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Trump Attacks Dr. Birx for 1st Time After she Issues New Warning about More Widespread Cases in U.S.; 3 Indiana Schools Deal with Cases of COVID-19 as They Reopen; Tech Giant Microsoft in Talks with Trump about Buying TikTok; Graham Brookie Discusses Microsoft Pursuing TikTok, Security Concerns. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us this hour.

President Trump this morning is undermining yet another one of his top medical experts over the coronavirus, suggesting in a tweet just a little while ago that Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, is quote, "pathetic."

While the president isn't explicit about what he's upset about here, you can assume the alarm Dr. Birx raised on CNN yesterday is not something he wanted to hear. Let's listen to this.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We are in a new phase. But I want to be very clear. What we're seeing today is different from 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 for protected from this virus.


BOLDUAN: And it also appears now that Dr. Birx is now not immune from the president's attacks.

When speaking the truth about where the country is right now in fighting this virus, well over 4.6 million cases in the country, more than 55,000 deaths, more than any other country in the world, but apparently now speaking the truth is pathetic.

And that isn't the end of where the president and Dr. Birx actually disagreed just today. Dr. Birx also now says that, if there's active community spread of the disease, schools should not reopen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIRX: If you have high case load and active community spread, just like we're asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we're asking people to distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control.


BOLDUAN: But as you can see in another tweet from the president this morning, he wants schools open everywhere, exclamation point.

And it also must be noted he continues to push the completely misguided claim that more testing is the only reason for the number of -- number of confirmed cases being up, being on the rise, being huge in this country. That is simply not true, and he has been told that.

Let's get to it. Joining me right now is Dr. Celine Gounder a CNN medical analyst and a former assistant commissioner of health for New York City.

Dr. Gounder, it's great to see you again.

First it was Fauci and now it's Dr. Birx. Trump saying that she took the bait and calling it pathetic in what she said on the show with Dana Bash just yesterday morning. What's your reaction to this?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think we've seen a concerted effort from President Trump and others in his administration to discredit scientists and doctors and public health officials, doctors, who are trying to communicate the truth about the state of the pandemic and what needs to be done to control it in this country.

BOLDUAN: It's really this us-versus-them problem. It can be with masks. It can be with schools. It can be with, I don't know, straight- up science that really does no -- does everyone a disservice.

But actually what Birx was talking about, her warning that the country is in a new phase as the virus is extraordinarily widespread, is how she put it.

We also heard something very similar, another warning from Professor Haseltine on CNN this morning. Let me play how he put it.


DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, CHAIR & PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: Regardless of what plans people have made this epidemic is now out of control, and it's out of control mostly because of our own behavior.


BOLDUAN: If the epidemic is now out of control in a way that Birx and Haseltine are describing, what does that mean in terms of where we are, how hard it is going to be to crawl our way out of this moment?

GOUNDER: Well, Kate, we've been warning -- public health officials and doctors and others like myself, have been warning for months now, for months, that this was a disease, that this was an infection that would spread out of the cities, that was going to ripple out to suburbs, to rural areas, and it was only a matter of time.

And unfortunately, a lot of people put their heads in the sand, were in denial about the situation, and didn't take the measures to really prevent the spread.

And while we had a lot of big outbreaks in the beginning in places like nursing homes and meat packing plants -- and it's not to say that those places are still -- aren't still experiencing transmission -- but now much of the transmission is happening at parties, whether it's wedding parties, bridal showers, baby showers or just your Friday night beers on Dutch with your buddies.


But, you know, this is completely rampant across the country now to the point where Dr. Birx has actually recommended, if you have somebody who is very high risk at home, you may even want to be wearing a mask at home to protect those closest to you.

BOLDUAN: I thought that was an extraordinary statement as well because -- I mean, when you look at how far we've come on the mask conversation just in and of itself. I think that's a real statement of where we are.

But yet it does not -- it does not seem to be breaking through. People do not -- they obviously can understand it, conceptually when a virus is widespread, but not wanting to actually take -- not wanting to actually face the reality of it.

