Return to Transcripts main page


House Speak Nancy Pelosi Institutes Rule that House Members Must Wear Masks; Ten-Year-Old Boy to Speak at Memorial for Congressman John Lewis; Congressman Louie Gohmert Tests Positive for Coronavirus; Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) is Interviewed About Rep. Louie Gohmert Testing Positive of COVID and the Coronavirus Pandemic; U.S. Expected to Report Worst Economic Plunge in History. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: In total number of coronavirus cases.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight the Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced that it is prohibiting the sale and distribution of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of coronavirus. But President Trump is continuing his defense of a doctor who promoted the drug and also warned of demonic seed online. And now we've learned that Vice President Pence met with doctors seen with her in this viral video.

Also big news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making masks mandatory in the House chamber and in House office buildings. That order takes effect just moments from now. This comes after staunch anti-masker Texas Republican Louie Gohmert tested positive hours before he was supposed to get on Air Force One with the president. The diagnosis earned him an unintentional nickname from Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.


KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Just as Congressman COVID -- Congressman Louis Gohmert says that he doesn't have any symptoms.


BERMAN: Congressman COVID, so says Kevin McCarthy.

We do have breaking news, more pain on the way. Just minutes from now the U.S. is expected to report the worst economic plunge in American history. We're getting new data. We'll bring it to you live when it comes in.

CAMEROTA: We want to bring in Dr. Ashish Jha, he's the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Great to see both of you. Dr. Jha, there's just a macabre way that Dr. Khan who we interviewed earlier in the program described the national strategy that we seemed to be engaged in. He called that the 1,000 deaths a day strategy, that somehow that's where we are. That is what we seem to be accepting. John and I have talked about this so often. The numbers are so astronomical, sometimes it's hard to get your head and heart around 150,000 Americans, and more every day, we're setting these new death records. What do you see in the strategy here?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: So good morning, and thank you for having me on. It is incredibly sad. It is incredibly frustrating. At times it makes me outraged because 1,000 people a day, we say it's just another day, another 1,000 people. That's 1,000 families that are grieving that will not see their loved ones again. And the idea that we've just come to accept it because we have no real federal leadership, and often in many states very poor state leadership, this should not be acceptable for the wealthiest nation in the world. We have more than enough capability to bring this under control, to save most of those lives. And we're just choosing not to do it. And I have to tell you, most days it just baffles me. I don't understand how we are where we are.

BERMAN: And to be clear, that number 1,400, it's back where it was at the beginning of May. We blew it. We blew this response. We were headed in the right direction, and now we have turned in the wrong direction.

And Dana Bash, I don't know if we have the pictures from Texas, so the president when he was signing whatever he was signing surrounded by people standing shoulder to shoulder unmasked, that picture is stunning given where we are right now. Texas just regularly records new highs in daily deaths. They didn't yesterday, but the hospitalizations there are still staggering. The death count, still incredibly high. And everyone there is standing and smiling within feet of each other.

And on top of it, it is worth noting, and this is something that they note every night on Anderson Cooper's show, the president doesn't talk about the death count. He doesn't talk about the human toll and the toll on families.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, absolutely. That would make -- there are lots of reasons. One is the empathy factor. Two is that would make it real. And three, it's bad politics. Those are all the top three reasons. There are others as well. Those pictures, that video of Texas is so alarming on both just a human level, a leadership level, never mind a raw politics level.

On the leadership, what happened to the guy who tweeted out a couple of weeks ago a picture of him in a mask saying it's patriotic? Well, there he is in the Lone Star state not being patriotic. And because he's not wearing a mask, it gives license to all those people who were there gathered around to also not wear masks in a state that is really, really reeling from the coronavirus and has seen spikes because of the fact that these social distancing mask wearing policies were not in effect early enough.

It makes absolutely no sense at all, except for the fact that he clearly felt like he was backed into the corner. That's why he said to wear a mask a couple of weeks ago. And he obviously doesn't really mean it, because if he did, he would have been wearing one yesterday and every single time he is in public since then. And for the most part, unless he's in a hospital, he has not.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Jha, Congressman Louie Gohmert was supposed to be with the president in Texas on that trip, but he couldn't go because he tested positive for the coronavirus, as we've said. He is thankfully asymptomatic as far as we know at the moment, but he's a case study. He is like exhibit a in terms of how not to wear a face covering. So for a long time, he flouted the idea of wearing one, and then when he reluctantly did wear one to a hearing, we have the video. He is manhandling his mask relentlessly. He's tugging on it. He's itching it. At one point he blows his nose into it. His nose is very itchy, he pulls it up over his eyes. We already know that a bandana is the least effective face covering, and he just was not modeling the right behavior there.

