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California Outbreak; Should Schools Reopen?; Trump Attacks Dr. Birx. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me on this Monday.

In July, the U.S. reported more than twice as many new coronavirus cases as it did any previous month. And now here we are. August has begun. One of the members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is issuing this blunt warning:


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: 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 or protected from this virus.


BALDWIN: Dr. Deborah Birx making those comments as the weekend total for COVID-19 deaths hit its highest level since late May.

But Birx's message to the nation may be a little too late for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said over the weekend that she doesn't have confidence in Birx's handling of the pandemic. She doubled down on that claim this morning right here on CNN.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't have confidence of anyone who stands there while the president says, swallow Lysol is going to cure your virus.

I think that she has -- that she has enabled.


BALDWIN: Now, Birx's words are too late for Speaker Pelosi and apparently too much truth for President Trump, who blasted Pelosi on Twitter and then managed to get an a jab at Birx in the process, tweeting in part -- quote -- "In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait and hit us."

It was just one in a series of tweets this morning where the president pointed fingers at everyone else but his administration on the crisis, while repeating his false claim that cases are only up because of testing, and once again saying schools should reopen this fall.

So, let's start with the White House. Let's go to our correspondent there, Kaitlan Collins.

And, Kaitlan, we know that Dr. Fauci has been in the president's crosshairs for a while. Is Dr. Birx now joining him? What's going on?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is the first time, Brooke, that we have seen the president publicly attacked Dr. Birx in this way.

And it's a little bit different than his sustained attacks on Dr. Fauci, because, remember, Dr. Fauci's office is not in the West Wing. He's over at NIH. He has to drive to get over to the West Wing. And that's why we had those reports of he and the president not running into each other as much.

But here, with Dr. Birx, she does have an office inside the West Wing. She's not that far from the Oval Office. And she's the official who briefs the president regularly on the updates of what's going on with COVID-19.

So it does put her in this awkward position that the president is saying the only reason she was offering these blunt warnings about coronavirus is because of those criticisms from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which we should note that Dr. Birx pushed back on those criticisms.

She said she has never been accused of being Pollyannish or non- scientific or non-data-driven during her time in this -- in her field, and so she was pushing back on those criticisms, while also offering these blunt warnings.

So it'll be interesting to see where this goes from here. Earlier, when the president was asked about the contradictions between he and so many of us health officials, he did not take that chance to say anything about Dr. Birx in front of the cameras.

BALDWIN: And then let me ask you about this. Just a day after Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant health secretary at HHS, said it's time to move on from hydroxychloroquine because there is no evidence it is any kind of effective treatment against COVID, President Trump is once again hyping the drug.

Roll it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hydroxy has tremendous support, but, politically, it's toxic because I supported it. Interestingly, a great doctor, from what I understand, a great doctor

from Yale feels very strongly about hydroxychloroquine. The Ford Clinic in Michigan came out with a very, very powerful paper saying it's very good.

Many other -- in France, as you know, they came out with a very positive statement. Many individual doctors have come out with very positive statements.

The reason I took it, we had some people that were relatively near me that tested positive. And I took it for that reason, just because I have heard good things.


BALDWIN: Kaitlan, why does the president continue to cling to this drug as some sort of solution to COVID?

COLLINS: He has for months. And it doesn't have to be just Dr. Fauci disagreeing with the president on it. It is the own testing coordinator at the White House that said yesterday that all of the studies that they have seen that they take into account, the ones they view as serious and the most credible, show that it's not effective in treating people COVID-19.

And what Admiral Giroir said was, it's time to move on and focus on what is effective and stop talking about hydroxychloroquine.


And, clearly, the president does not feel that way. He pushed back on that today. And he says he believes the only reason people do try to discredit it is because he's someone who's endorsed it.

Of course, he took it, even though he did not have COVID-19, he said. But, I mean, it just flies in the face of all of those studies that other officials in the White House have pointed to when they talk about hydroxychloroquine. And he has repeatedly pushed it, and, clearly, he does not have any intention of not continuing to tout it.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you for all of that.

