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Florida Prepares For Big Storm Amid Pandemic; Virologist Says U.K. Must Choose Between Pubs Or Schools; TikTok Scoffs At Trump's Ban Threat; NOAA Storm Trackers Now In The Air To Assess Isaias; New School Year Brings Fears Of Virus Among Kids; Australia's State Of Victoria Declares Tight Restrictions. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 2, 2020 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Florida under major pressure on two fronts. The state braces for tropical storm Isaias. Forecast to gain power as morning dawns on the Atlantic coast. Plus, how you handle a major storm during a pandemic. Florida officials scramble to make emergency shelters COVID secure.

And a growing fallout from Trump's threat to ban TikTok in the United States.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to you, our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.


BRUNHUBER: Tropical storm Isaias, just shy of hurricane strength, is already being felt as it approaches South Florida's East Coast. It's a major concern in a state already struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has infected more than 480,000 people in Florida and killed more than 7,000.

Even with strict safety protocols in place in the state's evacuation shelters, health officials fear the virus could spread further among the people inside with the storm's full impact expected.

In the coming hours the state has temporarily shut down the virus testing sites. Officials worry they'll see a new surge of cases once the storm has passed and testing resumes. Florida's governor says they should prepare for a week long disruption.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Floridians should be executing their plans, particularly if you're on the East Coast of Florida, in Palm Beach and north of there. You should have seven days of food, water and medicine.

You very well may experience power outages so just be prepared for that. We, in the era of COVID, I think our guidance from the state has been, look, if it's a close call, err on the side of people hunkering down rather than sending people on the road.

Obviously there does come a point, if you're in the area and the storm is threatening, that decision is made, we ask you to follow it.




BRUNHUBER: Utility crews from about 20 states have arrived in Florida to respond to anticipated power outages. Randi Kaye is in South Florida and has more on the conditions, threats and forecast there.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Palm Beach, Florida, we are expecting a 2- to 4-foot storm surge and that is on top of the regular tide. Also, on Monday, we expect to see a full moon. So the high tide will be even higher, making that storm surge even worse for this area.

Also, we are experiencing pretty heavy wind gusts. Earlier, we had one that was about 40 to 50 miles per hour. We are told to expect about 80 miles per hour here.

Here, in Palm Beach County, they have opened up five shelters for people. There's more than 100 people that have already gone to one of these shelters. They have one that is just for people who want to bring their pets along; they can bring a dog or a cat or a bird even. But they have people going to that, as they have a voluntary evacuation underway, here, in Palm Beach County.

The state is considering trying to open some hotel rooms. Because of COVID-19, they are trying to open these rooms for people who might feel like they're symptomatic for the coronavirus. They want to put them in a safe place, away from these emergency shelters.

Meanwhile, the Division of Emergency Management is giving some guidance for the shelters, saying that they would like to have no more than 50 people in these shelters. They would, also, like to have them social distanced.

They want about 60 square feet per person in the shelter. And they also want to make sure they're wearing masks, using hand sanitizer and getting their temperatures checked as well.

We are getting word of some power outages in the area. We know that Florida Power and Light has a big staging area in Daytona, Florida. They have crews, about 10,000 personnel in all, but they have crews from New York and Texas and elsewhere, all coming together, from 20 different states, to try and help in terms of the power outage that we are expecting to see here.

We also know that the National Guard has been mobilized here, in case they need to do some search and rescue as well. And the governor is, of course, telling people that he recommends they have at least three to seven days of food, water and any medicine, just in case this storm does get really bad -- I'm Randi Kaye reporting in Palm Beach, Florida. Back to you.


BRUNHUBER: As Randi mentioned, they are preparing for a storm like Isaias during a pandemic is incredibly complicated. Earlier a Palm Beach county official told CNN about some of the special measures in place at emergency shelters.


