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THE SITUATION ROOM

Hurricane Targets Florida; U.S. Tops 4.5 Million Coronavirus Cases; Hurricane Warning Issued for Parts of Florida's East Coast; Are Face Shields or Goggles Needed in Addition to Masks?; Ohio Reports 91,000+ Total Cases, 3,489 Deaths. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:28]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news on the coronavirus crisis, the number of cases here in the United States surging about 4.5 million just a little while ago, as 20 states now see a rise in infections.

Globally, the World Health Organization has seen a record number of new cases over the past 24 hours. At this moment, nearly 153,000 Americans have died in the pandemic. And a new forecast from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects about 20,000 more deaths in the United States in the next three weeks alone.

Tonight, the president is in the virus hot spot of Florida, as the state is reporting its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic, the president ignoring social distancing guidelines, greeting crowds in close proximity, without -- repeat -- without wearing a mask.

Let's start our coverage this hour with CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles for us.

Nick, as cases are rising, another alarming projection about deaths in the weeks ahead.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The CDC saying that 20,000 more Americans could die just within the next three weeks. That's horrific, but it's actually not surprising. The past few days, we have been losing more than 1,000 people every day.

We have also, Wolf, just past 4.5 million cases in this country. That last half-million took us about a week. Meanwhile, a hearing on the Hill discussing what we have done and what we need to do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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: 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, remember that new CDC projection that another 20,000 Americans might die in just the next three weeks. And look at 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.

Meanwhile, New York City just rolled out a blended plan to start back in the fall, most kids in class two or three days a week, along with online.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: We're going to have an extremely rigorous standard for opening schools or, if necessary, closing schools, because we are putting health and safety first.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And today was the first day back in the Greenfield-Central district in Indiana, and one kid in junior high has already tested positive.

Here in California, the state just announced the first death of a teenager with COVID-19. And a statement from the hospital reads in part: "This reaffirms that children are not immune" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's absolutely true.

Nick Watt in Los Angeles, thank you.

Also tonight, President Trump is trying to distract from the pandemic and his sinking poll numbers by ramping up efforts to try to sow doubts about the November election.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

[18:05:00]

Pamela, you're learning about pushback to the president's false claims.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

We're hearing the president sent out this ominous warning that foreign adversaries could forge ballots to tamper with the election. But CNN has learned, Wolf, that intelligence officials are dismissing that concern behind closed doors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: This is going to be the greatest election disaster in history.

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, just 95 days before the U.S. election, President Trump is stoking fears of election interference, pushing an unfounded conspiracy on the use of mail-in voting.

TRUMP: Nobody wants that date more than me. I wish we could move it up, OK, move it up. But you're not prepared for what they're doing.

BROWN: And laying the groundwork for a contested election.

TRUMP: They're not prepared for an onslaught of millions of ballots pouring in. You watch. They're not going to announce anything on November 3. They're not going to announce it on the 4th or the 5th or the 6th. It'll go on forever.

BROWN: His advisers even ramping up the assault with false information.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Nobody who mails in a ballot has their identity confirmed. Nobody checks to see if they're even a U.S. citizen.

BROWN: Fact-check, non-citizens aren't allowed to register to vote in federal elections and mail-in ballots are authenticated.

And CNN has learned, during a closed-door House hearing today, top intelligence officials dismissed the possibility foreign powers would interfere on a mass scale by producing and sending fake ballots to voters and election authorities, despite this claim by the president:

TRUMP: Well, you guys like to talk about Russia and China and other places. They will be able to forge ballots. They will forge them. They will do whatever they have to do.

BROWN: Instead, U.S. officials are concerned foreign adversaries will exploit the president's vocal distrust of mail-in voting as part of their online campaign to sow discord surrounding the election.

President Trump also visiting the ground zero for coronavirus, Florida, which is shattering its own daily records for new cases, as Trump continues to make false claims about testing for the virus, which has already claimed the lives of over 152,000 Americans, tweeting today: "We do much more testing than any other country in the world. If we had no testing or bad testing, we would show very few cases."

