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U.S. Reports Worst Economic Quarterly Drop in History; Florida Reports Record 216 Deaths in Single Day; COVID-19 Ravaging Entire South Texas Families; Funeral Service for Civil Rights Icon Representative John Lewis. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Some very bad news for the American economy. We've just learned that growth in the U.S. is now the worst that it has ever been on record. Plunging into the first technical recession for the first time in 11 years. And the contraction in the second quarter minus 32.9 percent. That is four times what we saw during the great recession and it is far worse than the worst on record which was about 10 percent contraction back in 1958. That is the reality of America's economy today.

SCIUTTO: So many Americans suffering, I'm sure many of you watching right now. We're going to bring you all the angles as we look into the impact of this and also the extent of it. How long will it last, when might you see relief. We're going to stay on top of it through the next two hours.

Our Cristina Alesci, CNN business reporter, has been covering the news.

And, Cristina, as Poppy notes, the worst on record, granted these figures only kept quarterly going back to 1947. But even when you compare it to the Depression, the Great Depression of the 1930s, this is on or beyond that scale at this point, is it not?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It is. And this certainly puts pressure on congressional Republicans to move faster on the stimulus negotiations. It really underscores the situation that the economy is in and the jobs data this morning also adds pressure here. This is not something that we would expect at this point. I think at this point, with the amount of stimulus that's already been pumped into the economy, we were hoping to see at least a stabilization in the number of people filing for unemployment.

And this jobs report this morning really underscores the fact that we do not know how many more people may file in the future without enhanced unemployment benefits. Of course Congress is still (INAUDIBLE) which is keeping American families in their home, paying their rent, paying their mortgage and spending, and on the point about spending, the American consumer is the backbone of the U.S. economy and it is the backbone of GDP. And we did see a softening in that particular part of the GDP calculation today.

HARLOW: Christina, I would just note, OK, the only people who have the power to change the situation outside of the House situation right now is Congress, right? They are the ones who it is incumbent on making a deal to figure out what kind of aid is necessary here. And they have had months to do this.


HARLOW: They knew that tomorrow, Cristina, that extended unemployment benefit of $600 a week runs out. And yet they are oceans apart. It is inexcusable.

ALESCI: It's absolutely stunning. I'm actually surprised that there isn't more outrage over the fact that millions of Americans do not know whether they're going to have the extra money to stay in their homes. We could see evictions go up because of this. We could see poverty rates go up because of this. Actually, Urban Institute was out this morning with data that showed millions of Americans could slip into poverty as a result of Congress not acting fast in terms of providing additional stimulus checks, extending that $600 payment, and providing more funding for food stamps, Poppy.

So you're absolutely right. And this is something that Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, yesterday tried to underscore, that Congress needs to move. They knew that this -- they were approaching this deadline and yet we still do not have a solution.

So yes, Poppy, I totally agree with your point. I'm actually surprised that the American public is not more outraged over the fact that we don't have a stimulus bill at this point.

SCIUTTO: Cristina Alesci, thank you.

Of course, the other point here is this. The economy cannot reliably, sustainably restart with a pandemic still raging in this country. You've got to act on one before you can act on the other. And that is what economists, so many business leaders have been saying since the beginning.

In the midst of that reality, there is a new warning this morning for midwestern states in this country. Act now or face a spike in cases later. This is the pattern we've seen across the country. The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has told governors to crack down or see the cases sky rocket in the Midwest just as this country saw in the south and the west recently, as well as in the northeast before that.

This comes as the country surpasses a tragic milestone, 150,000 deaths. Look at where that graph is going. It's going up on the right- hand side. The president has said deaths are going down. More than 10,000 died in this country in just the last 10 days.


HARLOW: And as top health experts say it is time for the entire country to reset. That message this morning from experts at Johns Hopkins. And if we don't, they say things will unequivocally get worse.

Let's begin in Florida, hit so hard by this. Rosa Flores joins us this morning.

