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Hurricane Isaias Threatens East Coast; Trump Faces Rare Rebuke from GOP Over Election Delay. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is breaking news.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, July 31, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. Jim Sciutto joins me. And we begin with breaking news.

This morning the United States is facing dueling emergencies. In addition to the coronavirus crisis, a rapidly intensifying hurricane is now threatening the entire East Coast. This morning the hurricane, named Isaias, is taking aim at Florida. So the state has shut down all coronavirus testing sites in preparation.

Florida led the nation with nearly 10,000 new cases yesterday, and again broke its own death toll record for the third straight day.

Across the country, coronavirus deaths are rising in 27 states, with more than 1,200 Americans losing their lives yesterday.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: OK. So something you'll want a watch, a few hours from now Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top healing officials will be back on Capitol Hill to face questions about the need for a federal strategy, a national strategy, and the administration's continued optimistic predictions on a vaccine.

President Trump heads to Florida today, where he will address the pandemic and the approaching hurricane. It comes after the president set off a firestorm for raising the possibility of delaying the November election, as more states opt for mail-in ballots due to the danger of voting during the pandemic. The president's idea drawing rare rebuke, even from Republicans as well as some of his predecessors.

We begin with CNN's Randi Kaye. She is live in Palm Beach County, Florida. And Randi, I don't have to tell you how hard it's going to be for Florida, already in the midst of an expanding pandemic, to face a hurricane.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, a hurricane on top of these very disturbing numbers, Jim. Good morning to you. Third day in a row that we've had a record number of deaths, 253 deaths, and we also are leading the nation in terms of new cases still this far into the pandemic. Just under 10,900 -- 956 -- 9,956 new cases.

Meanwhile nearly 50 hospitals here say they are completely out of ICU beds.

And as you said, we are about to go from bad to worse. We have this hurricane that is barreling toward Florida. It could hit here tomorrow.

And how do you evacuate in the midst of a pandemic? How do you safely social distance in shelters? Are those shelters even still open? It's all part of the question that FEMA is asking in their plan for this year's hurricane season. They want to know do their people have enough PPE? So, so many questions about this.

Meanwhile, here in the state, they're taking all the precautions they can. They've shut down all of the state-run testing sites for coronavirus. Here in Palm Beach County they closed eight of them. In Broward County, they closed 12; Miami-Dade, they closed 13. So 33 testing sites have closed in the hardest-hit counties here in the state of Florida. They took down the tents and the poles because they just cannot withstand these hurricane-force winds.

And all of this could be part of today's big hearing starting at 9 a.m. on Capitol Hill. The nation's top health officials going to tackle the issue of the need for a comprehensive nationwide coronavirus plan. It's amazing that we are still even talking about the need for one at this point.

But we will see Dr. Anthony Fauci. We'll see the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield and also Admiral Brett Giroir. They will all be testifying. So certainly, a big day. A lot of eyes on Capitol Hill -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Thank you very much for that preview, Randi. We will check back with you.

Now for more on that hurricane that intensified overnight threatening Florida and the entire East Coast. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking it for us. So what are you seeing, Allison?


We are seeing the storm continue to intensify right now. Hurricane Isaias has sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, but the gusts are up around 100 miles per hour.

Now, in terms of systems, this one's moving relatively quickly to the northwest at just about 17 miles per hour. But take a look at some of this video. This is coming out of Puerto Rico just from Thursday. Again, you can really see what the storm did.

Keep in mind, it was just a tropical storm as it was moving over the majority of Puerto Rico. We do know that it dumped about 5-10 inches of rain on average across the island, and at one point you had over 300,000 people without power. Flash flooding was a concern. But also triggering some mudslides across portions of that area, as well.

So the question becomes where does the storm go from now? Here's a look at the track to show you. We do anticipate it crossing through the Bahamas and making its way towards Florida. Now, whether it actually technically makes landfall, which by the way, is defined as the center of the circulation having to cross over land, that's really going to be the question.

However, I would like to point out Florida is not out of the way. We do still have the potential for a landfall in Florida over the next 48 hours.


From there, it continues to slide up the East Coast. If it does not make landfall in Florida, the next possible target would be the Carolinas before it continues to slide up the East Coast.

