vaccine Claim Sparks Global Interest. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 18:00   ET



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'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news on the devastating loss of life in the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. death toll now surpassing 150,000 just a little while ago.

And as we cross that milestone, experts at the Johns Hopkins University are now urgently warning the nation that it needs to reset, to reset its COVID response.

Also tonight, Florida and California's death tolls have hit new one- day highs. Infections are on the rise in 22 states, as the total number of cases climbs above 4.3 million. President Trump just wrapped up a visit to the hard-hit state of Texas, but he focused in on oil and political campaign fund-raising, while continuing to promote an unproven coronavirus treatment and a conspiracy-embracing doctor.

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert was not with the president, as planned, because the Republican has tested positive for the coronavirus. Gohmert has now strangely suggested he may have been infected because he wore a mask, something he repeatedly has refused to do.

First, let's start our coverage this hour with Nick Watt in Los Angeles.

Nick, as the nation reports a truly staggering death toll over these past five months, experts are clearly sounding the alarm.


Just as we passed that horrific 150,000-dead milestone, this really scathing report from scholars at Johns Hopkins University. Let me read you this little bit: "Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic. It is time to reset."

Now, they recommend universal mask orders on a federal level. They urge the federal government to lead the charge to improve testing. And they say, in hot spots, people must be ordered once again to stay home.


WATT (voice-over): The U.S. just suffered the deadliest day of the summer so far, 1,244 lives reported lost to COVID-19 Tuesday.

DR. DAVID SKORTON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: And if we don't do something to change our course, we will have multiple hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country.

WATT: The Association of American Medical Colleges wants decisive, coordinated action, releasing a detailed road map calling for increased testing, enforcement of reopening criteria, as well as informing and educating the public.

Meanwhile, the president and his acolytes are still pushing a widely and scientifically discredited drug, hydroxychloroquine.

PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: I'm pleading with you and the American people to look this drug again, because I literally have tens of millions of tablets sitting in the Strategic National Stockpile.

WATT: Maybe you do, but:

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: The overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease.

WATT: In all these states, concern is climbing, as cases climb. They are dubbed red zone and yellow zone states by the CDC. Only Vermont is green, no deaths in nearly six weeks.

But even Vermont just pushed reopening schools back a couple of weeks. A new study suggests that states that closed schools early in the spring saw significant declines in COVID cases and deaths. The Trump administration wants schools open again ASAP.

FAUCI: We don't know the answer to all of those questions.

WATT: Such as, do kids transmit the virus like adults? Dr. Fauci recommends teachers wear goggles and masks or face shields in the classroom.

FAUCI: This may sound a little scary and harsh, I don't mean it to be that way, is that you're going to be actually part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know.

WATT: Defying the governor, Miami-Dade County just announced schools will start later than usual and online only. GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And I would absolutely have my kids in

school, because I do think that it is safe to do so. I believe that this is something that is very low risk for kids, fortunately.

WATT: Governor DeSantis noted he does not have school-aged children.

Meanwhile, Texas is about to overtake that early epicenter, New York, for total case count. California and Florida already did, case counts right now high, but stabilizing in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're encouraged in New York. And they have kept it down. Flattening the curve is certainly important, but when you flatten it at a very high level, we are still going to see significant hospitalizations and deaths several weeks down the road.



WATT: And, Wolf, this just in from the NBA.

They are now going to provide free tests in the Orlando area and in other team markets. Why? Well, they say it is to meet the need in marginalized communities of color, where access to testing is scarce -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important indeed.

All right, Nick Watt, thank you.

Now to the breaking news on President Trump's trip to Texas and the Republican who was conspicuously absent from the trip because he is infected with the coronavirus.

Our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is joining us.

Kaitlan, like President Trump, Congressman Louie Gohmert has repeatedly refused to wear a mask, and now he has the virus.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he has rarely been seen in one while he's on Capitol Hill.

