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U.S. Records Nearly 1.9 Million Cases In July; President Donald Trump Misleads On Coronavirus As Back-To-Back-School Season Arrives; President Donald Trump Attacks Dr. Birx After She Said Virus Is "Widespread" In U.S.; Trump Campaign, RNC Work To Limit Expansion Of Mail-In Voting; MLB Season In Doubt After Outbreaks On Marlins, Cardinals. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: I mean, just look at that track all the way up? All right, Chad you're going to be on it, you're going to be watching it. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And thank you all so much for joining me. It's great to be back. I'm Kate Bolduan. CNN's coverage continues now with John King.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello to our viewers and welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing this busy day with us. The President of the United States in attack mode today and in the process he is telling lies and contradicting his own experts.

Nothing new there many of you are thinking right but its still matters very much. It is August now back to school season is here or just around the corner for coronavirus stressed American families, the President says schools need to open and he says the fake news is hyping the coronavirus numbers to hurt him. Dr. Deborah Birx works for the President, not the media.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: If you active community spread just like we're asking people - 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.


KING: Now more broadly, the President says the virus is largely under control. Again, we defer to Dr. Birx who says this virus is, her words, in a troubling new phase.


DR. BIRX: I want to be very clear. What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It is into the rural as equal urban areas.


KING: Predictably, the President this morning angry with Dr. Birx for putting truth over spin. She "Took the bait and hit us, pathetic", the President says of the administration's top doctor. The coronavirus Response Coordinator but the numbers meaning the facts support Dr. Birx and they underscore the back to school dilemma.

Survey the case count month by month and July just behind us was a disaster, nearly 1.9 million new confirmed coronavirus cases over July's 31 days. You see it right there that is 1 million more than in June far and away the worst month of this pandemic.

The seven-day average of new cases is down but stubborn still above the 60,000 per day mark. There are some hopeful indicators of cases hitting a plateau even declining now in some of the big states driving that summer surge but there are some warnings, too.

This is what Dr. Birx means when she says new phase take a peak. This is not a New York, Florida, California and Texas problem the positivity rate, the states in red there. The percentage of positive coronavirus tests trending up in 31 of the 50 states compared with last week.

Let's take a closer look at the numbers across the country. And again if you're looking just from the case count, this is the most encouraging this map has looked in quite some time 11 states heading up that's the red, orange you see them here.

28 states holding steady that's the yellow or the base. 11 states heading down in the case count this week compared to last week so 28 steady and 11 down only 11 heading up. This is the most optimistic this map has looked in quite some time. Just a week or so ago, ten days ago, 38 states were heading up. So 11 states heading up from a case count prospective the map does look better on this day.

Sadly, as we have learned over the last five, six months the death count lags the case count so even as cases come down or stabilize the death count heading up in 30 compared the past week versus the previous week. In 30 states, you see them in red and orange here a higher death count in the past week than the previous week.

Again that is a lagging indicator. Let us hope if the case count stayed down this map will change, as well but a very sad map when you look at deaths. The summer surge has reordered the states if you will. California now above 500,000 cases, New York once the leading states in terms of case count is now number four.

California, Florida and Texas then New York then Georgia these states here California, Florida and Texas have driven the summer surge in a bit of a plateau at the moment let's hope it sticks. If you look regionally at this and how it plays out, the south is now the dominant driver of the summer surge trending down a bit in recent days let's hope that continues.

You see here in blue, the west, the south and the west have been driving the case count throughout the summer. Remember the northeast back in April it was the northeast atop - now the northeast down at the bottom in relatively stable but we're watching some troubling signs as you go through this some mid western states we want to watch right now?

Missouri, Illinois and Ohio you go back a month there's July 2nd there. All three of these states may be slow but moving up. The question is can they plateau and push it back down? This is one of the things Dr. Birx says she is worried about.

And even in states that did succeed in pushing it down, this is my home state Massachusetts, you see a plateau starting to eke up. So you have Governors everywhere, even may be a relatively low number of cases around 400 or so Governors in a lot of places, saying this is a dangerous trickle.

You have to move quickly to try to stop it. With us to share her expertise and her insights is Caitlin Rivers from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.


KING: Dr. Rivers let me start there when you hear Dr. Birx say it is a new phase and it is getting into not just urban areas but rural areas, take your look at the data and explain what she means?

DR. CAITLIN RIVERS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: It is true that the epidemic continues to expand across the United States although many of the states that were hard hit early in the epidemic are doing well like New England as you mentioned earlier.