I mean, you have the man in charge of the federal testing effort saying something that I thought was very interesting that I wanted to get your take on, Admiral Brett Giroir. He was talking about the real impact of what you just were mentioning, wearing masks. Listen to this.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Wearing mask is incredibly important, but we have to have like 85 percent or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. That is essentially -- gives you the same outcome as a complete shutdown.

And why do I say that? Well, theoretically, we can go through the models, but look at Arizona, look at Florida, Texas, Louisiana. These measures are being implemented and that changes it.


BOLDUAN: I -- in that, I heard a hopeful very tangible solution to getting out of where we are right now, Dr. Gounder. If everyone wears a mask and everyone avoided the parties you're talking about. Do you agree that that would be essentially the same as a complete shutdown? GOUNDER: I'm not sure, Kate, that it would be as effective as a

complete shutdown, but if everybody did wear a mask and everybody maintained at least six feet apart and socially distanced, you would dramatically decrease spread. And you wouldn't have are the same economic impacts as a complete shutdown.

What really are the costs of wearing a mask to you as individual? I think a lot of Americans are resistant to the idea. They don't want to be told by the government what to do.

But what does it mean to be a law-abiding citizen? It means you follow certain laws and regulations set down by the government. And those laws and regulations are there to protect all of us and keep us safe.

In the situation of a pandemic, where clearly there's a danger to not wearing a mask, even if there's not a legal mandate, this is clearly something we should all be doing to protect ourselves and one another.

BOLDUAN: It's not clear that who the messenger needs to be to get it through the country because we know the president is not going to be the messenger there.

Dr. Gounder, it's good to see you. Thank you for coming in.

There's some potentially hopeful news to share this morning. The very first company in the United States to test antibody treatments in humans is moving into phase three trials. The drug maker, Eli Lilly, announcing, saying it hopes its antibody therapy could help ease symptoms and even protect against the virus.

Let's bring in CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, who is tracking all of this for us.

Elizabeth, can you talk about this trial and also what this antibody treatment that Eli Lilly is working on could mean?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kate. There's right a bit of enthusiasm for the antibody treatments even among the curmudgeons who I consult with, who I say what do you think. There's a bit of enthusiasm.

Basically, it's taking the strongest antibodies produced after someone has a coronavirus infection, picking just those, so not the ones that are sort of second best or third best but the best ones, and making them into a drug.

So let's take a look at this trial that Eli Lilly is doing. They plan on recruiting 2,400 study subjects. They are going to be residents or staff of nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. And then also they plan on looking at four and eight weeks, did they prevent infection, or did they treat people who were already sick.

Now there's a reason why they have chosen nursing homes. And the reason for that is that so many of these infections are occurring at nursing homes. It was a very smart move. Go there and see what good you can do. BOLDUAN: What are you hearing -- what have you heard from patients who

have taken part in some of these antibody studies?

COHEN: So I was actually speaking with a woman who took part in a Regeneron trial, another company that's trying out this antibody treatment, and she's actually a nurse. And she said, look, I'm doing this because I have coronavirus and I want to know will this help me, but I'm also doing it for my patients.


JENNIFER BERNT, NURSE: 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 sounds like an easy decision to me.


COHEN: Now, you'll note that Jennifer actually had COVID-19. So they are trying these treatments or people -- or this drug, I should say -- on people who have COVID-19 and also saying who don't have it to see if it will prevent infection -- Kate?


BOLDUAN: So thankful for people like Jennifer Bernt and what she's doing and what she's really putting her body on the line for. Really amazing.

Thanks, Elizabeth.

Coming up for us, one school district in Indiana just opened up for in-person classes. On the first day, one student tests positive for COVID. We'll take to you Indiana and get you details on what's going on, an update.

Plus, tech giant, Microsoft, says it's going to pursue TikTok after President Trump threatens to pull the plug on the viral social media sensation.