And he showed up at the White House this morning at 7:00 a.m. to get a COVID-19 test. Wolf, he tested positive, so he took a subsequent test to make sure it was right. And that also was positive. And now he says he is going to be self-isolating for the next 10 days.

And this is causing massive upheaval on Capitol Hill, where Louie Gohmert -- Louie Gohmert -- excuse me -- has been roaming the halls for the last several days. And it even has caused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to just now announce to all of her members on a call that she is going to be making to make it mandatory to wear a mask when you're on the House floor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump flew to Texas today with an empty seat on Air Force One after Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID-19 during a preflight test.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I got it. We will see what happens from here.

COLLINS: News of Gohmert's diagnosis sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill, because Gohmert has largely refused to wear a mask and participated in multiple hearings this week, including Attorney General Bill Barr's yesterday, when Chairman Jerry Nadler rebuked Republicans for not wearing masks.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Stop violating the rules of the committee, to stop violating the safety of the members of the committee, to stop holding themselves out as not caring by refusing to wear their masks.

COLLINS: Lawmakers were socially distanced from Barr during the hearing and were told to remove their mask only while speaking.

But Gohmert was seen walking near the attorney general without one on. The Justice Department says Barr will be tested again today, as lawmakers were sent scrambling to retrace Gohmert's steps.

Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger announced that she will self- quarantine after sitting next to Gohmert on a flight Sunday. Gohmert once memorably told CNN that if he got COVID-19 -- quote -- "You will never see me without a mask."

Today, he attempted to blame his diagnosis on the few times that he has worn one

GOHMERT: I can't help but wonder if, by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place that -- if I might have put some germs, some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, President Trump is standing by the misinformation- spreading doctor he promoted this week, despite facing blowback for elevating her false claim that there is a cure for COVID-19.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She was not alone. She was making a statement about hydroxychloroquine with other doctors that swear by it. They think it's great.

COLLINS: Stella Immanuel has a history of making bizarre claims, including that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens.

And CNN has learned Vice President Mike Pence met with the other doctors who joined her in that viral video that was later removed by social media sites. Her statements on hydroxychloroquine have been refuted by the president's own experts.

FAUCI: Hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

COLLINS: Dr. Anthony Fauci remained in Washington, but Trump was in Texas with his former-doctor-turned-politician today Ronny Jackson, who has defended the president's personal use of hydroxychloroquine.

Before leaving, Trump continued to shrug off reports of U.S. intelligence that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, intelligence the White House says is disputed.

TRUMP: If it were true, I'd be very angry about it, but if you look at Russia, Russia became Russia from the Soviet Union because of Afghanistan.

COLLINS: The president is facing new questions about it after revealing in a new interview that he raised no concerns about that intelligence with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a recent call.

TRUMP: No, that was a phone call to discuss other things, and, frankly, that is an issue that many people said was fake news.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Who said it was fake news?

TRUMP: I think a lot of people.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, Nancy Pelosi is confirming what we heard she said on that call to members about the new mask policy. She just was speaking over on Capitol Hill.

She said it is going to be required for members to wear masks when they're in the halls, when they are on the House floor. And she says she has the authority to tell the sergeant in arms to remove members if they are not following that and that it would be a major breach of decorum if they do not wear a mask when they are on the House floor, like she just mandated.


BLITZER: Yes, just wear a mask. It's not that hard.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Let's talk more about -- a little bit more about this with Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, thanks for joining us.

And, as we have been reporting now, 150,000 Americans have died from the virus. Those are the confirmed numbers. More than 1,200 people in this country died just yesterday alone from this virus.

What's your reaction to the -- first of all, the sobering milestone of 150,000 confirmed deaths?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, Wolf, we're spiraling out of control, unfortunately. The epidemic is still widespread in the South, and the deaths are

accelerating. You talked about 1,200. It is going up every day. Most of those deaths right now are from our epidemic in the South.

