Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Nearing 4.7 Million Cases, Almost 155,000 Deaths; $600 Unemployment Benefit Expires, No Agreement on New Relief Bill. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto.

This morning, tens of millions of Americans waiting on economic relief during an ongoing pandemic. Sources tell CNN the White House and Congress remain far apart on a new stimulus package. Millions of American workers now without the $600 weekly so-called enhanced benefit after that expired on Friday.

Negotiations are expected to resume today on Capitol Hill. We should note, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, she will join me on this broadcast in just a few minutes.

And a new warning this morning as deaths rise in 30 U.S. states. 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 an area that has been accepted so far, rural areas across country.

Despite all this, today, President Trump continues to spread disinformation about the pandemic, claiming that cases are going up only due to more testing. It's not true. The rate of positive results is also rising. He's also claiming that the U.S. is doing better than Europe when it comes to the virus, also not true, easily belied by the facts and the data.

First, let's get to CNN's Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles. Stephanie, California has now reported more than half a million cases since the pandemic began and rising since reopening began as well.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And over the weekend, we saw that we surpassed that number on Saturday, Jim, also reporting a record number of deaths on Saturday as well announced on one day, although all those people may not have died in that one day, but 219 was that number, a new record there.

As far as the numbers are concerned, we're seeing hospitalizations and ICU patients, those numbers have been going down. But when looking at the suspected numbers for people who may have COVID, that number for people who are hospitalized, is trending higher, and that's what they are keeping their eyes on.

This while in San Francisco, those nine counties that touched the San Francisco Bay, all of them now are on the monitoring list. You may remember that this was the first area -- San Francisco was the first area to shut down way back in March. But now they are starting to see the numbers rise as people are getting complacent, they are saying. It's also being impacted by an outbreak of coronavirus in prisons like San Quentin, we're seeing that rise, also impacting that.

But the same time all of that have is happening, here in Los Angeles County and Hollywood, as a matter of fact, on Friday, there was a party held indoors for law enforcement. They are saying that there are people who were all there just for this reason, to get together to celebrate law enforcement personnel. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health saying that they are now investigating this party, which was attended by dozens of people here.

But this complacency is what people are concerned about, that people have been socially distancing and they are tired of it and want to get back together as if the virus is not there. But guess what, Jim, it still very much is.

SCIUTTO: Stephanie Elam there, thanks very much.

CNN's Rosa Flores, she is in Miami this morning. Rosa, we were worried, Florida was worried as the Tropical Storm Isaias was approaching the coast there. It's now passed. How did impact the response?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, there's no question that there is a gap in testing now and a disruption of information. Just think about it. Over the weekend, the testing sites were closed because of Isaias. And we do know the locally supported sites are trying to rebuild the site today so they can resume testing tomorrow.

As for 15 state-supported sites in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties, those are begin reopening today.

Now, as we look, at the state, the State of Florida has surpassed the 7,000 death toll mark, and the Florida Department of Health yesterday reporting more than 7,000 cases. It's important to note that the state had not reported that low of a number since early July.

Now, as we look at Miami-Dade County here where I am, it accounts for 25 percent of the now nearly 490,000 cases.


The number of hospitalizations, however, appears to have dropped a bit. Take a look. The number of hospital patients with COVID-19 here in this county has dropped under 2,000. The people in ICUs is still high though. It's still above 500. And then people in ventilators is still above 300 this morning.

Now, here is something that we've learned all new this morning. Florida's top business regulator has started meeting with bars and breweries to discuss the reopening across the state. We know, according to his director of communications, that is from Friday through the weekend, he has met with bar owners in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Pensacola. Today, he is meeting with bar owners in the Tampa-St. Pete area. And tomorrow, he's going to be going to Fort Myers.

Jim, it's important to know that the media is not invited to these meetings so we don't know exactly what's going to be discussed. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores, thanks very much.

Could the key to a successful treatment for coronavirus come from the people who have already been infected and since recovered? A new trial Sunday way right now testing that antibody cocktail, you might call it. The hope is now for the medicine to work alongside vaccines.

Let's go to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen for more. So, a remarkable idea here, go to folks who have already recovered and sort of use their immune response to help others. How would it work?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And there's actually an added layer to that, Jim. What they do is try to cull the most powerful antibodies so you're not -- all antibodies are not created equal. You cull the strongest ones. And right now, what they are doing is they are testing out these drugs in thousands of people.


COHEN: Just four months after his wedding, George Bernt, a nurse, caught coronavirus from a patient. Then George infected his wife, Jennifer.

JENNIFER BERNT, NURSE: The headache and the severe fatigue. I was sleeping about 16 hours a day.

COHEN: Jennifer, who is also a nurse, heard from a colleague about an experimental drug for people with COVID-19. It contains neutralizing antibodies made by people who have recovered and hopefully those antibodies will block the virus from entering cells.

Jennifer received an infusion like this. She might have received the drug or she might have received a placebo, which does nothing. Either way --

BERNT: I did feel better within a couple of days, like wanted to go back to work within a couple of days.

