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U.S Surpasses Grim Milestone of 150,000 Deaths; Florida Shatters Deaths Record for Second Straight Day; Final Words of Civil Rights Icon Published on Day of His Funeral. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

The highest daily death count since May, more than 1,400 deaths reported in the United States. No one should be numb to that. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Overall, more than 150,000 Americans have died, four states, including Florida and California, setting daily death records again. And yet tomorrow, Florida's business regulation chief says he is setting up meetings throughout the state with breweries and bars to discuss how to get them reopen. Florida just had its high daily death count and they're going to meet about how to open bars.

President Trump did not acknowledge the death toll during his trip to Texas yesterday nor did he wear a mask or socially distance. Look at this picture. Look how close everyone is standing to each other there. His audience also largely followed his lead. A lot of people there, not far apart, not wearing masks. Texas has surpassed New York in the total number of coronavirus cases.

It's also notable the president is continuing his defense of a doctor who promoted hydroxychloroquine and also online warned about the effects of demon seed.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Yes, I remember that. John, if you think that's shocking, wait until you hear this. Vice President Pence met with many of the doctors in this viral video. Why? Why would the head of the coronavirus task force meet with a group of doctors peddling nonsense?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an order making masks mandatory in the House chamber and House office buildings starting today. Meanwhile, staunch anti-masker, Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, tested positive hours before he was supposed to get onboard Air Force One with the president.

And in the next hour, the U.S. is expected to report the worst economic plunge in its history.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Also with us, Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, she's an Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Doctor, I just want to start with you and reflect on this moment we're in. More than 150,000 deaths in the United States, a daily death toll of 1,400, which is as high as it has been since May, how did we get back to this point, we're at 1,400 new deaths a day, and where are we going?

DR. JODIE DIONNE-ODOM: Yes, these numbers are really concerning, John. We all agree with you. We were worried when it was at 10,000 deaths and then 30,000 deaths. So to get to 150,000 deaths, when you think about the impact that has on the patients and their families and our country, it's really a travesty that we are where we are today.

I'm worried about the future. I'm worried that unless we make some significant changes in our response, this death rate is going to continue to rise. And I think it doesn't have to be that way for us.

CAMEROTA: And, Dana, meanwhile, Vice President Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, met with that group of doctors who were peddling all of that nonsense. I mean, you know, each one had a different version of the nonsense, but, in general, masks aren't important, hydroxychloroquine is the cure, not true. Obviously, the preponderance medical evidence suggests that it is not usefully, it doesn't work, it can be harmful. Why? Why did he have time to meet with them? Why take them in the Roosevelt Room and meet with them?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question. That group came as part of a tea party group, which is a political group, one of the political groups that is certainly near and dear, historically, to Vice President Pence's heart. Perhaps that is sort of the confluence of interests that allowed that to happen.

But big picture, this is a man who represents and is still leading the coronavirus task force and is leading the actual scientists and actual doctors who are saying the opposite of what that particular group is saying.

So, you know, there's a good question to be asked and we don't have the answer to it yet. That's the truth.

BERMAN: And, look, it is notable, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy overnight, and this is a group that is designed to make scientific decisions, has banned the use of hydroxychloroquine in Ohio to treat COVID.


So the scientists have made that decision in Ohio there, no matter who the vice president or president leans on.

And, Dana, I want to ask you about what we have seen on Capitol Hill the last 24 hours. Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has proudly defied those calling for mask-wearing over the last month, he wore one occasionally, but not happily, and bragged about when he didn't, has now been diagnosed with coronavirus. He's asymptomatic and we wish him the best. But this is someone who has stood up and defied the science. That does speak volumes, I think.

BASH: It absolutely speaks volumes. We should say, and you know this, that Louie Gohmert, historically, pick your issue, tends to march to his own drum and own beat. On this issue, the beat that he is marching to is the deniers, particularly on the question of masks. He did -- you showed a clip, he was sort of periodically wearing a mask in that Barr hearing the other day, but you can see him playing with it, obviously, not very comfortable with it.

The big question now, one of the many questions, is what are the ramifications of this? We saw an immediate one in that the House Speaker put a new mask mandate policy on the House side, saying you have to wear it in the -- on the floor and also in other places where you're interacting with other people.

But her number two, Steny Hoyer asked for an investigation into whether Louie Gohmert actually endangered the health and safety of his own staff. Because what he did is he went into his office maskless to announce to his staff that he has coronavirus.

So there are so many odd things that went on there, never mind the fact that he is saying that he's going to take hydroxychloroquine, even though we know medically, as you said, just even the latest in Ohio, the vast majority of doctors say it's not going to do anything. And he is still, you know, questioning whether or not a mask is or should be the right thing to do despite so much evidence to the contrary.

CAMEROTA: He also apparently berated his staff who were wearing masks. I'll just read to you what Politico got -- the quote Politico got from a staff member. They said, thank you for letting our office know that Louie tested positive for the coronavirus. In other words, they heard it from Politico.

