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Hurricane To Re-Strengthen; CDC Prediction; Georgia Summer Camp; Congress And White House Deadlocked; Interview With Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) On Unemployment And Tech Platforms; Millions Face Eviction After Federal Relief Bill Expired; CDC: 260 Kids And Staff Infected At Georgia Summer Camp; Mexico Reports Its Highest Daily Coronavirus Cases And Deaths. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 1, 2020 - 20:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in a rainy Hong Kong. Schools were first closed in January, when the outbreak began and finally reopened at the end of May. Students wearing masks returned to the classroom but with strict rules in place. For example, at the peak school classes were separated, half in one room, half in the other, with a teacher using zoom to be in both places at once.

With weeks of zero new local cases, it appeared that Hong Kong was winning the war against COVID-19. But it's now battling a fresh wave of infection. Schools are closing again and parents, including myself, are bracing for another round of online learning in the fall. It is a setback, but Hong Kong has yet to report any new Coronavirus infection or outbreaks in its schools.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with breaking news tonight. Amid a Coronavirus pandemic that is surging in the state of Florida right now, residents are dealing with a new threat tonight, a major tropical storm, Tropical Storm Isaias. This hour, it's setting its sights on Florida's Atlantic Coast, and it's expected to return to hurricane strength overnight. With a federal disaster declaration already issued, the state is also reporting 9,000 new daily cases for a fifth straight day.

Also breaking tonight, another member of the U.S. Congress, Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona says he's tested positive for the Coronavirus. This just days after he attended a committee hearing with Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who tested positive for the virus and who repeatedly refused to wear a mask up on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, a new, very grim projection from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tonight. It now projects an additional 20,000 Americans will die from the Coronavirus in the next three weeks alone. More than a thousand Americans have died daily from the virus on each of the past five days. Right now, the people of coastal Florida settling in for a very, very

anxious night as a major storm, a former hurricane, is expected to regain its strength. Of course, a major storm could not come at a worse time for Florida. Coronavirus cases are on the rise. The state is reporting unheard of numbers of COVID-related deaths. And officials are working out how to keep people safe in case public shelters are needed.

CNN's Chad Myers is over at the Severe Weather Center for us. CNN's Randi Kaye is in Palm Beach County for us, where a voluntary evacuation order is in effect. Chad, first of all, where is the storm now and when do we see it making landfall in Florida?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's about 125 miles from Miami, and the problem with that is that this storm has reacted very badly today. It almost killed itself earlier today with dry air running over Andros Island. There was nothing left.

And look what has happened in the past three hours. The storm has exploded again. I know that we knew it was going to get bigger, but nothing like this. This was really -- I don't want to use the word unprecedented, but I've not seen convection start like this in a storm that was literally trying to dry up. Winds are already here, 25, 30 miles per hour coming on shore. Every time a storm comes on, you could get a water spout. You certainly will get gustier winds.

So, if it's 8:00 in the morning, you follow the left-hand side of the cone north of Miami, south of West Palm. Follow the right-hand side of the cone, because remember both sides are still possible. The middle is more likely but both sides possible. It doesn't hit land at all.

And, in fact, as we take it up the coast, if you follow the right-hand side of the cone, it's still not on shore. And then, the middle of the cone, not that far from probably the space coast. Somewhere around the middle of the cone would be Myrtle Beach.

To the right, just barely grazing Cape Hatteras. And then, again to the right up here, just barely grazing Newfoundland. So, we're going to have to watch left to right, where does it go. That is the key today. Where does it go? And I don't think we right know -- I don't think we know right now, because we didn't anticipate this type of convection explosion that we had just in the past two half hours.

Is the center refocusing, moving someplace else, getting a new center of circulation? Are we just getting an Iowa (?) replacement cycle? Or is this thing just going to go right towards Florida? We do know there's going to be waves. We know there's going to be some flooding. There's going to be six to seven-foot surge, because of the high tide on top of the two to three-foot surge.

We know there's going to be wind, probably hurricane force winds, because it is forecast to go back to hurricane strength. We know there are going to be power outages, widespread power outages in many states. So, you can't send one crew or a hundred crews to one spot, because there isn't one spot.


MYERS: There are going to be many, many spots. That is the explosion that we've seen over the past two hours and 30 minutes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to stay in very close touch with you, Chad. Thank you very much. I know you're continuing to get updates.