We had 64 deaths in Hidalgo County in South Texas yesterday. That is not a big county. I think less than a million people, 800,000, 900,000 people, 64 deaths. So, that many counties now in Texas and Florida, COVID-19 is the single leading cause of death on a daily basis.

And now we are seeing the virus extend northward. Dr. Birx has pointed out how it is now going from the traditional Southeast, you know, when we talk about Alabama, Mississippi, up into Tennessee now, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois. This is terrible.

We are -- we talk about the 21 red zones. The whole nation is going to be a red zone at this rate, and we have got to take steps.

BLITZER: And that explains, Dr. Hotez, this new report that has just been released by the Johns Hopkins University which says that the U.S. needs to reset its response, reset its entire response to this virus at the federal, state, and local levels to get this pandemic under control.

What steps would you like to see the national leadership, for example, from the president on down, take right now?

HOTEZ: Yes, I haven't seen the Johns Hopkins report, but remember last week, Wolf, we talked about our report from Baylor, which sounds like it says pretty much the same thing. I called it the October 1 plan, where we need to do a reset by October 1.

And for some states, such as up in Northern New England, Vermont, Maine, they may already be there in terms of at the containment level, defined by some as one new case per million residents per day.

Other states, like in the South, have a lot of work to do. But the point is, we have to do it because we're spiraling out of control. We're accelerating out of control. And we can do it. It's not that difficult. And if we take -- do the hard work and have this national road map in place by October 1, we can have a good life again in the fall.

We can open up our schools, our colleges, maybe even have sporting events. But we need the national leadership to take that on. You can't do it business as usual, which is saying let the states figure it out and we will provide -- and the federal government will provide backup FEMA support and ventilators and that sort of thing. It just doesn't work.

We need a federally led plan. I put one out. Johns Hopkins now has put one out. Others have as well. We're all -- the scientific community is in complete agreement. This is what we need to do.

BLITZER: Dr. Peter Hotez, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing as well.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who is now infected with coronavirus. And he's trying to blame it -- get this -- he's trying to blame it on his wearing a mask.

And I will speak live with the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, about her battle with the Georgia governor over masks. Lots going on.

We will be right back.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following tonight, a new six-figure number that drives home the scope of the coronavirus crisis and the suffering, the U.S. death toll now above 150,000.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, John Harwood, along with David Shulkin, Dr. David Shulkin, I should say, the former secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Shulkin, more than 150,000 Americans have now died from this virus. What is your reaction to this grim milestone that was reached in just a matter of only five months?

DR. DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Yes, Wolf, it is a staggering number. It's just heartbreaking to see so many of our citizens having suffered like this.

And we really started out behind the ball right from the beginning in this pandemic. And, unfortunately, had we been more prepared, had we taken a coordinated national strategy approach to this, maybe we wouldn't be reaching such a milestone today.

And I think we have to look forward to what lies ahead, and we just really have to begin to start acting in a unilateral way with a singular strategy to get on top of this pandemic.

BLITZER: We certainly do. And 1,200 Americans died just yesterday in one day.

John, the Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert has now tested positive for the coronavirus. His diagnosis came just, as you heard from Kaitlan, just before he was scheduled this morning to get on Air Force One with the president and fly off to his home state of Texas.

It is a pretty -- it was a pretty shocking development, especially considering the fact that he was at the House Judiciary Committee hearing and very close to the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Wolf, we all hope Congressman Gohmert gets better. He said he doesn't have the classic symptoms.


But he has been showing the classic symptoms of being very reckless in his approach to the coronavirus. He has dismissed the importance of masks. He has defied requests from other members and staff to wear masks when he is working around the Capitol.

He was next to Attorney General Barr yesterday as they were walking through the hallways. And it's symptomatic of how a significant chunk of the Republican Party is defying, disbelieving, challenging public health scientists and public health authorities, who have been urging mask wearing as the most significant, simple thing that we can do to get on top of this virus.