There are other stats just now starting to climb in case counts and so we need to continue to be vigilant. We need to continue to put in place the practices that we know slow the transmission of the virus and we need to look ahead and decide where we want to be in one, two, four, six months and figure out what we need to put in place in order to get to that point and that's the piece I don't think we have done yet.

KING: Right. And that piece gets troubling especially if you overlay it with if you look at the positivity rate. Again some of the case counts are relatively low in these states but you see in more than 30 states now the positivity rate in the past week higher than the week before which tell you the virus is spreading.

How much is spreading that is one of the questions right? I know and in your recent report you talk about ramping up testing even more. I talked yesterday, listen here this is Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard Global Health Institute. He says the United States six months in still nowhere near where it needs to be.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL INSTITUE: In about 18, 20 states number of tests that are being done is actually falling and it's falling because our testing system is under such strain that we just can't even deliver the test today that we were doing two weeks ago. That's a recipe for disaster and very worried about a lot of those states that in the days and weeks ahead we're going to see a lot more suffering and unfortunately a lot more hospitalizations in deaths.


KING: Is there any way to fix the testing issue in the short term as we see the positivity rate go up or are we stuck in this rut because we don't have the infrastructure in place?

DR. RIVERS: There is a lot of being stuck in the rut because we don't have the infrastructure in place. Although the number of tests administered is drifting down, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing because a few weeks ago we were administering more tests than we could turn around.

So people were getting tested but they weren't getting their test results for one and sometimes even two weeks. In order to make that sustainable and to make those tests useful for medical decision making and for public health we may need to reduce the number of tests to make sure that we can - that we only administer as many as we can actually return results in a timely manner.

But looking ahead I think we still do not have clarity about where the bottlenecks in the testing supply chain are. It has not been made apparent what exactly is slowing us down from administering as many tests as we want to. And that's one of the things we need to see change.

We need to have more understanding; more analysis around what is holding us back and how we are going to move those barriers?

KING: And to that point I would refer - anybody watching, go to the Johns Hopkins website and look at the Center for Health Security the recommendations the 10 points you put out last week they include more PPE, they include trying to figure out this testing backlog, there are a number of recommendations in there.

And this debate sadly becomes political sometimes. Everybody should read this if you have your own view, have your own view but this is fact based and data based. And to that point Dr. Rivers if we look right now at the south versus the Midwest, and the seven day rolling average of cases we can show the graphic up there.

The south has been driving the numbers. You see the green line there way above the Midwest. The south has been driving the numbers throughout the surge of the summer so far but you do see if you look at Indiana, Ohio, Missouri a lot of states in the Midwest with case counts going up, the positivity rate going up. When you look at the data what can be done or what troubles you most?

DR. RIVERS: I think the main things to do for places that are starting to heat up is close high-risk indoor settings where we know the virus likes to spread. That could involve bars, it could involve indoor dining, it could involve moving some of the services, maybe religious services outdoors where they can be conducted more safely. And I think also requiring masks is an important step to reduce transmission but the important thing is that these places take action now and not wait until it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that things are going wrong. Very important to start early and try to regain control before the virus picks up a lot of momentum.

KING: One would hope the lessons of July tell those Governors don't wait. We saw that happen. We saw that happen across many of the big states that drove the surge. Caitlin Rivers at John Hopkins very much appreciate your expertise and insights as always. Thank you.

DR. RIVERS: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us President Trump spreads disinformation about the pandemic, goes after a member of his own task force.



KING: Pathetic is the President's new label for the top doctor on his Coronavirus Task Force. Dr. Deborah Birx is on the receiving end of that insult today because she dared to speak the truth saying the coronavirus is in a new phase and that school in areas with high case counts and community transmission should stay closed for now.

The attack on Dr. Birx came in what is sadly a Trump trademark, a tweet that insults a powerful woman and also twists the facts, two powerful women.

In this case you can look at the tweet right here, he calls the Speaker of the House crazy as he also insults Dr. Birx. The President going after her he says she was too positive on the job that's what the President says she said. As you can see from the sweet the President says Birx hit us because of criticism leveled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi but that is simply not true.

Birx did address criticism for Pelosi in an interview right here on CNN yesterday with Dana Bash but the statements the President is mad, the Birx comments about the virus spread were all made before the question about Speaker Pelosi. With me now from the White House CNN's Kaitlan Collins to borrow term of the times, Birx has been Fauci'd by the President?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the first time we have seen him publicly go after her and it is a little bit different because Dr. Fauci when the President was attacking him, his office is not in the west wing but Dr. Birx is and now you're seeing him go after her, say that her performance was "Pathetic".

