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Operation Warp Speed Head Says He Expects Coronavirus Vaccine to be Highly effective, "in the 90 Percent Range"; Obama Slams Trump Over Voting Rights, Protest Response in Powerful Eulogy to John Lewis; U.S. Economy Suffers Worst Quarter Plunge Ever as COVID Cases Surge. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you tomorrow. The truth is out there.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.

We're following breaking news President Trump about to speak from the White House as the U.S. approaches four and a half million confirmed coronavirus cases, the death toll in the United States now more than 151,000 people after the country yesterday recorded the highest one day number of deaths since May, 1,403 Americans died just yesterday that amounts, by the way, to one American life loss to the virus almost each minute.

We're also following the scathing rebuke of President Trump delivered by former President Barack Obama as he and three other former presidents honored the late Congressman Lewis. President Obama noted Lewis's battle for voting rights and had especially harsh criticism of the efforts to undermine those voting rights after President Trump actually floated the idea of delaying the November 3 election.

Let's begin our coverage this hour over the White House. Our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us.

Kaitlan, we do expect to hear fairly soon from the President.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we will, Wolf. And one of the things we could hear is something that he has been saying for weeks now, which are these sustained attacks on the election in November, an election that he is at risk of losing. In one way he's been trying to undermine. What could happen is talking about mail and voting and trying to sow doubt about that, as more and more officials are saying that that could be a very real option that voters have to turn to if the pandemic is still raging across the nation like it is now.

And just a few moments ago, the President tweeted we must know the election results on the night of the election, not days, months or even years later, as he is continuing to try to sow doubt about something, though. What he said about potential fraud from mail and voting has not been proven out in any of the reports that we've seen.

And Wolf, critics say this is basically a distress signal because the President knows that he is losing ground with voters. And today, one of those critics was President Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump was on the receiving end of a stinging rebuke from his predecessor tonight who compared him to the racist leaders of the South who fought civil rights.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Wallace maybe go, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and butanes against peaceful demonstrators.

COLLINS: Hours after President Trump openly suggested delaying the November election, Barack Obama took aim at him over voting rights as he eulogizes the civil rights icon John Lewis.

OBAMA: We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot. But even as we sit here, there are those in power, who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive I.D. laws and attacking our voting rights, with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run up to an election. That's going to be dependent on mail in ballots, so people don't get sick.

COLLINS: The 44th president also endorsed eliminating the filibuster, calling it a relic of Jim Crow.

With the exception of Jimmy Carter, who stayed away for health reasons, President Trump was the only living president who did not attend John Lewis's funeral. Instead, he stayed in Washington where he faced a rare rebuke from his own party over his suggestion that the election could be postponed.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Never in the history of the country through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time.

COLLINS: One Republican lawmaker asked if Trump had thought his tweet all the way through.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): I think that the President's term and the Vice President's term expires on January 20. And if we were to delay the election past January 20, the President would be the Speaker of the House.

COLLINS: The President has no power to unilaterally move the election, and any change would be difficult and up to Congress. Though, two of Trumps most powerful Cabinet Secretaries seemed unaware of that this week.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Can a sitting U.S. president move in Election Day? WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Actually, I haven't looked into that question under the Constitution.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: And the Department of Justice others will make that legal determination.

COLLINS: Critics say Trump's suggestion is paving the way for he and his supporters to question the outcome of the election, should he lose to Joe Biden?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You will accept the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to see. Look, you -- I have to see. No, I'm not going to just say yes,

[17:05:02]

COLLINS: That tweet came minutes after the Commerce Department announced that the nation's gross domestic product fell 9.5 percent from April to June.

The President's campaign aides have urged him to focus on COVID-19, which today claimed the life of one of his most prominent supporters Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, who sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012 tested positive for coronavirus in late June after attending the President's indoor rally in Oklahoma.

While it's not clear where he contracted the virus, Cain spent four weeks in the hospital before passing away today. Trump called him an "American patriot and great friend."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Wolf, tomorrow a millions of Americans are set to lose those enhanced unemployment benefits and there is still no agreement on Capitol Hill. We're waiting to find out. We do know that the administration is set to meet with Democrats again tonight. We'll see if they actually get anywhere and we'll also see what the President has to say here in the next hour when it comes out to brief reporters.