VERDENIA BAKER, PALM BEACH ADMINISTRATOR: We are checking temperatures, if you have a temperature, we isolate those individuals in separate areas. We require the face mask at all times, unless you are under 2 years of age. Other than that, we pass out gloves, gowns, shields and definitely distance people. They need to be at least 6 feet apart. We ensure that they are not moving a lot.


BRUNHUBER: As we've been hearing, the storm has already inundated the Bahamas with wind and rain. It damaged roofs and knocked down trees. Power outages were also reported.

The other big story, coronavirus cases are still climbing by the tens of thousands in the U.S. I'll have an update on the numbers next.

Plus, U.S. president Donald Trump is about to ban the video sharing app TikTok. He got a lot of attention around the globe but so far he hasn't made good on his threats. We'll have the latest straight ahead.





BRUNHUBER: All right. Let's get an update now on the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. has now surpassed 4.6 million cases. That's about one-quarter of the world's total and more than 154,000 Americans have died.

Now as we mentioned, one of the hardest hit states, Florida, is now bracing for a powerful storm. Tropical storm Isaias could be a category 1 hurricane by the time it hits on Sunday. The storm could put extra strain on hospitals and officials say the virus could make it harder to restore electricity to those who lose it.

As parts of the world struggle over reopening schools, a government advisor says the U.K. may have to choose between pubs and the classroom. He says some activities must be curtailed in order for schools to safely reopen.

So to discuss all of those issues, I'd like to bring in Sterghios Moschos, who's an associate professor of molecular virology at Northumbria University.

Thank you very much for joining us. We very much appreciate it. I'd like to start with the intersection of COVID and our other top story, the hurricane. Every community that's going to be hit here has one or more shelters. I reported from many of them and they're often cheek to jowl with people sleeping on cots in a gymnasium with no ventilation.

How concerned are you about the further spread of COVID in those types of conditions, especially in a state now, Florida, which is the epicenter of the pandemic?

STERGHIOS MOSCHOS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MOLECULAR VIROLOGY, NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY: I think the only way to describe this is a perfect storm, really, because if you have people cheek to jowl, as you put it and a lot of them are going to be resistant to the idea of masks for whatever reason, then there will be, there's no question of it, an increased chance of transmission in these settings.


MOSCHOS: I think it's essential that people treat this as an opportunity to respect those around them and protect them by wearing a facial covering. This is not a freedom exercise, this is a life and death exercise.

BRUNHUBER: Absolutely. Good advice there. Now I want to pivot to another issue, the jobs and the economy. The subject that's perhaps weighing most on people's minds is schools.

Where you are in the U.K., as I mentioned earlier, a high ranking advisor to the government articulated that choice there, that many here and in other countries have been thinking about when it comes to the priorities for schools.

He said it straight out, do we think pubs are more important than schools?

You know, what do you make of that choice?

MOSCHOS: In Britain it appears that the government decision has been to have a manageable level of transmission within the community, whatever manageable really means. In that respect, we are seeing in the last few days that we've got an elevation of cases, especially in the north part of the U.K. where I am, for example.

And as a result of that a hard decision has to be taken.

Where are we going to allow that transmission to take place?

We've also learned that transmission in children has happened. It happens in children as easily as adults. There's been reports in other parts of the world where they demonstrate this very clearly. So if we are to take that strategy and allow a small level of

transmission to allow the economy to operate at the same time, then we have to choose where that transmission has to be allowed to take place.

Frankly, we have to be forward looking, not appeasement looking. We all need to learn how to enjoy each other's company more and have time with ourselves at home and not necessarily in a social gathering environment like a pub, like a restaurant, like a bar, like whatever it is they like to do to get out.

Maybe it's time to go out walking the countryside, enjoy that instead. It will be good.

BRUNHUBER: Let's turn to a more hopeful topic, the race for better diagnoses, treatments, vaccines.

I understand you're working on a breathalyzer test for COVID?

How is that coming and how would that help?

MOSCHOS: In the last few weeks it's become even more understood that respiratory transmissions are happening because of exhaled breath and speech. So various groups are trying to detect the virus in exhaled breath.