Because she offered these really blunt warnings about how widespread outbreaks are in the U.S. saying that rural areas are not immune and that people who were in large households need to be wearing a mask potentially.

[12:15:00] COLLINS: And the President says he believes she only made those comments because the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been criticizing Dr. Birx for not being forthcoming enough she says and essentially been towards an - of the Presidents making comments like this one that she did today on CNN.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't have confidence of anyone who stands there while the President says swallow Lysol was going to cure the virus. I think that she has enabled.


COLLINS: She's saying that she is enabled President Trump, she believes that reference, John, of course what swallowing Lysol that was that briefing that the President had where he suggested using disinfectants like bleach to try to treat COVID-19 which of course was roundly rebuked by pretty much everybody.

Dr. Birx was sitting there and I was in the room that day and she was sitting there right by the President. And you remember he asked her at one point you know, Deborah, do you think that this could work with light in being injected into the body to potentially treat coronavirus?

She expressed some confusion but she didn't combat that immediately and so the way that some people had hoped that she would. But another thing that's really interesting to all of this that's happening, John is, White House officials spent the weekend criticizing people and criticizing Pelosi for what they said was undermining the public's trust in Dr. Birx.

And now they have been silent where the - another one of his own top health experts and this comes as we're seeing these record numbers happening in the United States. And the President is continuing to do what he's been doing since January and since February which is down play the severity of COVID-19.

But they are even taking it more seriously at the White House that seems because we're now told that they're doing random mandatory testing of staff that works in the west wing saying they have to get a test if they're randomly selected before it was just voluntary and now you have to go.

KING: A little bit of an escalation thereto keep the President safe, that part's important. Kaitlan Collins, live from the White House I appreciate that. If you were watching this Sunday Dr. Birx chose to lash out at "The New York Times" when she was asked to respond to Speaker Pelosi.


DR. BIRX: I think it was unfortunate that "The New York Times" wrote this article without speaking to me. I have never been called Polly- Anna-Ish or nonscientific or non-data driven and I will stake my 40- year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really, really implement better programs to save more lives.


KING: With me now the White House Correspondent for "The New York Times" Maggie Haberman. And Maggie, you were one of the reporters who were byline on an excellent story looking inside the White House response to all of this. It did include some commentary about Dr. Birx including this.

Dr. Birx would roam the halls of the White House talking to Mr. Kushner, Mr. Six and others sometimes passing out diagrams to bolster her case. We have hit our peaks you would say and that message would find its way back to Mr. Trump.

Dr. Birx began using versions of the phrase putting out the embers where in it was later picked up by the Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and by Mr. Trump himself. It was a well documented, well reported piece. She decided when asked about Speaker Pelosi I guess maybe she is learning from the President to lash out at one of his favorite targets "The Times"

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure, John. Thank you for reading from the story that we did which ran a few weeks ago. Look, I do think it is unfortunate that Dr. Birx chose not to talk to us. We tried repeatedly through White House aides and directly to here, appealing to her to have her speak to us.

We always want to have people's voices included in the story. She made the choice not to and then she is unhappy with the story. I understand that. And it is absolutely within her rights to criticize reporting. It is not within her rights to falsely suggest we didn't try to reach her which we did.

And in terms of the word Pollyanna which she put in quotes, we did not call her that in the story. However, John her issue was clearly with some of her own colleagues in this administration because the reporting that we had is from people who were frustrated with her, who believed that she helps you know whether she was intentionally doing it or not or she didn't realize how the President would seize on her information or others in the White House would.

She portrayed it rosier assessment of where things were that was in that current moment that interpreted plateaus as a declining and as a receding in general across the country. And that is something that she has been criticized by her colleagues for. Again her issue is with that and not us.

KING: Right. And her recent change in tone is because just like the President you can keep saying things; the data just doesn't support them. And so now she is talking about this new phase and she is going, she is traveling most of last week traveling to cities urging them to get more aggressive because she had a point.

She has been more optimistic in her presentations both in her public comments and inside the White House. This is another piece from the piece. Dr. Fauci a friend of Dr. Birx is for 30 years would describe her as more political than him, a different species.

More pessimistic by nature Dr. Fauci privately mourned the virus was going to be difficult to control often commenting he was the skunk at the garden party. These internal dynamics, the disagreements between and among the experts, never mind the President than constantly undermining the experts are part of the problem.