When you write your story, can you include that Louie requires full staff to be in the office, including three interns so that we could be an example to America on how to open safely? When probing the office, you might want to ask how often people were berated for wearing masks.

That is just remarkable to hear. That's how strongly that one of his staffers felt, was that they sent that message to Politico. Dana?

BASH: I mean, that tells you something. Because to work for Louie Gohmert, generally, you've got to be a true believer in the Gohmert cause, whatever that might be. And the fact that that person, and it sounds like other people in his office felt that their boss, who was elected to represent that district in Texas, put their personal health and safety in jeopardy in a very aggressive way is remarkable.

Look, it's one thing when you risk your own life. When you're risking other people's lives, it's a totally different calculation.

Doctor, I want to talk about where we are this morning. We are seeing this rise in daily death counts. The number of new cases seems to have plateaued some in certain states. What does that tell you in terms of how the virus can be controlled and is that a reason in and of itself to say, hey, what we're doing is working? Is it enough, in other words? If you do plateau and don't drop at that level, is it enough?

DIONNE-ODOM: Plateauing in cases is good news. There's still a two- week lag between cases and a three-week lag in deaths, so it doesn't mean anything can stop. And, unfortunately, when you look at the test positivity rates, in Alabama, we're at 19 percent test positivity, in Texas, 12 percent test positivity.

And that number means that there's a lot of infection that we're still not picking up. So for every case there is, there may be several others that we don't know about in the community. And as we're all thinking about going back to school and making that as safe as possible, we definitely don't want to let our guard down. Going down in mortality is good. Going down in cases is good. We have a long ways to go before we can get to where other countries are right now, to be honest.

CAMEROTA: Dana, we want to ask you about what's going on in Congress in terms of that stimulus plan. Tomorrow, the added $600 benefit for unemployed Americans runs out. And, as you know, Republicans are disinclined to continue that in any of their plans.


And then I was just so struck to read about the food insecurity that's going on in this country. I know that it exists all the time, however, it has been exacerbated, I read, that 30 million Americans have recently reported they could not get enough to eat in the past week.

BASH: It's absolutely astonishing and terrible. And that is one of the main reasons why the Democrats say that they are holding out for what is existing now, the $600 or something close to it, to continue. Because in the Republican argument, and we should underscore that the big reason why there's an impasse right now is an intra-Republican fight. They can't decide between themselves on how to go forward or whether to go forward.

But with regard to the sort of cross-party line situation, Republicans, by and large, are arguing that that money is making it possible and even probable that people won't want to look for jobs. And Democrats say, that's ridiculous. People want to look for jobs. There aren't jobs to be had. And as you point out with that report, they're hungry, never mind that they can't pay their rent or mortgage.

And this is -- you know, we see a lot of partisan fights here and some of it is about things that nobody cares about. I can't think of anything that matters more than what they're fighting about right now, and they are so far apart. And, you know, for the first few months, we did see them get their act together on issues like this, and the fact that they're not there, there's no question it's because we're even closer to Election Day, and that's unfortunate.

BERMAN: Dana Bash, Doctor, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it. So, Florida is setting a new record for deaths in this pandemic as a state regulator plans to meet with bars to discuss how to reopen, now.

And this, of course, as a tropical storm bears down on that state, this all will be discussed next with the mayor of the largest county there.



BERMAN: All right, new this morning, Florida has set a record for the number of daily deaths, the second straight day that has happened. This morning, ICUs in 47 hospitals statewide are full, including eight in Miami-Dade County.

Joining me now is the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez. Mr. Mayor, thank you, as always, for being with me this morning.

Florida set a new record in the number of daily deaths. Why? Why do you think we are seeing the deaths rise?

MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL): Well, obviously, because we have a rise in the positivity rate. We have more people here that are affected with COVID-19. But the good news though, as we've seen in the last eight or nine days is that our hospitalization rate has stabilized. Also our positivity rate appears to be heading a little bit south, good, and then our hospitalizations actually have gone down a little bit in the last eight or nine days. And so it's -- you know, the signs or the trend is good. We want to just continue that trend.

And so the lagging indicators are going to be how many people are in ICUs and then how many people are on ventilators, and, unfortunately, how many fatalities are you going to have. And so as we start heading down, those things will drag behind by about seven to ten days. And so at least in Miami-Dade, we expect that number to stabilize and then start heading south, heading down in about a week to ten days.

BERMAN: That's a long time to be at this level of deaths here. And the key words there, stabilize a little bit. Yes, maybe you have plateaued, but you plateaued at a very high level. And then so far as there's a drop in positivity rate, it's still much higher than the advisable level there. So, how concerned are you that you're going to see this high level of deaths for some time?

GIMENEZ: We're going to 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. So we're going to be at this for a while, but we're not rising anymore. That's the good news. We are stabilized and we're coming down. So not rising is also a very, very good news and that means less tests in the future, less people going into ICUs and all of that.

