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THE SITUATION ROOM

Florida Nears 500,000 COVID-19 Cases as Tropical Storm Disrupts State; Dr. Deborah Birx Says "New Phase" of Pandemic with Both Urban and Rural Areas Affected; Interview with Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber (D) about Tropical Storm and Coronavirus Cases; Millions Fear Eviction as White House, Dems in Stalemate over Stimulus; Interview with Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) about COVID Relief Package Negotiations; Ex-NFL Player Now a Doctor on Front Lines of COVID-19; Trump Seen Golfing This Weekend Amid Two Crises Facing America. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 2, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:01:12]

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.

The virus that has plagued us for months is only growing more and more widespread here in the United States. And no one is out of its reach. That according to a dire new warning today from Dr. Deborah Birx.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: But I want to be very clear. What we're seeing today is different for March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas. And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus. And that's why we keep saying no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Today marks the sixth consecutive day we've lost more than 1,000 Americans to the virus. And the CDC is now warning we could see another 20,000 deaths here in the United States in the next three weeks alone.

To slow the spread, we certainly all know what does work. Mask wearing, social distancing, washing our hands, simple, simple things to do. But the president himself appears to be neglecting most of those golden rules. And we've seen him once again golfing, holding rallies without masks or social distancing.

To treat the virus, we know what doesn't work. Hydroxychloroquine. Yet the president is clinging to the idea that the treatment is valid. Just this morning the White House coronavirus testing czar pushed strongly back on what the president is saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. BRETT GIROIR MD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: From a public health standpoint on, at first hydroxychloroquine looked promising. There were not the definitive studies. At this point in time, there's been five randomized placebo controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine. So at this point in time, we don't recommend that as a treatment. There's no evidence to show that it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Those remarks obviously contradicting what the president has been saying as we now enter this new phase of the pandemic. While we continue to track all the devastating coronavirus numbers, we're tracking another emerging threat as well. Tropical Storm Isaias is currently off Florida's east coast bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain. The storm putting even more strain on a state which is nearing 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Our meteorologist Tom Sater is over at the CNN Weather Center for us.

Tom, the storm is heading up the coast of Florida. Tell us where it's moving next.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the latest advisory, Wolf, at 8:00 p.m. from the National Hurricane Center hasn't changed much. The winds remain at 70 miles per hour. Remember, 74 is hurricane status. Pressure trying to drop a little bit. It's been fighting dry air. Winds have been coming in across Florida from the southwest. And therefore, yesterday when it was a hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm, but one thing to take away from this segment, do not pay attention to the title of tropical storm.

I mean, we've seen in history that tropical storms can drop historic rainfall, and that's the last thing they need in the Carolinas because they've already picked more than their average for the season. We're at 55 miles from Cape Hatteras. In blue, your tropical storm warnings. What's been new today is this area of pink. That is a hurricane watch. Portions of South and North Carolina. So conditions that could be hurricane strength and intensity are likely or possible in this area. That will be tomorrow night.

And then a tropical storm watch. All the way up. The Tidal Basin, the Chesapeake, the Delaware Bay, coastal Rhode Island. The winds still strong around the space coast. Areas to the north. But really Florida has been looking at a great day today. All the adverse weather is staying offshore. But it's really going to have -- we'll have all eyes in Charleston. We're looking at high tide through 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

[20:05:05]

And timing wise, that's where the center of this storm is going to be most likely making landfall. From Charleston, just to the east, so we are, near Cape Canaveral. We'll take it now. Notice where we are tomorrow night at high tide with a full moon so a good four-foot storm surge, and they flood already with astronomical tide. That's going to be a problem when you add that tide above that surge.

Notice the direction of the winds, coming in with the curvature of the coastline. That will be an issue. Then it makes its way up. We're going to have heavy rain in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York. By Wednesday morning it's in Maine. So we've got several days to contain with this. When we talk about the possibility of it becoming a hurricane again, absolutely. Once this dry air starts to lighten up somewhat, if it does, notice all that rain offshore, good news, just a few scattered showers, but it's got a good 24 hours, Wolf, to feed on these warm waters of the Gulfstream.

