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California Becomes First State with 500,000 Cases; Florida Testing Sites Reopen After Closing Due to Tropical Storm Isaias; Lawmakers Resumes Negotiations Over Coronavirus Relief Bill; Giroir: Arizona and Texas Showing "Downward Trajectory" in COVID-19 Cases; Arizona Congressman Grijalva Tests Positive for COVID-19. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

We begin this week with sadly familiar news. With coronavirus deaths on the rise in 30 states across the country and nearly two million new cases reported just in the last month, White House Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says the U.S. has now reached, quote, "a new phase" in this pandemic saying the virus is now extraordinarily widespread with cases rising in both urban and, a particular concern now, rural areas across the country.

Despite all of this, today President Trump continues to spread disinformation, false information about the pandemic, claiming cases are going up only due to more testing. That's simply not true. And that the U.S. is doing better than Europe when it comes to the virus. Also not true and easily disproven by the data and the facts.

And for those millions of Americans out of work due to the pandemic, many who relied on now expired federally enhanced unemployment benefits, that extra $600 a week, a deal on relief in the near future is very much in doubt. Sources tell CNN that White House negotiators and Congress are as far apart as they have ever been on another emergency package.

Those talks expected to resume this morning on Capitol Hill, and we will have an update on that in just a moment. But first let's get to CNN's Stephanie Elam. She is in Los Angeles.

Stephanie, California has now reported more than half a million cases since the pandemic began. And really, again, you know, they had it under control it seemed, began to reopen and things went the other way. What's happening now and why?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And some of that was expected, Jim, that we were going to see these numbers increase. I think what is the issue here is how much we've seen these numbers increase. And on Saturday, we did pass that 500,000 mark as the number of cases. Also on Saturday, we had a record number of deaths reported by the state. The state of California reporting 219 deaths that day.

Now that's the new one-day record. Of course it's worth pointing out that all of those people may not have died in that day but that's when the data did hit the tallies there. So we're looking at numbers not going in the right direction.

We have seen over this period hospitalizations, a number of patients in the ICUs. We've seen those numbers going down. But when you look at the data coming from the state, when they look at suspected cases of COVID-19, we can see that those numbers are trending higher. And that's part of the concern here. Positivity has been pretty stable over the 14-day period at around 7.1 percent. It's staying in those sorts of the 7.1 to 7.5 percent. The state wanted to keep that number below 8 percent.

Still, though, when you look at what's happening here and you look at what's happening here in Los Angeles County, I can tell you that they are starting to see some effects of the pullback of the reopening here in Los Angeles County. They're saying that it does look like people are doing the right thing, but they're saying this is not the time to ease up on that, Jim, to continue because the virus is still very much present and still very deadly.

SCIUTTO: Stephanie Elam there, thanks very much.

Let's get to Miami now, CNN's Rosa Flores there.

Rosa, state testing sites, they were shut down, we've talked about this into last week because of the approaching tropical storm. They're reopening. What more do we know and how much of a backlog is there now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim. Well, the city of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez put it like this. He says there will be a gap, a disruption in both testing and in the flow of information. Just think about it.

Testing sites closed through the weekend. The locally supported sites plan to rebuild today and resume testing tomorrow. There are 15 state- supported sites in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties. Those are reopening today. So hopefully the flow of testing and information there helps.

Now when you look at the situation in the state of Florida overall, according to the Florida Department of Health, they reported more than 7,000 new cases yesterday. That is a drop. We haven't seen the state of Florida report that low of a number since early July.

Here in Miami-Dade County where I am, this is still the epicenter of this crisis, accounting for 25 percent of the now nearly 490,000 cases in this state. Now take a look at the hospitalizations because they have dropped a bit. Now the number of patients is under 2,000, but when you look at the number of ICUs, those are still over 500 and ventilators, those are still over 315.

Now there is a battle going on in this state over the reopening of schools. Now here's the latest from the Florida Department of Health. They're reporting this morning that the number of cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children 17 and under went from 15 to 26 in the span of eight days.


That's a 73 percent increase in the number of cases. COVID-19 cases in children increased by 21 percent. Hospitalizations by 28 percent.