Soon after, the nation's leading infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, directly refuted that claim yet again.

FAUCI: If you do more testing, you're going to see more cases. But the increases that we're seeing are real increasing in cases, as also reflected by increasing in hospitalization and increasing in deaths.

BROWN: Fauci and other key members of the Coronavirus Task Force were on Capitol Hill today, trying to determine a national strategy going forward, all this as enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of Americans are set to expire at midnight tonight, with lawmakers and the White House in perpetual gridlock.

There seems to be no agreement in sight, as each side blames the other.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They're going in the wrong direction because of partisan politics. It is very disappointing.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They don't even have the votes for it in the Senate. But let's get real about what -- who says what? We passed a bill 10 weeks ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And, Wolf, right now, President Trump is at a roundtable in the coronavirus hot spot of Florida. He's there with the governor, DeSantis.

And then we saw earlier today, when he arrived in Tampa, Wolf, President Trump at a distance greeting law enforcement, a row of law enforcement, without wearing a mask. This is a consistent theme with the president. Same earlier this week in Texas. He was seen not wearing a mask.

The president doing that despite CNN's reporting that aides have been encouraging him to wear a mask to send a message to Americans that it's a way to protect themselves and others from this virus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thank you very much.

Joining us now, CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington's Medical School.

Sanjay, as we pass 4.5 million confirmed cases in the United States, a new ensemble forecast from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects more than 173,000 people in this country will die from coronavirus by August 22.

That's just, what, about three weeks from now. Is there anything Americans can and should be doing right now to ensure -- to try to ensure that the next few weeks are less deadly?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Wolf, we have been talking about this for some time.

Sadly, these death rates that they're talking about reflect exposures to the virus over the last several weeks. There's always this lag time. So, I mean, it's sad to say, we're looking at right 1,000 people dying every day, Wolf. That's how you get to that number over the next three weeks.

[18:10:05]

But, of course, that's not to say there aren't things that we should be doing, because, if you bring the overall exposure rates down, then, eventually, you will bring hospitalizations down and deaths down.

And, Wolf, I just -- I think it's worth pointing out again the five things that in some ways we have been talking about for months, wearing a mask, maintaining the physical distance, avoiding situations that are highest risk, right, indoors clustered together for long duration, not wearing a mask. That would be like bars or crowded restaurants.

Keeping away from crowds and large gatherings, wash your hands. People know this by now, Wolf, but I think if people did this honestly, diligently and countrywide for a few weeks, we would definitely start to bring the numbers down.

We have real world evidence of this from other countries. So this can make a huge difference, Wolf. BLITZER: And it's not hard to do any of those things. Just got to do it.

Dr. Murray, your new model looks further ahead than the CDC's version. You're projecting, what, about 230,000 deaths in the U.S. by November 1.

And that's an increase of nearly 11,000 deaths since your last model was released only about a week or so ago. So why has the number now increased?

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH METRICS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Well, the number is up because we have two sort of differing trends.

The good news that cases are peaking in Florida and Texas and California, somewhat in Arizona, that's actually bringing their numbers down a bit. But we're seeing numbers going up faster in a whole series of states in the Midwest. And that's driving up our numbers. Places also like Georgia, North Carolina are going up faster than we expected.

BLITZER: It's very interesting. I want to get back to that.

But, Sanjay, something else that's just coming in, it's hard to believe, but there's a new study out there -- and I want you to explain it to us. It finds that people who have never had the coronavirus may actually have some immunity. How's that possible?

GUPTA: Yes, it's really fascinating, Wolf.

What would happen and in this study is that they were actually looking at people who had recovered from COVID, from coronavirus, looking at their blood, trying to find the antibodies, and they wanted to compare it to blood samples that definitively had never been exposed to coronavirus.

So they went back in time and found blood samples going back as far as 2015. And, interestingly, in a significant percentage in some studies, close to half those previously never exposed blood samples had what is known as T-cell reactivity.

