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U.S. Tops 4.5 Million Coronavirus Cases. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We have some breaking news for you in our health lead today. The U.S. has now topped 4.5 million, 4.5 million coronavirus infections in just six months.

Deaths from COVID-19 are regrettably rising as well, with more than 1,000 deaths per day each of the last four days.

On Capitol Hill this morning, the nation's top public health officials reiterated that Americans need to do five basic things in order to help get this pandemic under control. They are wearing masks, social and physical distancing, avoiding bars, avoiding crowds, and wash your hands.

Instead of underlying this information today, President Trump has been spending his time defending what most Americans think has been a poor response to the pandemic, the president tweeting nonsense that -- quote -- "If we had no testing or bad testing, we would show very few cases," which is kind of like saying, no pregnancy tests would mean no one is pregnant, which is obviously not the case, to say nothing of the fact that, with less than 5 percent of the world's population, the United States, according to official numbers, has more than 20 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths.

It's a tragedy compounded by a government response that has been and remains inadequate.

A bit of encouraging news on the vaccine front today, however. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he thinks a safe and effective vaccine could be ready to go by the end of 2020 or early next year and that all Americans will in phases have access to it, as CNN's Nick Watt reports from the coronavirus hot spot of California.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): The United States' response stands out as among the worst of any country in the world.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here, in part, is why:

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We really functionally shut down only about 50 percent, in the sense of the totality of the country.

WATT: And when we reopened?

FAUCI: There was some states that did it very well, and there are some states that did not.

WATT: And the nationwide protests?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Should the government limit the protesting?

FAUCI: I don't think that's relevant to...

JORDAN: Well, you just said if it increases the spread of the virus. I'm just asking, should we eliminate it?

FAUCI: Well, I'm not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The preliminary results suggest -- and I know because I have been to a lot of the Black Lives Matter protests -- is people are not getting infected there as much because they are observing those rules.

WATT: So, what now? Well, we're still working on testing.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Turnaround times are definitely improving, but we cannot test our way out of this or any other pandemic. Testing does not replace personal responsibility.

WATT: Masks, distancing, handwashing, avoiding crowds and indoor bars and the like.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: If we did those five things, we have done modeling data, we get the same bang for the buck as if we just shut the entire economy down.

WATT: Vaccine optimism growing.

FAUCI: Ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, if we have, and I think we will have, a safe and effective vaccine, that Americans will be able to get it.

WATT: Meanwhile, the death toll right now still alarmingly high nationwide. But look what's happening now in Oklahoma, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, all largely spared in the spring, now seeing more cases than ever, and Illinois, hit hard in the spring, surging once more.

BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Sadly, I just can't see the cost/benefit ratio of letting people sit in bars.

WATT: Meantime, the country is still getting muddled messaging from the very top.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one is immune. No one is immune.

WATT: Twenty-five minutes later, while pushing for schools to reopen:

TRUMP: Young people are almost immune to this disease. The younger, the better.

WATT: Not true.

Still, this morning, in Jefferson, Georgia, kids can go back to class. Some just don't want to, scared.


WATT: Now, the CDC has just put out what it calls its ensemble forecasts, a kind of look of where we're going.

They take a bunch of different models, and mash them together. It is sobering. The CDC is now saying that another 20,000 Americans could die just within the next three weeks.

And we also just passed 4.5 million cases in this country. Jake. That last half-million took us about a week.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in California, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, the focus of today's hearing on Capitol Hill was the national plan to fight the coronavirus. But, frankly, we're six months in. Do we have a national public health plan to effectively fight this pandemic?


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't have a national health plan. And everything you hear lately, Jake, is that we're going to sort of hand this off to the states and to the communities.

It's a problem, and because you see these sort of -- these patchwork of waves across the country, started in the West coast, obviously saw what happened in New York now the South, moving to the Midwest. You're going to keep seeing these patterns, because we're a big country, and people do move around.

There's not a consensus on how to treat things. There's not a unified policy around masks or the five things that you mentioned. If we just did the five things that you mentioned for three weeks, it would probably convincingly turn this thing around.

But since there's -- since there's no national plan, we're not doing it.

TAPPER: One of the major points of the hearing is that the public, we, need to change our behavior. Take a listen to CDC Director Dr. Redfield.