BLITZER: We'll have coverage of that, of course. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you.

As we wait to hear from the President, let's get the latest on the pandemic from CNN's Nick Watt, who's joining us from Los Angeles.

Nick, California now reporting some truly stunning numbers.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are now on average everyday here in California losing more people to COVID-19 than we ever have before. And you know, the mayor here in Los Angeles said that we were sold a bill of goods by people who said oh, we'll get a vaccine. This is all going to be over soon. The mayor and so many others now realizing we're going to be fighting this well into next year. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): The Sun Belt surge is seeping north.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So now we see the virus probably because of vacations and other reasons of travel moving up.

WATT: Michigan just closed a lot of bars again, when the percentage of tests coming back positive in the state climbs. That's the danger sign.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're starting to see that in some of the states now, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio.

WATT: Ohio just reported the most cases in a day. Illinois, the most cases since late May.

Mayra Ramirez from Chicago just 28 years old, fell ill in April. She's one of the first COVID-19 patients to receive a double lung transplant.

MAYRA RAMIREZ, DOULE LUNG TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: I wasn't aware that I had received a lung transplant. When I awoke, it wasn't until weeks later that I had the ability to, you know, think to myself, there's a family out there that's grieving their loved one. I have that person's lungs, and how lucky I was to have received it

WATT: Yesterday across this country, 1,403 lives reported lost to COVID-19, highest number in nine weeks.

DR. JODIE DIONNE-ODOM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: 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.

WATT: The death toll down in Florida three days straight successive record highs.

MAYOR, CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: We're going to see a higher level of deaths for some time until we start to drop our positivity rate below 10 percent. But, you know, we're not rising anymore. That's the good news.

WATT: Meanwhile, the U.S. economy just enjoyed its worst quarter ever on record. GDP shrank by almost one third on an annual rate between April and June. Context, at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, fourth quarter, GDP contracted that only an 8.4 percent annual rate.

And those $600 unemployment checks are a lifeline for individuals that also propped up the economy, well, they end tomorrow. But there is a way out.

BIRX: We believe if the governors and mayors of every locality right now would mandate mask for their communities and every American would wear a mask and socially distance, we can really get control of this virus and drive down cases as Arizona has done.

WATT: Some Arizona cities began mandating masks June 19. And look what happened two or three weeks later, the average number of new cases in the state every day starts to fall.

There might also be a vaccine, maybe soon, but we are assured, not too soon.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: We will not cut corners, we will use our very high standards of safety and effectiveness. We'll look at those data and we'll make a determination based upon those high standards.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And our own Elizabeth Cohen has just spoken with the boss of Operation Warp Speed, that's the White House's vaccine program. And he is bullish, he is confident. He says, yes, maybe we would need to have boosters of the vaccine. But he says that based on his experience, he thinks that a COVID-19 vaccine is going to be 90 percent effective and that's pretty good, Wolf.

[17:10:04]

BLITZER: Yes, that would be excellent if that happens. Let's hope it does. Nick Watt in Los Angeles, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. William Haseltine is joining us, Chairman and President of Access Health International. Also with us, the former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is also by the way advising the Biden campaign.

Dr. Murthy, what do you make of this from the head of Operation Warp Speed, Elizabeth Cohn speaking with him just a little while ago, that he expects the vaccine once it's ready to be 90 percent effective?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Wolf, I certainly hope that's the case. If the more effective the vaccine is the -- not only will it help more people, but the fewer people will need to vaccinate in the end in order to achieve herd immunity levels which require that about 70 percent of the population be immune.

But here's the truth. We can't bank on that. We have to wait for the data to come in to see just how effective this this vaccine is.

And the history of vaccine research and development is a history of having twists and turns and having to deal with results when they come. But it's not always easy to predict where they'll go. So we've got to hope for the best, but prepare for the fact that we may not have that full level of efficacy that we want.

And what that means is that the vaccine distribution campaign becomes all the more important. And what we need to do urgently is to produce a plan for how we're going to get the vaccine to everybody who needs it in the country, starting with frontline workers and the elderly and people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk.