Good morning, Rosa. What is the situation now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. The state of Florida shattering its death toll record for the second day in a row, reporting 216 deaths yesterday in the span of 24 hours. When you look at the daily number of coronavirus cases, they appear to have stabilized. But they have stabilized at a very high mark in the past two weeks. Those numbers have varied from 9,000 to 12,000 cases per day. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez saying today on "NEW DAY" that more deaths are expected. Take a listen.


MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We'll see a higher level of deaths for some time until we start to drop our positivity rate below 10 percent. I mean, it was a steep rise to the top and I think it's going to be a gradual decline. And we are stabilized and we're coming down.


FLORES: Here's the situation in the state of Florida. Across the state, 47 hospital ICUs are at capacity. The positivity rate in the state for the past two weeks has ranged from 13 percent to 18 percent. And as this pandemic churns through the state of Florida, officials are now having to worry about one more thing. And that is tropical storm Isaias approaching the state.

So the state announced yesterday that they are temporarily closing the state-supported COVID-19 testing sites because, Jim and Poppy, just think about it. At these sites, there are tents, equipment, people, cones. All of those could turn into projectiles during a storm.

HARLOW: My goodness.

FLORES: Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: The setback, though, for testing is really going to hurt the state even more.

Rosa, thanks a lot for that.

Let's go to Texas now because Texas is now the third state to surpass New York in total COVID-19 cases as the surge in cases overwhelms some hospitals there. Ed Lavandera is in Midland, Texas, for us this morning.

Good, Ed. How much of an emotional toll is this all taking on families there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's devastating to put a fine point on it. And this comes at a time where depending on where you are here in the state of Texas, it can be far more dramatic or perhaps not as dramatic. But the bottom line is in south Texas, in particular, this is an area that has been ravaged by all of this. One doctor telling us that it is ripping parents and families apart.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Rolando and Yolanda Garcia met as kids in south Texas, became high school sweethearts, and the rest is history. They reveled in life's sweet moments.

Rolando's birthday.

Yolanda cutting her granddaughter's hair.

But in late June, the coronavirus caught the couple by surprise. Their daughter Priscilla believes they got infected at the grocery store. As they got sicker, the 70-year-old grandparents were taken to different hospitals on the same day. It would the last time they saw each other.

PRISCILLA MARIE GARCIA, LOST BOTH PARENTS TO COVID-19: It's heartbreaking because you never want to die alone. You want to die with your family around you. There is nowhere there to support you in your last moments.

LAVANDERA: Rolando died on July 4th.

GARCIA: My dad passed away and we didn't tell her. She ended up having a heart attack on her own and then the last time that I spoke with her, I just told her that dad was waiting for her.

LAVANDERA: The Garcias died four days apart. Priscilla also has COVID- 19. She's quarantined in her parents' home. A small shrine fills the living room. It's a place to reflect on her family's ordeal.

GARCIA: They didn't have to die. They still had another good 10 or 15 more years. They were very vibrant.

LAVANDERA (on camera): What's it like in south Texas right now?

GARCIA: It's hell on earth. Everyone is scared. Everyone is anxious.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): About 600 people have died of COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley. The vast majority of those have died this month.

DR. MARTIN SCHWARCZ, PULMONARY INTENSIVIST, RIO GRANDE VALLEY: It's like living in a constant hurricane of patients coming in to the hospital.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Endless. SCHWARCZ: It's overwhelming. It's endless and overwhelming.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Dr. Martin Schwarcz lives on the pandemic frontlines, working intensive care units filled with COVID patients. He says medical teams are struggling to stay ahead of the fast- spreading virus.

SCHWARCZ: We are always on the edge of, am I going to have enough ventilators today? Am I going to have enough centralized? Enough chest tubes?

LAVANDERA (on camera): It seems like this is really taking its toll on a lot of you guys that are on the front lines.

SCHWARCZ: We're seeing entire families, you know, a community being ravaged by the virus.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Salvador and Imelda Munoz celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June.


The family says their in-home nurse unknowingly infected the elderly couple but Marie Silva felt her mother was going to pull through.

MARIE SILVA, LOST BOTH PARENTS TO COVID-19: She suffered a heart attack while waiting. There was not enough staff to attend to her and so she didn't make it.