I want to come back to this point about, should schools reopened? We're seeing the risk of schools reopening play out in real time.

For example, in Georgia, the largest school district there, Gwinnett County, a spokeswoman tells CNN hundreds of public school employees have tested positive for coronavirus or have been in contact with someone who has been infected.

And Gwinnett has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the entire state.

So, let's go to Bianna Golodryga to talk about all have this.

And this comes after the teachers in Gwinnett County had returned to school last week to plan for the upcoming school year. So it's my understanding students were not yet in the building, correct?


Students will return to school, which will be virtual, next week. But the teachers had to physically report to their schools last Wednesday. And get this, Brooke. By the next day, Thursday, 260 employees had either tested positive or were in contact and exposed to somebody who had tested positive.

So they are in quarantine right now. And our own Natasha Chen said that she's spoken with teachers who are resigning, who are petitioning to the school board, because they're saying they don't have the opportunity to work from home, which is what so many of them want to do. One teacher she spoke with said she actually quit.

She has a 4-year-old daughter at home and she wants to be able to stay with her daughter, and she wants to feel safe. And what's so puzzling about this, Brooke, is that we are still debating whether children are vectors here. And it's looking more and more likely that they could be. But we know that adults are.

So the fact that these teachers are now going to have to work together is what they're arguing. And the school district is saying that they're following all the protocols and they're doing contact tracing and wiping down. Yet, still, so many of these teachers do not feel safe.

BALDWIN: In Indiana, here's another case. Parents went ahead -- you know where I'm going with this. Parents go ahead.


BALDWIN: They send their student, their kid to school before ultimately getting the results back of the COVID test, which, by the way, turned out the kid tested positive. What is the school superintendent saying about this?

And then how do other schools prevent this from happening?

GOLODRYGA: Look, this school superintendent was shocked.

This was the first day of school. And this goes back to the argument of getting quick test results, right? Some people are waiting seven to 10 days. There's a middle school outside of Indianapolis where a student returned to school. The parents had known that their child had been tested, but the results were still pending.

Well, guess what? They got a call from the health officials in the city, the middle school did, that one of their students had tested positive. So they had to do contact tracing and find any of the students or faculty that this student had associated with. They are in quarantine right now.

Students are now back in campus in school right now. But the superintendent said that this is something that's just unacceptable and that no one's going to be able to come back to school unless they have their test results in hand.

But you have an idea. If this happened on the first day of school in Indiana, one of the first schools to reopen face-to-face instruction, what's going to happen across the country? There are protocols in place with different schools. And each district has their own protocol as to how many students have to be infected for the class to be shut down, as opposed to the entire school.

But this is going to be a huge problem for the country ahead.

BALDWIN: I have got a teacher waiting in the wings. I want to get his perspective on all of this.

But, for now, Bianna, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: And just to reiterate, the head of the Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Birx, says remote learning is necessary in parts of the country where the virus is out of control.

This is what she told my colleague Dana Bash about whether schools in states with a 5 percent positivity rate, should they remain closed or have distance learning only? Here she was.


BIRX: We need to stop the cases. And then we can talk about--

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, schools there should stay closed?

BIRX: -- safely reopening.

BASH: So, schools there should stay closed?

BIRX: I'm going to do -- I'm going to do what the CDC guidelines have recommended, and certainly the director.

If you have high caseload and active community spread, just like we are asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we are asking people to distance learn at this moment, so we can get this epidemic under control.


BALDWIN: But the president this morning tweeted -- you see there -- "Open the schools!"

Larry Ferlazzo has been teaching for 15 years. He teaches at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California.

So, Larry, thank you so much for all of your years of educating young people. And thank you so much for coming on.

LARRY FERLAZZO, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Great. It's a pleasure. BALDWIN: Listen, we already know, you already know your school year

we will start out in a virtual classroom, because you are in one of those hot spots that Dr. Birx is warning about.


Do you agree with that decision or do you think schools should be open?

FERLAZZO: Well, I don't think there's any question that, in areas of high infection, that schools need to be taught virtually.