Our group is simply collecting the breath, trying to collect the vial, the go-to vial for collecting breath. We realize you're not going to swap from the current golden standard, which is a swab that goes to the lab, to a machine.

So we are providing just a vial that collects the breath so we can get an accurate result. We're hoping we will be able to show that we are much more reliable than the gold standard, the swab.

It's difficult to get the studies done because we know the massive load is when the person's getting the first few days of symptoms. So we have to have individuals in that phase to detect them. That's one of the reasons why the nasal swab fails.

At the moment we have no false positives or false negatives but the numbers are very, very low. So I'm not in a position yet to say it works or it doesn't work. Others can disclose information about their technologies.

BRUNHUBER: That's exactly it. You're not the only ones working on this. I'm curious, in the race to find a vaccine, faster tests, everybody wants to be first. Some countries allegedly going as far as hacking to get an edge.

How much competition and how much cooperation is there between different organizations?

MOSCHOS: There is competition and I've experienced this in the past when we've tried to develop an Ebola diagnosti. We were successful in developing such a system. By the time that we were in the position to test in individuals, the outbreak was over.

Unfortunately and I definitely mean this, right now the outbreak is still ongoing. We've got pandemic. We've got a global problem. So the competition is there. But there's also huge availability of cases that can be deployed for testing.

In terms of cooperation, I have to say there's been substantial cooperation, very positive responses by many parts of the world. We've been very lucky working globally.


MOSCHOS: In fact, we were recently contacted by one of the U.S. states quite high up to try to engage with them so that we can get more data. It's now a question of our pipeline within the university being capable of meeting up the demand globally for trying to complete these steps.

But really I think most people at the moment are understanding the need to cooperate and not to compete because, at the end of the day, yes, you might be first but not necessarily going to solve the problem for whatever reason, you know?

You might be too bulky, too cumbersome, too complex. So somewhere somehow we have to find a golden thread that solves the project. I think that's going to be a joint effort, not a competing effort.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much. Good luck with your research. Do appreciate your time, Sterghios Moschos.

MOSCHOS: You're very welcome.

BRUNHUBER: President Trump has a testy relationship with many news organizations but now Republicans are doing something unprecedented in U.S. politics, banning news media from their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Now the closed press event will be much smaller than the one in Ohio in 2016. The party is blaming social distancing rules imposed by the state's Democratic governor. A Republican official said the vote to nominate Mr. Trump as their presidential candidate will be livestreamed on August 24th.

The head of U.S. operations for TikTok doesn't seem fazed by the U.S. president's threat to ban the app. Vanessa Papa said in a Twitter video Saturday that TikTok isn't going anywhere. The president's threat got users' attention all over the world but it's unclear how it could actually happen. Jeremy Diamond has more.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, after threatening on Friday night to ban TikTok from the United States, President Trump has yet to actually make good on that threat.

The president on Friday telling reporters on Air Force One that he plans to ban TikTok from the United States, suggesting that he would likely do so via an executive order. The president said that that executive order would likely come on Saturday.

But by the end of the day on Saturday, no executive order in sight. Of course, the president has several tools at his disposal to actually make good on that threat. There is the possibility of an executive order but there are also other mechanisms that the president could use, including emergency economic powers that he is also -- that are also within his quiver.

Of course, there has been a national security investigation into TikTok for some time and there has been significant concern among U.S. national security officials about the fact that it is owned by a Chinese company and what potentially that Chinese company could do with the data of hundreds of millions of Americans, including potentially giving that data to the Chinese government.

Now TikTok, of course, for its part, insists it is being very safe with Americans' data. They say in a statement, "TikTok U.S. user data is stored in the U.S. with strict controls on employee access. TikTok's biggest investors come from the U.S. We are committed to protecting our users' privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."

U.S. officials are pushing for the ideal scenario, for an American company to come in and wholly buy TikTok from the Chinese company Byte Dance. But the president seemed to suggest that would not work for him, as reports emerged that Microsoft was in the running to buy TikTok from the Chinese company.