KING: They're part of why we are now. They just cannot come together, reach a consensus and then consistently act on a plan.

HABERMAN: Look, in fairness to them, John. Number one, I want to avoid this sort of Fauci good Birx bad positioning that seems to happen constantly with everybody. Fauci made errors in the month of February. You know? The President spoke - criticized him for that. They have done it in a very ham-fisted way. But he was very reliant on pretty flawed data at least early on.

Since then he has become much more pessimistic and much more skeptical. And in fairness to him and to Dr. Birx they're working for somebody who will twist what they say, will pull the rug out from under them just as we saw the President do with Dr. Birx today no matter what they do.

So I understand that creates a difficult dynamic but that having been said they have to decide whether what they want to do is keep sort of defending what the President is doing or if they want to speak very candidly to the public about what the risks are?

I think both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx are doing more of that. Dr. Fauci has been doing it for a while. But this is the dynamic that exists. I don't have any reason to believe they'll be on the same page. I don't think you do either.

KING: I do not. Maggie Haberman, I appreciate your reporting, your insights and I urge all of our viewers, go back the story is a couple of weeks older. Maggie noted it holds up today it gives you a great glimpse at the internal dynamics and it is reported incredibly, fairly and accurately. Maggie, I appreciate.

We'll continue this conversation. A new twist today in the President's almost always misleading attacks on mail-in voting, in a legal late night coup using COVID to steal the state, see you in court. That's the President's takes on new changes in Nevada and note the see you in court part the Trump Campaign and the Republican National Committee amounting legal challenges in at least 17 states now fighting efforts to make it easier to vote by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The President and the RNC say what is happening in Nevada are illegal and will destroy election integrity. The Democrats there say no, the idea here is to keep people safe but encourage them to vote. Let source the truth from the spin.

With us right now Michelle Rindels she is a Political Reporter at the Nevada Independent. Thank you so much for joining us. So the President says this is an illegal coup. He may not like the results but this was the Governor and the legislature passing a new law, correct?

MICHELLE RINDELS, POLITICS REPORTER, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: Yes. So what we have seen yesterday, the bill passed the Senate. It's going to be headed towards the Governor for his signature any time now.

KING: And so, the bill would - this is AB 84, every active registered voter receives a mail-in ballot during an emergency declaration creates a minimum for in person polling locations, vulnerable populations can request the ballot filled out handed in for them.

The last part is what the Republicans including the President keep calling harvesting. That somebody can show up and help you or that a union could show up or a political organization could be going door to door. What was - take us inside that debate in Nevada.

RINDELS: Yes. In the past three days or so there have been two very long hearings in the special session of the Nevada legislature. People are not allowed in the building so they're calling in on the phone lines and we did get a lot of people saying this is going to bring people in that are going to come into nursing homes and potentially fill out ballots for all these people that don't quite understand what's going on?

So there was a lot of public comment to that effect that this was going to be some source of major fraud in the State of Nevada just because you can allow someone now that's not a family member. Previously it was a family member and now it can be someone else that can help a vulnerable person fills out their ballot.

KING: And part of this is you have a Republican Secretary of State who disagrees with the Democratic Governor, right?

RINDELS: Yes. Our Republican Secretary of State conducted our June primary in an all-mail pretty much all-mail fashion. But she has made it clear that she would like to return back to the more traditional format in the November General Election.

With a few more - making it a little easier for people to get absentee ballots but generally not sending them to everybody. And then of course, we have got the Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak who has said he wants more access to the ballot and people not having to stand in line to cast their ballots.

KING: Michelle Rindels, there some great reporting in the middle of what is a big national debate now. So we'll go state by state through the election and we'll keep in touch and see how it works out in Nevada? I appreciate your reporting and insights today. Thank you.

Up next for us, more positive tests and more players opting out, is Major League Baseball's season in jeopardy?



KING: Postponed by rain, well, that's a normal scheduling wrinkle of the baseball season. Postponed by COVID, well, you know that's part of our new normal.

Just ten days into the already shortened major league baseball season, nearly 30 players and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, 19 games have been postponed including tonight's matchup between the Cardinals and the Tigers that's because at least two Cardinals players have tested positive for coronavirus and even larger outbreak among Miami Marlins players caused the first big scheduling disruption.

Now the Commissioner says baseball will work through this and salvage the season. And our next guest says keeping players on the field is important at this time of national stress. Doug Glanville played for nearly a decade in the majors is now an ESPN Analyst.