It's not a great option, but it's the least bad option, because if we end up having to -- if we're in a situation where we're teaching face- to-face in the classroom, clearly, as you showed earlier, the result is going to be teachers, students, and their families are going to get sick, and some are going to die.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to your last bad option point in a second, but let's play it forward.

If and when it gets better for you in California, and schools can reopen, have you sat and thought about what you would want, what measures could be taken to ensure effective and safe learning, just in terms of, I don't know, fewer kids in a classroom, not going to lunch in the cafeteria? What kinds of things would you want to see?

FERLAZZO: Well, those and more, right?

I mean, social distancing in the classroom, students wearing masks, teachers wearing masks. We need to have good ventilation. Certainly, many teachers are very concerned and anxious. I mean, we're told, yes, we will get personal protective equipment provided.

And we also read that hospitals have shortages of PPE. And we have all spent many years having to buy our own facial tissue, hand sanitizer and Band-Aids for our students. So, there's a certain wariness of guarantees that are given to schools.

And schools need to get more money to be able to provide that kind of healthy environment. And, right now, schools are not getting it.

BALDWIN: Right. I hear you. And, I mean, God bless how above and beyond teachers have been for years in going into their own pockets to provide things, materials for kids. And you're thinking, if the hospital down the road doesn't have the necessary PPE, how will I? Totally valid.

I know you have also been in the classroom, Larry, long enough to know that that in-person gift you give those students as their teacher just won't be there in the same way through a screen.

How do you plan to start the online school year to try to compensate for that?

FERLAZZO: Yes, it isn't the same. And -- but there are a number of things that we can do.

One of the challenges that we face is, in the spring, when we had an emergency closure, we already had relationships with our students. Now, for many of us, we're sort of starting from scratch. So we have to focus on developing those relationships.

I mean, I just sent out a video to my students inviting them to connect with me via my cell phone number. And that -- and our school is going to be happening in a month.

We need to really focus on that. And we also need to have a realistic expectation of what we can cover. Really, the question is, what are we going to teach this year? Virtual teaching is not good. All the research shows it will not be as effective.

So, by focusing on developing relationships, by encouraging students collaborative projects, so they can work together, by supporting our families and being realistic in our expectations, we can hopefully get through this.

And then, once we do get back in face-to-face, hopefully with additional federal support, we can do extra support. Like, in Great Britain, they're funding a national tutoring program to try to get students caught up.

The real challenge is, as we approach our students, we have got to look through the lens of equity, not equality. Some of our students -- for example, my classes of English language learners need additional support, and they should get it.

Some of my more advanced classes might not need that additional support. I mean, there's so many elements to keep in mind. It's going to be a challenge.

BALDWIN: No, and I appreciate your honesty. Larry, you are the first teacher to come on to say, this isn't a great option, and we really have to focus on the things that we just won't be able to teach these kids.

But, when you finally can in person, you got to make up for that time. And maybe some funded tutoring is a pretty smart idea.

Larry, my best to you. Thank you. Good luck. Good luck.

FERLAZZO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Right now, lawmakers and White House officials are behind closed doors trying to hammer out this deal on a new stimulus plan to help so many Americans who are hurting right now.


But both sides are still pretty far apart. We have a deep -- live report from Capitol Hill.

And California just became the first state to hit 500,000 COVID cases. So, why are first responders partying in a bar without masks or any social distancing? Just wait for this.

And Major League Baseball is taking another look at it safety measures after more positive cases hit the league. We will discuss.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.


BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin,

California now has become the first state to surpass a troubling milestone in this whole outbreak. The state now has recorded more than 500,000 cases of the virus and more than 9,300 deaths.


Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles.

And, Stephanie, at one point early on, California was considered this early success story in fighting the virus. And now it's leading all of the states in the number of cases. How did California become the epicenter?


Well, what we have to keep in mind here, Brooke, are a couple of things. One, this is the most populous state in the nation. So we have some 40 million people that live here. So when you compare it to other states, it may not be exactly the same. So that is one thing.

We knew that there would be an increase in cases when we started to open things back up here in the state. But I think the rise was more than anticipated. So they have been working to bring these numbers down by putting some counties on monitoring lists.