The president was goaded into endorsing mask wearing last week. He mouthed the words, but he does not seem to mean them in any particular way. And so his message has scattered. And, yesterday, he was retweeting the views of a crackpot doctor who was saying that mask wearing isn't important.

It's a sad situation. And given the -- what's happened to the national security adviser contracting coronavirus, someone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building cafeteria, as well as Congressman Gohmert, we can see increasing risk of it spreading throughout parts of our government.

BLITZER: Yes, and the president today was once again defending his retweet of that really crazy suggestion from that doctor.

You know, Dr. Shulkin, Congressman Gohmert suggested, suggested that maybe it was wearing a mask that potentially could have contributed to his exposure to this deadly coronavirus. Does that reasoning make any sense from a medical perspective?

SHULKIN: Wolf, it absolutely makes no sense.

And it's really hard and difficult to watch people who are in public positions continuing to have misinformation about what spreads this virus and what protects all of us.

And I think that, you know, people listen to people in public positions like this. We -- first of all, have seen the congressman wearing a bandana. We know that bandanas are not as effective as cloth or paper or cone masks, first of all.

Secondly, we have seen the congressman with the bandana around his neck. And that simply doesn't work. Wearing a mask, if you're not going to wear it effectively, doesn't prevent anybody from getting this infection.

And, as John said, you're putting people at risk. So, we need people who have the proper information. You cannot get this virus by wearing a mask. It prevents you from spreading this virus to other people. It also, now we know, protects you from getting the virus yourself.

So we have to get the right information out there. We have to have people be educated about this. Too many people have died. Too many future people may die if we continue with this misinformation.

BLITZER: Yes, it's really, really crazy. It's so easy to wear a mask, and that will save lives.

John, Dr. Fauci is again today disputing the president's claims about hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness against coronavirus. Why can't the president let this one go, especially, as I just double-checked, the Food and Drug Administration back on April 24 cited serious health risk and problems in coronavirus patients treated with hydroxychloroquine?

And then, on June 15, the FDA -- quote -- "revoked the emergency authorization to use that drug to treat COVID-19 patients in hospitals," but the president is rejecting his own FDA.

HARWOOD: Wolf, let's, first of all, get the terms clear. There is not a dispute between Anthony Fauci and President Trump.

President Trump doesn't know enough to have a dispute. He doesn't have standing to have a dispute with Anthony Fauci. Anthony Fauci is the leading public health official in our government. He has said, and Americans should listen to him, that all of the evidence shows that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in dealing with coronavirus.

The president is circulating crackpot theories. He did that with the doctor whose video he circulated. And he did so because he said she was spectacular in embracing his erroneous view that hydroxychloroquine was effective.

The evidence, of course, the president cited was, well, it didn't kill me. I'm still here.

That is not evidence. And, as I said, the president has zero standing, nor does Peter Navarro, his trade adviser, to have an argument with Anthony Fauci. Anthony Fauci and the consensus among the public health community is, it does not work.


And the fact that the president continues to assert that it does or that it might is an indication that he's incapable of serving the function of national leader on this pandemic.

BLITZER: Very quickly, John, before I let you go, the president also said today, he confirmed publicly, he did not bring up the bounties that Russia reportedly offered to try to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his recent phone conversation with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Why is the president continuing to downplay the intelligence that he received over at the White House, even though he says it's fake news?

HARWOOD: What other conclusion can we draw, Wolf, than it fits this pattern? Russia was a financial benefactor of President Trump in business before he was a candidate. They helped him win the election in 2016. Robert Mueller told us that President Trump or candidate Trump

welcomed that assistance. Since he's become president, the president has consistently advanced the interests of his benefactor, Vladimir Putin in Russia, by taking steps that weaken NATO and try to divide the Western alliance.

He just -- their pulling out troops from Germany or reducing troop levels in Germany is an example of that.