It is important to note this all comes in the face of a widening U.S.- China rift. That has been propelled in large part by the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus did indeed originate in China.

But the president is also trying to deflect blame for his mishandling of the pandemic by repeatedly pointing to China. And there has been a widening rift between the U.S. and China for years now and specifically there have been tensions in the technology space.

So this latest battle over TikTok really is just the latest iterations of those tensions -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: There's still lots of threads to pull on so, to do that, let's bring in CNN business reporter Hadas Gold from London.

The ban was floated a couple of weeks ago. The administration arguing China's stealing people's information. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said these Chinese apps are, quote, "Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence."

Well, do they have a case?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are really two sort of areas of issue here that people are worried about, Kim. The first one is more about the information that TikTok allows on its platform for people to see. This is where there are concerns about censorship or suppression of information.


GOLD: There have been some cases where people would do videos about Uyghur Muslims, that they were taken down and the accounts were blcoked. When those cases have popped up, tiktok has sometimes apolgd, said there was a mistake or something else. But there are concerns about the algorithm they have and what information pops up because when you have so many people, including a lot of teenagers, this is what their main source of entertainment and potentially information comes from.

That's a really powerful tool here. The second element is the national security concern about what sort of data tiktok has on its users. That's what you're hearing people like Mike Pompeo talk about this.

They're worried because there's a law in China that says any Chinese company, if asked, must cooperate and potentiall hand over that data. The owner of tiktok says it never has and never will pass over that data but it's not clear if they could resist if the Chinese asked.

What data does tiktok have on its users?

The cyber security experts I've spolen to say that it's similar to what Facebook or Twitter might have, might be things like location data, your friends, your interests. But for the the average person it might not be actually that valuable for things like espionage.

It's different if you work for the military or the government. That's why we're seeing certain places like the Pentagon tell their employees, if you have a governmentowned smartphone device, do not download TikTok there.

Again, there are questions about whether there is an actual national security concern about TikTok because the data, like I said, is just like data that Facebook or any other social media app has on you. There is a theoretical risk but experts say you need to look at this in the broader context of the political tensions between China and the United States -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: We'll see if this proposed ban is just another, you know, trial balloon that pops. We'll follow the story. Thanks so much, Hadas Gold in London. Appreciate it.

We're going to have the latest on the strong tropical storm approaching Florida. We'll have that just ahead. It's been building up speed and could regain hurricane status in the coming hours. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Tropical storm Isaias isn't quite a hurricane but it could change soon. Florida's East Coast are already getting winds and rains from the outer bands. Florida officials face the difficult task of keeping residents safe even as the state deals with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country. Here's what the governor told residents on Saturday.


DESANTIS: Even if it's tropical storm force winds, you can pretty much be assured you are going to see power outages. That's certainly a 70- mile-an-hour wind will be enough to take down trees and limbs. That obviously interacts with power lines and so that will happen. And people should be prepared for that.


BRUNHUBER: Palm Beach County is one area expected to be hit by the storm. One official told CNN earlier what preparations have been made.


BAKER: Right now, we've opened roughly about 4 shelters and our special needs shelter. This is to accommodate residents who live in mobile homes. We have quite a few mobile home parks in Palm Beach County. The tropical force winds could definitely have dangerous repercussions for individuals living there.

Also, we opened them to address the needs of our residents that have comparable (ph) housing, so if their roofs are not anchored properly or windows and they do not feel safe, then we have accomplished setting up shelter for them as well.

As you know, we are in the midst of a pandemic here and so we had to open more shelters in order to accommodate a smaller number of people than normal. We have to do the safe distancing, we will also require people to wear face masks in the shelter.


BRUNHUBER: Government storm trackers are in the air right now assessing the strength and direction of the storm and we're on the line with them. Lieutenant Commander Kevin Doremus is the pilot of the NOAA tracking plane.