So as it makes its way north, this is really where the problems begin. And again, I can't stress enough the amount of rain half a foot to a foot of rainfall, we could be looking at more evacuations. We could be looking at water rescues and that heavy rain will continue up the I-95 corridor. So just because it's a tropical storm, don't let your guard just down yet.

BLITZER: Yes. We're expecting very, very heavy rain and potential flooding here in the Washington, D.C. area as well.

Tom Sater, thank you very much.

Now to the global coronavirus pandemic, new cases surging in the United States right now, over the past week as well. Several states reporting record high numbers of people dying from the virus. This is especially alarming. California now with the most confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States. More than half a million.

And look at that sharp and steady rise in new infections. Several other states are reporting close to that high number at the same time.

Let's go to CNN's Jeremy Diamond over at the White House.

So, Jeremy, the doctor who leads the president's Coronavirus Task Force spoke to CNN, spoke to our own Dana Bash earlier today. We're talking about Dr. Birx describing the current state of the pandemic in much less optimistic terms than the president does. Tell us what's going on.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. In recent days, we have listened as the president has addressed this coronavirus pandemic. And what we have heard from him is these continued attempts to spin reality into a rosier version of the truth than it actually is. We have heard him downplay the surge in cases, claim falsely and repeatedly that it is due to an increase in testing in the United States.

And he has also continued to hawk hydroxychloroquine, that drug that has been proven in multiple double blind controlled placebo trials to be an ineffective treatment for coronavirus. The message that we are hearing from the doctors, though, in the administration is very different, including the message from Dr. Deborah Birx who just this morning told our Dana Bash that this epidemic in the United States is widespread. It is hitting rural as well as urban areas. And that people need to work on these mitigation efforts. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIRX: We are in a new phase. And that's why I really wanted to make it clear to the American people, it's why we started putting out governor reports directly to the health officials and the governors in every single state. Because we could see that each thing had to be tailored. This epidemic right now is different and it's wide -- it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Now she did say, Wolf, that she is seeing some news that is, quote, "a bit reassuring" across the west and the south of the United States where she said that it does appear that some of these mitigation efforts are working. She pointed specifically to Arizona, one of those states that has been a hotspot during the surge in cases over the last couple of months, saying that she is seeing a decrease in the test positivity rate, hospitalizations as well as case counts. And the hope, Wolf, is that, obviously, once those mitigation efforts work, you see those deaths also begin to decrease over time.

BLITZER: Let's hope. All right. Jeremy, at the White House, Jeremy Diamond, reporting. Thank you.

The rising case numbers are fueling lots of concern over what it means for the day-to-day lives of Americans. I want to turn to a medical expert. Dr. James Phillips is joining us. He's a physician, an assistant professor at George Washington University Hospital here in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Phillips, thanks so much for joining us. And as you see and as you know, many states across the country were under stay-at-home orders in much of March and April. Today Dr. Birx says the virus is even more widespread than ever before. Do you believe it's time for more state- at-home orders now?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, PHYSICIAN AND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Selectively I do. I'm certainly a believer in that some more serious measures need to be taken in order to flatten the curve, to bring back a phrase that we use widely months ago, but don't use so much now. I'm concerned that the sort of complacency that we see with coronavirus has led to these mass gatherings and a general sort of disagreement with the science in many parts of the country.

[20:10:05]

People aren't wearing masks, they don't do distancing. I've seen that in all sorts of false. What I'm concerned about primarily is about the fact that we haven't controlled this virus in a serious way. We're seeing rises in a lot of states. And now we're talking about reopening schools and colleges in the midst of that, which I think is just going to compound our problems significantly. BLITZER: It potentially could. As a medical professional, Dr.

Phillips, what's your biggest concern right now as summer begins to draw to a close? We're about to enter in September flu season.

PHILLIPS: Well, that's the major issue, right, is that we're about to hit virus season. So we had hopes that the changes in humidity and the heat might temper the spread of this virus, but it didn't. Now that we're getting ready to enter into a phase where a numerous flu viruses will be circulating throughout the public, and entering into a flu season that by recent accounts may actually show up early this year. My concern is now that our symptom screening, fevers, new symptoms that you develop, muscle aches, things like that, those are going to trigger a lot of concerns in some patients for testing.