REDFIELD: We can get back without these unintended consequences, the face mask, the social distancing, the hand hygiene, staying smart about gatherings, and staying out of crowded bars and crowded restaurants.

And if we did those five things, we would get the same bang for the buck as if we just shut the entire economy down.


TAPPER: Do you agree with that? Is it equivalent basically the same bang for the buck?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so, Jake.

And there's evidence of countries around the world that did not go into shutdown that were able to dramatically bring their numbers down.

I mean, this little strand of genetic material, this little strand of RNA is not -- as frightening as this whole thing is, that's not a very hardy virus. It's pretty easily contained by a mask, can't jump that far.

So, without shutting things down, you wear a mask, maintain physical distance, avoid the really high-risk places, which is going to be indoor, closely clustered, for duration, people without masks, like restaurants and bars, and hand hygiene, and we could turn this around within a few weeks.

I mean, that that's the thing. And if you don't believe it, look at many countries around the world. They don't have a vaccine or any other therapies that we don't, and they're in much better shape. That's what they did.

TAPPER: Sanjay, Dr. Fauci has said he does not believe that the U.S. needs to go to a nationwide lockdown. Why not?


Well, I was listening to those hearings today as well. And he's obviously talked a lot about what it would take to reopen safety, but listen to how he phrased that specifically about the country locking down.


FAUCI: I don't think we need to go to lockdown again and shelter in place. There are situations, as I have mentioned to you before in multiple interviews, where, when they were trying to open up a state or a city, that there were certain guidelines that were skipped over.

Maybe you're in a phase two, and you need to pause and maybe go back to phase one. That's entirely conceivable and maybe recommended. I don't think we need to go all the way back to lockdown.


GUPTA: There's no question, Jake, that states opened earlier than they should have.

And, frankly, if you look at the gating criteria closely, you can't -- you can make the case that no state followed all the criteria before opening.

Remember, Jake, you got to be going down, case count, 14 days in a row, you have to have adequate testing. Those are some of the gating criteria to move from one phase to the next phase.

If you look at your community, your state and you haven't gone down 14 days in a row and you don't have adequate testing, you probably need to go back to an earlier phase. I think that's what he's saying. It may not be a shutdown, but you may have to close certain things down again.

TAPPER: The testing czar, Admiral Giroir, I interviewed him on Sunday

And his remarks today were just as confusing as they were to me on Sunday. He -- basically, he said, he acknowledged the U.S. is not able to turn around test results as quickly as we should be, within a day, within two days, let's say. But Giroir also suggested that the people in charge of testing, they have everything they need.

Obviously, they do not. Where is this disconnect and what more needs to be done to get the testing and the results up to speed?

GUPTA: The disconnect, Jake -- I have been thinking about this a lot. And I watched your interview on Sunday. I spoke to him a little bit last night.

The disconnect is that they're changing the goal line, Jake. I mean, if the goal line says, hey, look, we just need to do enough testing to surge in hot spots and to identify where the fires are, then, yes, we have what we need to do that.

But the idea of doing surveillance testing -- we know this spreads asymptomatically, so you got to test people who don't have symptoms. How else are you going to find it? They can still spread it. We know that. We're not doing surveillance testing.

We're not doing what's called assurance testing. What assurances do you have, Jake, that you don't have the virus and that the people that you're working with today don't have the virus? We don't have that sort of assurance testing.

So, yes, if you say, hey, look, we just need to do the basic minimum, which is just hold pressure on a wound, then maybe you could say we have enough testing. That's never been an adequate goal, and it's still not.

We really have to increase testing, ultimately, to get around this thing.


TAPPER: Just imagine if every kid and every teacher, when schools open up, were tested before going into the school, and they got immediate results. It would be much safer to send kids back to school. But we're nowhere near there.

Sanjay, Dr. Fauci said that 30,000 people have already enrolled in this phase three vaccine trial, which began at the beginning of this week. The head of the public-private partnership overseeing the vaccine development said that he hopes any vaccine could be 90 percent effective.

But Fauci seemed to express some caution about a 90 percent effective effectiveness rate, efficacy rate in your conversation with him. Why?

GUPTA: Well, I think it's a very audacious number.