Randi Kaye is in Palm Beach County for us. Show us some conditions where you are, Randi. How many people are following the voluntary evacuation order, based on the latest information you're getting?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I was just in touch with the Palm Beach County mayor, just before coming on the air with you. And he told me about 140 people have voluntarily evacuated. They are in the shelters here in Palm Beach County.

But let me just show you the conditions here because, earlier today, we were having heavy bands of rain come through. And now, you can see the ocean there. The waves are certainly getting bigger.

We are expecting a two to four-foot storm surge here and that's on top of the regular tide. And because we have a full moon coming up on Monday, the high tide is even higher. So, that's going to be very interesting when we see how that plays out.

And also, in the distance there at that pier, you can see -- and even there's a few people on the beach as well. But at that pier, we're tracking the wind speed. And it was about 40 to 50 miles per hour just a few hours ago, so the winds are picking up here as well. But it is an emergency on top of an emergency. It's the -- it's the hurricane on top of the COVID emergency. Sixteen counties are now in a state of emergency here in Florida.

Here in Palm Beach County, they've opened up five shelters. As I said, 140 people inside those shelters. The governor is also looking to use hotel rooms for people who might be symptomatic, so they don't have to send them to shelters, even though they are providing hand sanitizer and masks at the shelters.

But the Division of Emergency Management doesn't want more than 50 people in a shelter. They want everybody's temperatures checked and they also want to make sure that there's about 60 square feet per person.

But Chad mentioned those power outages, and that is a big concern here. Florida Power and Light says that they have -- they have about 10,000 personnel right now on the ground. They're staging in Daytona, actually.

We have some video of them there. Those are from 20 states, 20 different states from New York, Texas and elsewhere, coming together here in the state of Florida to try and help get people's power back on if we do, indeed, have a problem.

We also have -- the National Guard is -- they're ready to mobilize. They are ready to go just in case. We also have a search and rescue team. The fish and game and wildlife here are also looking to help with that in case there are some rescues that need to be made, Wolf.

But, once again, you look at this ocean out here and you know it's going to be a rough night here, certainly in Palm Beach County and along the Florida coast.

BLITZER: Just be careful over there, Randi. We'll stay in very close touch with you as well. Randi Kaye on the scene for us.

Joining us now, epidemiologist and public health expert, Dr. Abdul El- Sayed. Also with us, Dr. Wayne Riley, President of Downstate Medical Center. Dr. El-Sayed, thankfully, the storm hitting Florida, it's strong. It could be a lot stronger. Let's see what happens overnight. But people are clearly still very much at risk of flooding. Some may actually have to seek shelter.

It's also worth noting, hurricane season lasts until November. This, potentially, is just the beginning. How concerned are you that these storms could serve as super-spreader events? The last thing people in Florida need right now is a hurricane.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Really quite concerned, Wolf. I'll tell you, when I was a kid, actually, we lived in Miami for a short time, and I happened to live through Hurricane Andrew.

And I remember coming out after the hurricane and realizing that life wasn't going to be the same. There was no running water. The electricity had gone out. And a lot of our neighbors had to go to centers to evacuate their homes because they were no longer safe.

Now, you think of that, in the context of a major pandemic and a place where you have out -of-control spread in the first place. It is almost impossible to have people housed together in these kinds of scenarios, potentially without running water, potentially without electricity, without having the kind of spread that we've all been worried about in the first place.

And the reality of COVID-19 that we have to remember is it becomes a forcing function on everything else. It is that other wall in keeping your life inbounds. And so, you worry a lot about what might happen if, in fact, this does make landfall and it does have hurricane-like strength and consequences.

BLITZER: Yes, this could be a real, real disaster. It's already a disaster, what's going on in Florida, but this could only aggravate it. Dr. Riley, the CDC says another 20,000 Americans may die from the Coronavirus in the next three weeks alone. What has to happen to get this virus under control?

DR. WAYNE J. RILEY, PRESIDENT, DOWNSTATE MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Wolf, that's a sobering, sad and unfortunate update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, again, as the health experts, like Dr. El-Sayed and Dr. Fauci, have said, the secret sauce, when dealing with this pandemic until we have a safe and effective vaccine, is everything we've been talking about, social distancing, the wearing of masks, the avoidance of large gatherings.


RILEY: These are -- we have to decrease the community transmission of this virus, in order to change that very unfortunate and sobering statistic.