JHA: Yes. When I look at where we are as a country, 150,000 deaths, when I think of the fact that most, a majority of kids in America will not be going back to school this fall, and then I realize that the main reason is because or political leaders refuse to do the simplest and easiest things, like wear masks properly. My eight-year-old wears a mask all the time when he's outside the house. He knows how to do it properly. I'm confident the congressman can figure out how to do it confidently. Where our kids are not going to be able to go back and people aren't going to be able to go back to work because of this kind of behavior, it's a little bit shocking. Like I can't believe this is where we are that people refuse to be adults and do the basic things that's going to get us through this pandemic.

BERMAN: Yes. Look, I will also note that Louie Gohmert preaches from a political side that occasionally talks about self-restraint. He didn't really exhibit any there, self-control, touching the face. Dr. Jha, you have written over the last 24 hours calling for basically the country to rethink testing completely. What do you want to see happen?

JHA: Yes. So look, we've had a strategy of these PCR tests. We're obviously running to the end of the road now about it, dozens states where I have seen drops in testing. It's just not working. We need a new strategy. But that new strategy actually need not repeat some of the same mistakes. What I have argued for we need ubiquitous testing. Even if those tests are not as accurate. The bottom line is if we had cheap, available tests where you get results back in 15 minutes and we could get people to test on an ongoing basis, two, three times a week, we would drive the level of infection down to the -- to very, very low levels. So we have to rethink testing here. We want safe -- we want, sorry, cheap, ubiquitous testing, even if the accuracy isn't so high. That's not the most important part. What we really need is tests to be available and give us results very quickly.

CAMEROTA: Dana, I just want to ask you about John Lewis' last words to us, which we just got today. It's so powerful that so many days after his death he had planned this piece in "The New York Times" for the day that he was buried. So he wrote it, they held it. And we get to hear from him again, which is such a gift, obviously, after somebody dies to be able to hear from them again. And so you have spent so much time with him. Tell us your thoughts on his final words here.

BASH: Wow. When you read it, I was thinking I'm glad it's Alisyn and not me, because I was feeling how you were, so totally overwhelmed with emotion because he was so careful and crafty, basically, in how he wanted his last words to be heard. And the whole message was the message of his life, which is get up, do something, don't just sit around, but also to pass the baton to the next generation.

And what also strikes me, Alisyn, is that when I had the privilege of attending one of his annual civil rights pilgrimages, this was two years ago, I was in Selma, Alabama. It was while the congressman was at the church service before he walked across the bridge. Me and my colleagues, Jeremy Moorhead and Bridget Nolan, noticed a 10-year-old boy holding a sign thanking John Lewis. Long story short, we were able to get him over to the back entrance, you see him there. He met John Lewis. The two of them embraced, walked across the bridge, stayed in touch. This young boy is now 12. His name is Tybre Faw. He went back twice with John Lewis, went to see him in the capitol. Decided he wanted to be a congressman as well. And guess what, guys? That young boy is going to read a poem at John Lewis' funeral this morning. That is the kind of man that John Lewis was, sending a message to not just Tybre Faw, but all of the young people that if you have it in your heart to try to change the world, I want to help you, just the way John Lewis was touched that way by Martin Luther King Jr.


He was a teenager, wrote King a letter saying I want to help. And King sent him a round trip bus ticket, and that's the way John Lewis started. That's what he wanted to do for this young man and so many others.

CAMEROTA: Thanks a lot, Dana. How much mascara do you think I have here in my studio?


CAMEROTA: Oh, gosh. It's all so powerful, and I encourage everybody to read this piece that he planted, basically, in "The New York Times" today. Thank you very much, Dana.

BERMAN: That sign that Tybre was holding, thank you, John Lewis, the entire country and the world, frankly, holding the same sign, I think, this morning.

Also we did learn one thing in that John Lewis when he visited the Black Lives Matter plaza and took that iconic picture, he was hospitalized the very next day. It was something he wanted to do, no matter what. Stirring.

Dana, Dr. Jha, thank you very much.

JHA: Thank you. BERMAN: So developing this morning, a new mask order in effect on Capitol Hill. All House lawmakers and aides who are on the House floor must wear masks after Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert tested positive. Also in the House office building, CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill. Manu, you have done extensive reporting for weeks on Louie Gohmert and now he's testing positive.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I spent a lot of time sitting in the House gallery watching House floor proceedings take place, particularly during votes. That's when most member, they have to, if they want to vote, appear on the House floor and vote, to see exactly how members were abiding by the recommendations at the time of the capitol physician to wear a mask. And by and large, most members were wearing masks, but they were a pocket of House Republicans who refused to wear a mask on the House floor, even when they were not social distancing. One of them was Louie Gohmert. He would repeatedly, regularly would sit on the House floor for a long period of time, interact face-to-face with members without wearing a mask. He would sit down next to members, having conversations without wearing a mask.