Jim and Poppy, important information as these schools continue to have their plans of reopening approved by the state -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores, just me this morning, thanks very much.

Joining me now, Dr. Carlos del Rio, infectious disease specialist and executive associate dean for Emory University Medical School at Grady Health System.

Doctor, always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about something Dr. Birx said over the weekend. She said that she should find it reassuring that mitigation in the south and west seems to be working. And Admiral Bret Giroir, he has said that mask wearing and avoiding crowded places has the same outcome as a complete shutdown. Is that what the data shows you?

DEL RIO: Well, what we know from other countries, for example, in Korea, Korea never did a lockdown. But Korea did three things very well. Number one, they rapidly implemented face masking and social distancing.

They closed places where there could be a lot of crowding or close proximity, and they implemented a very rapid, very quick testing strategy outside the health care system. That's where you started seeing for the first time those drive-through testing, very rapid response. You got your result not in a week, but in a couple -- you know, couple of hours, most in a day.


DEL RIO: And they did a great job with contact tracing. If you do those things and you do it well, yes, you can avoid a shutdown. And I would remind people that Goldman Sachs had a very nice report saying, if we use face masks, if there's a national mandate, if everybody uses a face mask we could probably save about 5 percent of GDP which is what a lockdown costs us.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Let me ask you, though, because South Korea did all those things with a much smaller number of cases and deaths. My question is, do masks and avoiding crowds work when you have the virus spread as widely as it has in the country right now, or do you need it? Some doctors have recommended another, at least, short-term shutdown to get those numbers under control. DEL RIO: You know, Jim, I think I tend to agree with the people that

are saying we need a short-term lockdown. I'm disappointed that we missed -- we really didn't use effectively the first shutdown we had. If we had done the appropriate things when we had that shutdown, we would not be having the problems we're having right now. So we didn't learn from our mistakes. Hopefully this time around we'll do it correctly.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. Need leadership nationally.

Let's talk about schools now. Outside of Atlanta, a district close to you, Gwinnett County, Georgia, they found at least 269 public school employees tested positive or were in contact with someone who tested positive. Gives you an example of the spread of this and how it could affect school reopening.

Where do you stand on opening schools? Is there a standard? In other words, if the area, the school district has a low enough positivity rate and a small enough spread, can it be safe?

DEL RIO: I think so. I think, you know, if you look, the National Academy of Medicine had a very complete report on this. There's been a couple of other reports on school openings that are worth looking at. I think that the point is to bring community viral transmission down. So communities, for example, in New York and Connecticut, are probably fine opening schools. Other communities around the country may be fine.

Communities where there's a lot of spread right now are not ready to open schools. So I think we need to be really very clear about this. We need to bring community transmission down before we start talking about opening or not opening schools.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Fauci has said for weeks it's not necessarily a one-size- fits-all for school districts.

Finally, on a vaccine. There are concerns among some doctors and researchers that political pressure for a vaccine might push it to come out before it's safe and truly effective, particularly political pressure from this White House to have one or something before the election. I wonder if you share those concerns and how should people at home watch those results and the progress of this.

DEL RIO: Well, Jim, you know, as one of the investigators in one of the vaccine studies, in the Moderna vaccine study, I would say that so far all I've seen is, is science ruling the day? It's really the NIH and science, it's really setting up, you know, data safety monitoring boards and a series of other mechanisms. And I would hope that science will rule the day. At the end of the day we need to do this correctly. And if we do it correctly, we're going to have a vaccine,

I'm sure of that because science is working the right way. I think the US FDA has made it clear of what kind of parameters they want fulfilled before they accept a vaccine. And as long as the FDA remains where they are, and as long as the NIH and the investigators like myself, continue doing science the way we know to do it, we're going to be fine.


SCIUTTO: Good to hear that science is still ruling the day somewhere.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, thanks very much.

DEL RIO: Appreciate being with you.

SCIUTTO: Well, negotiations on a coronavirus stimulus package are set to continue today. This between top congressional Democrats, White House officials, Senate GOP lawmakers. Right now, though, still no sign of a deal. Both sides appear to be digging in in their opposing positions.

Lauren Fox, she's on Capitol Hill.