Think about this, Wolf. We're six months in, 4.6 million cases and over 150,000 deaths. And, unfortunately, it looks like, by Thanksgiving, we will have significantly more deaths in the United States.

BLITZER: Yes, it could be more than 200,000, according to that one projection from the University of Washington Medical School. Dr. El- Sayed, the testing capacity in the United States is still woefully behind where it really needs to be, according to all of the experts. How crucial is it to get fast, reliable testing available here in the U.S.?

EL-SAYED: Look, Wolf, what we've experienced is that we've had that period of steady declines in the number of cases. And, you know, sort of a plateau in May and then in June it started to go up.

What this shows us is that without the cases -- without the testing that we need, without the contact tracing we need, even if we were to physically distance and bring down the spread because we're staying away from each other, we're wearing our masks just like Dr. Riley mentioned, it's going to be very hard to keep the spread down without being able to contain it.

Right now, people are waiting, sometimes weeks, to get answers from the tests that they took a week ago. We know that COVID-19 spends about 14 days on the body, an average of five before you have symptoms. The fact of the matter is, if you're waiting that long and you don't know whether or not you have the disease that you got tested for, the probability that you may have spread it in the interim goes way up.

And so, we need contact tracing. We need testing. And without testing, that contact tracing, to be frank, is just not as useful as it could be. And so, this testing is absolutely critical to being able to bring down the number of cases and to keeping it down.

BLITZER: Dr. Riley, I assume you saw that new CDC report on how quickly young kids, children transmitted the virus at summer camp in Georgia. How are you feeling about schools trying to reopen across the country right now?

RILEY: Well, Wolf, this is dinner-time conversation at all households in this country with children. The Georgia experience is illustrative of how difficult this is going to be. And also, in Indianapolis this week, the very first day of a junior high school in suburban Indianapolis, one student showed up, tested positive. And so, the school district had to abort and go to online.

Again, the safest way to open schools is to decrease community transmission. And this is -- again, as Dr. El-Sayed said, the Achilles heel of our whole national effort has been the lack of testing capacity. We are not doing nearly the amount of tests we need to do on a daily basis. Probably about anywhere from one to three million tests a day. We're under a million.

Again, the testing has been frustrating and unfortunate. And here we are on August 1st and testing remains a problem. The test results take too long to come back, in many instances. And now, we're seeing spotty shortages of the reagents needed and other materials to address the testing at a time when we're seeing all of these hot spots around the country.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. El-Sayed, another U.S. Congressman has tested positive after attending a hearing with the Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert who tested positive on Wednesday. The Arizona Democratic Raul Grijalva slammed Republicans who don't wear a mask in the buildings up on Capitol Hill.

What's your reaction to the fact that we continue to see spotty compliance with this among adults, among lawmakers, even the president of the United States not wearing masks as they should be. It's a simple thing to do and it will save lives.

EL-SAYED: Yes. And, first of all, our best wishes are with Representative Grijalva and his family. The fact of the matter is that this shows that when you are not responsible and you choose not to wear a mask, it's not just you, yourself, that you're putting in harm's way.

It's everybody else around you. The fact of the matter is, people have been talking about how Representative Gohmert, who is -- you know, who had been not wearing a mask. And also, best wishes out to him and his family. But he hadn't been wearing a mask when he had been entering the chambers. And that puts a lot of people at risk.

And the fact of the matter is, we know that this virus is being spread by people who don't know that they have symptoms -- and so -- who don't yet have symptoms. And, therefore, don't know that they have the disease. Which means that wearing a mask, even if you're not experiencing any symptoms is critical.

What this tells us is all of us have to act like we are carriers of this disease and we don't want to spread it to our neighbors and our loved ones and people that we may not even know that we may be passing by. It is absolutely critical.

And the fact of the matter is that this is being politicized by politics that is not in the best interest of our country right now, because, again, look at what's happening in Florida. Look at the fact that they're facing a potential hurricane in the context of the pandemic.


EL-SAYED: That's nothing we would wish on anyone. Just wear a mask. Protect yourself and protect the people around you.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, children, especially if they're 10 and older, they may be totally asymptomatic. They may have no symptoms at all. But they can transmit this virus to their parents, their grandparents and other adults just as easily as anyone else, if they're 10 or older.

Dr. El-Sayed, Dr. Riley, thanks to both of you. Thanks to both of you for what you're doing. Appreciate it very much.