And as an emergency physician, many of those patients are going to end up coming to see us where we have to test not only now for coronavirus but also for flu and other viruses. And then there's the other concern about what happens with coinfection when we see people who may be infected with both coronavirus as well as another flu virus and influenza, what sort of problems might that cause.

BLITZER: President Trump keeps claiming that hydroxychloroquine is a valid treatment for COVID-19. Studies clearly say otherwise. In recent days we've heard Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, Admiral Giroir saying it is not, repeat not an effective treatment. The FDA says it is not an effective treatment.

How dangerous potentially is it for the president, Dr. Phillips, to continue promoting this drug?

PHILLIPS: Well, we've said since March very clearly as medical professionals we all believe that people in the general public should be getting advice from people with medical degrees, science degrees, and a background treating patients. And the president does not have that. And that's reflected in the fact that we had his promotion of hydroxychloroquine long before it was validated as a useful medication.

And now the data is proving that it was a hopeful but unfortunately not a medication that proved any benefit. And the idea that it's still being pushed is frightening to me. And the reason is because there's so many other measures that we know will reduce death. Wearing masks, staying away from people who don't wear masks, not going into large gatherings, not having large gatherings at your homes, hand hygiene, and keeping schools and colleges from reopening unless they're absolutely ready.

We know that those measures work. So this continuation of this push for hydroxychloroquine is a miracle is just nonsense. And it needs to be put to rest.

BLITZER: Yes. The Food and Drug Administration since April, in April, they put out a statement, in June a statement, in July a statement, saying the potential side effects could be very bad for your heart, your liver, your kidney if you continue to take this hydroxychloroquine to supposedly try to treat COVID-19. Dr. Phillips, thanks so much for joining us.

PHILLIPS: My pleasure.

BLITZER: It's deadlock time up on Capitol Hill right now over how to extend the federal unemployment benefits and with the eviction moratorium expiring millions of Americans are now facing possible homelessness and hunger.

More on that when we return. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:57]

BLITZER: Southeast Florida seems to be avoiding a direct hit from Tropical Storm Isaias. That's welcome news of course as the area is battling a viral storm. Florida is second only to California right now in the overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

The mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber, is joining us right now.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us, and I'm sure you're relieved that this tropical storm is going to avoid the Miami area. Certainly it would have been awful and the last thing everyone down there needed to have a hurricane or a tropical storm in the midst of all of this.

Let's talk about coronavirus. The number of new cases right now in Miami-Dade County was 1,483. That's the lowest number of new cases on a Sunday since June 21st. Case counts are often lower on Sundays because of differences in data collection and entry. But it's also being seen potentially as a drop.

What's the latest information you're getting?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH: Well, first of all, we didn't have testing beginning Friday and Saturday and today because of the hurricane anywhere in Dade County. So to a certain extent, that's probably the reason why there's -- I'm not sure you can count any of this at this moment. The metrics do seem better, though. We had less than 150 people going into the hospital, which actually is better than it's been.

A couple of the other metrics look better. Of course the problem is that you don't want to get to the point where it's still bad, but you think since it's better than it was, you're fine. I mean, we had 22 deaths today but we didn't have the 96 deaths we had a few days ago. 22 deaths can't become a good day in the world of -- you know, in sort of the world of this crisis.

BLITZER: You've talked about the worry that we're normalizing things that ought clearly not to be normalized when we talk about the number of coronavirus cases. The number of coronavirus deaths. What worries you the most? GELBER: What worries me the most is that we are hovering at such a

high level right now. Even if we stop increasing, and even if we come down a little bit, we're at such a high level of infection that really can't open up much at this level.

[20:20:11]

You can't open up your restaurants, which are closed now for indoor dining. You can't really open up your schools when you have 17 percent or 16 percent positivity rate, and 2,000 to 3,000 cases a day such we've had the other day because, you know, at that point you'd just be spreading the disease even worse than it is right now. So this can't become the new normal.

