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COVID-19 Cases Remain High Without National Plan; Florida Newspaper Calls on Ron DeSantis for COVID-19 Help; Michelle Bolsonaro Tests Positive for COVID-19. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Today on "Home Front," our digital and television series where we try to bridge the military and civilian divide, we want to bring your attention to a story out of California. One Marine has been killed, and eight are missing after a training accident off the California coast. Two others have been hospitalized, and one is in critical condition.

The Marines were in an amphibious assault vehicle at the time -- it's similar to the vehicles that you see here in this video. And at around 5:45 p.m. Pacific time, they reported that the vehicle was taking on water. A search is ongoing for those still missing, and of course our hearts go out to those men and women, their families and all who love them.

If you have story ideas or questions, please e-mail us at You can find my column at

It's the top of the hour now, I am Brianna Keilar and I thank you for joining me.

Six months into America's fight against the coronavirus, there is no grand plan. That is the headline out of hours of testimony from the nation's top scientists and task force members on Capitol Hill. No plan to test more people, no plan to speed up results, no plan to step up contact tracing, no guidance on how to realistically reopen schools safely.

The only real takeaway is that much of the rest of the world seems to understand what it takes to control this virus, while the U.S. is completely lost.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you look at the comparison between Asia and Europe, as is shown by the chairman's poster up there, that when they shut down, they shut down to the tune of about 95 percent, getting their baseline down to tens or hundreds of cases per day --



FAUCI: -- whereas we did it, we got it down. But unfortunately, our baseline was 20,000 a day. I think there was such a diversity of response in this country from different states, that we really did not have a unified bringing everything down.

KEILAR: CNN's Nick Watt is joining me now from Los Angeles, where he's following all of this.

And, Nick, we've been seeing infections explode in the south and west; now, there is concern about this kind of going to the Midwest. Tell us.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, for example, today, you know, Illinois posted nearly 2,000 new cases, and we haven't seen numbers like that coming out of Illinois since the end of May.

But it's not just the Midwest, Brianna. Hawaii also, second day in a row, a new record number of cases. And it's not over in Florida by any stretch. For four days in a row now, down in Florida, they have posted a record death toll. And, meanwhile, that hearing up on the Hill about what we've done so far, right and wrong -- and also what we need to do right now.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): The United States' response stands out as among the worst of any country in the world, and nothing but the truth --

WATT (voice-over): Here in part is why.

FAUCI: We really functionally shut down only about 50 percent in the sense of the totality of the country.

WATT (voice-over): And when we reopened?

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

WATT (voice-over): So, what now? Well, we're still working on testing.

BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF 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 (voice-over): Masks, distancing, hand-washing, avoiding crowds and indoor bars and the like.

ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: If we did those five things, we've done modeling data, we get the same bang for the buck as if we just shut the entire economy down. WATT (voice-over): Vaccine optimism is growing.

FAUCI: Ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, if we have -- and I think we will have -- a safe and effective vaccine, then Americans will be able to get it. I don't think that day, we will have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning, it probably will be phased in.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile, the death toll right now, still alarmingly high nationwide, particularly in the Sun Belt.

And while the rate of new infections is still high, it is plateauing, even edging down in Florida, California, Texas, Arizona.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R-AZ): This is not a victory lap, this is not a celebration. If anything, it's evidence that the decisions and the sacrifice that Arizonans are making are working.

WATT (voice-over): 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.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): If this region has four more days of people getting sicker and needing a hospital bed, that means bars will close again.


BILL GATES, CO-FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: Sadly, I just can't see the cost- benefit ratio, letting people sit in bars.

WATT (voice-over): And enforcement, still an issue in many places. This San Diego gym defied orders to close. And now?

WILMA WOOTEN, PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER, SAN DIEGO COUNTY: We can confirm that there is an outbreak at that location, but that is the only information that we will be able to share with you.

WATT (voice-over): 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 (voice-over): Twenty-five minutes later, while pushing for schools to reopen --

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

WATT (voice-over): Not true.