And when I caught up with him late last month and asked him why aren't you wearing a mask, he told me I don't have the coronavirus. Turns out, as of yesterday, I have never had it, but if I get it, you'll never see me without a mask. But I keep being tested and I don't have it. And then I asked him, look, you can be asymptomatic spreader of this virus, which is why the public health experts ask you to wear a mask. And he continued on, so I'm not afraid of you, but if I get it, I'll wear a mask. He didn't explain when he last tested for this virus, but he was tested yesterday on this trip to -- he planned to take a trip with the president aboard Air Force One to Texas. And that's when he was tested positive for this virus. And then he explained to local television why he thinks he got the virus.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, (R-TX) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I know moving the mask around, getting it just right, I'm bound to put some virus on the mask that I sucked in. That's most likely what happened.


RAJU: So he's blaming now his occasional wearing of a mask for getting this virus. Of course, public health experts say wear the mask to prevent yourself from getting it but also to prevent the spread of this to other people. Already, though, John, and Alisyn, there are members who are isolating after interacting with Louie Gohmert. One member is not, though, Chip Roy of Texas. I saw them on the House floor interacting last week, him and Gohmert, without wearing a mask. He told me yesterday he's not concerned, doesn't feel like he needs to isolate, and he was wearing a mask yesterday. So the fallout will continue here.

BERMAN: Look, there are staffers who are concerned. There are reporters who are concerned. There are a lot of people who walk those halls there. If Louie Gohmert wants to take his life into his own hands, that's his issue, but it affects a lot of other people as well. We certainly wish Congressman Gohmert the best. We hope he has terrific medical advice and that science helps him. Thank you, Manu.

RAJU: Thank you.

BERMAN: California shattering its record for new coronavirus cases and death. How will that state contain the outbreak? That's next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, Congressman Louis Gohmert testing positive for coronavirus, new mask orders in place in the House chamber and also the House buildings.

Joining me now is California Democratic Congressman Raul Ruiz who is also a doctor.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

We should note that the new rules put out by the House speaker and the sergeant-at-arms do allow for interviews as long as you're socially distanced without a mask, which is why you're not wearing it right now. This is allowable within the rules.

REP. RAUL RUIZ (D-CA): Correct.

BERMAN: This news about Congressman Gohmert who has for weeks walked around the halls in the Capitol without wearing a mask mostly, defiant in some cases, talking in the House floor and others without a mask, how concerned are you for your health and others this morning?

RUIZ: Well, first of all, as a human being and as a doctor, I feel very sad for Mr. Gohmert and I wish him nothing but a healthy recovery and I hope he doesn't get anybody else sick.

In terms of my own personal safety, I've been wearing a mask so I don't put others at risk all the time when I'm near others, and I haven't had a close contact with him.

However, I believe he's had a full staff in his office. None of them have been wearing masks. And if he's carrier which he is, by coughing, accidentally sneezing or even talking or laughing, he's emanating these air droplets with the virus and putting everybody at risk.

So I really pray that there's nobody in his office who has asthma or diabetes or he doesn't have any relative that is over 65 with underlying conditions, because they can really get sick.

BERMAN: In fact, "Politico" reports Jake Sherman was getting letters all day yesterday, he was saying, including from people in Louis Gohmert's office. I'm going to read you part of what "Politico" posted yesterday. This is letter from the aide to Louie Gohmert, "Politico" says. Thank you for letting our office know Louie tested positive for coronavirus. That's how they found out he had it, because "Politico" published it. When you write your story, can you include the fact that Louie requires full staff to be in the office, including three interns, so that we can be an example to America on how to open up safely? When probing the office, you might want to ask how often where people berated for wearing masks.

Go ahead.

RUIZ: As a doctor, it's infuriating. It's outrageous that one person would be so callous based on their political partisan belief to jeopardize the health of other people.


It is -- it is something that should really be looked into even by the Ethics Committee to determine what are the potential liabilities.

If one of my sons were in his office and they contracted the virus and got severely sick, or, God forbid pass it, on to a grandparent who dies from it, I would be infuriated and want to hold Congressman Gohmert accountable.

BERMAN: And, obviously, again, I just want to make clear, we wish him the best. We hope he's getting the best medical care available.

