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Pandemic Death Toll Climbs as Hurricane Approaches Florida; GOP Pushes Back Against Trump Idea to Delay Election; Operation Warp Speed Chief Expects "Highly" Effective Vaccine; Thailand Offers Case Study in Controlling Pandemic; NBA Returns to the Court After Almost Five Months. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: An unacceptable new normal is setting in. More than 1,000 Americans dying a day, another new record set in Florida as a hurricane gains strength and heads for the East Coast.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans lining up in force against the president. All it took was a tweet suggesting he wants to delay the election.

JARRETT: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Christine Romans. It is Friday, July 31st, 5:00 a.m. in New York.

And despite what President Trump suggested on Twitter yesterday, Laura, we are still 95 days to the election. We'll dig deeper on that in just a few minutes.

JARRETT: You bet we will.

This morning, a nation in desperate need of a plan will look to medical experts for answers. The House Select Committee on Coronavirus will hear from members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, testing leader, Admiral Brett Giroir, and CDC chief, Dr. Robert Redfield. And with any luck, they'll have more specifics than this.


REPORTER: You said you're in the process of developing a strategy against the coronavirus that's very powerful. Where is that strategy?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think you're seeing it. And I think you will see it, and one of the things that we've done that we're getting, it hasn't been utilized fully yet, but we're all set to march when it comes to the vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JARRETT: So the plan is wait for a vaccine. Well, that will be little comfort to the more than 1,200 people who lost a loved one yesterday. The U.S. had four times more deaths yesterday than Europe, with less than half the population.

SANCHEZ: Staggering when you think of that. It was the third straight day of record deaths in Florida where ironically the state government starts meetings today on reopening bars. There's also a hurricane coming this weekend making matters worse. We'll have an update on that in just a moment.

The president also heads to Florida today. He's set to meet with sheriffs in Tampa and join a roundtable discussion on COVID-19. A topic that may or may not be addressed today: testing delays. It's still taking way too long to get results, leaving people out in public spreading the virus because they don't know they need to isolate.

The administration official in charge of testing set a guideline to achieve quicker test results.


ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, M.D., HHS CHIEF OF CORONAVIRUS TESTING: By September, we'll have half of the tests in the country will be point of care between 15 million and 20 million, not assuming any new technology, just based on what we're doing.


JARRETT: Georgia is at peak hospitalizations right now, but today, the Jefferson City school district, about an hour northeast of Atlanta, will be the first in Georgia to reopen schools for face-to- face instruction. And yesterday, the president had this to say on school reopenings.


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

TRUMP: So can you assure anybody of anything? I do say, again, young people are almost immune to this disease. The younger, the better because they're stronger. They're stronger. They have a stronger immune system. It's an incredible thing.


JARRETT: A new study that comes out shows children under the age of five have a higher viral load in their noses than older children or adults. That, of course, raising more questions just as schools start to reopen about how easily coronavirus can be spread to teachers and others.

SANCHEZ: As we mentioned, there was a special advisory overnight. A storm churning across the Atlantic. It is now strengthened into a hurricane. So where do people go with short notice? Crowded evacuation centers are not pandemic friendly. State sponsored

COVID testing centers are shut down.

The storm battered Puerto Rico Thursday, leaving up to 400,000 people without power at one point. One person also missing on the island.

Here's meteorologist Derek Van Dam with more.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Laura and Boris.

Late last night, the hurricane hunters found that Isaias officially strengthened into hurricane status, making it equivalent to a category one hurricane. So, just located south of Turks and Caicos, and it is moving across the Bahamas within the next 24 to 36 hours. Eighty mile per hour sustained winds. We have hurricane warnings for the central and northern Bahamas, including Nassau, with tropical storm watches for the southeast coast line of Florida.

We'll monitor to see if any of these changes are made with the watches and warnings as the storm makes a close approach to the Florida coast line before bending to the north and northeast, potentially making a landfall as a category one hurricane, right along the coast of the Carolinas.


There's certainly some model discrepancy between the European and global forecast model, which is the American model. You can see a timing and strength difference. One thing is for sure. Lots of rain associated with the system as it tries to make land fall late Monday and into Tuesday, dependent on the model you look at, and, of course, plenty of wind as well.

We'll keep you up to date.

Back to you.


SANCHEZ: Derek Van Dam, thanks for the update.