So, 35 percent of unexposed adults overall had this T-cell reactivity, whereas 83 percent of patients who had been recently exposed had it. Why would somebody have T-cell reactivity if they have never been exposed to the virus?

Well, we don't know for sure, but the answer seems to be that this virus does have similarities to other coronaviruses, including some of the coronaviruses that cause common cold-like symptoms. So could it be possible that exposure to those common coronaviruses may be providing some protection against this novel coronavirus?

That's the -- that's the thinking. It's not been proven out yet, but fascinating finding, Wolf, and people going to keep chasing that.

BLITZER: I know you and your colleagues are learning more about this virus almost every single day.

Dr. Murray, your modeling consistently projects fewer deaths if -- it's a huge if -- if the majority of Americans simply did something very simple and wore a mask. Your latest model says nearly 32,000 lives could be spared by November if masks are worn.

Are you seeing signs that Americans are increasingly embracing mask wearing?

MURRAY: We are, actually.

There's daily data that comes in on mask wearing in each state in the U.S. And that's showing a small bump, maybe about 5 percentage point increase, in mask wearing. So we're getting close to about 55 percent of Americans wearing a mask.

That's good news. But, of course, it's a long way to go before we get to the levels like Singapore has of 95 percent, which would really save a lot of lives in this country.

BLITZER: Yes, if 95 percent of the American public wore masks, thousands, tens of thousands of American lives would be saved over the next several months alone.

All right, Dr. Murray, as usual, thanks for all your good work.

Sanjay, thanks to you as well.

There's more breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. President Trump's very public attempt to sow doubt about the election results months before the vote, is he inviting foreign interference?

And I will talk to the mayor of Miami about the twin threats Florida residents are facing right now from the coronavirus and a hurricane this weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:59]

BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on President Trump's misleading claims about mail-in voting.

CNN has learned that his own intelligence officials are contradicting him, as he warns that the 2020 vote will be -- and I'm quoting the president now -- the greatest election disaster in history.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, John Harwood, and CNN's chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey's new book, by the way, is coming out in the coming days. There you see the book cover, "True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump."

I can't wait to see it.

All right, John, let me start with you.

The president's unfounded attempts to diminish trust in the electoral process could have pretty far-reaching consequences, right?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

Look, the polls show -- it's pretty clear right now -- Americans want to replace Donald Trump with Joe Biden. They want to replace Republican control of Congress with Democratic control of Congress. And so you have the president and his party going to great lengths to raise doubts about the legitimacy of the election.

[18:20:02]

Anything that weakens and divides the United States internally, divides the United States in its alliance with other democracies in the world, and particularly in Europe, and also Japan and others, strengthens the anti-democratic adversaries of the United States.

That includes China. And it particularly includes Russia. Russia has gotten a spectacular return on its investment in the Trump campaign in 2016 for the amount of division the president has created, and the question is going to be, are they able to exploit that in a further way? And can the president somehow raise enough doubts about the legitimacy of the election to somehow impede the desire of voters?

BLITZER: Yes.

Jeffrey, we know there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Does the president think he's going to see any benefit from undermining that trust that exists around the country?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think his plan appears to be to do just that.

As you point out, there is absolutely no evidence that mail-in voting, absentee voting has a fraud problem. The one point that the president is correct about is that he -- it's going to take a longer time than we are used to count these ballots.

There are certainly going to be a lot more mail-in ballots than there have been previously. New York's primary has taken a very long time to count the ballots. So, I think we need to be prepared for an election night that will last for quite a few days.

But that doesn't mean there is any sort of fraud involved.

BLITZER: Yes, especially if the election is really, really close.

John, I know you were watching closely, as Dr. Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Admiral Brett Giroir, they testified up on Capitol Hill earlier today about the current coronavirus pandemic.

What did you take away from what was at times a pretty fiery hearing?

