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Health Experts Raise Concern on Virus Surging in Midwestern U.S.; California Struggling to Contain COVID-19; Trump Falsely Claims Children are Immune to Coronavirus; Trump Floats Election Delay Despite No Authority to Do So; Eviction Threat Looms for Millions of Americans. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to you, our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Just ahead, a dire warning. As bad as the COVID pandemic is right now, some experts are warning the U.S. could see hundreds of thousands of more deaths this year.

The economy also in distress. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product posts its biggest drop ever. Can the labor market recover?

And Donald Trump floats the idea that the virus could delay the U.S. election. Condemnation coming from both sides of the political aisle.

As the U.S. nears 4.5 million cases of COVID-19, the University of Washington now projects a dramatic rise in deaths. University researchers say the U.S. death toll could exceed 230,000 by November. That's about 80,000 more fatalities during the next three months. The reason, researchers say, the refusal of many Americans to wear masks and social distance.

Among those Americans who have lost their lives to the virus, one-time Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain. He became ill days after attending a Trump rally in Oklahoma in June but it's not known where he got infected.

The man leading the U.S. vaccine effort says he's optimistic every American will get vaccinated against coronavirus by the end of next year, if not sooner, but America's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says it's too soon to make predictions about any vaccine's effectiveness.

CNN's Erica Hill has more headlines from across the country.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Months into this public health crisis and the United States is moving backwards.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: This should not be acceptable for the wealthiest nation in the world.

HILL: COVID-19 related deaths in California topping 200 for the second day in a row. As Florida reports a record number for the third straight day. But it's not just the south and west causing concern.

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 into Kentucky, Tennessee, southern Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska.

HILL: Maryland's governor urging people to avoid travel to several hotspots states to help stop the spread.

DR. JODIE DIONNE-ODOM, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Alabama, we're at 19 percent test positivity. In Texas, 12 percent test positivity. And that number means that there's a lot of infection that we're still not picking up.

HILL: Michigan limiting indoor gatherings to just 10 people and closing indoor service at bars statewide, as more states link rise in cases to social gatherings and to young people.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think there is somewhat of a misperception. Some people feel it is binary. Either you get something or you get so sick you're in the hospital and/or you die. It's absolutely not the case. And that's one of the things that's confusing particularly to young people who think, and as the statistics, you know, kind of favor that, that they're somewhat invulnerable, which they're not.

HILL: Dr. Birx doubling down on masks.

BIRX: We believe the governors and mayors of every locality right now would mandate masks for their communities and every American would wear a mask and socially distance, but we can really get control of this virus.

HILL: As Americans wait, the losses are mounting. Unemployment claims up for the second week in a row. The U.S. economy just posted its worst drop on record. Rent and mortgage payments are due. A $600 weekly supplement expires tomorrow.

DR. JEFF SMITH, COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SANTA CLARA COUNTY: The recovery from the economic damage if we get the virus under control will be a long-term recovery.

HILL: Meantime the FDA says it could issue an emergency use authorization for a vaccine in a matter of weeks once it's deemed safe and effective, though experts note this is not an immediate solution.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: It still will be only rolled out to, let's say, health care workers and those most at risk, and then it's going to take time.

HILL (on camera): Here in New York state, a little bit of good news. Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing on Thursday that the positivity rate is just over 1 percent and that both hospitalizations and intubations are at new lows. He also announced $30 million being sent to counties around the state for contact tracing, also to help ramp up and be prepared for flu vaccinations that will be coming in the coming weeks and months, and also noted that a team of health staff is being sent to help out now in Utah.


In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Well, a school year is set to begin across the United States. And we just heard that good news from New York. Well, New York City has put out its protocols to prevent outbreaks, so here's how it plans to do it. School staff who develop symptoms must leave the building. Students with symptoms must isolate and go home. If there are two or more positive cases of COVID-19 it could force the whole school to close. Masks and physical distancing will be required along with daily cleaning of the building.

Now the U.S. president is again suggesting it's safe for children to go back to school incorrectly stating that they are virtually immune to the virus. In fact, a South Korean study found that children ages 10 and older can spread the disease as easily as adults. And another study shows infected children under the age of 5 can carry higher than normal levels of the virus. But here's what the president said.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How can you assure people that schools will be safely reopened?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So can you assure anybody of anything? I do say again, young people are almost immune to this disease. The younger the better.


BRUNHUBER: That even though Dr. Fauci tells CNN there is still much that is unknown about children and the coronavirus. Take a listen.


FAUCI: Now you get this study, which is interesting, that says younger children up to 5 years old have many, many more times virus in their nasopharynx than adults do, which would mean it would be a reasonable assumption that they would be able to transmit the virus.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So they're not immune?