I mean, typically, if you think about vaccines, there are some that exceed 90 percent, if you get a couple of shots, couple of booster shots. But many of them, like the flu shot, which would be a good analogy, hovers around 60, 70 percent, sometimes lower, sometimes higher.

So, the idea of saying 90 percent is a really high sort of goal. And it, frankly -- as you know, Jake, it becomes the expectation of this. Here's how to explain it. We don't know how effective this is. We know people generate a certain type of antibody in response to the vaccine.

But if you were to say to me, well, how effective are those antibodies, we don't have what's called a correlative measure. I can't tell you, those are 20 pounds effective, or those are three yards' worth effective.

There isn't a language to sort of describe the efficacy of those antibodies. We just don't know yet. So we have to do the trials. It could be that these people have tons of neutralizing antibodies, but they're not nearly as protective as we thought. It could be that some people have very few neutralizing antibodies, and it's way more protective than we thought. That's why you got to do the studies.

I was surprised, to be honest, Jake, that Moncef Slaoui, who's the head of Operation Warp Speed, said 90 percent to Elizabeth Cohen, who interviewed him yesterday. It's a high number.

TAPPER: Yes, it is, indeed.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. I appreciate your time and your expertise, as always.

In just a few hours, millions of Americans are set to lose key benefits that are helping to keep food on their tables and roofs over their heads. That's unless Congress acts. But how is that going to work if the Senate just left for the weekend?

Stay with us on that.

Then: President Trump just said that most American cities are doing real well with the pandemic. Is that true?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The money lead now. In a matter of hours, the federal government will cut off the extra benefits that millions of unemployed Americans have been depending on during this pandemic.

From what we heard today from the White House and House Speaker Pelosi, Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem to be light-years away from any sort of a deal. And on top of that, both the U.S. Senate and the House have already adjourned for the weekend.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, if I can speak, frankly, for a second on behalf of the millions of Americans who are depending on this government help during this pandemic who could face eviction tomorrow, the first of the month, who might not be able to afford food or medicine within the next few days, how on earth can the House and Senate adjourn for the weekend with the deadline approaching now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. The Senate left yesterday. They return on Monday. The House left today. They're actually not going to come back until there's any deal that can be reached. And at that point members will be given 24 hours' notice to return.

And the two sides are so far apart on any deal at the moment. The Senate Republican bill is $2 trillion different than the House Democratic bill. And now the Trump administration's pushing for a short-term deal to extend jobless benefits and deal with this eviction moratorium that's expired. But the Democrats say that is simply not enough and much more needs to be on the table.

Now, talks are going to continue including tomorrow morning in Nancy Pelosi's office. She will meet also with the Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But they are as very downbeat about the prospects and already the finger-pointing is intensifying.

Just today, just moments ago, the president put out a tweet attacking the Democrats over the issue of jobless benefits, saying Pelosi and Schumer block desperately needed unemployment payments, which is so terrible, especially since they fully understand that it was not the workers' fault, that they are unemployed. It's the fault of China.

Now, he's referring to jobless benefit extension that was offered on the Senate floor by Republicans yesterday at $200 a week from the current $600 a week level that is expiring today. Democrats say that is not enough and behind closed doors the White House tried to propose a one-week extension of those $600 a week jobless benefits that the Democrats rejected.

Now, Nancy Pelosi was asked about that today. And she called it all a stunt.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It's a public relations stunt on their part. What they did do yesterday was put on the floor $200 a week. That's what they put forth yesterday, $200 a week. That's not what -- that's so beneath the value of America's workforce.


RAJU: Now, Pelosi's still pushing for a comprehensive deal. But Mark Meadows said yesterday he is skeptical they can reach such a large- scale agreement -- Jake.

TAPPER: Manu, what about all the people who had been relying on the eviction moratorium? That expired last week. Tomorrow is the first of the month. Rent is due.

RAJU: Yeah. And that's a real concern for people. Now, the law requires 30 days' notice before someone is evicted. So presumably lawmakers could get a deal before some people get kicked out of their houses, that they're renting. There are millions of Americans that could be at risk of being evicted.

Now, housing advocates, Jake, say that people who are facing the prospects of not paying their rent payments should talk to their landlords, presumably get a deal and presumably by then, Jake, Congress will figure out a way around this issue.