Here, in the case of these Russian bounties or the possibility of Russian bounties, yes, there is an intelligence dispute, but the president refused to even raise the issue with Vladimir Putin.

What that tells us is that he is deferential to Putin, he's not willing to challenge Putin, and he's indifferent to the fate of U.S. soldiers under his command.

BLITZER: John Harwood, thanks very much for joining us. Dr. Shulkin, thanks to you as well.

We have a lot more news we're watching right now.

And I will also speak live with the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, about the pandemic in her city that is unfolding right now, as well as a new attempt by the president to potentially stoke racial divisions here in the United States.



BLITZER: This hour, we're tracking the soaring coronavirus death toll here in the United States that rose above 150,000 just a little while ago. At the same time, Florida and California are now setting one-day records for deaths.

Let's go to Florida right now. CNN's Randi Kaye is joining us. Randi, the state set a death record two days in a row. Update our viewers on the latest.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Today, the record number of deaths, Wolf, coming out is 216. It is the first time in a single day we've topped 200 deaths. So this is certainly not good news for the State of Florida. And still, Wolf, just about 9,000 people hospitalized here.

And the counties on their own, they certainly don't like the numbers that they're seeing. It is why Broward County is taking action. It's extending its curfew now through one more weekend from 11:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. They have seen more than 1,300 new cases just today. Their hospitals, the county told me just today, their hospital beds are running out. They are really concerned about that. They are at 7 percent capacity when it comes to ICU beds.

Also in Miami-Dade County, they had some tough decisions to make. They decided on schools today, they pushed back the reopening of schools there until August 31st. And they are going to begin with just virtual, remote learning and see how it goes from there.

Meanwhile, Wolf, on top of this pandemic the state is preparing for landfall, possible landfall from storm number nine. It is brewing in the Atlantic. The Florida Division of Emergency Management is telling us that they are now closing all state-run testing sites starting immediately until Wednesday morning.

And part of the problem is that a lot of these sites have tents and cones and tables that cannot withstand tropical storm force winds. So if it does turn into a tropical storm, certainly concerning for these testing sites but they do hope to open them, Wolf, once again on Wednesday morning.

BLITZER: Yes, just what we don't need in Florida right now. Randi, thanks very much.

Now, to the state of the pandemic in the State of Georgia, where the governor and Atlanta's mayor are engaged in a major legal battle over mandatory masks. We are joined by the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us.

And as you know, the national death toll now passing 150,000 people, your State of Georgia continues to see a surge in cases with more than 3,000 new cases just reported so far today. Scholars from the John Hopkins University now suggest we, the whole country, needs to reset in order to have appropriate response to what's going on.

So, from your perspective, what sort of reset needs to happen in Georgia?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: Wolf, what I believe needs to happen in Georgia is exactly what we have advised businesses in the City of Atlanta to do. That is to go back to phase one of the reopening plan. Phase one includes closing down businesses that are not deemed essential. It means stay at home unless you absolutely have to go out and simply following the science.

Our largest trauma center in Atlanta, Grady Hospital, has seen a record number of COVID patients in its ICU. This is not getting any better and there is talk of the need to reopen for the sake of the economy, but what we know is that the economy will never get going again if we keep spinning around in circles and having to go back to phase one.


We've got to be patient. We have to exercise sound judgment and follow the science, stay in phase one until it is safe to move into the other phases. We reopened too soon and we're paying the price in Georgia.

BLITZER: All over the country, I must say. You spoke at a ceremony for the late congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis, today, Mayor. And you seemed to allude to your legal battle with the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, over your mask mandate. I want you to listen and I want our viewers to listen to what you said.


BOTTOMS: And so, Governor, when the good trouble continues, know that it is with the blessings of Congressman Lewis.


BLITZER: Should we take that to mean that you have yet to reach a resolution with the governor on this issue?