FAUCI: We just need to figure that out. And in that -- no, no. I mean, they have virus in their nasopharynx, which means they very well could transmit it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: Well, despite an early and aggressive lockdown, California is still being hard hit by the coronavirus. The state is seeing its number of cases and deaths on the rise.

Stephanie Elam has the latest from hard-hit Los Angeles.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More Californians are dying now from COVID-19 than at any other period during the pandemic. That's on a day-to-day basis. Right now the 14-day average in the state is at 112 deaths a day. The state announcing today that over 10,000 new cases have been logged in in the last 24-hour period, and they also announced 194 deaths. This as we know some counties like Los Angeles County which is the epicenter of the outbreak in California have been working through a backlog of data. That may be impacting these numbers here.

I can tell you that the positivity rate in California has been holding steady over the last 14-day period at about 7.5 percent and the state also pointing to hospitalizations starting to see a downward turn. This after the governor has said that all indoor operations have to take a pause right now in the state as we try to bend the curve as he spoke about here. Also worth noting, too, that in total we are close to hitting 9,000 deaths in California from the coronavirus.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: Joining me now is Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. He is an internal medicine and viral specialist in Los Angeles.

So I want to get to that situation in California, but first I want to turn to something that's been on the mind of a lot of parents that new research finds children under 5 have a substantially higher viral load in their noses than older people. Now we've been told previously that, you know, kids in that age group weren't big vectors of COVID. Does this new research suggest that they are? That they can transmit the virus?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: Well, it's certainly suggesting that they can transmit the virus because that research showed that they have 10 to 100 times, I mean, you heard it, 10 to 100 times more virus, COVID virus in their nose than adults, so like I said, we're embarking on an experiment in this country with our children to see what happens. And we will know what kids that are, you know, 2 to 5-year-olds do. I mean, their hygiene isn't exactly the best.

They're always touching themselves and other children. So even though this doesn't necessarily mean transmission, it certainly does not bode well for what could happen. So it could be disastrous, I think.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. That's just it. I mean, I -- you know, as a parent of a 5-year-old basically whenever he's sick, you know, two days later so am I. So precisely what do you think that does mean for daycare centers and schools, some of which are weeks away from class?

RODRIGUEZ: I actually think that daycare centers at this point shouldn't open until we see what's going to happen over the next few months. And what's unfortunately going to happen is going to be trial by error.


But the error may be the cost of children's lives. And are we willing to sacrifice our children? Because really that's what it means since nobody knows.

Listen, kids haven't been spreading it because kids haven't been in school. Most of the states have been in lockdown, so two and two is four. And it just seems to me that if kids have a higher viral load of virus in their nose, it just stands to reason that they're more likely to spread it.

BRUNHUBER: So what's your advice to parents then?

RODRIGUEZ: My advice is if they can somehow manage to keep children at home with them, to do that before sending them to daycare until we have more information. And that's where it becomes economically very difficult for parents to make this choice. But if they're going to send them to daycare, listen, kids probably at that age are not going to wear a mask. They need to have super high hygiene, and at the first sign of any fever, any illness, they need to take the child to the doctor as soon as possible.

BRUNHUBER: Now a lot of young people aren't taking this really seriously. They, well, even if you get sick, you know, you're not going to really come up with anything serious. But a lot of information is coming out about the long-term complications of this disease, even for young and healthy people. Do you think that, you know, five, 10 years from now we're going to, you know, hear about a huge cohort of people, you know, having, you know, COVID lung or some other serious, you know, chronic disease?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, absolutely, I think we will. I have some good friends that unfortunately there's one lady in Orange County that caught this four months ago, and she is still having complications. Her ability to think is not the same, her lungs are not the same, and we're seeing this more and more. So I think it's very foolish and it's false bravado for young people to think that they are not susceptible to this. They're just whistling in the wind -- I mean, whistling in the dark hoping that nothing happens.

And yes, I do think that we're going to see long-term complications of this virus. I think it's almost a given.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for speaking with us. I appreciate it, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, sir.

BRUNHUBER: Saying good-bye to a civil rights legend. When we come back, the funeral of John Lewis and what Barack Obama told the congressman's mourners about the current leadership in the U.S.



BRUNHUBER: The stirring words but also a flash of anger. The U.S. has bid farewell to Congressman John Lewis. His funeral service took place at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church here in Atlanta, Georgia. Loved ones recalled Lewis as a courageous civil rights activist who served in the U.S. House for more than 30 years. Three former presidents were among the mourners capping a week of tributes.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We live in a better and noble country today because of John Lewis, and his abiding faith in the power of God, in the power of democracy and in the power of love to lift us all to a higher ground.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: John Lewis is a walking rebuke to people who thought, well, we ain't there yet. We've been working a long time. Isn't it time to bag it? He kept moving.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And some day when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union, whether it's years from now or decades, or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.