Both sides contend they want to deal with this again. But it's unclear just how they'll do that, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much.

In our politics lead, we are 94 days away from the presidential election. And President Trump down in the polls continuing to face a deadly pandemic and economic catastrophe, continues to focus instead on conspiracy theories in an apparent attempt to preemptively undermine the results of the November 3rd election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be the greatest election disaster in history. It'll be fixed. It'll be rigged.


TAPPER: No evidence of any of that, of course. The Trump campaign is currently suspending TV ads until its new

campaign manager and his team can figure out their new message. The irony here, of course, is that if the president put the full weight of the federal government towards containing this pandemic, which has cost more than 150,000 Americans their lives, instead of focusing so much on his re-election, he would be in much better shape politically as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the pandemic raging, President Trump is attempting to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the election that he's at risk of losing.

TRUMP: Everyone knows mail-in ballots are a disaster.

COLLINS: At a roundtable on policing, President Trump continued his attacks on mail-in voting today with a series of unproven claims as he sought to compare it to foreign interference.

TRUMP: You guys like to talk about Russia and China and other places. They will be able to forge ballots. They'll forge -- they'll do whatever they have to do.

COLLINS: Trump complained that it will take too long to count the votes if Americans cast ballots by mail.

TRUMP: You won't know the election result for weeks, months, maybe years after. Maybe you'll never know the election results, and that's what I'm concerned with.

COLLINS: But he failed to explain why the White House won't commit to boosting resources in states to ensure they are prepared for that scenario if that's really his concern.

TRUMP: This will be catastrophic for our nation. And you'll see it. I'm always right about things like this.

COLLINS: Trump's comments came just hours after his senior adviser Stephen Miller tried to back him up with his own inaccurate claim about mail-in ballots.

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR MEMBER: Nobody who mails in a ballot has their identity confirmed. Nobody checks to see if they're even a U.S. citizen. Think about that.

COLLINS: What Miller said isn't true or even close. Noncitizens aren't allowed to register to vote in federal elections and mail-in ballots are authenticated several ways including with unique bar codes and signature verifications.

Trump's ramped up attacks are based on false, unfounded or exaggerated claims and come amid a series of polls that show him trailing Joe Biden. Aides have urged the president to focus on his COVID-19 response to boost his standing with voters. But it's not clear he's taking their advice. TRUMP: So, can you assure anybody of anything?

COLLINS: Trump criticized Congressman Jim Clyburn after he showed a graph during today's hearing and asked top experts to explain why the U.S. has not been able to get a grip on the virus in the way that Europe has.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): We started going up while the European countries, European Union plateaued and is going down.

COLLINS: Trump asked somebody to please tell Congressman Clyburn who doesn't have a clue that it's because we do much more testing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci had a different explanation saying it's due in part to how the U.S. shut down.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you actually look at what we did even though we shut down, even though it created a great deal of difficulty, we really functionally shut down only about 50 percent.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, for the hundredth time, even the public health experts in this administration have said the reason there are more cases in the U.S. is not just because there is more testing. It's because the virus is spreading throughout the country and when Dr. Fauci was read the president's tweet directed at Congressman Clyburn, he said he stands by what he said earlier, that it is due to a number of factors, not just because there's more testing.

TAPPER: Now, it's nonsense, but the president continues to spout it anyway.

Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks.

Coming up next, how an overnight camp in Georgia could be a warning for every school in the country thinking of re-opening. How? We'll explain.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, a new CDC report about a COVID-19 outbreak at a Georgia summer camp in June could have massive implications when it comes to school reopens. Just days after this camp opened, the average camper age was about 12. A staffer had chills and had to go home. The staffer tested positive for the virus.

In total, 44 percent of the almost 6 attendees at the camp tested positive for the virus. The camp shut down less than a week after officially fully re-opening. And while the camp did adapt some of the CDC's guidelines for camps, some key guidelines such as campers wearing masks were never implemented.

The data is chilling and it suggests that children can indeed get infected and very quickly.

Joining me now to discuss is a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Michael Saag.

Dr. Saag, thanks so much.

I -- as a parent I have to say I found this terrifying.