But we know that it's more than about drying up those plants on papers. We've got to build partnerships, we've got to launch public education campaigns to help people understand that the vaccine is safe and effective. And we've got a bit of partnerships with faith organizations, hospitals, clinics, and schools.

So there's a lot of work to do, even once we have the virus in hand in order to get it to the people who need it.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Professor Haseltine, what do you think, wishful thinking or a real possibility that there will be a vaccine 90 percent effective fairly soon?

WILLIAM HASELTINE, CHAIR AND PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: I think Dr. Murthy summarized it very well. You can't know that from now. I think it was unwise for him to make that prediction. We don't know. And we will find out.

There's no data that has been published or donated that I know that would allow him to make that reset conclusion with any kind of definitive data.

But I would agree again with Dr. Murthy, what we have to do is something we haven't done before. We've seen how disorganized our testing programs are. We've seen how disorganized our contact tracing programs are, we've seen that we don't really isolate people who are infected. And we know that's what we have to do. We have to do the basic blocking and tackling.

Whether or not the vaccine is there, we still have to do that blocking and tackling. And we have to organize, as Dr. Murthy said, a system of distribution of any vaccine or I might add prophylactic or therapeutic drug that exists. We don't have that. And I don't see the activity at the central government that's going to do that for us.

So even if we have these wonderful new tools, which we're all hoping for, I'm not sure we're prepared to use them to any effect.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's see what happens with this vaccine. They're just beginning right now the phase three trials, maybe 30,000 people, 15,000 will get the vaccine, 15,000 will get a placebo, then we'll have some real information. Right now, they're basing what they know on maybe 30 people that went through the initial phase.

Professor Haseltine, thanks as usual. Dr. Murthy, thanks to you as well.

And be sure to join Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our own Anderson Cooper for another CNN global town hall Coronavirus, Facts and Fears. That's later tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

And we're standing by to hear directly from President Trump as the coronavirus crisis worsens dramatically.

Plus, we'll have more on the very sharp rebuke of President Trump from his predecessor. We're going to hear more of what the former president Barack Obama had to say as he honored the late Congressman John Lewis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:18:36]

BLITZER: As we await President Trump's coronavirus briefing that's coming up now this hour there's a lot of news to discuss including a stinging rebuke of President Trump by former President Barack Obama during his funeral eulogy for the late Congressman John Lewis earlier this afternoon.

Listen to part of what President Obama had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Bull Connor may be gone, but today we witnessed with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans.

George Wallace may be gone. But we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and butanes against peaceful demonstrators.

We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot. But even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive I.D. laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run up to an election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:20:17]

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our Chief Political Correspondent Dana bash, CNN Political Director David Chalian, and CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers. Bakari, by the way, the author of a new book entitled "My Vanishing Country of Memoir."

Bakari, how powerful was it to hear the former president of the United States connect John Lewis's own struggles for civil rights for the struggles of today?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Very, very powerful. And the 44th President of the United States, he had a long runway. I mean, today was a day and the way that I characterize it is that he was speaking to us in a locker room before a game where we had to go out and fight for freedom. He was the head coach who was getting us geared up and ready to go.

And he was in the pool pit of Ebenezer Baptist church, the church were Dr. King. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, he not only acquainted the scripture, but also spoke the truth and spoke that truth to power.

And so I will actually say, Wolf, though he wasn't just speaking to Donald Trump. Even more importantly, he was speaking to Henry McMaster, he was speaking to Brian Kemp, he was speaking around to Ron DeSantis, he was speaking to all of these southern governors who echo and who put people in the same mind state of George Wallace of Les dramatics, of even Scott Walker, those individuals who didn't want us to have the freedoms that we have today. And so there are a lot of democrats today. A lot of Americans who believe that we're better than we were and better than we are.

There are a lot of good people who were just sitting back watching that speech today who were saying that the president was speaking to them. And to watch Bill Clinton, to watch George W. Bush, to watch Barack Obama and hear the words from Jimmy Carter while Donald Trump sat in his home tweeting away that showed U.S. what America should be versus what America is. And I think the president of the United States hit every single note that he should have.

BLITZER: Yes. Jimmy Carter couldn't attend, but he did have his words read there at the -- at this funeral.