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


WATT: And right now, Brianna, the Cardinals and the Brewers are supposed to be playing baseball; they're not, after two Cardinals tested positive. Also today, the Phillies were supposed to be playing the Blue Jays, the Nationals were supposed to be playing the Marlins. None of that is happening because of players and staff testing positive -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Nick Watt, thank you for that report.

There is a new CDC study offering some key insight as many schools are close to reopening. It followed what happened in late June at a Georgia summer camp, which is not named. More than 600 staff and campers arrived with proof that they had recently tested negative. But then within the week, the camp shut down after a staff member got sick.

And then, after testing about half of those who attended the camp, researchers found this: Fifty-one percent of the campers aged six to 10 tested positive; 44 percent of the 11- to 17-year-olds, and 33 percent of those who were 18 to 21.

Researchers also found that the camp did not follow CDC guidelines like wearing masks or opening doors and windows to increase ventilation.

Dr. Roshini Raj is an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, and a contributing medical editor at "Health Magazine." Doctor Raj, tell us what the takeaways are from this study, where you had kids coming in who had recently tested negative.

ROSHINI RAJ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU LANGONE HEALTH: Yes. I mean, I think this is the most concerning part, is you would think this was a relatively safe setup; both the campers and the staff were all tested, they were all negative before camp started. And within a week, we saw that almost half of the entire population was positive for COVID.

And, you know, I understand the dilemma that parents are facing. They've been with their kids since homeschooling started a few months ago, now it's summertime. I have two boys myself, one of whom was begging me to send him to camp.

But the truth is, as this study shows, when you have large groups of people -- and children especially, because you really can't expect children to strictly adhere to some of these safety precautions -- there is a very high risk of transmission.

And as you said, the other thing is, in this particular instance, not all the guidelines were followed, one of which, which I think is very important, was that the campers did not actually wear masks, only the staff members did. The ventilation also, I'm sure, played a role.

But the bottom line is, as you said earlier, it's been six months, everyone's sort of tired of this, we want to get back to life as normal. But it's just not time yet, we still have to be very vigilant. And as this study shows, these close quarters, large groups of people -- I think in this camp, they had 25 kids sleeping in one room -- it was just too much and too close.

KEILAR: I want to listen to what Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to on Capitol Hill today.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Do protests increase the spread of the virus?

FAUCI: Do protests increase the spread of the virus? I think I can make a general statement.

JORDAN: Well, half a million protestors on June 6th alone, I'm just asking --


JORDAN: -- that number of people --


JORDAN: -- does it increase the spread of the virus?

FAUCI: Crowding together, particularly when you're not wearing a mask, contributes to the spread of the virus.

JORDAN: Should we limit the protesting?

FAUCI: I'm not sure what you mean, should -- how do we say limit the protesting?

JORDAN: Should government limit the protesting?

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

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

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

JORDAN: Well, you make all kinds of recommendations, you --


JORDAN: -- made comments on dating, on baseball and everything you can imagine --


JORDAN: -- I'm just asking, you just said that protests increase the spread --

FAUCI: Yes, no.

JORDAN: -- I'm just asking you, should we try to limit the protests?

FAUCI: No, I think I would leave that to people who have more of a position to do that. I can tell you that --

JORDAN: Government's stopping people from going to church, Dr. Fauci.


JORDAN: Last week, in the Calvary Chapel case, five liberals on the Supreme Court said it was OK for Nevada to limit church services. Governor --


JORDAN: -- I mean, Justice Gorsuch said it best, he said there's no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel. I'm just asking, is there a world where the Constitution says you can favor one First Amendment liberty -- protesting -- over another -- practicing your faith?


FAUCI: I'm not favoring anybody over anybody, I'm just making a statement that's a broad statement, that avoid crowds of any type, no matter where you are. Because that leads to the acquisition and transmission. And I don't judge one crowd versus another crowd.