The new normal can't become this much disease in the community causing a constant flow of dozens and dozens or more deaths every day and things like that. That's normalizing something that just shouldn't be normalized.

BLITZER: As you know, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Alberto Carvalho, has pushed back the start of the school year to August 31st, but it will be strictly online. No in-class learning. He says they will revisit a possible return to in-class learning at the end of September.

First of all, Mayor, do you agree with that decision?

GELBER: Absolutely. You know, I have a high school junior who in the public schools who would be returning in August. But look, we have 17 percent or 18 percent or 19 percent positivity rate. We're generally getting 2,000 to 3,000 a day. How could you put 400,000 more people into commerce, with children and teachers and the families of all those folks?

It's just the explosion of the virus would even be worse than the last explosion of the virus, so I agree 100 percent with him and I think it was just foolhardy for the Trump White House and even the governor was saying we're going to open everything up. They don't know what's happening here and if they do, then it's even worse.

BLITZER: Here in Washington, as you know, there's a deadlock over a new round of COVID funding. How badly do you need federal funds right now to deal with this crisis in Miami Beach?

GELBER: Well, we're a hospitality town. So the hospitality industry has hurt more than most places because they still rely on gatherings, in travel, in international travel and cruise ships and airplanes, and things like that. So a huge number of people who could desperately use it. And another problem is, there's no safety net right now. So when you have a battle between lives and livelihood and there's a tension in those things, if you don't have the safety net of the federal government providing some relief for people who would otherwise be starving or on food lines, it makes those decisions as to what you close and how much you contract the economy to save people a lot more difficult because they don't have a safety net if they are out of work. BLITZER: Yes. There's so many people out of work. Especially in the

hospitality industry, which Miami Beach relies on. All those hotels in Miami Beach, and the restaurants and the clubs and everything else.

Mayor Gelber, good luck to you, good luck to everyone in Miami Beach.

GELBER: Thanks, Wolf. Have a great Sunday.

BLITZER: So we're at the start of a new month right now. For millions of Americans rent is due. But there is a stalemate here in Washington up on Capitol Hill. And it means that a new stimulus deal is not going to be passed at least not yet. It is so desperately needed to help Americans who need it most. We have new information when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:27:47]

BLITZER: A new month is here and rent is due once again. For the millions of unemployed Americans feeling the economic strain from the pandemic this is a nerve racking time as the stalemate here in Washington up on Capitol Hill continues over a new stimulus deal.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is out in California where he spoke to a family who's so worried about months of missed rent payments. Tell us more about what you heard, Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's set the scene. The Alvarez family. They live in Boyle Heights, Wolf. It's mom, she works as house cleaner. Hours cut in half. 18-year-old son, 28-year-old daughter who is pregnant. They haven't paid their rent in months. And they know that at some point, that rent bill is going to come due.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCOS ALVAREZ, LOS ANGELES RESIDENT: We could relive at the (INAUDIBLE) that we can't pay the rent. And as soon as this is over, another one to repay the month that we didn't pay. And how are we supposed to do that when we could barely make for the month we're living in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And they are protected by an eviction moratorium for now in the city of Los Angeles, but this is a double-edged sword because landlords, many of them, have small rental properties. They live off that income and that has disappeared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLOS MARROQUIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: We need to act morally to be able to put in programs in place that will not only protect the renters but also the landlords. We understand that. Most of the renters that I speak with, if not all of them, you know, they want to pay their rents. But if that's not happening, you know, again, the landlords will also suffer especially the mom and pop landlords and that worries me a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And there is a bill moving through the California legislature that could help protect those landlords and forgive them, temporarily, for the money they owe to their mortgage lenders. Back to you now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Paul Vercammen, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, still no deal on a new COVID relief package here in Washington. But those $600 a week federal unemployment benefits, they have now run out and a national moratorium on evictions in federally backed housing has also expired leaving tens of millions of Americans at serious risk of becoming homeless amid this deadly pandemic.