You know, David Chalian, all this comes as President Trump actually floated the idea in a tweet today of potentially delaying the November 3 presidential election here in the United States. At one point in his tweet, he said, "delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote." That clearly is no different clearly resulted in that warning we heard from the former President Barack Obama.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, there's no doubt that the former president understood the context of today in which his comments would be understood. But let's just -- obviously that's Donald Trump's shiny object today. He has no authority whatsoever to change the date of the election that's within the realm of Congress as you know, Wolf. That is far less troubling, you know, Donald Trump trying to distract from bad economic news or what have you.

Then his constant attempts today in tweets as well, but in many days now of trying to delegitimize the way in which people are going to vote this year because of the pandemic. And, you know, the huge swaths of Americans, 10s of millions are going to vote by mail, a way in which they've not voted before. And Donald Trump is trying right now to lay the groundwork to delegitimize that.

And I think what you heard when Barack Obama was tying the fight that John Lewis was willing to give his life for, for voting rights to this moment in time and urging the generation left behind John Lewis to march on here it is in that context with the President of the United States trying to actually undermine.

Forget -- and if you want to vote for Trump or for Biden, it doesn't matter. What the President of the United States is doing is questioning the very legitimacy of the foundation of our democracy and no president should be doing that.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

You know, and Dana, that tweet from the President actually came just a little bit. The tweet calling for perhaps a delay in the election came only a moments after we got that really dire economic news from the Commerce Department suggesting that in this second quarter of this year, the economy, the annual rate of the collapse of the economy from April through June 32.9 percent annual rate, that's the worst, the worst collapse, since they started doing these reports, the Commerce Department since World War II.

And a lot of people are suggesting that the President is simply, a, either trying to change the subject or, b, trying to really create a delay hoping maybe the economy might get better.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And there's really little question even among the President's allies who I've spoken to today, that that was -- that the tweet that he sent was an attempt to distract from the bad economic news, despite the fact that what he said in that tweet, the content of it is very much a danger sign and a pattern that we are seeing from the president and we'll likely continue to see trying to send signals to his base that this could be an illegitimate election.

[17:25:24]

Obviously, he will not say that if he wins in the end. But when it comes to the economic news, we can't let that shiny object distract us because it is bad. It is really bad. I mean, you just gave the headline, Wolf, and I was just looking at it again, as you were talking and coming to me about this because the -- there are people out there suffering in a way that we haven't seen in so long.

I mean, even in 2008 that was bad, but it was quicker and it was just different. This is something that is imposed in large part by the federal government because of the lockdown. And this leadership question comes into play in a big way. Because during that time, the question that voters are already asking, will continue to ask is, why wasn't that time to use more wisely to find ways to mitigate this virus so that the economy can come back instead of ignoring the virus, pretending like it's going to go away and then allowing states to reopen too early in a way that it just made things even worse. That is the headline. That is the overarching thing that matters the most. Nothing else comes close right now.

BLITZER: Yes. Another 1.4 million Americans lost their jobs applied for unemployment benefits last week in one week alone, another 1.4 million.

The failure, clearly the failure to deal with the coronavirus, Bakari, let me get your thoughts, not only is creating huge numbers of cases, huge numbers of hospitalizations, and deaths, but it's called causing a lot of economic pain. And it looks like it's going to continue.

SELLERS: Yes. And when you dig down in these numbers, you see that the disproportionate demographic deaths and dealing with the coronavirus are those who are African-American individuals who are black and brown in this country who have preexisting conditions, so forth and so on. And I can't go any further than, you know, wishing the family of -- although we were in -- it's just amazing now, Wolf, you get in trouble for just wishing people well wishes even though you're on different sides of the partisan aisle, but my heart goes out to Herman Cain's family today.

Herman Cain and I didn't agree on anything politically. We graduated from the same, you know, same school, Morehouse College, same alma mater, and politically we can be further apart. But we see what happens with this virus.

This virus doesn't have partisan affiliation, this virus doesn't care who you pray to or who you love. It attacks us all equally. So we have to take it seriously. We have to wear a mask.