LAVANDERA: After that, Marie says her father felt his job was done. There was time, though, for one last video call.

(On camera): What will you remember most about that final conversation with your dad?

SILVA: All my brothers and sisters telling him how good of a father he was and how he could go rest if he needed to. Letting him know that he did a good job and we love him. And we'll never forget him.

LAVANDERA: And what did he say?

SILVA: He just nodded. He didn't cry. He never cried. He's just a strong man. But I could see the pain in his eyes. I could.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): On July 10th, Marie Silva says her father's eyes finally closed during his wife's funeral service. Three days later, Salvador and Imelda Munoz were buried together.


LAVANDERA: And Jim and Poppy, you know, the number of coronavirus cases being reported every day has started to show signs of leveling off, but the doctors there in south Texas tell us that as soon as ICU bed space and hospital bed space is built and allowing for more patients that these spaces are being instantly filled up. So that's why you heard that doctor talking about being on the edge. The good news is, the number of cases starting to level off but it's still at a very high number, nearly 10,000 per day, and deaths and hospitalizations remain dangerously high as well -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Quite a view there from the ground in Texas. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Well, after five days -- after five days of memorials and tributes, civil rights leader icon Congressman John Lewis today will be laid to rest in Atlanta, Georgia. The state where he served for more than three decades.

SCIUTTO: These are live pictures here from inside Ebenezer Baptist Church where in just a short while, former president Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will also attend and participate in John Lewis' funeral.

CNN correspondent Martin Savidge, he is in Atlanta following the services live.

What should we expect this morning, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim. It's going to be another remarkable day. It really will. You've already mentioned the three presidents, That will be President Barack Obama will be delivering the eulogy. He knew Congressman Lewis very well. And then on top of that, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, is also expected to attend.

It's been an incredible journey for the congressman. Retracing his life, beginning in Troy, Alabama, where he was born. Selma, Alabama, where he nearly died on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that very final farewell. His casket carried over one last time. Then to Washington, D.C. then back to his adopted city of Atlanta, lying in state in the capitol of Georgia last night and finally here, Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is probably one of the most historically or among the most historically significant churches in this country.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. preached here, so did his father. It where Congressman Lewis was a member of the parish. He was married here. And it's a church that's at the heart of the African-American community. It has been for over 130 years when they come to in times of celebration and in times of sadness.

I just want to read you an op-ed that the congressman wrote and asked that it be released on the day of his funeral. It's extremely powerful. You should read the whole thing. But this is just one excerpt.

"When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters. And let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide."

The final words of Congressman John Lewis who will be remembered today -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Every single word of his op-ed is just remarkable. Marty, thank you very much.

Well, the U.S. reporting its worst economic quarterly plunge in terms of growth ever in U.S. history. We have never seen something like this before and this as congressional leaders are not any closer to reaching a deal on a stimulus bill.

SCIUTTO: Plus the FDA says it could issue an emergency authorization used for coronavirus vaccine in just weeks if -- this is key -- it is found to be safe and effective.

And time for tipoff. The NBA season restarts today. Can it last? Can it get through this? We're going to have a live preview ahead.



SCIUTTO: We're all waiting for it. News about a vaccine, when it's ready, when you and I can get one -- our families. New this morning, the FDA Commissioner said the agency will not cut corners when approving a COVID vaccine, ensuring that it is safe.

HARLOW: This is after announcing that the agency could issue emergency use authorization for a vaccine in a matter of weeks, of course, that is after it is proved to be safe and effective, and after, it is officially approved by the FDA. Let's talk about these developments with Dr. Jay Varkey; associate professor of medicine at Emory University. Good morning, thanks for being with us.


HARLOW: So just explain to people what that means because you know, there are some who are nervous about a vaccine, some, who think it's rushed, just to explain what an emergency authorization would mean just weeks after an approval, and who would get that?

VARKEY: Sure. So an emergency use authorization is something that the FDA issues to expedite the administration or the regulatory issues that are involved in getting either a new vaccine or a new medication to people in the setting of a public health emergency.