So really all entities from Florida, basically, to Maine will have the potential to have impacts from this particular system.

We do have hurricane warnings in place across the Bahamas, and you have tropical storm watches in place for cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as well. And we're likely to see those extend up the East Coast the closer the storm actually gets to the U.S. Coast.

Rainfall is certainly going to be one of the biggest issues we have here. Widespread, especially on the eastern half of the system, so the highest amounts likely to be across the Carolinas and farther north. It could be about 3, 4, even 5 inches of rain.

But all of this, Jim, depends on where the system goes. And right now the models are still pretty much split. You still have about four models that potentially want to make landfall in Florida. The other ones take it just off the coast.

So again, this is certainly going to be something we have to keep a close eye on in the coming days.

SCIUTTO: No question. All of them showing a path up the coast. Allison Chinchar, thanks very much.

President Trump is facing, really, a rare rebuke from Republicans over his idea of delaying the November election. He says this is due to his concerns about mail-in ballots, though he provides no evidence of what he charges there. Was this just a distraction?

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House.

And Joe, it strikes me that all could be true. Right, one, constitutionally, the president cannot delay the election. Clearly a distraction from bad economic numbers. But notable that it's part of a broader effort by this president --


SCIUTTO: -- to pre-delegitimize the election, is it not? Because he's attacking it on a number of fronts.

JOHNS: That's absolutely right, Jim. And add to that the fact that the president is suggesting something he doesn't have the power to do, but that doesn't mean he won't try it.

And it is being treated with enormous seriousness, both on the right and the left, because it came with another attack on American democracy, an attempt, as you said, to delegitimize the November election, even though it hasn't been held yet.


JOHNS (voice-over): Against the backdrop of a staggering human toll from the coronavirus, a historic slump in the economy, and behind in the polls, President Trump suggested delaying the 2020 election, tweeting Thursday morning, "With Universal Mail-In Voting 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

Hours later, Trump insisted the tweet was about his concerns about the validity of the election.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don't want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn't mean anything. That's what's going to happen.

Do I want to see a date change? No. But I don't want to see a crooked election.

JOHNS: There is no proof that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud, and the Constitution only gives Congress the power to move election day.

In a rare reproval, some of the president's top Republican allies on Capitol Hill dismissed his idea.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We'll cope with whatever the situation is and have the election on November 3, as already scheduled.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No way should we ever not hold our election on the day that we have it.

JOHNS: Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden had warned Trump could try to stall November's vote.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's my greatest concern, my single greatest concern. This president is going to try to steal this election. This is the guy who said that all mail-in ballots are fraudulent, voting by mail, while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in the primary. JOHNS: Earlier this month, Trump even hinted he may reject the

election results.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Can you give a direct answer, you will accept the election?

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

JOHNS: And while eulogizing voting rights champion Congressman John Lewis, President Obama rebuked efforts to discourage mail-in voting without naming Trump at all.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations, 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.


JOHNS: No president has ever tried to postpone a federal election. Not during the Civil War, not during the Great Depression, not during World War II.


The co-founder of the influential and conservative Federalist Society called the president's suggestion grounds for immediate impeachment, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Those comments in that piece notable among, really, a chorus of opposition to this across the board. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks very much.

So how will states along the East Coast, including Florida, deal with the threat of a hurricane in the midst of a widening pandemic? A leading doctor who just endured the country's most recent hurricane will join us next.


CAMEROTA: Dueling emergencies this morning. The rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, and now a hurricane taking aim at the East Coast.

Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.


Dr. Hotez, I remember last week we were talking about this in sort of hypothetical terms as Hurricane Hanna was approaching Texas where you are. We were thinking, Wow, what a catastrophe this would be if public health officials and emergency responders suddenly had to deal with both of these things. And now it feels even more imminent.

So what -- what do you see as this hurricane approaches Florida now?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, Alisyn, it's happening, of course, at the worst possible time. You've got 10,000 new cases a day in Florida. Yesterday I think was the record for Florida, 253 deaths.

And what does it mean now when you have to pile a lot of people into shelters under close quarters, even if you can make some PPE available and masks? I worry that this event could really precipitate an even steeper rise.