And what we're also seeing is that leadership in this country is ill equipped, ill prepared to handle this. And it's not just the President of the United States. I mean that the talk about the nonpartisan nature of this virus, for me, I look at the way that people like Governor Cuomo have handled this and Gavin Newsome have handled things very well. But also look at Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan, and then vice versa.

On the flip side, I look at how Henry McMaster in South Carolina has handled this, and Brian Kemp, and Ron DeSantis have handled this with incompetence. And so, we just need good leaders to step forth and what the President of the United States is shown, and I'm not sure he blocked me on Twitter, so I'm not sure if he's actually tweeted about him today.

But the President of the United States with the death of Herman Cain should at least reevaluate his ignorant stance on coronavirus and just step forth in honor of somebody who supported him. Even through his incompetence, even in depth on this issue, he should step forth and say I was wrong. Let's reevaluate we're doing -- the way we're doing this. And let's make sure we don't have to have more Herman Cain.

Let Herman Cain's life and loss of life be an example of what we should not do when it comes to coronavirus and let it let us remember him as somebody who shows us that we can do better.

BLITZER: Yes. Herman Cain, he was 74 years old. Our deepest condolences, of course, to his family and his friends. All of us knew Herman Cain. I had a very good relationship all of these years, very sad to hear that he passed away from the coronavirus today.

Alright, Bakari, thank you. Dana and David, thanks to you as well.

We're standing by to hear from President Trump momentarily as the country is reeling from the pandemic that's now killing one American almost every minute. And I'll speak to the mayor of Houston about the new campaign he just announced to help cope -- to help his city cope with this crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More bad news out of Florida. For a third straight day, Florida has broken its record for the number of coronavirus deaths in a single day.

[17:35:04] Let's go to CNN's Randi Kaye joining us from West Palm Beach. Randi, you're at one of the testing sites that are actually being closed down due to an incoming storm that may hit Florida right now in the next day or so. What's the latest?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. They are watching this tropical storm, Wolf, that is brewing out there. So Florida has decided to close all state-run testing sites throughout the state. I'm at one of them here in Palm Beach County. In the county they are closing all eight state-run testing sites. The one where we're at has served 30,000 people. It's open five days a week. They do antibodies testing here.

But earlier in the day we were here and they were dismantling it. They were taking apart the tens and the polls and some of the cones that's because those would not be able to withstand those tropical storm force winds. But this is one of the hardest hit counties in the state, so certainly some concern about closing these sites and even further south of here in Miami-Dade, they are closing 13 sites in Miami-Date County. That's the hardest hit county. They still have the positivity rate there of 18 percent. So some concerns still there.

And in Broward County, another hard hit county here, they are closing 12 sites. So in all, in these three hardest hit southern countries, in southern Florida, they are closing 33 state-run testing sites.

Meanwhile as you mentioned those numbers another bad day in terms of the numbers here. Nearly 10,000 new cases, a record number of deaths yet again for the third day in a row. 253 deaths. In fact, more than 6,500 Floridians, Wolf, have already died. The statewide positivity rate is 19.3 percent. It did tick up slightly, still about 8,400 people hospitalized and less than 70 percent of the ICU beds left in the state, Wolf. So certainly we are paying close attention to the numbers.

BLITZER: Certainly are. All right, Randi Kaye down in Florida for us. Thanks very much from Florida. Let's head over to Houston, Texas. The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner is joining us. Mayor, thanks for joining us. And more bad news out of Texas.

Texas has now surpassed New York State in total coronavirus cases. You've just announced, I understand, a new campaign to help protect people themselves from this virus. Tell us what that entails.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-TX), HOUSTON: Well, the campaign is better together. Wolf, today I announced 1,300 cases that came back positive in the City of Houston and 15 more people have died. So in the month of July alone, for example, as of today, 200 people have died in the City of Houston and July alone. And that's 200 of the 432 deaths that we have reported since the beginning of this coronavirus.

So the campaign is the focus on better together. It's a multilingual campaign. 45 percent of our deaths are Hispanic, 40 percent of the cases are Hispanic. So we want to focus on those communities of color, vulnerable communities, at-risk populations, a very aggressive media, PR campaign and a door to door. We decided we can't afford just to do it on television, on radio, digital, so the health department and employees will be going door to door to spread the message on how to keep safe during this virus.