Thank you so much for speaking with us. First, just give us a sense of what you're seeing and what this storm is likely to bring.

LT. COMMANDER KEVIN DOREMUS, NOAA: Yes, sir. To be fair, we're actually on the ground, just about to fire up our engines and take off. There is a reconnaissance plane in the storm now. We are about to take off on our NOAA flight (INAUDIBLE) and fly low altitude into the eye of the storm.

We've flown two flights with our Gulf Stream corps (ph) at high altitude in other aircraft. It's been a very interesting storm. We've been following it (INAUDIBLE) and all the way up to where it is right now.

It has been a pretty dynamic storm, a little bit non standard as far as what (INAUDIBLE). It's been challenging. And we're looking forward to providing all of that information to the hurricane center so they can get the best information out there to the general public.

BRUNHUBER: You say this is a bit unusual. What makes it unusual?

I was hearing it's the way it's picking up energy over the warm water so quickly, is that what it is?

What makes it so different than the run-of-the-mill hurricane, if you can say that?

DOREMUS: Yes. When you think of a hurricane and the visual appearance, you think about the well-defined circular eye in the middle where it's clear in the middle, and there's a ring of clouds around you (INAUDIBLE).

This particular storm has a bit of a different appearance where half of the eye was almost missing. The wind was there but officially it was not there. I think a lot of that had to do with the interaction it had with the land, passing over on the islands of the Bahamas, Cuba, all of that.

It's still showing up in signs of a hurricane where we are headed. This morning when I woke up (INAUDIBLE) it is now at a tropical storm strength and we're going to go out there and assess the storm and provide that information and hopefully be able to present a forecast in a little bit for the public.

BRUNHUBER: Give me the details about your plane, the way you collect the data. Your plane's packed with equipment, basically a flying lab.

What are you collecting and how has that helped precisely?


DOREMUS: Absolutely. So right now (INAUDIBLE) Orion (ph), it's a four- engine turbo prop aircraft. Very sturdy aircraft, originally built (INAUDIBLE) and NOAA purchased two of them and equipped them as big flying weather laboratories.

Our big mission today is focused on what we call (INAUDIBLE) or (INAUDIBLE) Doppler radar. We have this very high powered vertical scanning radar (ph) (INAUDIBLE) that is mapping out the vertical structure of the storm as we're flying and collecting information. We're providing it to the hurricane center in real time via satellite. But they have a really good idea of what it looks like from the

surface up to the highest levels. They can use that information from the aircraft to determine both tracking and forecasting.

Another really important tool we use is called a drop sun (ph), it's a small weather instrument we launch out of the bottom of the aircraft and it has a little parachute on it. It falls throughout the different layers of the atmosphere (INAUDIBLE) temperature, pressure, (INAUDIBLE).

Again, that information is published and airplane's cockpit (INAUDIBLE) in real time. So by the time we land, a lot of times you guys know more about the storm than we do.

BRUNHUBER: Well, that's fascinating and scary stuff. I know it's what you do but for most of us, the idea of flying into a hurricane is absolutely terrifying. So even though it is routine, please do stay safe out there. We appreciate your time.

DOREMUS: Yes, sir. Thanks for having me on board. Stay safe out there.

BRUNHUBER: All right. That's Lieutenant Commander Kevin Doremus with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, talking to us about the hurricane.


BRUNHUBER: We're going back to our other major story and that is the COVID-19 pandemic and the dilemma over reopening schools. Many have already decided classes will start on time but students won't be there in person.

Learning will be virtual, at least at the beginning of the term. But not every school in every state has made the decision. CNN's Miguel Marquez reports from the virus hot spot state of Arizona, where parents are confused and concerned.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four parents, one central Phoenix school district, lots of questions and confusion about when it is safe for their kids to return to school.

(on camera): In this information environment, how difficult is it for parents to make a decision?

SEAN GREENE, FATHER OF TWO: It's very difficult.