There's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are now heading back to Earth. They've just undocked from the International Space Station abroad the Crew Dragon.

It's a long ride. It's going to take them about 19 hours to reach earth. Hurley and Behnken were the first astronauts sent into space, using a commercial rocket made by SpaceX. We're going to watch this closely. We'll update you as we get more information. We wish them only, only the best.

Meanwhile, all eyes are up on Capitol Hill right now, where congressional leaders and the White House, they are in a deadlock over the federal unemployment benefits that expired overnight. We're going to speak to Congressman Cicilline about that. The hearing with Biotech this week. A lot more. Much more of our news coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There's more breaking news. We've just learned that a Delta Airlines flight was forced to return to the gate, when two of the passengers refused to wear a mask. The Delta spokeswoman tells CNN, it happened on a flight from Detroit to Atlanta back on July 23rd. After the passengers were removed from the plane, the flight continued to its destination.

According to the company Website -- let me read the statement. Delta customers and employees are required to wear a facemask or appropriate cloth face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their flight, aligning with the best practice guidelines from the CDC. One example of what's going on with the airlines right now.

Meanwhile, there's no help yet for unemployed Americans who've just lost $600 a week in extra unemployment money as the Coronavirus continues to decimate a large chunk of the U.S. economy. The top Democrats in Congress met with the White House chief of staff and Treasury secretary today. But both sides insist, yes, progress is being made. But they won't meet again until Monday and rent, for millions of Americans, is due right now.

Congressman David Cicilline is joining us right now live from his home state of Rhode Island. Thanks for being with us, Congressman. So, what's being done? What is it going to take to reach a deal to help these people out there who are losing these -- this money, $600 a week right now, which they desperately need?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Absolutely. The Senate's failure to take action on this is unconscionable. We passed the Heroes Act almost three months ago on May 15th that provides for the $600 unemployment, provides $75 billion for testing, rental assistance, mortgage assistance.

Almost $1 trillion to protect our heroes on the front lines, our police officers, firefighters, first responders, nurses, sanitation workers so that cities and states won't have to layoff personnel in the middle of a public health pandemic.

We passed that bill. It's been sitting in the Senate for almost three months. And Mitch McConnell ought to take the Heroes Act immediately and pass it. If he wants to amend it, he can amend it or if he wants to pass his own bill.

But what he's done so far is nothing. And people are hurting. Small businesses are being crushed. This pandemic is spreading and the Senate has failed to act. The speaker met today with the leaders of the administration, trying to negotiate a deal. But we put forth the framework that responds to the gravity of the health and economic crisis that we're facing in this country.

BLITZER: The president's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, says Democrats have now been given, he says, no less than four offers that they've rejected, including one offer to have a temporary bill that would allow the $600 a week to go on for at least a month. And during that period, they could negotiate a broader package. What's wrong with that?

CICILLINE: Well, that offer hasn't actually been made. But, look, we need to have a response that is commensurate with the suffering that is happening all across this country. We need to have a serious investment in testing, tracing and isolation. We put $75 billion to really get a handle on this pandemic. All of the public health experts say that we need to do that.

We need to help folks with mortgage and rental assistance. We need to protect our heroes on the front line, particularly with hazard pay. We need to help states and cities that have done the right thing by shutting down to defeat this pandemic and that have faced tremendous revenue losses. So, those are important components of the Heroes Act.

Obviously, all this has to be negotiated with the Senate. But, so far, they've said we'll give $200 in unemployment assistance. That is wholly inadequate to the level of the crisis and the kind of hurt that families are feeling.

So, we're going to continue negotiating, but the Heroes Act really sets forth a good framework to respond to this in the way that we need to. The gravity of this is enormous. Both the economic crisis, the public health crisis. And the Senate Republicans need to be serious about a response and so does the president.

BLITZER: Well, they're working on a deal. It looks like they're making some progress. Let's hope on Monday, they can get together and reach some sort of deal.

Let's turn to another issue, Congressman, while I have you. An issue very, very important. You were there during hearings this week that included the CEOs of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google's parent company, among others. You believe these high-tech giants are becoming way too powerful, even more so because of the pandemic. Explain why.

CICILLINE: Well, these four companies have enormous monopoly power. They have market dominance that allows them to favor their own products and services, crush or buy out competitors, disadvantage consumers, and control the markets that they compete in. They don't have any real competition.