BLITZER: Yes, and as I often say these are not just numbers, these are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. These are real people who sadly are passing away. And Mayor, are you bracing for the death toll to continue to rise given the fact the number of cases is going up?

TURNER: Well, that's the concern, Wolf. I mean, look, I've been following these numbers on a daily basis since the first week in March. And from March, April, May, June, the numbers keep going up exponentially. We need to get on top of it. You know, my prayers and thoughts with the people in the Valley and South Texas. But, you know, I am concerned when we're reporting 1,300 cases today, yesterday, it was 1,045. So the numbers that the virus is running rampant still in the community.

Now, the positivity rate is going down. Our hospitals have plateaued and the numbers are coming down. So what's happening inside the walls of our hospital is positive, and it's a good sign. What's happening in the community is disturbing.

And so we are going to take a very aggressive, much more aggressive approach with this virus. Otherwise, I think with the high numbers of daily reporting of positive cases, the death can be a lagging indicator. We want to get on top of it as much as we can.

BLITZER: Certainly do. Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, good luck to you, good luck to everyone in Houston right now.

TURNER: Thanks Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. And to our viewers, stay with us.

TURNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Once again we're awaiting the start of President Trump's coronavirus news breaching. Will he answer questions about his tweet raising the possibility of delaying this year's November third presidential election here in the United States citing the coronavirus. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:41:47]

BLITZER: All right, here's President Trump with an opening statement.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A wonderful man and dear friend of mine, Herman Cain. He was a very special person. I got to know him very well. And unfortunately, he passed away from a thing called the China virus. We send our prayers to Herman's great wife, Gloria. Wonderful family.

I have to say America grieves for all of the 150,000 Americans who had their lives taken by this horrible, invisible enemy. We mourn their loss as a nation. We mourn their loss as people, as people that love one another.

And we're working very hard to not only contain this horrible event, this horrible plague. That's what it is, a plague, but also come up with therapeutics and vaccines and we're making a lot of strides. All over the world they are having tremendous problems. Resurgence has taking place in many countries that people thought we're doing well.

Despite a wide range approaches to the pandemic between countries, this resurgence in cases is recurring throughout large portions of our planet in Japan, China, Australia, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Hong Kong, places where they thought it was -- they had really done great, it came back, and in a couple of cases came back very strongly.

The virus was said to be under control, but new cases have risen very significantly once again. So when you think somebody is doing well, sometimes you have to hold your decision on that, you have to hold your statement.

Since the beginning of June daily new cases have increased by a factor of 14 times in Israel. 35 times -- that's 35 times in Japan and nearly 30 times in Australia just to name a few. These were countries doing incredibly well. Leadership was being praised.

Latin America now leads the world in confirmed infections. And with the scarcity of testing in Latin America, the true numbers, you have no idea what they might be. And I can say scarcity of testing almost anywhere except for our country. This disease is highly contagious and presents unique challenges to our border states.

Meanwhile states like California, Washington State, Maryland, Virginia, Nevada, Illinois, Oregon, and many others, they were thought to be doing well and they had a big resurgence and were hit very hard. Governors that were extremely popular are not so popular anymore. They were held up as models to follow, then they got hit. I'm not even saying it's their fault. It's probably not their fault. It's just the way it is. That's the way it is.

[17:45:06]

It is highly infectious, one of the most infectious anybody has ever seen. Not since 1917, over 100 years ago, has anyone seen anything like what we're witnessing now. But these states have also seen the virus substantially rebound. Again, no one is immune. No one is immune.

These facts illustrate the imposing determinate, it is a determinate a blanket shutdown to achieve a temporary reduction in cases is not a viable long-term strategy for any country. People are starting to understand the disease now. We certainly have understood a lot about the disease that we didn't have any idea. We didn't -- nobody ever saw anything like this.

The primary purpose of a shutdown was to flatten the curve, ensure sufficient hospital capacity and develop effective treatments and therapies to reduce mortality, and we have done that, but it can come rearing back when you least suspect it.