MARQUEZ: Sean Greene quit his job in June to stay home with his two kids. His son is asthmatic and has a suppressed immune system.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They don't catch it easily, they don't bring it home easily. And if they do catch it, they get better fast.

MARQUEZ: The reality, some kids get very sick from the coronavirus. [04:40:00]

GREENE: I believe that he can definitely get it and I do believe that he can transmit it. MARQUEZ: And do you think it could endanger his life?

GREENE: It absolutely could. My son has been hospitalized repeatedly on just normal asthma attacks.

KAI WEBBER, SINGLE MOM OF THREE: There's no choice, I have to wear it.

MARQUEZ: Single mom, Kai Webber has three kids and needs to work. She'd like in-person school to start as soon as possible but --

(on camera): how tough is it to make decisions about how you're supposed to educate your kids and keep them safe?

WEBBER: It's terrible like I don't know day-to-day. You can't plan anything.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): After shutting down in March, Arizona's governor aggressively reopened the state in May, only to see cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiral upwards. In-person school was delayed, then last week canceled until data indicates the virus is again under control.

MICHAEL ROBERT, SUPERINTENDENT, OSBORN SCHOOL DISTRICT: It seemed like we were making decisions one day, waking up the next day and starting from scratch.

MARQUEZ: Phoenix's Osborn school district has six schools, about 3,000 students and around 450 teachers and staff. The urban and diverse district has already decided to suspend in-person instruction until mid October.

ROBERT: If we're not able to get back on that October 12th date, it's hard to imagine us coming back in 2020.

MARQUEZ: Health care workers Zaira Grijalva has two daughters at Osborn schools.

ZAIRA GRIJALVA, MOTHER OF TWO: I would love to see in-person start if it was considered safe.

MARQUEZ: The problem, she says, what scientists and politicians say about the virus is often at odds.

GRIJALVA: There's a lot of contradictory information and guidelines and expectations out there from our different government agencies.

MARQUEZ: Kelly Kesterson-Walker is an instructional coach at Osborn and her two kids attend school in the district. She's watching the case numbers in Arizona and tries to listen only to scientists when making decisions.

KELLY KESTERSON-WALKER, TEACHER & MOTHER OF TWO: I don't think this issue should be a political issue at all, unfortunately, it is. I mean, I wish that there was just like the scientific answer and it was just believed by everybody and this is what we're going to be doing. That's not the case, unfortunately.

MARQUEZ: Like parents, everywhere looking for answers, flooded with information, sorting through science, politics and possibly life-or- death decisions.


BRUNHUBER: After the break, Australia has declared a disaster in one of its biggest states after hundreds of new COVID-19 infections are reported. We'll have the latest on that coming up.





BRUNHUBER: Australia has declared a state of disaster in Victoria after more than 670 new coronavirus cases and seven deaths were reported on Saturday. Officials also announced new lockdown restrictions will be in effect for six weeks. CNN's Angus Watson reports.


ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: The Australian state of Victoria plunged into a state of disaster. Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced that metro Melbourne would move from stage 3 lockdown restrictions to stage 4.

Regional Victoria would move to that stage 3 lockdown or stay at home order. Now the reason being that Victorians can no longer abide by the high number of cases mounting day on day there, 671 new cases on Saturday.

The most worrying thing for the government is that those cases are largely untraceable. The bulk of them are not connected to known clusters. Here's what Daniel Andrews had to say about that this morning.


DANIEL ANDREWS, VICTORIA PREMIER: We have 760 -- 760 mystery cases. They are active cases where we cannot trace back the source of that person's infection, either who they got it from or where or how. Those mysteries, that community transmission is, in many respects, our biggest challenge and the reason why we need to move to a different set of rules.

WATSON (voice-over): The stage 4 lockdown rules for metropolitan Melbourne mean that as of 6:00 pm tonight, people must make their choice of where they're going to spend the next six weeks of their life. People will only be allowed out for one hour per day for exercise and may not travel outside the 5-kilometer radius of their home.