HAROLD OLIN, SUPERINTENDENT, GREENFIELD-CENTRAL COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORP.: We started school on Thursday, the 30th. And we've been planning for that day for many months, so we were obviously a little disappointed when we received a phone call from the Health Department telling us that one of our students had tested positive. Not exactly the start we were looking for. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Probably an understatement. That's Harold Olin, superintendent of an Indiana school district that didn't make it through the first day of classes before a student tested positive for coronavirus. A student at Greenfield-Central Junior High School, near Indianapolis, that's where it took place.

And that forced the school to initiate their emergency protocols already.

That's not all, as you can see there on your screen, in another Indiana school district, a high school football player practicing with teammates has tested positive for the virus.

And in another Indiana school district, at least one school staff member has tested positive.

Three separate school districts in the opening days of heading back to class already facing what may now seem inevitable across the country.

What can be learned here and what is Indiana doing about it?

Joining me now is Arika Herron. She's an education reporter for "Indianapolis Star" who is tracking all of this.

Arika, thanks for coming on.

Let start with the one school, the junior high student who tested positive on the first day back. How did this happen? I mean, what are you hearing?

ARIKA HERRON, EDUCATION REPORTER, "INDIANAPOLIS STAR": So, what we found out is that the student actually was tested, you know, before school started, was still waiting for their test results, that went to school for first day.

And the Health Department called the school district partway through the day and said the student tested positive.

BOLDUAN: What's the school district doing? Did they - I think they said they did contact tracing. But how much -- how many people -- do you know how many students, teachers, anybody who is now being forced out of school because of it?

HERRON: Those are great questions that we have asked and haven't gotten answers to. The school district has declined to tell us, you know, how many people were identified as close contacts.

But they did, you know, reach out to anyone who was considered a slows contact in that six feet distance for 15 minutes.

But the school so far is staying open. They said, we have a plan in place for this and the plan is working and we feel like we're safe to keep the school open. BOLDUAN: Arika, as I listed out, it's not the only school district

dealing can COVID on the opening day, as you've been tracking. I've been following you on Twitter watching this play how the.

How would you describe, as you've been in communication with so many, how the first days back to school are going for the state?

HERRON: Well, you know, a lot of people are really excited to get kids back to school for very obvious reasons. So most people say it's going well in the places that are open, kids that are excited to be back in school and teachers are excited to see their students again.

And though we do know, at the state level, teachers are asking for virtual starts because they are nervous about the situation. So it's been kind of a mixed bag, that places are going well and are excited.

And then we're seeing the case in Greenfield. Elwood was opened for two days and now it's having to close for a week because some of its staff members tested positive. And then others were exposed, you know, as close contacts. So it's been up and down.

BOLDUAN: And more schools throughout Indiana are starting back this week so you can imagine how this will continue and you'll have to track it and how it plays out.

In terms of the role that the state has played in guiding or dictating essentially or making requirements for the various school districts of what a safe reopening looks like for Indiana schools, the state has really done very little. It has really taken a very hands-off approach, leaving it district to district, not really mandating anything.

After this rocky start, I wonder if you're getting any indication of what the state thinks of that approach or any indication that they are rethinking that approach.

HERRON: So far, we have no indication that they are rethinking that approach. I think everyone was kind of expecting that we would see cases in schools at some point. You know, just planning and hoping that schools have plans in place and would work with the local health departments.

Indiana is a local-control state so they are very much leaving this up to individual school districts to decide.

In some instances, county health departments are taking a bigger role, like we've seen in Indianapolis. The Marion County Health Department have put pretty strict standards in place.

But it will vary widely from county to county and school district to school district.

BOLDUAN: Yes, for sure.

And Greenfield-Central, where the middle schooler tested positive, I understand they did give families the option of in-person or remote learning. And according to folks there, a vast majority opted for in- person.

Is that what you're hearing kind of across the state?

HERRON: Yes. Almost every school district has offered kind of both options to families this year. They are offering, you know, the full- time virtual or the in-person.