HARWOOD: Wolf, it was astonishing. The president the last couple of months has been demonstrating over and over and over again that he's not up to the job of leading effectively against the coronavirus. At this hearing today, House Republicans did their best to make the same case against themselves.

Rather than evincing any great interest in solutions to the pandemic, which has wrecked the economy and caused 150,000 people to lose their lives, they wanted to vent their grievances against all the people they feel are unfair to them.

So you had Jim Jordan of Ohio yelling at Anthony Fauci, trying to get him to say that racial justice protests should be stopped. You had a member from Tennessee who was complaining about media hype about mask wearing. You had a member from Missouri saying that mortality from coronavirus is no worse than that of people who play football and nobody is all upset about playing football.

And then finally you had a member from Indiana who was pressing Fauci and saying, well, aren't the Chinese inhibiting our vaccine program by hacking into researchers' computers? And Fauci said, no, because we publish all that data anyway, it's transparent, and they can read it "The New England Journal of Medicine," whether they hack or not.

And the member from Indiana said, well, the people in my district believe otherwise.

Well, that doesn't matter, because Fauci is the one who knows what he's talking about. And when you combine that display at this hearing, the fact that Senate Republicans haven't passed a bill, that Lindsey Graham says half the Republican Caucus doesn't want to pass any bill, it's pretty clear that if that $600 unemployment benefit is going to be extended at the federal level, if you're going to have relief for states and local governments that have seen their revenues decimated by the coronavirus, other steps to deal with a pandemic, it's only going to happen if Democrats are able to force Republicans to do what they don't want to do.

They have got the leverage with public opinion, but that doesn't always rule the day.

BLITZER: Yes, that's important.

All right, John Harwood, Jeffrey Toobin, guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, we're going live to Florida, as a hurricane is now bearing down, and coronavirus deaths are hitting new records. The mayor of Miami is standing by live. We will discuss.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:59]

BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories out of Florida right now, the state bracing for a hurricane that is barreling closer and closer to the East Coast, while also facing record deaths from coronavirus.

CNN's Randi Kaye is in Florida for us.

So, Randi, what's the latest?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we already have another 257 dead today, more than 6,800 Floridians dead in all. And now we are watching this hurricane barreling toward Florida.

It is expected to get here sometime tomorrow. And while we're not doing so well in terms of the pandemic, the governor said today that the state is ready for this hurricane. He listed all the PPE and all the supplies that he thinks the state has at the ready, including 20 million masks, 22 million gloves, 1.6 million face shields, 20,000 thermometers, more than nine million bottles of water, more than two million meals ready to deploy.

He also says, we have 50 generators, and that 100 percent of the nursing homes and the assisted living facilities will all have generators at the ready.

I also spoke with the Division of Emergency Management. And they said that they do have shelters ready to go, but they have not opened any yet. They have advised the counties that, if they do open them, they want them to be fewer than 50 people inside. They want temperature checks to take place as well, and they want to have 60 square feet per person.

I also just got up the phone before coming on air with you talking with the Mayor of Palm Beach County, Dave Kerner. And he says they will decide later tonight if they want to open the four shelters here in this county. He says it will depend on what the outlook is at that point, but he wants to make sure that people can safely distance and families would be able to stay six feet apart he says, because the shelters are high schools and quite large. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Randi, be careful over there in West Palm Beach, Randi Kaye reporting, thank you.

Let's get some more on the threat of Hurricane Isaias. We're joined by CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, so what's the newest forecast that just came out?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well the latest at the 5:00 A.M. advisory added hurricane warnings for the Florida coastline from Palm Beach County all the way up to the space coast. We also have tropical storm warnings in place and tropical storm watches.

We also have the hurricane watches that are still in place over the Bahamas where this storm is bearing down as we speak. 75-mile-per-hour winds with gusts at 90 miles-per-hour, it's moving to the northwest at a pretty swift pace, 15 miles-per-hour.