CICILLINE: And one of the reasons we have anti-trust laws is because competition is good. It promotes innovation. It promotes entrepreneurship. It helps consumers. It helps create more choices and these platforms are favoring their own products and services. They're buying up competitors, so they can maintain monopoly power and its disadvantaged entrance into the marketplace. They have too much power.

And so, we began an investigation just over a year ago, the Anti-trust Subcommittee. It's a bipartisan investigation looking at the digital marketplace. The CEOs testified and they, really, confirmed what we were -- found during the course of the investigation. They have too much power. They have monopoly power.

Monopolies are not good. They're inconsistent with our democracy, and we're going to put forth a set of recommendations when we conclude our investigation that will include legislation and a regulatory response so we can bring competition back into the digital market.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on that front. Congressman Cicilline, thank you for joining us. Good luck.

CICILLINE: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Stay safe. Breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Major league baseball just announced it has postponed tomorrow's Cardinals-Brewers doubleheader due to additional testing and monitoring, this is a quote, "of the St. Louis Cardinals players and staff members."

Two Cardinals' players tested positive, forcing Friday's game to be postponed. And, earlier today, the league said additional rapid tests indicated, and I'm quoting now, "one additional Cardinals' player and multiple staff members may be positive." And they've postponed tonight's game.

Also, more breaking news from the NFL. Matthew Stafford, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, he's now been placed on the league's reserve COVID-19 list by his team. The move does not necessarily indicate that Stafford, himself, has tested positive for COVID-19. They're waiting for results.

Meanwhile, 25 million Americans remain unemployed during the Coronavirus. And guess what? It could get a whole lot worse. Coming up, how mass evictions could be next if lawmakers don't come to an agreement and come to an agreement soon. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.




BLITZER: The millions and millions of jobless Americans relying on the federal unemployment benefit are facing growing uncertainty. Right now, the emergency boost of $600 a week has now expired. And while Congress and the White House are haggling over a deal, the real-life impacts are already being felt.

Here's CNN's Abby Phillip.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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 $1,200 a month rent and take care of her 6-year-old daughter, Jada (ph).

FRINK: One job is not going to cover my day to day bills which are necessities like your rent your lights, your car note, 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 and 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. I mean, that 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.

HAND: I think what we are facing is a possible mass eviction scenario.

PHILLIP: Black Americans are already more likely to contract and die from the coronavirus, and they are also disproportionately at risk of losing their homes.

ZACH NEUMANN, FOUNDER, COVID-19 EVICTION DEFENSE PROJECT: The rent crisis affects everyone, but it's especially affecting our communities of color here in Colorado and around the country.

PHILLIP: A U.S. census survey in the last week found that when it comes to paying next month's rent, more than 40 percent of black renters said they had little or no confidence they'd be able to pay rent in August, nearly twice the rate of white renters.

And it's not just missed rent payments that can trigger eviction proceedings.

HAND: Where there's water or electricity, and if you can't pay it, you could lose your subsidized housing and face homelessness as well.

PHILLIP: Meanwhile, as lawmakers haggle over how much unemployment insurance should be extended, Pamela agonizes over the unthinkable.

FRINK: So, honestly, I try not to think about that, but I don't know.

PHILLIP: Her message to lawmakers.

FRINK: Please don't make us go back to being able to possibly call a shelter because we can't afford to pay our rent for this month or the next few months.

PHILLIP: Republicans on Capitol Hill are considering extending the unemployment benefits, but for far less than the $600 a week that people are currently receiving. The goal would be to push some of these folks back into the workforce. But in places like Georgia and in many parts of the country, right now, the coronavirus is still raging.

The prospect that people will be able to find work, like it was before the pandemic, seems farfetched.


Abby Phillip, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Thank you, Abby.

Seth Harris is joining us right now. He's the former acting U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Obama. Seth, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me get your thoughts on the federal unemployment insurance that's stalled right now in Congress this week alone. This past week, another 1.4 million Americans filed for first time unemployment benefits, the 19th week in a row when more than a million, a million Americans lost their jobs and had a file for unemployment benefits about 25 million Americans already receiving these benefits.

And now the $600 weekly benefit has expired, what needs to be done right away?

SETH HARRIS, FORMER ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Republicans in the Senate need to immediately pass the Heroes Act which was passed by House Democrats and get that aid out to unemployed workers, states and local governments, small businesses, food Banks and others so that we can prop up an economy that is sagging, because this money is going to run out.