BOTTOMS: Wolf, it is what my kids would call shade but no shade. And by that, I mean, I had a little fun with the governor today. It was a beautiful ceremony in our state capitol and the governor and his wife are very gracious to open it up in the way that they did and to honor Congressman Lewis in that way.

The governor and I did not talk about the lawsuit today. We are continuing to negotiate. It's my hope that we can come to some type of resolution. There are so many important issues facing our city and our state. I don't wish to continue to have to give my energy to fighting about a mask mandate and voluntary business recommendations. I'd rather spend the energy helping our community get to the other side of COVID-19.

And so the governor has withdrawn his emergency injunction request. I took that as a very good sign and we'll continue to talk and hopefully be able come to some type of resolution. But as of now the mask mandate stands in Atlanta as well as in other cities throughout our state.

BLITZER: We are also now learning, Mayor, that presidents Obama, Clinton and Bush will attend John Lewis's funeral tomorrow. I understand you'll be there, of course, as well. What more can you tell us about how the civil rights icon will be remembered?

BOTTOMS: What I know is that the family has been very clear that they wanted it to be a smaller ceremony obviously because of where we are with COVID. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to honor him at the state capitol and to see his honor in Washington, D.C.

And all I can say is, right now, our favorite son has come home. And as a city, we couldn't be more proud of the legacy and the light in which he has represented our city and our nation. And so our hearts are full in Atlanta and I trust that tomorrow when President Obama delivers the eulogy it that it will be a fitting send-off in the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ebenezer Baptist Church.

BLITZER: It will be a very, very moving event and extremely well deserved for a truly great American.

The president, the current president, Mayor, is touting the rollback of an Obama era housing policy that bolstered the Fair Housing Act. He tweeted this. Let me read it to you. I am happy to inform all of the people living in their suburban lifestyle dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood.

What message do you believe, Mayor, the president is telegraphing with this tweet and what is your response?

BOTTOMS: He's telegraphing division, as he always does. And a major push in our city has been to achieve $1 billion in affordable housing because what's happening in cities across this country is that every day people can't afford to live in them.

And so this notion that affordable housing is for someone -- what affordable housing really is is for someone who gets up and goes to work every day. It is for our school teachers, it's our police officers, it's for the postman, it's for people who don't make six figures. Affordable and workforce housing is for every day working people.

And so this division from our president, it doesn't surprise me. He is not capable of anything else and it is all that he has to stand on. But what I can say is this, Wolf. He is not the first incompetent person to sit in the seat of power in this country. By the beauty of our democracy, we have an opportunity to get it right again and I know that we will do that when we elect Joe Biden president in November.


BLITZER: I saw a new Monmouth University poll in the State of Georgia where it is tied right now, 47-47 between the president and Joe Biden. All right, we'll see what happens on that front. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, as usual, thanks for joining us.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, a CNN exclusive, Russian officials claim at least 20 countries are interested in their soon-to-be approved COVID-19 vaccine. We're going live to Moscow.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We'll have much more on the latest coronavirus developments as the U.S. now surpasses 150,000 confirmed deaths.

I want to turn now to another critically important story, Russian officials telling CNN nearly two dozen countries are interested in a new vaccine. Russia claims it will be approved within two weeks to deal with coronavirus.

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow. He's got some exclusive reporting for us.

Matthew, what are you learning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a really interesting development tonight because Russian officials are telling me at least 20 countries have expressed interest in getting the Russian vaccine that, of course, could be approved as early as August 10th according to what we were told by Russian officials yesterday. Those countries including Brazil, including India, including Saudi Arabia. So, you know, big countries, many of them, particularly Brazil and India with significant problems with coronavirus.

All of that despite the massive concerns hanging over the Russian vaccine, concerns about safety, you know, the human trials won't have been completed by the time the vaccine is approved, concerns about its effectiveness. The results that Russia has got so far have not been publicized. They've not been peer-reviewed so we can't check the results.