And in some cases the in-person is a hybrid option where students are doing virtual learning one day and then in the classroom the next to limit the number of kids in the building.

Most school districts are offering both. And we've seen anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent, I think, has kind of been the average of people choosing the virtual option with the majority of families going back.


BOLDUAN: Yes. So what -- what's happening in Indiana and other cases I think in Mississippi, let's see what it means for rest of the country as this experiment continues with reopening of schools. We'll continue to follow your reporting.

Arika, thank you.

HERRON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, President Trump pledges a comprehensive health care plan to replace Obamacare. Says it's coming in two weeks. That was two weeks ago. In the midst of a global pandemic, empty promises about how health care, your health care. A reality check coming up.



BOLDUAN: Microsoft says it is still pursuing the purchase of TikTok after direct discussions with President Trump. This could clear the way for a potential monster deal between the software giant and a viral social media sensation.

And it may happen just days after President Trump threatened to ban the popular video app from the United States over national security concerns because of the app originating and coming from China.

How big is the threat? And when does this potential Microsoft deal really mean?

Joining me right now is Graham Brookie. He served as adviser to the National Security Council and was also a top aide to former President Obama on cyber security. He's now with the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Graham, it's great to have you back.

Much of this is centering on security concerns. How real do you think the national security threat is with TikTok?


The security concerns are very real. I mean, experts, policy-makers and politicians, most of all, have pointed out three main security concerns about the social media platform. And each concern has varying degrees of evidence.

So, first, you have direct access to TikTok's data by the Chinese government because the platform, as you mentioned, has a parent company that's a Chinese-owned company, Bytedance.

The second is the covert access to TikTok's user data based on vulnerabilities that expert have identified. That should be a concern for all social media platforms and speaks to the need for federal data protections.

And third, and potentially most malicious and real, is there's content moderation or alleged influence by the Chinese government on what types of content are allowed on TikTok or, more importantly, what's not allowed. For example, recent content moderation related to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China was censored.

BOLDUAN: Yes. So then working from that, if Microsoft buys the company, do the concerns completely go away?

BROOKIE: They don't completely go away. It becomes a U.S.-owned company, which means that the broad authorities that the president could use to ban or, so to speak, ban TikTok would be allayed.

For instance, they could have data servers that remain in the United States. It would have U.S. ownership. It would have more oversight and less potential control or influence by the Chinese government.

BOLDUAN: So Bytedance, the company that currently owns TikTok, they put out a statement overnight defending themselves and saying it's been facing unimaginable difficulties including a, quote, unquote, "intense international political environment."

I'm not defending the company. But when it comes to -- when it comes to politics at play or the relationship between the United States and China, that -- that should also be noted and really can't be overlooked, But what role do you think it plays here?

BROOKIE: Well, I think that the intense international pressure that they are alluding to is the fact that TikTok has been banned in a number of other countries that have tense relationships with China. Most notably and recently, India.

Now, this move in the United States has been alluded to by a number of senior administration officials in the past month. But like many other announcements last Friday night by President Trump, it seems to have been off the cuff.

And it's a complicated and very valid policy challenge but this teams to have been mostly political on the part of the president.

BOLDUAN: The way you put it earlier was so-called ban, banning it from the United States. Can the president do that if this deal with Microsoft would fall through?

BROOKIE: The general question of whether the president can ban a social media platform is no.

But in this case, because of the broad authority on foreign commerce, mergers and acquisitions that Congress has given to the president over the last few decades, the president could likely take steps that would make it extremely difficult for TikTok to operate in the United States.

Like disabling the U.S.-based data servers or freezing financial assets or profits to TikTok that come within this country.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. That gets to a being lather discussion that we can have later of what role should any president or White House have on that level of dictating censorship when it comes to anything that we're working on.

Good to see you, Graham. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

BROOKIE: Thanks, Kate.


BOLDUAN: So peaking of somewhat bold and questionable claims made by President Trump, two weeks and one day ago, the president made a very direct promise that he would be signing, not just announcing, signing a health care plan within two weeks.