JORDAN: One night in Chicago, 49 officers were injured, but no limit -- no limit to protests, but, boy, you can't go to church on Sunday.

FAUCI: I don't know how many times I can answer that, I'm not going to opine on limiting anything, I'm just going to tell you --

JORDAN: You've opined on a lot of things, Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: Yes, but I've never said --


JORDAN: This is something that directly impacts the spread of the virus, and I'm asking your position on the protests.

FAUCI: Yes. I'm -- well, I'm not going to opine on limiting anything, I'm telling you what it is, the danger. And you can make your own conclusion about that.

JORDAN: Do you see the inconsistency, though, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: There's no inconsistency, Congressman. There's no --

JORDAN: What, there's no -- so you're allowed to protest, millions of people on one day, in crowds, yelling, screaming? But you try to run your business, you get arrested? And if you stood right outside of that same business and protested, you wouldn't get arrested? You don't see an inconsistency there? FAUCI: I don't understand what you're asking me, as a public health

official to opine on who should get arrested or not. That's not my position.


KEILAR: I mean, I think this speaks to what one of the toughest conversations about what is smart and what is not as smart, when you're talking about protests and you're talking about church-going. Those really seem to be difficult.

Of course, protests are outside, and going to church is inside. They're both protected. But just explain the difference in risks as you see it, and things that also mitigate risks for both of these activities.

RAJ: Well, I think that honestly, they're both risky. I think that any time you're getting a group of people together, it is a risk.

And, you know, the protests have the advantage of being outdoors, as you said. But that also has -- it also involves people potentially yelling and, you know, putting out particles in the air, potentially infectious virus particles. Certainly if they're wearing masks, it's much safer than if they're not.

But that carries its own risk. In the church, if it's smaller amounts of people, if they're limiting the number of people, that's better, but it's still not wonderful. And, you know, again, people are singing in church potentially, talking, you're getting a mix of a large group of people.

Neither of these situations is ideal when it comes to COVID. And I think Dr. Fauci has done a fantastic job. I think he was trying to avoid getting embroiled into a kind of political puzzle with this question, but the truth is that states for sure have said we should limit, you know, the number of gatherings in terms of people. And at one point in New York, it was down to a very small number of people, and that really would have meant protests were not allowed. But of course, there's a political aspect to it.

And one of the issues we've had controlling this virus from the beginning in this country, is that politics are playing a role when public health really should take precedence over that. So this issue of, is it my right to not wear a mask or wear a mask, all of these things, I think, have really slowed us down and hampered the effort to curb the spread of the virus.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for outlining that. I think it's just such an important conversation as Americans. You know, they want to exercise their rights, they want to go to church, some of them want to protest and it's so important to have this discussion about the public health aspect of this. Dr. Roshini Raj, thank you.

RAJ: Thank you.

KEILAR: Florida is setting a new record for COVID deaths for the fourth straight day, as a hurricane barrels toward the state. We are going to take you there.

Plus, after a lawmaker who refused to wear a mask gets infected, new calls for rapid tests in Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will join me, live.


Also, I'll ask her what happened in her heated meeting with the White House over the next round of COVID relief, as the benefits expire today for millions of Americans.


KEILAR: Florida is a coronavirus hotspot, and is now facing another threat. The second hurricane of the Atlantic season, barreling toward the state. These are pictures of the storm passing over the Dominican Republic. And since then, this has been upgraded to a Category I hurricane.

A hurricane watch, now in effect for parts of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a state of emergency. The severe weather is forcing some coronavirus testing sites to be closed. And as the state is setting yet another record for deaths in a single day.

Now, 257 more lives lost to coronavirus, this brings the total deaths in the state to more than 6,800 people, and more than 470,000 confirmed cases.

The editorial board of one of Florida's largest newspapers is making an urgent plea to state leadership in an editorial titled, "Help us out, Gov. DeSantis. We're dying here." The "Sun Sentinel" board, writing in part, "Your refusal to impose a mask order -- a requirement now in effect in 32 other states -- is out of touch with the mainstream. Issue a mask mandate, governor. If you can wear one in public, so can we all."