[20:30:06]

Earlier today the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer was asked if Democrats would take a deal without $1 trillion to bolster state and local governments as they struggle desperately to pay high vital workers. He said he refuses to negotiate in public. Meetings by the way are scheduled to resume tomorrow.

Joining us now the Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She's a member of both the House Budget and Judiciary Committees.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us. Are you optimistic there can be an agreement soon? Because, as you know, this is a matter of life and death for so many Americans.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): There has to be, Wolf. There really does. And you know, that story that you just covered is exactly why. That's happening to millions of people across the country who literally don't have a job, don't have health care, some of them haven't even been able to get unemployment. But at least the ones that have that are relying on that unemployment to be able to pay rent, to be able to pay mortgage, put food on the table, we are in a situation where 50 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit.

And, you know, the death toll 151,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, and the Republicans have been sitting on their hands refusing to negotiate and help protect people across this country. This is exactly the moment when we need government to step up. So yes, I am optimistic that we will get a deal because all of these Republican senators have to go back to their home districts as well. And they have to deal with the devastation that they are seeing.

And, you know, and I just think that they have to stand up. They have to insist that we get this done. And Donald Trump has to recognize that the cruelty of not passing a bill is really putting people in an untenable situation and driving them further and further down to the ground. It's horrifying. I can't tell you how terrible it is for my constituents and people across the country.

BLITZER: I just want to update the numbers, now almost 155,000 Americans have so far died from this coronavirus over the past five months or so.

Although Senator Schumer said he wasn't going to negotiate in public, Congresswoman, he does say there are at least four must haves, his words, must haves for Democrats to vote for a new COVID relief bill. Let me put them up on the screen what he's talking about. He says you have to renew the $600 unemployment insurance payments, the weekly payments. Renew protections for renters, homeowners, fund state and local governments, and make sure the schools have enough money to open safely.

What do you think about that? Are there other must haves that you want as well?

JAYAPAL: Yes. I think we have to have testing and contact tracing money. I mean, this is, you know, the idea that people are going to reopen and go back to work and go back to school when we don't even have testing and contact tracing in place, it is horrendous. So that's another one. I think we also have to have support for small businesses and workers.

You know, the PPP program left particularly minority owned businesses, 95 percent of black owned businesses couldn't even get, you know -- couldn't even put themselves in line to get a PPP loan. So I think we've got to get money to those business. I would like to use my Paycheck Recovery Act as the vehicle to do that. Go straight from the Treasury and the IRS to the business, protect paychecks and allow those small businesses that haven't been able to access the PPP to get some relief because they are shuttering permanently.

I also think that we've got to make sure that we are getting more stimulus money out to people. You know, if we had, if we were covering paychecks then we wouldn't need that. But the reality is nobody has money, Wolf. And anything we give to people right now will turn around and go right back into the economy. It will build our economy and it will be good for us. But we've got to get the money out the door and we've got to get it out quickly.

BLITZER: While I have you, Congresswoman, I just want to point out, you had a very, very busy week. You were part of that House panel grilling tech executives like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, among others. You also took part in hearings with the Attorney General William Barr. You had some heated exchanges. Let me play this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAYAPAL: There's a real discrepancy in how you react as the attorney general, the top cop in this country, when white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the president to, quote, "activate you," because they're getting the president's personal agenda done. But when black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president's very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers, pepper bombs, because they are considered terrorists by the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [20:35:17]

BLITZER: You also used the term henchman to refer to refer to the attorney general's relationship with the president. Tell us what your deepest concern is right now.

JAYAPAL: My deepest concern is that the attorney general of the United States, who is supposed to be the attorney for the American people, supposed to be upholding the Constitution and using the tremendous powers of the Department of Justice to do so, instead this Attorney General Bill Barr is simply there to be, quote, "activated" by the president. He is there to essentially act as the president's personal attorney and he is using the Department of Justice and all of the powers to undermine constitutional rights of Americans to not investigate the things he should be investigating, and instead using all of the power to try to move the president's personal agenda. That is unacceptable. And it's happening on many counts.