So, Lauren, one of the key sticking points is that expanded federal unemployment benefit, extra $600. Republicans want $200. Democrats sticking to $600. Is there any wiggle room from what you can tell up on the hill?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there is no deal in sight. And I will tell you, if you sort of zoom out and look at this from the 10,000-foot level, you'll see that there are two very different views of what government intervention should look like at this moment when it comes to the economy.

You have Republicans basically arguing that we need to be very careful about any additional federal spending. You have Democrats saying look, we are still in the midst of this virus and we should not be doing anything different than we did in the spring when we passed a massive stimulus package.

So on this issue of unemployment benefits, it's just one of dozens of issues that exist between Republicans and Democrats. If you look across the board, you have Democrats fighting for more money for state and local governments, for example. That's something that Republicans argue isn't necessary right this second. They argue let's give people more flexibility in the money that's unspent that's out there already.

And you see that across the board, that senators are very divided over whether or not we even need another stimulus bill at this moment. And so yes, negotiations are going to continue today. They had a three- hour meeting on Saturday. Folks came out of that meeting saying it was the most productive talks they've had so far. But I am told that that is because behind closed doors they really laid out just how divided they still remain.

Jim, you know, Senators are expected to leave for recess at the end of the week. Whether or not that happens, still a big question mark. But no deal in sight right now -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A lot of folks at home probably disappointed to hear that.

Lauren Fox, thanks very much. Next hour, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she will join me to discuss the

stimulus talks as well as the latest on the pandemic response.

Still ahead, school districts, as they begin reopening, fears grow among teachers and parents over potential outbreaks. This as Georgia's largest school district says that hundreds of employees have either tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19. Shows the risks there.

And Microsoft is still hoping to buy TikTok after President Trump said he would ban the popular app. Could it really be shut down here in the U.S.? We're going to discuss that and a lot more with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.



SCIUTTO: Two states that became hot spots in the pandemic could be showing signs of improvement. White House coronavirus taskforce member, Admiral Brett Giroir says both Arizona and Texas are seeing downward trajectories now. But this comes as several lawmakers in those states themselves have tested positive. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Phoenix, Arizona. CNN's Ed Lavandera in Dallas. Miguel, first to you, cases coming down in Arizona. Why?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are down. They have been coming down for quite some time. Mainly because most of the states, even though the state is not under a mandatory mask order, most localities and counties, the governor has finally allowed them to put those into place, and you have seen those numbers, the hospitalizations, the number of cases, the percent positivity even coming down.

The problem in Arizona is that there are still a lot of virus out there that percent of positivity while it's come down, is still quite high. Testing is still a problem out here. They can't get enough testing done, they can't get the results back fast enough to do sort of any sort of contact tracing or make it meaningful in any way. So that's also very difficult.

And then you have individual cases like Raul Grijalva is the U.S. Representative from southern Arizona. He was at that hearing last week on Capitol Hill where Louie Gohmert, the Republican from Texas, he was walking around the hearing, sort of defiantly not wearing a mask, Grijalva the next day, went into self quarantine until he could get tested. It turns out he tested positive. He's not sure that he got it at that hearing, but that is certainly one thing that they are looking at or considering.

Now, staff members are also having to quarantine. And that's the sort of thing that you see all across Arizona. People say, oh, it's -- people from California coming in that's bringing the virus here. But the reality is in Arizona, there's a lot of community spread and it's going to take a while before --

SCIUTTO: Yes -- MARQUEZ: All of that comes down to a level they can start to reopen

again in earnest. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, every state likes to blame outsiders. We've seen that across the board. Ed, in Texas, some positive signs there, too. Do you have a sense there -- do officials have a sense there of what's working?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think state officials here want to credit the push to get people to wear masks in public and try to spread that out as much as possible. There are some good signs that we're seeing. The number of people hospitalized because of coronavirus has dropped under 9,000 people. We haven't seen a number that low in several weeks.

The number of overall cases being reported has also dropped under 10,000, around a little more than 9,000 cases per day. It had been well over 10,000 for quite some time. So even though it is still very high, it is still -- it doesn't appear to be on that upward trajectory that we had seen for several weeks in the end of June and throughout most of July. That is the good news.