Now, this storm does have a small window to intensify during the evening tonight. It could strengthen to an 85-mile-per-hour storm. Now, Florida is going to feel the tropical storm force winds as early as tomorrow evening because those tropical storm force winds extend 200 miles from the center. So we're going to start feeling those breezy conditions very soon.

As this storm continues, its closest approach could make landfall in Florida, could make a glancing blow. Still a little bit uncertainty there, Wolf, but it is going to make contact with much of the eastern seaboard, whether it'd be just offshore or on shore.

Now, there's still a little bit of discrepancy in the model. You can see the American model versus the European model. The American model has it making landfall a little bit farther to the north. The European has it possibly making landfall a little bit farther to the south. As we get closer though, these models do become closer in agreement as well.

So we could possibly see landfall in Florida. We could possibly see a very close encounter. But regardless, we're going to get very gusty winds, we're going to get possible storm surge, and we're going to get a lot of rain. Some areas could get two to four inches of rain. Other areas could get six to ten in those isolated amounts (ph). Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. The last thing the State of Florida needs right now is a hurricane given what's going on with the coronavirus. All right, Jennifer Gray, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you.

Let's get some more on the twin dangers for some of the Florida residence right now. We're joined by the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

You heard your governor, Ron DeSantis. He's declared a state of emergency for Miami-Dade County, where you are, as this hurricane comes sweeping toward the coast. Hurricanes can be devastating under normal circumstances, but what additional precautions are you taking now given the fact that you're in the midst of this deadly pandemic?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: Yes, Wolf, you know, so it is particularly difficult because we have to staff up at our emergency operation center, which is going to be opening up tomorrow morning at about 7:30 A.M. And we have go through, of course, a COVID-related protocol now to make sure that every single person that enters the Emergency Operation Center has their temperature checked. We have to make sure that everyone is socially distant. Everyone has to wear a mask while they're inside the Emergency Operation Center.

So that presents, you know, obviously physical challenges because, one of the things about our Emergency Operation Center is that everyone is sort of tightly packed into rows in different departments, so that we can communicate quickly and efficiently. And, obviously, that's going to have to change for this event.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a horrible situation. What impact, Mayor, is the storm having on your ability, for example, to test people, which is so critically important for coronavirus? SUAREZ: Yes. It's having a variety of different effects. The first is we had a normal call on Friday morning with the Department of Health. That was canceled due to preparations for the hurricane. And that's information that we obviously rely on to make decisions. The second thing is testing has also shut down and will likely shut down until probably Tuesday or Wednesday, steps that we're being told. And so that is going to be a gap in information for four or five days.

And as you know, because we speak so frequently, we're updating that information constantly to see what kind of trends are developing and what other decisions we have to make to keep our residents safe.

BLITZER: For the fourth day in a row, Florida now reporting a record number of coronavirus deaths, Mayor, 257 additional deaths reported so far just today. What are you doing to change the course of this pandemic in Miami?

[18:35:00]

SUAREZ: What we've done is, you know, we've always the ordered a mask in public rule. We're heavily enforcing that. We're also closing businesses that are not following the rules. But we're closely monitoring the fact that we are seeing slight improvement in the hospital census, we are seeing improvement in the percent positive and we are seeing improvement in the increase slope of new cases.

Unfortunately, deaths, which we've been seeing for weeks, are going to start elevating. And I've been seeing it for weeks just based on our ventilator numbers, which have reach an all-time high a couple of weeks ago. So we sort of knew that this was going to happen, and it's unfortunate that it's happening, you know. And it just creates a very, very difficult situation for us.

BLITZER: I spoke yesterday with the Miami-Dade School superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, a man you know well, about the decision to move forward with online only education starting in August in Miami-Dade County. When do you hope students in Miami, Mayor, will be able to safely -- keyword -- safely return to school? What steps are you taking to try to make that a reality?