On the other hand, it could have the effect that people will really stay at home, and maybe mitigate it somewhat. So we could see some -- the results of some conflicting possibilities. But we really don't know. We're in totally uncharted territories here. We haven't really seen a massive pandemic like this and then add on top of it a hurricane. It certainly won't be good news. The question is how awful it will be.

SCIUTTO: Both threats will stay with us, right? We're just at the beginning of the hurricane season.

I want to ask you about the latest news but also predictions and hopes for a vaccine. You have claims from the director of so-called Operation Warp Speed, the administration effort to get to a vaccine, that will be 90 percent effective.

I just wonder how we should look at these claims at this stage, given how early it is. There are high hopes. Even Dr. Fauci talks about having something workable by the end of this year. That said, there's a long way to go, isn't there?

HOTEZ: Yes, this came from Moncef Slaoui yesterday. Look, he's a good guy. I mean, he's -- first of all, he's very smart. He's an excellent scientist. I've -- I've worked with him in the past. He's been visiting our -- visited our labs in Texas. He's a solid scientist and very smart. So I don't know why he made that statement. That was a little strange.

Look, here's what we have. And we're basing everything on the fact that, in the ten patients who got -- ten patients -- ten people who were enrolled in the AstraZeneca trial who got two doses, they seemed to have some good immune responses, same with the 12 who got two doses of the 50 microgram dose of the Pfizer, or the 15 volunteers who got two doses of the Moderna vaccine.

So you're basing -- trying to base vaccinating the whole country, saying 90, 95 percent protection on the basis of 10, 12 and 15 individuals enrolled in a Phase 1 clinical trial. You can't make that statement, obviously.

So all you can really say is there's enough "there" there to warrant doing larger clinical studies, and that's what's happening. And hopefully, by next year we'll -- we'll have some vaccines. I don't think we can make any statements beyond that.

And -- and the problem with throwing out numbers like 90 percent, it gives government officials and the White House the excuse and the cover they're looking for for inaction, right? This is what they're -- this is the modus operandi in the White House, versus hydroxychloroquine. Then it's Remdesivir. Now it's vaccines. We can't do that.

SCIUTTO: That's a great point.

CAMEROTA: By the way --

SCIUTTO: That's a great point.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it was, I think, two weeks ago now that President Trump said, Oh, we'll be announcing this, you know, brilliant strategy very soon.

We've heard nothing.

And so this morning, in just a couple of hours, we're going to be hearing from Dr. Fauci; from the head of the CDC, Dr. Redfield; as well as Admiral Giroir who, of course, heads the testing capacity for the administration.

And, you know, Congress -- lawmakers are going to ask them, what is the plan? Where is the national plan? Why don't we have a national plan?

But Dr. Hotez, aren't they just going to say, Ask President Trump? I mean, Are they going to be able to answer that?

HOTEZ: Yes, I don't know what -- what they're going to say. I mean, we've been talking for weeks about the absence of a national plan. What you have in its place is putting the states out in the lead and having them figure it out and the U.S. government will provide the backup FEMA support, supply chain management, manufacturing. And it's a failed strategy. It's clearly not been working since the beginning of the year and has led to 150,000 American deaths.

And -- and you know, you've been very generous having me on CNN, you know, showing in detail why it doesn't work. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I put out an October 1 plan to get the nation back on track by October 1, but I only did it because there remained this vacuum. There is still no federal ownership wanting to take this on.

And it's got to happen. We'll continue to spiral downward unless there is some federally coordinated response that gives directives to the governors to tell each state what we need to do to bring us back to containment mode. It couldn't be simpler, and hopefully, we'll have some clarity about what's actually going on now today.


SCIUTTO: Looking ahead a bit, if we can, to a vaccine, if this country cannot reliably test on a broad basis, get tests to a lot of people quickly, how can this country be expected to get vaccines to a broad number of people quickly, or even that people will take them, given the amount of disinformation, much of it coming from the administration, about what works regarding COVID?

HOTEZ: Yes, I mean, you've got the additional problem that the communication strategy around vaccines has been terrible, right? The pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to send out irresponsible press releases, making exaggerated claims about the vaccine or without necessarily always showing the data. They've been allowed to (AUDIO GAP) unrealistic timeframes.