The one downside is the number of reported deaths everyday has been extremely high, 268 deaths reported on Saturday which was the last day that we had had a count here. And the positive infection rate of the new coronavirus cases is now around 12 percent.


And to kind of give you an idea of where that's been over the last few months. About a month ago, it was just almost 17.5 percent. So it has dropped significantly from there. But, at the end of May, you have to remember, Jim, that it was at 4.2 percent. So we're still three times as high than where we were at the end of May. You know, so again --


LAVANDERA: A mixed bag of the situation here. But at least, it seems to not be getting any worse than what it was --


LAVANDERA: In the last few weeks. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, get down from a high base. Ed Lavandera, Miguel Marquez, thanks very much. A teacher in Oklahoma who says that she reluctantly voted for President Trump in 2016 now fears that, that vote could cost her, her life amid this pandemic. It's a remarkable point of view. We're going to be speaking with her coming up.



SCIUTTO: The tropical storm Isaias is headed for the Carolinas and expected to become a hurricane again before it reaches the coast tonight. A hurricane warning has been issued for parts of North and South Carolina. There are tropical storm warnings and watches all along the East Coast. Coastal communities are bracing for storm surge, heavy rain and flash flooding. Isaias is expected to gradually weaken though after landfall, but still brings strong winds as it moves north along the coast, all in the midst of a pandemic.

Well, the largest school district in Georgia says as many as 260 employees have either tested positive for coronavirus or been exposed to someone who has. Gwinnett County schools reopened with online learning on August 12th, it is not yet known how this will impact those reopening plans.

Educators across the country fear that large COVID-19 outbreaks in districts planning in-person classes this Fall, one teacher in Oklahoma addressed her concerns in an op-ed for "USA Today" writing and we're quoting, "Oklahoma teachers are as tough as they come. Some have sheltered their students as a tornado ripped the school building from over their heads. Now the man I gambled on to be president is asking us to risk our health and our very lives.

The odds are most definitely not in our favor." Nancy Shively is a special education teacher in Skiatook School District near Tulsa, and she joins us now. Nancy, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: You spoke strongly and with feeling in this editorial. And you say you're haunted by your vote for President Trump in 2016 because you fear that now with the pandemic, you may have signed your own death warrant. That's a remarkable thought to express. Explain how you came to that view.

SHIVELY: Well, just watching the failure of leadership in our country beginning with the president over the course of this pandemic. It's not just my death warrant I might have signed, but there's 150,000 Americans who are dead because of this. And you know, I have to take responsibility for my personal vote that enabled that.

SCIUTTO: I wonder in this environment when folks stick their neck out -- stick their necks out, right? And make comments like this on this president that they're often attacked. What's the reaction been to writing this op-ed?

SHIVELY: Well, it's been interesting. I have not been attacked so much by Trump supporters as I have by liberals and never-Trumpers who have been highly critical that I didn't see it before, is mostly --


SHIVELY: What they're saying. And I have to say I wasn't paying attention. I should have been and I wasn't. There's lots of reasons for that. But -- and I regret that obviously now. But I'm going to take responsibility for that and own it publicly.

SCIUTTO: Yes, well, listen --


SCIUTTO: It takes backbone, and you know, that's lacking in many quarters in this country today.

SHIVELY: It seems.

SCIUTTO: I wonder when you speak to other teachers because you're not the only teacher who is expressing concern about, in effect, being forced to go back to work in the middle of a pandemic. Are there others who share your view, who say listen, we've got to think about this hard before we do this?

SHIVELY: Well, absolutely. In fact, what prompted me to write the opinion piece was a comment by one of my colleagues. She's a younger woman. She has some chronic health issues that her doctors told her would lead to a very poor outcome should she get COVID. And she -- her comment was I'm just upping my life insurance and hoping for the best. And that's tragic!


SHIVELY: And you know, I'm at the end of my career, but she's not. You know, they -- she -- there's millions of teachers who can't leave the profession that are going to literally be risking their lives under the leadership that we have that has continually abdicated their responsibility. It's a cascading failure from the president down --


SHIVELY: To Oklahoma's governor, down to school boards until it gets to the two groups of people who can't pass the buck.