Relevant to the COVID vaccine, the way I think that this is going to be most relevant for the American public is recognizing that there's actually six vaccines worldwide that are now in phase 3 studies. What that means is that they have undergone the initial studies to demonstrate that they're safe. These are small studies, phase 1 and phase 2 studies. And also to determine that they make an immune response.

What the phase 3 studies will be are much larger. These are going to be 30,000 some people enrolled in these studies, including several in the United States, including where I am in Atlanta. And the only upside I can see with the widespread community transmission that's going on throughout the United States is that we should more quickly determine whether these candidate vaccines are in fact effective.

So for example, do they prevent 50 percent of -- do -- if you administer a vaccine, would 50 percent of people actually have some degree of protection? That might be a way to measure whether those candidate vaccines are in fact, effective. And the e-way we'll actually streamline people getting it.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Varkey, given that this country has and continues to fail utterly to test the population, get testing to people who need it, track cases, et cetera. There's supply issues, there are organizational issues, there's no national plan. What evidence do we have that this country will do better if and when there's a vaccine distributing that to large portions of the population?

VARKEY: Yes, great question, Jim. And I'm glad you raised it because I think as a society, we actually need to make that kind of planning now. It's not just good enough to make this moon-shot and develop the vaccine. This is the time we actually need to plan on how it will be allocated. How it will be distributed. And that message from my opinion shouldn't come from pharmaceutical companies. It shouldn't come from elected officials.

We need to start engaging with the community in a way that will engender trust. The real paradox here is that even though we're on a cusp of developing a safe and hopefully effective vaccine, multiple surveys now have shown that up to 25 percent or 30 percent of the American public is very hesitant about receiving this vaccine. This is the time to actually make those bridges within the community, and to engender trust so that when those studies are actually available, showing an effective vaccine, that we actually will have gained the trust of the public to actually receive it and actually start the end game of this pandemic.

HARLOW: So Dr. Varkey, just to build on Jim's question, I agree it's such an important one. We see all of these professional sports teams that are getting tested, all their players every single day and that's good, they need to, but most people can't do that and good for the NBA, by the way. They're going to help other communities get the same access to the extent that they can. But what about a vaccine? Is the same thing going to happen with a vaccine without a national plan, that basically people who can afford it -- I just don't know. Are there going to be certain groups that are going to get in the front of the line outside of just those -- who -- like front line workers, et cetera? How is that going to work?

VARKEY: Yes, Poppy, you're asking all the right questions, and those are the questions that the American public deserve direct answers to. I will say, you referenced the Johns Hopkins white paper talking about a reset. That same group is actually combined with Texas state and put together a very nice white paper outlining exactly how important it is to actually make a case for equity in terms of how these vaccines will be distributed. And going back to the point you raised earlier, that's also a good

reason for pushing the reset button in terms of our interventions to slow down this pandemic. We need that time to build testing capacity. We need that time to actually make relationships in the community and engender that trust that people actually are open to receiving this vaccine.

HARLOW: We are grateful for you being here, and let's hope that every single person who makes those decisions is reading that white paper from Johns Hopkins. Thank you, Dr. Varkey.

VARKEY: My pleasure. Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, the president seriously just floated the idea of delaying the election. We're going to talk about that ahead.

SCIUTTO: This has never happened in the country's history even during the civil war, World War I, World War II. This is the sitting president suggesting delaying his own election. We're going to cover it deeply. And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, the president's message hitting markets.

And so is this, the U.S. reported its worst economic plunge on a quarterly basis in its recorded history. The economy contracting by a third between the months of April and June, and unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row, showing that accelerating. We're going to break it all down, what it means to you, next.



SCIUTTO: Now, we know you may feel like you hear and see a lot of crazy in the news. But this morning, the president, the sitting elected U.S. President, President Trump has openly floated an idea that has never happened in this country's history, that is delaying the presidential election when of course his own term is up to your vote.

It didn't happen during the civil war. It didn't happen during World War II or World War I. In a tweet this morning, he wrote, "with universal mail-in voting, not absentee voting which is good, 2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history." By the way, he makes that on no factual basis. He makes that charge.