SUAREZ: You know, to be honest with you, Wolf, it's unclear as to when they're going to safely be able to return back to in-class learning. I think that the superintendent made the right decision, number one, to move back the start date from August. I think --

BLITZER: I think we've just lost our connection with Mayor Suarez. But we'll try to reconnect with him. He's got a lot going on right now, not only in the midst with the coronavirus pandemic but a hurricane underway to Florida as we speak. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

Just ahead, I'll speak with the Ohio governor, Mike DeWine, as the state reports a one-day record for new coronavirus infections.

Plus, what public health officials are now saying, we should all be doing, what we should all be wearing potentially in addition to face masks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: In Ohio right now, new coronavirus cases are surging, the state's on nine of its top ten daily case counts, bringing the statewide total to over 91,000 with over 3,400 confirmed deaths.

Let's discuss with governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why are cases climbing right now, it's so disturbing in Ohio, and what steps are you taking to try to change that trajectory?

DEWINE: Sure. Well, we're at interesting time, precarious time. Certainly, you're right, the numbers are been going up, although, you know, the sort of like this as far as the case numbers. They've reached somewhat of a plateau.

Our positivity number that we look at all the time is actually slightly down this past week, so we are happy about that. One of our earliest, earliest indicators is the number of people who are going to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms. That has been going down now for a week.

So we're still at a very, very -- you know, this thing could go either way in Ohio. We now have and have had a statewide mask order. What we're seeing is the mask compliance, people wearing masks in the urban areas. It's up substantially. We've been doing this in our reddest counties, so to speak, for three weeks, three and a half weeks. And we've seen the number of people wearing masks up, and we've seen those numbers stabilize.

What we've also seen, though, Wolf, is in the rural areas, we're seeing this spread go out further. We do have a four-tier, and we start with the yellow and then we go to orange and then red. Well, if you looked at this map two weeks ago, you had a lot of yellow out there. A lot less yellow today and a lot more orange, which means this is spreading out into our rural areas.

And so our message to our rural community is we need to start wearing the mask because we don't have the compliance in the rural areas that we do in the urban areas.

BLITZER: It's so simple. Just put on a mask and you'll save lives in the process.

I know you're enacting, Governor, a 10:00 P.M. last call at bars and restaurants but health officials, including Dr. Fauci, they continue to warn the bars should be avoided or even closed until the transmission of this virus is under control. Why not take that advice and simply close the bars? DEWINE: This is the first step. The interesting thing, Wolf, for us is we try to drill down on poor people are getting infected. Where most people are getting infected is informal get-togethers many times in their own home, block parties. It appears that people just let their guard down when they're with friends or when they're with family members, extended family, and I guess that's natural. But we have seen so many of these cases come out of this.

And so we're really trying to explain to people in Ohio and we're going through different cases and we're talking about different examples that, that where you think it's the least likely to strike you is probably where you're the most susceptible.

And so we're trying to get people to really understand, it's these informal gatherings, many times in people's homes, sometimes a shower, sometimes a bridal party of some sort, sometimes it's a funeral.

[18:45:02]

But it's the things that we do in our everyday life, and we've got this to be more careful. We've got wear a mask. We've got to keep the distance and, you know, as you pointed out earlier in your show, the things that are right there and that we -- we need to do.

We're getting better compliance and a lot -- more and more people are doing it, we just got to get those numbers up, particularly in our rural area.

BLITZER: Yes, it's going to save lives in the process.

I want to question you about some steps that Ohio has taken in the past few days. Steps for example, to ban the prescription of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients, that's the unproven drug often touted by the president. Now at your urging, that ban that -- what the medical authorities in Ohio put out there. I understand it's -- it's now been walked back.

Explain what's going on.

DEWINE: Sure. Well, I wanted them to do is have full hearings. I'm not a doctor. I'm not going to make that decision.

You know, we have doctors who -- who've been in touch with me, we have other people who said, look, this can be effective if it's put with -- basically what I call a cocktail as a layperson, but you put it with several of their drugs and it can be effective.

That's not my decision to make. But it was clear to me that the pharmacy board should have consulted with the medical board and the pharmacy board, frankly, should have held hearings. They should have brought experts in.