I think the story that Pamela told you about, her life is being repeated in millions of households all across America, there are families teetering on the edge of economic disaster and with them, the American economy is teetering on the edge of economic disaster.

If those families lose that $600 a week and can't spend in their grocery store, they can't pay their rent, they can't keep up with their utilities and their internet, that is going to cause our economy to fall even deeper into recession. It's going to hurt all of us, and it's a terrible idea.

BLITZER: I know they're working on some sort of compromise in the coming days. Let's hope they achieve that.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is looking at a potential housing crisis with millions of Americans potentially facing eviction right now. So, what needs to be done to prevent that?

HARRIS: We need to immediately put back in place the eviction delay that was included in the Cares Act. We don't want people to lose their homes, whether they're renters or they are owners. We don't want to see a massive foreclosures, for example.

I mean, that really puts people on the edge, it makes it very difficult for them to work. And in the midst of a pandemic, it makes them makes -- it makes it very difficult for them to stay safe, right? We need people to isolate from one another so that they don't transmit the disease. That's the biggest risk that we face right now.

So if we throw people on the street, they are at greater risk, their children are at risk, not merely economically but from a public health perspective.

BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. recorded its worst ever quarterly GDP drop in history, its worst ever, 32.9 on an annual rate in April, May, and June the second quarter of this year. Do you think we're at the bottom or is the worst yet to come?

HARRIS: I think that the Trump economy has hit bottom, I think we're going to see a small amount of improvement in the third quarter. I don't know how much of an improvement yet, because we really don't know what's happening with the pandemic.

Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, earlier this week, said that, in essence, the pandemic is driving our economy. And that's right. There is no separation between our economic fate and our public health fate. We need to get the pandemic under control all across the United States. We need our frontline workers to have personal protective equipment.

We need testing, contact tracing, we need to get the pandemic in our control if there's any hope of an economic recovery at all, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Seth Harris, the former Acting Secretary of Labor during the Obama administration, thanks for joining us.

The debate over whether to reopen schools here in the United States is growing right now, but there are new concerns, new concerns, after a CDC study discovers an outbreak at a summer camp in Georgia. It's really worrisome. We'll have details when we come back.



BLITZER: A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights just how easily a coronavirus outbreak can happen when children and adults mix. Three quarters of the children and staff who were tested at a Georgia summer camp caught the virus in simply a matter of days.

Joining us now Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. She represents 1.7 million teachers and education professionals across the country.

Randi, thanks for joining us. We know that campers and staff at this location ranged in age from 6 to 21 years old, and you can see that all age groups got infected. So, what does that say to you about reopening schools?

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS (through telephone): Well, it says -- well, first of all, Wolf, thank you for having me and, you know, sorry that I'm on the phone instead of via zoom. But what it says, it's something that Dr. Fauci told our membership on Tuesday night, which is we have to be humble about what we don't know about the virus.

And between what just happened at the camp, and two new studies, one from South Korea, and one from Harvard's in Chicago, is that children can be carriers, and older children seem to be able to spread the virus as much as adults.

So, we need to have three things before we reopen schools. Number one, there needs to be -- you need to tackle community spread. So, whereas you may be able to do something in New York, you can't do something in Florida, Arizona and Texas right now in terms of reopening.

Number two, you have to have testing and the six or seven kind of key components that CDC still says is absolutely necessary in a school to make sure that you can prevent disease spread.


And third, somebody has to pay for it. And since states don't have the money, that's why we have been fighting for the money from the United States Senate for the last two months.

BLITZER: The infection rate, Randi, also increased with the amount of time spent at the cap with staff members posting the overall highest rate. The CDC says 56 percent of those who were tested got infected.

Doesn't that seem to indicate that teachers, potentially, could be most at risk from a return to the classroom?

WEINGARTEN: Yes, and that's why -- look, that's why people, we have been very -- you and I have talked about this several times already. And why we are very adamant about ensuring that safety and health is paramount, both for teachers, as well as for children. Because if children are asymptomatic, and say a teacher has it, a child can spread it to her family.

So, this is -- this is a forced choice when somebody's saying we should think about education versus safety, and it's also a forced choice to think about kids versus teachers. We got to think about everyone. We have to make sure that we help educate our kids.

We can start remotely in places; we can start in person with these safeguards in places. But we have to be really humble about the fact that this disease affects children and teachers. We have to make sure that people are safe.