COHEN: Since the U.S. is still at least months away from a vaccine, doctors are on a hunt for an effective treatment to bridge the gap. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, says he's cautiously optimistic about antibody drugs, especially since they worked well against Ebola.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think there's a reasonably good chance that they will turn out to be very much value-added to our armamentarium. COHEN: The federal government rewarded Regeneron, which made the drug being used in Jennifer's study $450 million to fast track its development in manufacturing.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And they say they could have up to 70 to 300,000 vials of this by the end of the summer or early fall.

COHEN: Dr. Anita Coley, who is running Jennifer's clinical trial in Arizona, says they have been overwhelmed with calls from people who want to take part in the study.

DR. ANITA KOHLI, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: These trials will hopefully enroll quickly, and it will get this data, the data on these drugs to show whether they are effective or not.

COHEN: Jennifer didn't hesitate to join the clinical trial. She takes care of patients who have cancer, their immune systems weak from chemotherapy.

BERNT: I've seen people sick from this virus. I've had a friend struggle for his life with this virus. I've had patients in the hospital who are scared because their family can't be there at an awful time in their life.

COHEN: It sounds like you're doing this for your patients.

BERNT: It seemed like an easy decision to me.

COHEN: An easy decision she hopes might change the outlook for this pandemic.


COHEN: Now, you'll notice that Jennifer actually was sick. She actually had COVID and was very ill. They are also trying out this drug, Jim, for patients who are -- people who are not yet infected or sick to see if it will prevent coronavirus. Jim?

SCIUTTO: some promise there, and it's good to hear. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for staying on top of it.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Face-to-face talks on a possible next round of stimulus start up again today, but both sides so far apart. Is there any hope of a deal? I'm going to speak next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Plus, Tropical Storm Isaias could become a hurricane again by the time it reaches the Carolinas. We're going to get a new forecast soon from the National Hurricane Center.

And who will Joe Biden pick for his running mate? That decision could just be days away.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Later today, White House negotiators will be on Capitol Hill to continue talks with lawmakers over a new coronavirus stimulus package. Sources tell CNN that both sides are still very far apart, particularly on that $600 federally enhanced employment benefit. So let's talk to someone who knows.

Joining us now to discuss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My pleasure. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: So that's the question of the day. Are you any closer to a deal on a still plus package today than you were yesterday?

PELOSI: Well, let's see when we meet today. It's absolutely essential that we reach agreement. The numbers are spiking in terms of the lives and the -- life and death as well as infections in terms of the virus.


So my view is if you want to open the economy, if you want to open our schools, you just have to defeat the virus, and we haven't done that.

And then in terms of millions of children are hungry, are food insecure, tens of millions of people are out at work and have filed for unemployment claims. The state and local governments will have to fire people because of the expenses they are incurring because of the coronavirus. So we have to, again, honor our heroes and see what we can invest in our state and local governments.

SCIUTTO: Okay. A big difference, of course --

PELOSI: The thing it requires testing, tracing and then putting money in the pockets of the American people.

SCIUTTO: Speaking to that point, big differences it on the amount of this enhanced benefit, as you know. You and other Democrats sticking to $600, White House $200. Steny Hoyer has said it's not $600 or nothing for Democrats. I wonder if you agree. Are you willing to negotiate on that figure?

PELOSI: No. I think that the number, the $600 is related more to the unemployment rate. If the unemployment goes down, then that number can go down. But it doesn't go down -- you know, you're not saying to the American people we have more infections, more deaths, we have more unemployment, we have more hunger, and now we're going to cut your benefit. That's just not going to happen.

SCIUTTO: There had been discussion of a phase out over time. Senator Mitt Romney suggested this starting at a lower level view. Would you sign on to legislation that might have $600 today, but if the rate or the number of unemployed went down that you would reduce that benefit? PELOSI: Jim, that's something to talk about. Right now today, we have an emergency. A building is on fire and they are deciding how much water they want to have in the bucket. This is very important. Millions of people could have fallen into poverty without this $600. They are so fussy about any anecdotal information they may have about somebody not going to work because they make $600 on this, but so cavalier about big money going to companies that really shouldn't be having.

So the $600 is very important in the lives of the American people. And when you want to speculate about stabilization and this and that, if and when, that's for another day. So right now, we have an emergency.

SCIUTTO: Is the president -- a very basic question. Is the president himself substantially involved in these negotiations? Do your Republican counterparts even want the president involved?

PELOSI: Well, that -- that you have to ask Republican negotiators, as I assume that he is. I trust that he is and that they represent his point of view and that they carry back our point of view to the president. I certainly hope he is.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Let's move on, if we can, to a key question on the minds of many of your constituents, many parents around the country and that is school reopening.


SCIUTTO: The president again tweeted this morning, get those schools open again while repeating what is false information that cases are rising in the country only because of increased testing. What is your response to the president?

PELOSI: The president has said that testing is overrated. The president said that the virus is a hoax. The president -- they don't even believe in tracing. And so if we're going to open our schools and our economy, we have to have testing, tracing, treatment. Reducing the amount -- the level of infection in a community is central to whether you can open the schools.