The head of the government's Warp Speed program to develop a vaccine believes it will be highly effective. And he has some insight on when a vaccine might be ready for all-Americans.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen spoke with him at a clinical trial site in Savannah, Georgia.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, Boris, I sat down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Moncef Slaoui, he's the head of Operation Warp Speed, the multi-billion dollar effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. What he told me is that he thinks this vaccine is going to be very effective.

DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, HEAD COVID-19 VACCINE RESEARCH: It's very hard to predict, of course, that's why we're doing the trial. My personal opinion based on my experience and the biology of this virus, I think this vaccine is going to be highly efficacious. I wouldn't be surprised if it's in the 90 percent.

COHEN: Now, some experts have lower expectations for the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Slaoui also went over with me a timeline for what he expects to happen. He said he expects that by December of this year or January of next that we could have tens of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine and he said those would go to high risk individuals, for example, the elderly or people with underlying medical conditions.

He said that by the end of 2021, he expects there to be enough vaccine for all-Americans although ideally he hopes to have enough for all- Americans by the middle, not the end, of next year -- Laura, Boris.


SANCHEZ: Thanks for that, Elizabeth.

We should note she mentioned the efficacy, asked about that 90 percent projection. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is not sure it is going to be that high. But he still believes it will be, quote, reasonably good.

JARRETT: All right. Well, those extra federal unemployment benefits expiring today. But don't look for an immediate fix from Congress. The Senate has adjourned until Monday. Tens of millions of Americans have been receiving the $600 supplement on top of state unemployment, keeping them and the U.S. economy afloat.

Congress and the White House are still in a standoff over the new stimulus bill. When the first one passed, the extra unemployment money was meant to be short term. Democrats say the benefits remain essential. But Republicans want to reduce those benefits.

The federal moratorium in evictions is also expiring, leaving 12 million renters in limbo.

SANCHEZ: As we mentioned at the top of the hour, there are just 95 days to election day, November 3rd. And all signs are it is going to stay that way. Republicans unusually quick in their near universal rejection of President Trump's suggestion yesterday that the November election be delayed, a move that he doesn't have the power to change anyway.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, 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 and we'll find a way to do that again this November 3rd.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: And this is significant. Even one of the co-founders of the Federalist Society, an influential conservative group, called the suggested delay grounds for impeachment.

JARRETT: So, remember, these are the same Republicans who stuck with the president through quite a lot in impeachment, obstruction of justice allegations, Charlottesville and a long list of self-inflicted scandals. But Republicans want to keep their jobs, too, and polling shows the public wants an option to vote by mail. Trump tried to clarify last night.


TRUMP: I want a delay. I want the election. I don't want to wait for three months and find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn't mean anything.


SANCHEZ: Trump initially floated the idea Thursday morning on Twitter after he had just seen record low GDP numbers denting, the central theme of his re-election, a roaring Trump economy. Some out there argue that he put it out as a distraction, but whatever the motivation for his supporters, it sends a message and it's just the latest in a string of examples from Trump all laying the groundwork for him to reject the election results as illegitimate if he loses in November. Examples like this.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: I have to see. I'm not just going to say yes. I'm not going to say no, and I didn't last time either.


JARRETT: Now it's true, even Democrats worry about election infrastructure holding up in the middle of this pandemic and results may not come election night if most people do vote by mail, but does that mean there's going to be widespread fraud? No. There's no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud.


According to a "Washington Post" analysis, about 77 percent of Americans can vote by mail this fall. About half a dozen states do the majority of their voting by mail without any fraud.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and speaking of the push for voting rights and questions about fraud and the ability of people to cast their ballots, it was an important emotional tribute yesterday that was as pointed as it was poignant. Former presidents paying a final tribute to civil rights icon and a champion of voting rights John Lewis.

We'll be right back.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.



JARRETT: Several countries around the world have seen a resurgence of the coronavirus, but one had managed to control the pandemic and keep it under control is Thailand.


How did they do it? And what can the world learn from their approach?

Here's CNN's Anna Coren.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thailand, at its capital of Bangkok, welcome more Chinese tourists than anywhere else in the world. It was back in January when one of those travelers, a man from Wuhan, became the first COVID-19 case diagnosed out of China.

But fast forward to now, Thailand says it has crushed COVID-19. Officially just over 3,000 of the 66 million strong population have caught the virus with only 58 deaths.