We did the right thing initially. We saved millions of lives what we did. We did the right thing. But I permanent shutdown would no longer be the answer at all. A small shutdown of certain areas, but we don't want to do that. Small shutdowns can be helpful but not for long periods of time. We understand what we're dealing with but it's a very complex situation. And I can only say thank heaven we are so advanced in what we're doing in terms of vaccines and therapies.

We now know a great deal about the virus and how to treat it and who it targets. Almost half of the deaths come from less than 1 percent of our population. Think of it, half of the deaths. Really, a tremendous number. Half of the deaths come from less than 1 percent of our population. Those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The average age of those who die from the illness is 78.

We've announced very strong measures to protect those who are most vulnerable. The scientific path forward is to protect those at highest risk while allowing those at lower risk to carefully return to work and to school with appropriate precautions.

I'm once again urging the American people to protect their dear family and friends and anybody who is elderly, especially if somebody is elderly and they have heart problems. If they have certain illnesses. Diabetes is a very bad one, having to do with what we're discussing. You want to protect the elderly and socially distance. Wear a mask if you cannot socially distance and practice vigorous hygiene.

Everyone, even healthy young people, should be taking extraordinary care to avoid infecting those at the highest risk from this terrible disease. The elderly and those with chronic health issues have to be protected.

In the current hot spots across the sunbelt, the data is showing very encouraging signs. Arizona in particular has crossed an important threshold. For every person with the virus, we're now seeing an average of less than one additional person infected, and the numbers are coming down and coming down very substantially. They are starting to come down in Florida.

Arizona is really leading the way. I was in Texas yesterday, and they are starting to come down significantly, we believe, in Texas. Need another few days to figure that one out but looks like they are coming down significantly.

Earlier today I visited Red Cross headquarters to discuss plasma therapy, which is a tremendous thing that they are looking at. And they have a lot of experience with it.

Potentially lifesaving treatments that infuse sick patients with powerful antibodies donated by those who have recovered successfully from this disease. More than two million Americans have recovered from the virus and today we're asking them to visit coronavirus.gov, coronavirus.gov and volunteer to donate plasma. We need plasma.

[17:50:02] It's something that's been very effective and we need plasma from those that were infected and successfully recovered, as most people do, most people do. Plasma is one of the many promising treatments my administration is accelerating. We've secured over 90 percent of the world's supply of remdesivir, which is terrific, encouraging antiviral drug that can effectively block replication of the virus.

We've also improved use of the widely available steroid which has been very successful, dexamethasone, which has shown success even in patients at more advanced stages of the disease.

On July 17th, we announced a $450 million agreement with Regeneron to build manufacturing plants and hundreds of thousands of doses of its antibody treatment which is currently in late stage clinical trials. Moving along very rapidly. That's Regeneron.

As a result of significant strides in treatment, the mortality rate in those over the age of 18 is 85 percent lower than it was just in April, so in a very short period of time, think of that. Just 18, 85 percent lower than it was in April. That's a big statement.

Now I want to provide an update on our efforts to ensure strong economic come back, including our negotiations on Capitol Hill. Throughout this crisis, my administration has taken the most aggressive action in history to rescue American workers. We love our American workers and we've set records on job creation, records. Two months in a row.

We enacted a $3 trillion economic relief package. The Paycheck Protection Program alone saved over 50 million jobs. We delivered $300 billion to direct cash payments to Americans. We approved $500 billion for our hardest hilt industries. $500 billion. We allowed struggling homeowners to defer their mortgage payments and we put a nationwide moratorium on evictions from federally backed properties. It's a big thing, very big thing.

We also suspended student loan payments for six months and we're looking to do that additionally and for additional periods of time.

As a result of these extraordinary steps by the administration, we added a record seven million jobs in the two months passed alone to ensure this come back continues, which we think it will. We had great foundation to build on. We were the strongest country in the world. Nobody close. We were outdoing everybody from China.

If you remember, for many years you heard that in 2019, China would surpass the United States. Well, it didn't. We gained on them very significantly. We took it to a level that nobody has ever seen, 2019. And we'll be back there very shortly. It won't take long based on everything we're seeing. It's not going to take very long. I think next year will be an excellent year, maybe one of our best years ever from an economic standpoint.