Now I'm a grandmother, I have children and grandchildren in private catholic, every version of school. I also have family members who are teachers, including in public school. So I'm very concerned about the safety of it all, not just for myself, but I know what it means as families discuss this across the country. And, again, it will vary from one location to another depending on the rate of infection in a particular community.

But you can do it all if you have money, and that's where we have some difference. You have to have -- if you're going to distance, you have to have more space, therefore more teachers, better ventilation, masks, cleaning, washing down every day. It takes real money, and not money to say unless you open up, you're not getting any money, no money to open up.

SCIUTTO: Okay. You said this weekend that you don't have confidence in someone who is part of the administration's leading, helping lead the administration's response to this in White House Adviser Dr. Deborah Birx.

PELOSI: That's right. I said that.

SCIUTTO: She has differed with the president on a number of issues in which he's just flat out wrong based on the facts --

PELOSI: Over the weekend.

SCIUTTO: -- including hydroxychloroquine, et cetera. I just wonder why single her out given the president leading the effort.

PELOSI: Well, because, what happened is that we had a conversation about how we stop the virus.


And when we did -- they were making contentions about how tracing isn't a valuable thing, we shouldn't do it. And I said, well, that's not what most scientists, and they said, well, we'll bring a scientist to say that and so we're sure it's not Dr. Birx because I don't have confidence and anyone who stands there while the president says swallow Lysol and it's going to cure your virus. You know, it will kill you and you won't have the virus anymore. I don't have confidence when the president says it's hoax, it's magic, it's going to go away by magic, it's a miracle and all of those things.

SCIUTTO: So you say she hasn't challenged his disinformation or not. You say that's the issue?

PELOSI: No. I think that she has enabled. But it's not about her. It's about the American people. It's about the American people and how we have a real strategic plan. This administration has not had a strategic plan for the six months that we know about the coronavirus. We should have a plan for testing, tracing, treating, separation, masks and the rest. The president is saying something about masks and -- and -- there has to be some responsibility.


PELOSI: So if the president is saying these things, who is advising him that this is okay and enabling that to happen while millions of people have died? We passed our bill almost 11 weeks ago, and since that time, 3 million people have been added to the infection list. Nearly 70,000 people have died.


PELOSI: And they still don't have a strategic plan on stopping the virus. That's why I said I would like to have somebody else come in from the scientific point of view.

SCIUTTO: I want to talk about election security, if I can. You're away of external threats to this election but also, frankly, disinformation being shared repeatedly by the president. Will Democrats insist that any stimulus package include significant funding for election security?

PELOSI: Yes. And let me tell you why, this is a health issue. First of all, there's real inconsistency on the part of the administration. We had a special election in the spring in California where the president's son named Donald Trump Jr. was urging people to mail in their absentee ballots, and where his daughter-in-law was out there robo calling and saying vote by mail. So this idea that -- that they all of a sudden have decided that there's something wrong.

But the fact is I was a former chair of California Democratic Party years ago before I came to Congress and I can tell you, we could win any election on election day. It was a vote by mail that the Republicans came in on that made the difference and the Republicans very much have been voting by mail and they understand the importance of it. Right now even more important because it is a health issue. People should not have to choose between jeopardizing their health with the coronavirus and being able to exercise their right to vote.

SCIUTTO: Okay, final question, question of foreign help. I don't have to discuss with you Russia's efforts in 2016 and there -- and the intelligence you've seen from Russia will continue to threaten this election. Senator Ron Johnson, he is working with a pro-Russian- Ukrainian lawmaker on dirt on the former vice president, Joe Biden. I just wonder, in your view, is that accepting foreign help in the election, and is it -- would it be taking part in foreign interference to accept such help?

PELOSI: Well, especially when -- I can't really go so much into, but when that foreign help is associated with the Kremlin, I think it's really important.

Now, that could be unwitting with on the senator's part, I don't know what he knows. Now that's why we want the intelligence community to tell the American people what they know, not jeopardizing sources and methods. I've been involved in intelligence for 25 years. I -- we can't do that. We can't ever do that, but there is plenty that they could be telling the American people, and including the United States senators who may be associating with some of these people.

SCIUTTO: Are you saying -- again, I don't want to get into the intelligence, but are you saying the Kremlin is involved in efforts to denigrate the former vice president, Joe Biden?

PELOSI: Well, let's -- that's a question that should be pursued. That's a question that should be pursued. And, again, we would wish that the president would have asked that question with as many calls to Vladimir Putin but it just never comes up. And the intelligence community does tell us that the Russians are 24/7 still involved.

That's in the public domain. I'm not telling you anything. That's been in the public -- has been in the public domain for a while, that, of course, they meddled in 2016 and they continue to meddle. This is deadly serious.

[10:25:00] And it is something that -- let the American people make their own decisions about whether they think they should choose who the president of the United States is or if they think that Vladimir Putin should decide who is president of the United States.

SCIUTTO: Speaker Pelosi, thanks so much for joining the broadcast. You're always welcome.

PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Parts of North and South Carolina are under hurricane warnings now as Tropical Storm Isaias heads for the coast. Will it be a hurricane by the time it makes land?