BRUNHUBER: In a moving essay Lewis wrote for the "New York Times" before his death and published yesterday, Lewis issued a parting call to action.

"Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participation in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful non-violent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it."

Barack Obama also warned that the vote is not entirely safe. He used part of that eulogy to condemn his successor, President Trump, who's casting doubt on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election system before a single vote is cast. Trump is now suggesting that the election might need to be delayed.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump was on the receiving end of a stinging rebuke from his predecessor who compared him to the racist leaders of the South who fought civil rights. OBAMA: George Wallace may be gone but we can witness our federal

government sending agents to use tear gas and batons 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 eulogized the civil rights icon John Lewis.

OBAMA: 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 never 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 20th, and if we were to delay the election past January 20th, 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 Trump's most powerful cabinet secretaries seemed unaware of that this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can a siting U.S. president move an election date?

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?

TRUMP: I have to see. Look, you -- I have to see. No, I'm not just going to say yes.

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 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 patriotic and great friend.

(On camera): And the president addressed Herman Cain's death at the briefing. He talked about his former friend and how he passed away, and said he wanted to extend his condolences to his family but one thing the president did not mention is that Cain had been present at his rally just a little over a month ago.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: As you've just heard, President Trump can't move the election date. That would have to be done by the U.S. Congress. So why even put the idea out there?

CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein has a few ideas.


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president can't move the election and he knows that. What I think this is about is he is testing the water to see how far he can go and keep Republicans in Congress with him as he tries to delegitimize the election and potentially, as we saw even more explicitly in that press conference, can test the results after.

You know, and it is striking, John, that while Republicans today said, obviously, you know, they kind of acknowledged the sky is blue, he can't delay the election, I didn't see any of them say this is dangerous, this is undemocratic, this is ominous, stop it. They all just kind of said it's wrong, he's wrong, but he's right to be worried about fraud, and which we know that, you know, voting by mail does not have that issue, and John Cornyn even said, he is joking.

So I think the president is testing how far he can bring the party along with him, you know, based on the first 3 1/2 years, as you say, probably pretty far.


BRUNHUBER: That was CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Well, we're getting new insight on the U.S. investigation into Russian election interference. In an exclusive report to CNN, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin reveals how former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe took extraordinary steps to protect vital information. He reports that McCabe wasn't sure how long he'd last in the bureau after his former boss James Comey was fired so he told investigating agents to lock down memos from Comey and secure FBI software. That way investigators would always have to access them.

He says the agents not only did that, they hid at least three copies of key documents in remote locations around the bureau. And you can read all about that and more in the "True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump" by CNN's Jeffrey Toobin and it comes out on August 4th.

Well, it is the worst drop in history. Just ahead how the coronavirus pandemic pushed the U.S. over an economic cliff and into record- breaking contraction.



BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to you, our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The second quarter U.S. GDP released on Thursday confirms what most economists had feared, a massive contraction of the American economy thanks to coronavirus lockdowns. The annualized rate for the Gross Domestic Product plunged nearly 33 percent from April through June or 9.5 percent compared to the first quarter. And that is, believe it or not, the worst drop on record. And making matters worse, 1.4 million people filed for initial jobless claims last week. Up 12,000 from the previous week's revised figures.

With unemployment rates so high many Americans are now unable to pay their rent. CNN's Abby Phillip talked with one woman who lives in fear of eviction.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even on a good day making ends meet was a struggle for Georgia resident Pamela Frink.

PAMELA FRINK, GEORGIA RESIDENT: Every month even working multiple jobs I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul.

PHILLIP: Then came the coronavirus pandemic and Pamela lost one of her jobs working at the Atlanta Hawks arena, a job she needed in order to pay her $1200 a month rent and take care of his 6-year-old daughter Jada.

FRINK: One job is not going to cover my day-to-day bills which are necessities like your rent, your lights, your car insurance, food.

PHILLIP: Like millions of Americans, unemployment insurance and that crucial extra $600 a week injection into the system by the federal government has been a lifeline and one that could soon disappear. FRINK: So now that I have the fear or the knowing that it will end

soon it's kind of like, OK, so now what do I do to be able to maintain my livelihood.

PHILLIP: Experts estimate that about 20 percent of the 110 million renters in the United States could face eviction later this year due to the pandemic, especially when a federal boost in unemployment insurance expires at the end of the month.

PIERCE HAND, STAFF ATTORNEY, STANDING WITH OUR NEIGHBORS: Folks have not been paying rent since possibly February, March. That's six months of not being able to make rent.

PHILLIP: Atlanta lawyer Pierce Hand works with tenants like Pamela who have lost jobs and are at risk of falling into a deep hole of housing debt, the consequences could be dire.