We can never, ever forget the people that have been lost. We never will. Never forget them. Never forget what happened. This could have been stopped in China. They should have stopped it and they didn't. But I'm asking Congress to pass additional legislation to support Americans in need.

First, we want temporary extension of expanded unemployment benefits. This will provide a critical bridge for Americans that lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own. This is not anybody's fault from the standpoint of jobs, it happened. Terrible thing happened. Could have been stopped, it happened.

I want to thank Senate Republicans for fighting to extend unemployment benefits today in the face of a strong Democrat obstruction which I'm surprised at because this is great for our country and it's great for our workers and it wasn't our workers' fault.

Second, we're asking Democrats to work with us to find a solution that will temporarily stop evictions. We do not want people who have lost their jobs due to the virus to be evicted from their homes or apartments. We don't want that to happen.

Third, we need Democrats to join us to pass additional economic relief payments for American citizens, like the payments sent directly to 160 million Americans earlier this year, which was tremendously successful program. This money will help millions of hard-working families get by.

[17:55:08]

My administration is also asking Democrats to work with us to pass $105 billion to help schools safely reopen. Children are not at the lowest risk. You look at what's going on, the younger, the better. Amazing. Immune system. For children, the lower they are in age, the lower the risk in terms of the age group itself.

I tell the story that in New Jersey with thousands and thousands of people dying, sadly dying, the governor was telling me that only one, Phil Murphy, only one died under the age of 18. That's incredible. With thousands of people that died in the state of New Jersey, one made an impact. One died under the age of 18.

Children are at the lowest risk of any age group from the virus. Indefinite school closures will inflict lasting harm to our nation's children. We must follow the science and get students safely back to school while protecting children, teachers, staff, and family.

We have to remember there's another side to this, keeping them out of school, and keeping work closed is causing death also, economic harm, but causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.

If governors do not want to open the public schools, the money should go to parents so they can send children to the school of their choice, so we say if a school doesn't want to open, a governor doesn't want to open maybe for political reason, maybe not, but there is some of that going on, the money should go to the parents so they can send their children to the school of their choice.

If schools stay closed, the money should follow the students, so families are in control of decisions about their sons and daughters. Help their children. But to pass a bill, Democrats must reject the extreme partisan voices in their party. They have tremendous voices. They're looking at November 3rd. And probably a day later, they'll say let's open up the country.

But the Democrats have to reject the extreme partisan voices in their party so that we can get our country going even quicker than it is going now. We have a lot opening and we have a lot of states that you thought were doing pretty poorly from the standpoint of the virus and are actually coming back very strong.

This pandemic has underscored the importance of economic policies that put American families and workers first. I got elected on the fact I put America first. For many, many decades, in my opinion, we put America last. If you look at the crazy, horrible disgraceful trade deals that we've watched for many years destroy our country, NAFTA, we terminated it. We have USMCA now, which is a great deal. The farmers are doing really well, despite the pandemic.

But we put America first, America's families and workers first. But that means bringing jobs and factories back to our shores, reducing unnecessary regulations, creating new training opportunities for jobs and the future. We cut regulations at a level no president has cut regulations. And we've cut taxes more than any president in the history of our country.

Americans rise to the challenge and we will emerge more resilient, more self-reliant, more independent, more prosperous than ever before. So I just want to thank you all. If you would like, we'll take a few questions. Steve?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to launch an effort to try to delay the election? Or was that just a trial balloon this morning?

TRUMP: Well, what I want to explain to people, but it doesn't need much explanation. I mean you look at article after article, New York's mail vote disaster. Tens of thousands of mail ballots have been tossed out in this year's primaries. What will happen in November? It's a mess. This is done by "The Washington Post." Can you believe it, "The Washington Post" of all papers. Fake news.

But in this case it is not fake, it's true. This is done by "The Wall Street Journal." Here's another. Vote by mail experiment reveals potential problems within postal voting system ahead in the November election. And you see what's happening with so many different places. They're doing trial runs, they're a disaster.

And I don't want to see an election, you know, so many years I have been watching elections, and they say the projected winner or winner of the election, I don't want to see that take place in a week after November 3rd or a month or frankly with litigation and everything else that can happen, years, years. Or you never even know who won the election.