And all of those concerns about foul play. The allegations that Russian spies hacked into American, Canadian, and British labs to steal vaccine secrets. That doesn't seem to have deterred at all the up to 20 -- at least 20 countries -- I think that tells us quite a lot about the time we're in, the fact that during this coronavirus pandemic, countries are looking for any solutions they can even incomplete like this Russian one to get to solve that problem.

BLITZER: Any indication, Matthew, the U.S. has been in touch with Russia about this vaccine?

CHANCE: Well, interesting question. I mean, I've spoken to the U.S. embassy in Moscow about that and they don't have an answer. The Russians aren't talking about it either.

But it would be a very interesting thing, question for the Trump administration to answer. Of course, if President Trump, if the Trump administration does sort of make moves toward what you could say is Putin's vaccine, he could be criticized for that but also might be criticized for not taking advantage of any opportunity the Russian vaccine may offer, Wolf.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance reporting, thank you.

More news right after this.



BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, the U.S. now topping 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The global race for a vaccine is progressing as two phase three clinical trials are now underway here in the United States.

Let's discuss with Dr. Jerome Kim. He's the director general of the international vaccine institute, an expert on vaccines.

Dr. Kim, thanks so much for joining us.

So, the first phase three trial of a vaccine candidate got underway this week. One vaccine expert tells me you just can't speed up phase three. When do you think, Dr. Kim, the earliest we will have a successful vaccine? DR. JEROME KIM, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL VACCINE INSTITUTE: So,

assuming that these vaccines are shown to be safe and effective, we should begin to see data late this year or at the very late -- or maybe early next year.

BLITZER: Early next year. So, are you optimistic? We hear Dr. Fauci keep saying he's cautiously optimistic we'll have a vaccine, an effective and safe vaccine, by the end of this year. Do you agree?

KIM: Well, we'll be able to prove that it works, but remember with a vaccine you have to first prove it works. Then you have to make it in significant quantity and high quality, and then you have to develop plans for using it.

And at this point, you know, proving that it works is something we can do. Making sure that we have enough of it is the next question.

BLITZER: What do you make of this Russian statement. You heard our reporter saying that within the next two weeks they're going to have a vaccine and they're saying 20 countries are now interested in getting Russian vaccine. Do you buy that?

KIM: So, you know, I think the saying is it ain't over until it's over. And it's over when they have shown that the vaccine is safe and efficacious. And until that point, they may approve it, but the real question is going to be will other people accept that approval as sufficient evidence that the vaccine is safe and efficacious?

BLITZER: We've got to see what they've got. And let's see if it's actually safe and effective.

There are a lot of people in this country, as you know, Dr. Kim, don't believe in vaccinations. How worried are you that even if there is a U.S.-approved vaccine, a lot of people are simply going to refuse to get that vaccine?

KIM: So, that is a big concern. You know, I think we worry about vaccine hesitancy. And Dr. Paul Offit has said this I think most eloquently. He said, you know, we ask parents to give their children 27 different vaccinations for diseases they've never seen. And by and large, the vast majority of them do that.

We have a lot of trust in there that the vaccines we give are safe and effective. So, we have to apply that standard to the COVID-19 vaccine as well.

BLITZER: Let's hope we can do this. We're going to stay in very close touch with you Dr. Jerome Kim. Thanks for joining us -- you're in Seoul, South Korea, right now. Appreciate it very much.

And we're going to have much more news right after this.


BLITZER: Finally, in our nightly tribute to coronavirus victims, we focus in on a son and a mother who died within days of one another. Joseph Morton of Arizona was 50 years old. He loved baseball and a

good joke. He was close with his mother, Ruby, and his niece says they were both incredibly generous people.

Ruby Morton was 73, had a beautiful wide smile and loved to spend time with her grandchildren. She was rushed to the hospital just hours after finding her son's body, not knowing then that either of them had COVID-19. Within a week, she had passed leaving family members grieving for two relatives they adore.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.