Rosemary O'Hara is the editorial editor of the "South Florida Sun Sentinel," and she's joining us now. Explain this to us, explain why the board felt it was necessary to write this piece.

ROSEMARY O'HARA, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL: You know, Governor DeSantis wants to put the focus in the best possible light, to focus on the positive trends. But the trends in Florida are not positive. To listen to him, you would never know that those 257 deaths that were reported today, broke yesterday's record- breaking number of 217, which broke Tuesday's record of 191 deaths.


The day he reopened Florida's economy in May, there were 807 people diagnosed with COVID that day. Today, there were 9,007 people diagnosed with COVID. The numbers are not stabilizing in Florida. Our county administrator is getting pressure to close. We're a major engine in South Florida's economy, and yet the governor doesn't want to order -- require people to wear masks when we know that it plays an important role in preventing the spread of the disease. KEILAR: And what has the response been to the editorial?

O'HARA: Well, I did notice that yesterday he did, for the first time, say that he understands that people are scared. It's really the first time that we've heard him (INAUDIBLE) must have read the piece.

But, you know, people want the -- give it to us straight, tell us -- don't overly scare us, but don't spin the numbers in a way that make us feel like you're hiding something. You know, a big issue here in Florida -- and probably elsewhere, I don't know, but here in South Florida particularly, we're not getting the basics right.

We're doing a lot more testing, but it can take weeks to get your results back. We're not doing nearly enough contact tracing (ph). You know, seven to 17 percent. So we don't know how it's spreading exactly or where it's spreading exactly.

And, you know, in the meantime, our hospitals are getting overwhelmed and Miami-Dade hospitals are sending patients north to Broward, which are getting overwhelmed. And so our hospitals are overwhelmed.

So we need a governor who's going -- we need the governor to, you know, stand up for us and do what's needed to help stem this disease. We don't have the data we need to know how it's spreading, but we have the data to know that face masks work. He doesn't want to order everybody to wear one because some counties are different than South Florida, but he's ordering schools to reopen everywhere, including South Florida. So there's not a consistency in his message.

KEILAR: We really appreciate you being with us, Rosemary. Thank you so much for telling us a little bit more about this op-ed.

O'HARA: Thank you.


KEILAR: The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, says the Trump administration is withholding information on election security. She will join us live to talk about that. And, we'll find out where Congress is on getting a new round of relief to American families.


KEILAR: Brazil's first lady has now tested positive for the coronavirus, while her husband, President Bolsonaro, who has been recovering from the virus, says he has mold in his lungs.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is there.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Brianna, as the numbers continue to worsen here in Brazil, 58,000 new cases reported in the last 24-hour period. President Jair Bolsonaro continues, at times with surreal response to the virus.

He appeared in a Facebook Live just last night, after appearing earlier in the day on horseback during the Live with an accordion player behind him, he said was playing in (ph) some connection to the tourist industry here, to promote it.

During that Life, he admitted he had what he referred to as mold on the lung, that he had an infection and a blood examination. But he still insisted that the unproven, ineffective drug hydroxychloroquine had in fact cured him and helped him through his two-week-long battle with the virus.

It is entirely possible though -- we don't know what his doctor's saying -- that on his lung, he is in fact experiencing the long-term side effects of the disease. That remains unclear.

Worse news for the first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro. She's tested positive, although she was recently among senior cabinet ministers so there'll be concerns about infection at the highest levels of government.

It is odd to see the behavior of the president here, dismissive at times of the virus despite its clear impact on him as, daily, the numbers continue to be horrifying here -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Nick, thank you.

And, ahead, retail workers say it's not their jobs to enforce mask policies. A union leader will join me live with his call to make stores hire security staff for this job.


Plus, conservatives criticize President Obama's eulogy at John Lewis' funeral. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was there, will join me live to respond.