RUIZ: Correct.

BERMAN: Do you need testing on Capitol Hill? Do members and staff, some people walking the halls need to be tested regularly?

RUIZ: You know, I think that testing is available. And depending on people's risks, they should be tested regularly. I do think that flying back and forth is a potential risk because you're in an airplane and there should be those considerations, especially if you live with somebody who has underlying illnesses or the member themselves have underlying illnesses.

BERMAN: So, just in a couple of minutes, we're going to get a report on GDP and we're expecting the biggest quarterly drop in the economy really that we've ever seen. In the midst of that, in the midst of widespread unemployment, tomorrow, the added $600 weekly benefit to the millions of Americans who are unemployed will expire.

So, how do you explain, Congressman, to those people who have been depending on that extra $600 a week that they're not going to get it? How do you explain to them why the Congress and the White House couldn't get it done?

RUIZ: You know, it's a self-inflicted wound by Senator Mitch McConnell and President Trump who waited until the very last minute to create a political crisis. House Democrats had it done over 60 days ago. In the HEROES Act, the unemployment extension would last until January. Families will get another stimulus check. But according to the Senate Republicans, they can't even agree to get to 51 on their HEALS Act which is woefully inadequate for the American people. In fact, it doesn't have the trillion dollars that the HEROES Act for cities to pay the law enforcement and the teachers, doesn't have money for contact tracing, or testing that we need to be able to stop the surge and control it.

And so, it's woefully inadequate and unfortunately, they're using this political crisis for negotiation and leverage when we already have passed a HEROES Act out of the House which should be the basis of the beginning negotiation.

BERMAN: So, right now, one of the things that they're saying is we can't agree on everything, so let's agree on the stuff that's expiring. Let's try to do the unemployment benefits and maybe deal with evictions also.

What's your response to that?

RUIZ: Well, I think that we need to take care of the people first. And if that's an option, then we should -- we should consider that as a temporary option to get us to the rest of the support that we need.

People are struggling right now. They're making choices between paying rent, medicine, and their groceries. And so, we need to be able to not only extend the $600 a week benefit, but we also need another stimulus check.

This is not a time to play political partisan games. This is a time to get it done for the American people.

BERMAN: Congressman Raul Ruiz, thank you for being with us this morning. We always appreciate your time.

RUIZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. In just a few minutes, we expect to get the worst economic record of its kind in U.S. history. In the midst of that, small business owners have been forced to bear the brunt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This pandemic was something that was just not something that we could overcome.


BERMAN: More of their stories, next.



CAMEROTA: We are just moments away from the release of huge economic news that it is expected to show the U.S. economy had its worst quarter ever -- of course, in large part because of the pandemic. Small businesses had been forced to make very tough decisions.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich has more.

Vanessa, tell us what you're seeing.


One of the reasons we'll see that dramatic shrink in the U.S. economy is because it's largely fueled by consumer spending and Americans are not spending the way they typically do and that is having a huge impact on small businesses, they're closing in record numbers. And that's one of the reasons we're seeing this record unemployment.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): This is what a casualty of the pandemic looks like. Gems Spa, a corner store in New York's East Village, here for a century, gone in just months.

PARUL PATEL, OWNER, GEM SPA: I just couldn't look at it.

YURKEVICH (on camera): It's too much?

PATEL: It's too painful.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Parul Patel's family owned this place for 34 years. It's been an iconic part of New York City's music and arts scene for decades.

PATEL: This pandemic was something that was just not something that we could overcome.

YURKEVICH: More than 100,000 small businesses in the U.S. closed by April because of COVID-19, laying off thousands of employees. A new stimulus bill is being negotiated in the Senate, but for Patel, it's too late.

PATEL: One thing the government could have done to prevent somebody like us from closing and other businesses is a rent freeze. That would have been very, very powerful.

YURKEVICH: In Harlem, the owner of Safari Restaurant says revenue is down 90 percent. Mona Birjeeb says the only reason the restaurant is still open is because her landlord has not evicted her.

MONA BIRJEEB, OWNER, SAFARI RESTAURANT: I will stay open until my landlord comes to me and tell me, hey, either you have to pay me or you have to leave. But until then, I'll do anything I can to stay. This is my dream and this is my life and this is my community.

YURKEVICH: Forty-one percent of black business owners shuttered during the pandemic, the most of any group. And more than a third of immigrant business owners closed too. Birjeeb has applied for several loans, but says she's only received one for $5,000. That doesn't even cover one month's rent. BIRJEEB: Being a black and immigrant is even harder.