After two months all new cases in the country have been brought from overseas, so how did Thailand do it?

DR. SURAPHONG SUEBWONGLEE, GOVERNMENT PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISOR: The network of epidemiologists and public health volunteers is the most important factors in controlling the COVID-19 in Thailand.

COREN: A bitter fight against the mosquito borne dengue fever last year left Thailand in a strong position to jump straight on to a new infectious outbreak, experts say.

When COVID-19 struck, 1 million public health volunteers were already assembled and prepared to fan out across the country. When the case was discovered, this team of friends, family and neighbors traced and isolated it straightaway.

Our strength is that we know our community. We know who is most at risk says one volunteer. People are scared of this invisible disease. They know how quickly it can spread. That's why people are so cooperative.

In a country that calls itself the land of smiles, public health officials believe that tradition has kept people safe. An acceptance of facemasks and a longstanding culture of showing respect by keeping social distance helped to protect Thais. When cases began to climb in March, borders were closed and businesses

locked down, bustling Bangkok went quite. Thai martial artists fought their final rounds, shadow boxing in empty stadiums after the sport was linked to massive outbreaks.

Schools that closed swiftly look very different now. The classes have resumed months later. Universal health care in Thailand has kept pre- existing conditions down, lessening the damage of the coronavirus compared to the U.S. and Europe.

Perhaps the envy of the world now, they hope that will last.

Anna Coren, CNN.


SANCHEZ: Thanks, Anna.

NBA 2.0, the league tipping off again in the bubble but the focus hardly on basketball.



SANCHEZ: All that Santeria my grandfather taught me when I was growing up finally paid off. Basketball is back. The NBA returning to action nearly five months after suspending its season due to the pandemic.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Andy, a great night of NBA action. Happy to see basketball is finally back.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Boris, so great to have the NBA back in action. You know, it was 141 days since we had a meaningful game. And we've got 22 teams now playing in the bubble there at Disneyworld in Orlando vying for a championship.

And a big part of this NBA restart is the continued fight for social justice. Members of all four teams playing Thursday night as well as the coaches and referees kneeling together during the national anthem to protest systemic racism.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement saying: I respect our team's unified act for peaceful protests for social justice. And under these unique circumstances will not enforce our longstanding rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem.

The Lakers superstar LeBron James says he hopes to keep the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: During the past when we've seen progress, we've let our foot off the gas. We can't do that. You know, we can continue to keep our foot on the gas, continue to push forward, and continue to spread love throughout America.


SCHOLES: Now, these games in Orlando have a much different look. There's no fans in the stands, but they have virtual fans tuning in from their homes put on the giant video board right behind the court. It's really cool.

Now, the players and coaches, they sit in the new socially distanced bench areas. The scorer's table in the middle of the court, it's surrounded by plexiglass. There's no camera men allowed on the floor but the NBA's put some new robotic cameras in place so we get cool views of the action.

Now, the Lakers and Clippers, the big game of the night. It came down to the wire. LeBron calls his own shot here, puts him back with 13 seconds to go. That gives the Lakers the lead.

The other end of the floor, LeBron playing some great defense. He would shut down the Clippers two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, denies the Clippers the tying bucket. The Lakers win the thriller, 103-101.

In the meantime, Jazz center Rudy Gobert whose positive test triggered the shut down back in march, he scored the very first basket of the restart. Then he scored the final points to secure the win for the Jazz over the Pelicans.

After the game, Gobert reflected on what has happened since he last stepped foot on the floor.


RUDY GOBERT, UTAH JAZZ CENTER: I was watching this morning. I'm happy to be back on the court, do what I love to do, to be back and try to win game.



SCHOLES: Yeah. And, Laura, awesome night all around. Six more games on tap today. You know, since they're all playing near Disneyworld, they start in the afternoon and go throughout the night.

JARRETT: Yes, you know, those virtual cutouts were so cool. I was hoping I might see your face there in a reporter's section. But no such luck.

SCHOLES: I'll have to see what I can do.

JARRETT: All right. Nice to see you, Andy. Thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right. JARRETT: All right. Bad weather is not what Florida needs right now. A hurricane moving in this weekend ready to move up the entire East Coast and the U.S. now settling into a tragic, unacceptable reality -- more than 1,000 deaths a day.