And so, that's all I've asked them to do. I have not put my hand on the scale one way or another, but what I've said is you need to go through the process and I'm asking them to do that. They really -- particularly when you had the head of the FDA the other

day was quoted as saying that this is -- should be between the doctor and the patient. So, you got people on different sides on this.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But they did issue -- the FDA in April, June, and July did issue warnings, saying it was -- there's no evidence it's effective at all and potentially could cause heart problems, liver problems, kidney problems, and they're recommending against it. That's the Food and Drug Administration.

DEWINE: Well, if the -- look, the evidence needs to go where the evidence needs to go, but there needs to be an airing of it and I just asked our regulatory bodies, the medical board as well as the pharmacy board to do that and go through a normal process. They did not go through that normal process and I've asked them to do that.

So, I don't -- I don't have an opinion about this one way or another. They should go through that process. Let's get the facts out, let them make a decision.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay in touch with you.

(CROSSTALK)

DEWINE: Let's hear from the doctors and hear from the experts.

BLITZER: Yes, which is so important. The doctors and the experts, we want to hear from them.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.

These are life and death decisions --

DEWINE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- you guys have to make. We appreciate you joining us.

DEWINE: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we'll take a look at what many public health experts are now saying we should be wearing in addition, in addition to face masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:32]

BLITZER: For months, public health officials have stressed the importance of wearing face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but many experts are now urging the use of face shields and eye goggles as well.

CNN's Brian Todd has details.

Brian, tell us more.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, four months, Doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have imploring us to wear masks. Tonight, there are new questions about the importance of face coverings and potentially whether we need to be going one step further.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Dr. Deborah Birx is now recommending adding a face shield in addition to wearing a mask.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: The thing about the face shields, we think that that could protect the individuals and that it would decrease the ability for them to touch their eyes and spread viruses as well as those droplets coming towards them. So, there are two different technologies for two different reasons.

TODD: Her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, spoke about teachers getting back to classrooms this year, saying, while they don't need to wear medical grade protective equipment --

FAUCI: The minimal things you might want to do is you could use just a mask and eye goggles and possibly gloves.

TODD: Fauci later clarified that in CNN's town hall, saying he wasn't recommending that all Americans should wear face shields. Still, all this is raising questions about whether masks have been enough to protect us from coronavirus all these months.

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Masks will provide a very significant measure of protection and what it really is doing is it's protecting everybody else from you. The point here is now that wearing a face shield could provide extra protection.

TODD: Experts say, face shields or goggles or especially important for teachers who could be more vulnerable if they deal with younger children in classrooms.

PROF. SASKIA POPESCU, INFECTION PREVENTION EXPERT, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: We are likely to be in environment where children pull down their masks or not be very complying with them and you might get coughs close to the face. There is concern that you could get respiratory droplets in the eyes.

TODD: But what about the rest of us? For that trip to the grocery store, should we be wearing masks and face shields?

RIMOIN: The bottom line here is, at minimum, you should be wearing a mask. If you want to add a face shield, goggles, large glasses, that is all going to help reduce spread.

TODD: Public health experts acknowledge getting large segments of the U.S. population to wear masks has been a struggle. People have thought the discomfort, the inconvenience, the very principle of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a violation of my constitutional rights and my civil rights!

TODD: And there could be even more resistance to the appeal to wear a face shield.

[18:55:00]

Many may complain that they are hard to find, bulk at paying the extra money but experts have some reassurance.

POPESCU: Really, eye protection and face shields are much more available and they are much cheaper than people realize. A lot of companies are able to print them and make them for a couple of dollars.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But experts say, those of us who think our standard eyeglasses or sunglasses may be able to take the place of face shields or goggles, think again. These standardize eyeglasses, they say, have too many gaps around the sides and above and below. You simply need the tighter fit of face shields -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Very interesting. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

And we have more news just ahead.

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BLITZER: I'll be back tomorrow night for a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. See you then.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.