You know, he also talked about vote by mail being -- having so much fraud. That's another line that the president keeps repeating. But the reality, Wolf, is that 250 million ballots have been cast over the past 20 years and there is a .00006 percent fraud rate according to MIT and a study that they did. So this attorney general has no interest in equal justice under the law for all Americans and it is a terrible, terrible thing for this country to continue to have him there as attorney general.

BLITZER: Well, it was a very, very lively hearing. We all watched it on television. Of course he totally, totally disagrees with you.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thanks so much for joining us.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So the NFL is supposed to kick off in September, but now yet another NFL player has been added to a reserve COVID list. And while that doesn't necessarily mean that these players have tested positive, there are serious concerns right now about whether professional sports are not being played -- that are not being within a so-called bubble can actually carry on.

A former NFL player, now a neurosurgeon, is standing by to join us, when we come back.

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[20:41:37]

BLITZER: Professional athletes are expected to make adjustments on the fly and perform under enormous pressure. One doctor and former NFL player decided those same skills would come in handy during the fight against COVID-19 and he has made the transition from safety with the Tennessee Titans, the Pittsburgh Steelers, to Harvard educated neurosurgeon to doctor on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic right now. Dr. Myron Rolle is joining us. He's a fourth year neurosurgery

resident at the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Rolle, thank you so much for the really important work you're doing. Thanks for joining us. Tell us first of all what a typical day for you is like right now as you treat these COVID-19 patients?

DR. MYRON ROLLE, NEUROSURGEON, RESIDENT AT HARVARD MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Well, thanks for having me, Mr. Blitzer. You know, COVID really hit Boston very hard and we had a very proactive response at Mass General Hospital through our administration, even through the chairman of our department. We're trying to make sure that we curb the pandemic as best as possible and use all the resources -- utilize them in the best way possible to, you know, mitigate bed space and availability of oxygen and all the other necessary parts of the care of patients with COVID-19.

And so me and a couple of my colleagues from nurse to residents used to doing CNS brain tumors, spine, nerve, reanimation. We were asked by our leadership to sort of be redeployed and redistributed around the hospital to help man some of the influx. And we were led by emergency room doctors, by, you know, anesthesiologists, (INAUDIBLE). Right now the numbers have slowed down tremendously. We sort of opened up our hospitals again to visitors.

Our elective surgeries have happened again and now our outpatient are less virtual and more in-person. There's still a mask on at all times policy but things are getting better in Boston. I think it's a testament to the great leadership, the proactive decision making and even the decisions that are made by some of the normal citizenry to really adhere to the behavior and lifestyle modifications that everyone has been saying.

BLITZER: That is so encouraging to hear that, Dr. Rolle. You're uniquely qualified to answer this question. Is it safe for professional sports -- so let's talk about the NFL specifically. College football, professional football, to return right now as cases in so many parts of the country are clearly spreading?

ROLLE: I don't think that it's safe to start. I think it's dangerous and I think it's irresponsible to start. You know, when you have a pandemic that's going on, infection rates are very high, bed space is still a priority, PPE is still in high demand, you know, it's difficult to say you want football to be a separate entity. Separate and apart from the idea of America trying to fight a very dangerous situation, a pandemic that's affecting many lives in communities, where your fans are coming from, where your players are coming from, where your players' families are coming from.

And so as an athlete, if you have to think about, you know, am I going to get infected by playing this sport, am I going to transmit this home, while at the same time thinking about stopping a 300-pound lineman who's coming to your face, who's running very fast, very hard, you know, being in a huddle, being in locker rooms, being in a weight room, being in walkthroughs, a game that is inherently and innately cohesive where you need to be together is just very difficult to do the social distancing that one is asked and to really prevent a spread.

So I think it's dangerous, it's irresponsible. The NFL, college sports, especially the ones that aren't in a bubble, an isolated and a micro room environment, should probably slow down and say, let's pause this game for maybe a season and restart and rethink it next year.

[20:45:03]

BLITZER: High school football, too?

ROLLE: Yes, I'd say high school football as well. I think the NFL is sort of the -- you know, the pinnacle, right? And we all started playing football at a young age, most of us did, with the idea of getting to the National Football League. And high school football takes its guidance from the National Football League. And so if you think about these younger athletes who may not even be going to school, may not even be sharing a school with other athletes, other students, to put them on the field is sort of saying, my agenda is not your health. My agenda is not your safety. My agenda is entertaining sport, a sport that we all love, a sport that we all love to get back to.