I am really angry that the President and the Secretary of Education attempted to pit teachers against families. It's wrong. If they had done what they needed to do at the beginning of this pandemic, we'd be in a place like Europe is where schools have been able to reopen slowly, but we rushed to reopen and now we cannot be reckless with either children's lives or teacher's lives.

BLITZER: All right, Randi. Randi Weingarten, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to all of the kids and all the teachers, everybody else out there as well. Thanks for joining us.

An important note for our viewers on this week's episode of United Shades of America. W. Kamau Bell explores inequalities in the public education system here in the U.S. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To understand where students are going, you have to know where they come from. Right? I want to know what does it mean that a ZIP code can tell you so much more about where a child is going to end up, that any of the fact that you can learn about their child.

We need to make sure that we understand not just the differences between students, test scores, and all that kind of stuff. We need to understand how inequality works, and how it's localized within our neighborhoods and schools.

I was admitted to George Washington Carver Middle School, and the assistant principal saw me fooling around with it to my best friends, she walked up to me and said, you don't have the potential to be a carver right now. W. KAMAU BELL, AMERICAN STAND-UP COMIC: It's not what you say to a kid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. What was funny about that is that they created an award for the best school, best student in the school, my eighth- grade year, because of things that I did that she had to handle it to me.


BLITZER: Make sure you catch the all-new episode tomorrow night, 10:00 P.M. Eastern right after our special SITUATION ROOM only here on CNN.

There's breaking news that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Mexico is just reporting its highest daily coronavirus cases and deaths.

Coming up, our own Matt Rivers. He'll show us what's behind the surge in that country.



BLITZER: Mexico is now one of the globe's hardest hitting countries when it comes to coronavirus. The country just reported its highest daily death toll and number of coronavirus cases. This a day after it passed the U.K. to become the third highest ranking country in the world in COVID deaths.

Matt Rivers takes a closer look at why Mexicans are dying from the virus at such an alarming rate.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Isabel Cruz Hernandez was struggling to breathe back in May when her son first called the ambulance. We watched the 72-year old diabetic get wheeled out and brought to the hospital, and a week later, she would become one of the more than 46,000 Mexicans that have died from COVID-19.

It is a staggering death toll that is now third highest in the world behind only the U.S. and Brazil. And compared to the rest of the world, Mexico's mortality rate, the percentage of people who contracted COVID and died, is nearly triple the global average.

Asked to explain that, Mexican health officials consistently point to one thing.

Chronic diseases are the fundamental reason why COVID is more intense in Mexico, says the deputy health minister.

The government says nearly three quarters of those who died of the virus in Mexico have had a preexisting condition.

DR. VANESSA FUCHS-TARLOVSKY, SPECIALIST IN NUTRITION AND DIETETICS: But the reality that we're seeing in Mexico, it's because Mexican population has a lot of problems with obesity, with diabetes, with hypertension.

RIVERS: But COVID's lethality here can't be explained only by chronic illness. This chart shows countries with similar rates of diabetes, Mexico's mortality rate is the highest, by far.

And among countries with similar sized populations, Mexico's death toll soars above the rest. By focusing on the impact of chronic disease, critics say the government is conveniently shifting blame away from another key factor, its own inaction.


RIVERS: Dr. Francisco Moreno Sanchez runs the COVID Response Unit at a private Mexico City Hospital and says the government simply wasn't ready for this pandemic. He argues a lack of quality care across Mexico sprawling government run public Health System has resulted in many lives lost. Be it from a lack of supplies or a lack of properly trained staff.


SANCHEZ: This is a very complicated disease. We need very good intensive care doctors to take care of the patients.

RIVERS: And that blame, he says, lies squarely at the feet of a government that in some cases still isn't taking the right steps to mitigate this crisis, a government led by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who recently said this, when asked why he doesn't wear a mask.

He says if it would help others, I would do it, but it's not scientifically proven.

So that is the leader of more than 120 million Mexicans saying that masks don't work, which is just fundamentally false.

Now, the government constantly defends its response to the coronavirus, saying that there is adequate care in public hospitals like this one, but whether you believe that or not, the numbers don't lie. Mexico's death toll is among the highest in the world, and it just keeps getting worse.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.


BLITZER: All right. Matt, thank you. We're continuing to monitor what's now tropical storm Isaias, as it sets its sights on the eastern coast of Florida. We'll have the latest forecast just ahead.