People must designate one person who is allowed out to buy food and other essentials. Those people in Victoria are fighting an increasingly lonely battle against coronavirus as the state remains locked off to the rest of the country -- Angus Watson, CNN, Sydney.


BRUNHUBER: Thousands came out across in Jerusalem and across Israel Saturday to demand the resignation of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He's on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust although proceedings have been delayed until January because of the pandemic.

Protesters are also angry at Mr. Netanyahu's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Now there were no signs of right wing counter protesters Saturday. Let's get the latest from Elliott Gotkine in Jerusalem.

These protests have been going on for weeks but they seem to be gaining strength.

What are they like now?

What's your sense?

Where is this all heading?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Kim, they have been gaining momentum and gaining in size. Last night were the biggest protests we've seen so far. Police estimating there were some 15,000 demonstrating against Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding he resign because of corruption trial that he's facing, due to resume in a few months.

So they are gaining in momentum but I think, certainly at the moment, very, very hard to see Netanyahu leaving office and helping the protesters meet their demands that he resign.

In terms of the coronavirus pandemic that you mentioned, there have been in previous demonstrations people protesting, demanding that Netanyahu and his government do more to help those that have lost their jobs or lost their businesses or have their livelihoods impacted.

But it's worth nothing although cases have spiraled, the country has basically gone from hero to zero in terms of keeping a lid on the spread of the pandemic. They went from being one of the best in the world to now being one of the worst for the number of cases each day on a per million population basis though the death rate is much lower.

The key point is most people are protesting against Netanyahu because of this corruption trial. They don't feel he should remain in office while facing this corruption trial. That is the main reason. So as a result of that, I don't think any real change, either a

reduction in the spread of the pandemic or any additional opening up, will have any impact on the demonstrations.


BRUNHUBER: All right, no signs they will end very soon. Thank you so much. Reporter Elliott Gotkine in Jerusalem.

And CNN NEWSROOM will be right back. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: Tourism is big business in Paris but the pandemic means this year is obviously very different. The city might be getting to normal in some ways but a big piece of its economy is still missing. CNN's Melissa Bell explains.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only difference are the masks. Otherwise, Paris, the city of art and light and love, as much as it ever was. The shops are open, the artists are out, the bars, the bistros, the museums, there is only one crucial ingredient missing: The tourists.

And what is Paris without?

Last year, 50 million of them came for the monuments, the cathedrals, the museums, the history, spending 22 billion euros and once again making Paris the most visited city in the world.

This year, the French and the odd European tourist have it pretty much to themselves.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We won't get back to our historic levels before 2022. I have been in charge of this for 7 years now and we have known crises, floods and terror attacks and we've always picked ourselves up.

BELL (voice-over): But for now hotel occupancy rates here in Paris are down 86 percent on what they were a year ago and the worst is at the very top end of the market, the so-called palace hotels that depend almost entirely for their business on American, Asian and Middle Eastern terrorism, places like The Ritz here in the Place Vendome. They have simply remained closed.

BELL (voice-over): And that will come at a dizzying cost to France's public finances. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are very fortunate in France to have this

government support. It's quite unique in the world. I mean, 70 percent of the gross salary, which is 84 percent of your net, is very unique and it's very important for us to have that.

BELL: French authorities have said that they will continue covering most of the salaries for people who can't work until at least September. But that money is going to have to come from somewhere, even as the French economy is predicted to contract by 10 percent this year.

Perhaps most worrying for people looking at France's tourism industry, this should be its high season on an ordinary July day. The Louvre would get 30,000 to 40,000 visitors. That figure is under 10,000 a day right now.

Much now depends on when those global travel restrictions will be lifted but also and perhaps more importantly, whether long term, people are ever going to want to come back to Paris in the same numbers that they did before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps, the contrary, if you have a vaccine or a treatment, then people will have to go back to normal life. We have to enjoy the life.

BELL (voice-over): Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BRUNHUBER: And that's all for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Stay with CNN for ongoing live coverage of hurricane Isaias.