And then the federal government has been a bit tone-deaf to the fact that there's a very aggressive anti-vaccine movement out there. And now two big surveys from Reuters and Associated Press show that up to half of Americans will refuse COVID-19 vaccines, even if they're made available. This is a self-inflicted wound by this very poor communication strategy about vaccines coming out of the White House that they're just some sort of magical potion.

So we're going to have to fix that, as well. Otherwise, even if the vaccines come out and if they prevent infection, then not enough Americans, if they don't take it, we still won't get herd immunity. And we'll still need the masks, and we'll still need the contact tracing and everything else. So this is going to be a very interesting time over the next year.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Hotez, thank you very much. We really appreciate talking to you.

HOTEZ: Thanks. Always good to be on.

CAMEROTA: Three former presidents speaking out about the state of the country with just three months to go until the election. Their comments about, basically, President Trump. They didn't say his name, but they had a strong message. That's next.



SCIUTTO: President Trump is facing a rare bipartisan rebuke over his idea, his threat to delay the November election. This, based on a false claim that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread voter fraud.

We should always note as we bring up this story, the president has no power to do that. That power rests with Congress. That said, the threat itself, notable.

Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

And it strikes me, John, that this is -- should not be taken alone. It's part of a broader effort by this president to raise questions, doubts, to delegitimize the upcoming election.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's exactly right, Jim. Look, this is a part of a pattern by the president and members of his administration to sow the seeds of doubt about the legitimacy of an election he's afraid he might lose.

And it's unprecedented in American history. We went forward with an election during the height of the Civil War, despite the fact that Lincoln was afraid he would lose, as well, because it's how democracies operate.

To see a chief executive undermine our confidence persistently, calling it a rigged election more than 40 times in the last year alone, and now this type of escalation, after comments by, for instance, Jared Kushner and the attorney general saying he wasn't quite sure, and Secretary of State Pompeo echoing the same thing yesterday in the Senate, shows a deep and disturbing attempt by the president to undermine confidence in this election. When someone tells you who they are, you should believe them. That applies here, too.

CAMEROTA: And John, here's the rub, I think. He can't do it, right? He cannot change the date of the election.


CAMEROTA: However, he can do all sorts of other things around the margins that do affect them. I mean, here's a full screen of just some of them.

Polling place closures and consolidations, we're seeing it. Reduced early voting and voting hours. Provisional ballot requirements, changing them. Voter roll purges. And then there's the whole issue of who he's put at the head of the postal service, one of his cronies --


CAMEROTA: -- a fundraiser who has provided $2 million during the past four years, who is already slowing down service.

AVLON: It's so important you mention that, Alisyn, because the larger pattern is this. Because there is this desire for mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic, all of these are stresses upon the system.

And folks need to wake up to the fact that we're probably, barring a blowout, are not going to know who won the election, election night or election morning. It's going to take time to process these votes. That leaves open a major window for chaos, particularly if the president is the one stirring the pot.

So we've got to stay eagle-eyed on the functioning of the republic here, unfortunately against what seems to be the president's intentions. The postal service is such an important point that I don't think is getting enough attention yet.

SCIUTTO: And these moves are happening. They're happening as we speak.

AVLON: That's right.

SCIUTTO: And the president is able to force them through, despite not having support in Congress and elsewhere. We have to watch as a country.

Let's look at the president's approval rating in the midst of this. There's a new poll from ABC News/IPSOS that shows his approval rating -- well, this is his coronavirus response, in particular, just 34 percent, one-third of Americans approve; 66 percent disapprove. And this much in line with his overall approval rating, similarly low.

I mean, these numbers, you know, we've seen it, really, throughout his presidency; stay above 40 percent generally. People talk about his base staying with him. But dropping below 40 percent, well below 40 percent, is significant, is it not?

AVLON: It's very significant. Look, this thing is hot off the presses. But here's what I saw, just taking a look at it.

First of all, the president is getting down to his strong support number. Actually, when you're looking at polls, look at the strong support and strong oppose. With Trump, they're almost two to one. But he's fluctuating between a quarter and a third of the country on his strong support.