So there is a silver lining to this, but it will take some time to go down to where we would like to see it, somewhere around the 5 percent level. We're still a long way. Our average right now is about 18 percent. Yesterday's positivity was 16 percent. So, hopefully, we can remain on that trajectory and bring it down as soon as we can.

BERMAN: Well, what it's going to take to bring it down, and you're right, it's certainly better than the alternative to start to seeing it stabilize or drop a little bit, but it will take vigilance to make it happen. That's why I was shocked when Rosa Flores reported earlier this morning that the person in charge of business regulation in Florida tomorrow is going to start holding meetings about how to reopen bars. What do you think of that timing?

GIMENEZ: You can have the meetings on how to do it. It doesn't mean you're going to do it. We have meetings before we opened a lot of our -- we had big meetings on how to open up safely. We didn't do it right away until we got to a positivity rate that said, okay, now you can open up this business because your positivity rate is down to this level.

We had to close some businesses after we opened because the positivity rate went up. But you have to have the procedures of how to do it. We have not opened up bars here since we closed them back in -- we didn't open them. I haven't had any discussions about opening up bars. But, you know, when it's time to do it, you do need to have meetings about how to do it, to do it safely.

BERMAN: And you are absolutely right. Miami-Dade, this does not apply to you. You have not and did not reopen bars. But do you get the sense that Florida is anywhere near that point where they should be reopening bars?

GIMENEZ: No, not in Miami-Dade, no, and probably not Broward and Palm Beach. It all depends on the other parts of the states. It's a big state. Some counties have very low positivity rates, and depending on the county, that's -- you know, that's their prerogative.


And so, we're nowhere close. We haven't had the meetings because we're nowhere close. But if we ever get to that point, before we open, we will have meetings about how to open up bars safely. At this point, I don't see that happening in Miami-Dade for quite a while because our positivity rate is so high.

BERMAN: You have a tropical storm bearing down on your state. And somehow I know it's almost laughable. It would be laughable if it weren't so serious right now with everywhere else going on. Some of the state-run testing centers are going to close as this storm hits. How concerned are you about flying blind for a few days in the midst of this?

GIMENEZ: Well, I think it's a tropical storm. What the National Weather Service has told us that it appears that it could be a tropical storm and they don't know the course of it yet. Would I be concerned? Absolutely. Look, if we have a major hurricane here, then we're going to have to evacuation a number of people and then they're going -- we're going to have to be putting them into schools and try to keep them separated as much as possible. That's a concern.

When you're not testing is also a concern, but the greater danger, the immediate danger has to be taken care of first, and that's getting our people out of harm's way, getting our residents out of harm's way if, in fact, a major storm heads our way.

A tropical storm, this is Miami-Dade. This is South Florida, we've seen storms like this come and go. And so although, you know, we will prepare for it and all, as long as it stays as a tropical storm, they may cause some damage. But I don't think that that will cause any evacuations at this point. But you could probably will have to shut down some of these testing for a couple of days until we get back up to speed.

So, we've got an eye on it. We'll check it out and let's see what happens and hope for the best.

BERMAN: Well, we wish you the best of luck. Let us know if there's anything we can do, if we need to get any messages out to the people of Miami-Dade as this tropical storm approaches. I appreciate you being with us, Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

GIMENEZ: I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: John, we want to remember some of the more than 150,000 Americans lost to coronavirus.

Navy Veteran Keith Jones was a nurse on a night shift at a nursing facility. The day after his funeral, his 17-year-old son had to rush back to Florida for his own high school graduation without his father.

Isabel Papadimitriou was a respiratory therapist in the Dallas area. Her daughter, Fiana, says her mom loved the flute, her two dogs and her large family.

In her mother's obituary, Tulip blames the carelessness of Texas politicians for her mother's death.

71-year-old Donna Mitchell was a Culver City, California, homemaker who raised a son and daughter and acted as matriarch of her extended family. Her niece says she was also a neighborhood leader, organizing potlucks and acting as a surrogate grandma to the kids next door.

BERMAN: And our heart goes out to each and every one of them.

So we have some breaking news. The final words of late Congressman John Lewis just published in The New York Times. The message he wrote that he wanted us all to read the day he is laid to rest, that message, next.


[07:25:00] BERMAN: Breaking news, just hours from now, 17-term Congressman and Civil Rights Icon John Lewis will be laid to rest. Former President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

And now, we're just seeing Congressman Lewis' final words. It's a new essay just published in The New York Times. Congressman Lewis wanted this released the morning of his funeral. We are going to read it in full.

Congressman Lewis writes, while my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of life, you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world, you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That's why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington although I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd, he was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed and I was only 15 years at the time. I will never, ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imagery prison and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no thinkable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of sisters, brothers and cousins their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside of that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning job down a lonesome country road into a nightmare.

CAMEROTA: If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shooting unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out or some might say a way in. And now, I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of non-violence. He said, we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said, it is not enough to say, we will get better by and by. He said each one of us have a moral obligation to stand up, speak up, and speak out.


When you see something that is not right, you must say something, you must. END