Football, frankly, helped pay for medical school for me. And my cousins play in the NFL as well. But right now our premium should be on health. And as a medical provider, you know, that's sort of where I stand.

BLITZER: Well said indeed. Dr. Myron Rolle, thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation with you down the road as we watch what develops. Appreciate it very much.

ROLLE: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: So it could be a big week for the former vice president Joe Biden's presidential campaign. He's expected soon to name his running mate after months of speculation. So how could that announcement change potentially the state of the race for the White House? We'll discuss, when we come back.

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[20:50:46]

BLITZER: During a weekend in which a tropical storm is bearing down on the southeast, the coronavirus cases and deaths are ravaging many part of the United States, especially the communities in that storm's path, you would expect the president to be in a crisis mode, but instead President Trump of course once again golfing twice this weekend.

Let's discuss what's going on with our senior political commentator, David Axelrod.

David, you worked in the White House during the Obama administration. Is it possible for a president to adequately respond to these urgent issues in real time when he's out of the golf course? Because we remember President Obama used to play a lot of golf as well.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, and there were occasions where he was criticized for being on the golf course. And honestly, Wolf, I don't think that he was out of touch when he was on there, because people knew where they could reach him, but, you know, this president has exceeded all records in terms of his golf. And it's been particularly egregious during this period because, you know, we are in a state of crisis here. And people are looking for him to be deeply involved and absorbed. So he's going to take criticism for his passion here.

BLITZER: Back in 2015 when he was running for the presidency, Donald Trump vowed --

AXELROD: Yes, he was critical.

BLITZER: -- he would rarely take off as president. Do his supporters really don't care that he has broken that promise many times because he's played a lot of golf, especially on weekends?

AXELROD: I suspect not. But you make a very good point. He was -- you know, he was very sharply critical of President Obama for playing golf. I have some sympathy for presidents because there aren't too many places they can go and be outdoors and walk around in a golf course is one of them. But it is -- you know, I mean, the irony is not lost on me that Trump was critical of Obama and then shattered all records for playing golf. But it wouldn't be the first inconsistency on the part of this president.

BLITZER: Let's turn to the election, what, 94 days or so away. Joe Biden is close to announcing his running mate. You were part of the team that vetted Biden for the Obama campaign.

AXELROD: Yes.

BLITZER: You wrote about that pick this week. So what factors do you think the former vice president is now considering?

AXELROD: Look, I think there are short-term and long-term factors. The short-term is can someone help you win the election? And that's really important because there are no long-term factors if you don't win the election. But I think Biden also has a perspective on the vice presidency that very few human beings have, having been selected, having served as vice president. And there were four very important qualities that he had that we appreciated and I think made him a very effective vice president.

You know, the first was that he was very loyal. Loyal in public. He always carried water for the administration and he was -- but he was unstintingly candid and private and gave the president his best council on every issue. And he was really in the room when all the key decisions were made. He was someone who the president could hand large projects to like the Recovery Act with confidence that he could discharge those responsibilities.

And he was someone who probably seemed like he could take over the presidency if God forbid that was necessary. And I think these qualities are going to play on his mind as he interviews his candidates this week because he's not just picking a candidate for the next three months. He's picking a partner for at least the next four years. And in this case because of his age, and because he has hinted, although he has not said that he might be a one-term president, you know, there's going to be additional attention paid to this candidate and as a prospective president, not just as a running mate in this election.

BLITZER: David Axelrod, we'll find out in the next few days who that running mate is going to be. We'll continue this conversation of course down the road. Thanks very much for joining us.

AXELROD: Sure. Good to see you.

BLITZER: So we're tracking Tropical Storm Isaias as it's moving up the east coast of Florida right now.

[20:55:06]

It's expected to intensify back into a hurricane, we're now told. Our Tom Sater is standing by. There's a new forecast. We'll update you on that, when we come back.

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