So, when you look at the numbers, you see that California announcing today some 5,700 new cases and 32 deaths. While that sounds like it's much lower, I would caution, because the data is often delayed because some of the labs do not report over the weekend. So we should see an increase in these numbers as we get into the week here.

But I can tell you that the positivity is at 7 percent. It had been about 7.5 percent, so moving in the right direction. Los Angeles County saying the same thing, that they're seeing the number of cases and people hospitalized each day this week is less than the week before.

So, they're saying that some of the mitigation efforts that they have started have really been making a difference. And they're asking people to continue that, which is the exact opposite of what we saw happening on Friday evening, when there was a party held in Hollywood for first responders.

There were dozens of people in attendance, all inside. Right now, you're not supposed to do anything inside right now. Nail salons, barbershops, everyone's working outside right now. So this one party here now is getting scrutiny from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

They say they are investigating to see who was there, who held this party, to see what was behind the story. But, obviously, this is exactly what they're asking people not to do, to stay with your family, away from large crowds. And even if you do know somebody really, really well, you don't know whether or not they have the coronavirus -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

I want to pick up on that final point you just left off of, but, again, California grappling with more than half-a-million confirmed cases of COVID. And people are partying, as she pointed out.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is back with us today. He's an internal medicine, viral specialist.

And, Doctor, I mean, I just want to get your reaction to this first responder party in it in a bar in Hollywood where no one should be gathering indoors. Yes.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNIST: I know. It's disappointing. And it's also dangerous.

Listen, I'm not sure whether these were sheriffs, policemen, EMTs or physicians, but the point is, we're all under stress. I get it. But we need to, if nothing else, set an example.

Now, let me give you a story that hits very close to home. My first cousin in Miami who is like a brother to me, both his sons are firemen. One of them became positive, and, unfortunately, probably spread that to my cousin, who just got out of the hospital.

So the point is, just because we're first responders, we're not supermen or superwomen. And just because somebody is in your family does not mean that they cannot get the coronavirus. So this needs to be investigated. We need to walk the talk, right, as first responders.

And I just think it's really sad that this happened.

BALDWIN: Thank goodness your cousin's OK.

Let me ask you about this, Dr. Rodriguez, the new CDC forecast that shows 19,000 more Americans could die from COVID in just the next 20 days. So that is projected to reach 173,000 deaths by August 22.

And if you do the math, that's basically 1,000 deaths a day for a month. How do we stop that from happening?

RODRIGUEZ: We have been averaging that already for the last -- for the last month. So -- and that's not taking into account what may happen in the winter.

How do we stop that? Well, A, we could go into complete lockdown of the United States. Not very likely to happen. And, B, we need to take this seriously. It is estimated that if people wear their masks, if 95 percent of the people wear their masks, social distance, and clean their hands, we can really bring this down to an almost negligible level.

That is not a big ask. That is not a big sacrifice. That's what it takes.


Dr. Birx over the weekend actually took your point one step further, talking about maybe we need to be wearing our masks in our homes. Here's why.


BIRX: To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus. And that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces.

But, more importantly, if you're in multigenerational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities.


This epidemic right now is different, and it's wide -- it's more widespread. And it's both rural and urban.


BALDWIN: Now, I know people are sitting there thinking, I'm not wearing a mask in my house.

But her point was, right, if it's a multigenerational house, if people have comorbidities or people who are not well in the home, you should.

Would you agree?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I would agree that you need to do something, whether it's wear a mask or completely social distance yourself from that person that is at high risk bringing it into the home.

We need to start thinking the way that people thought during AIDS. You don't know who that person has been with. So, therefore, you are being put in contact not just with that person, but with who that person has been in contact with.

So if someone is coming from an area that is very high in its incidence of COVID or someone who is in a job that is higher risk, you need to be smart. People can come visit. Maybe you should just be 10 feet apart, six feet apart, or what feels comfortable with you.

I know people who have gone to visit their parents, and they have been COVID-negative. They have said so before. And the parents said, you know what, if you're going to go visit somebody else, this is the last time that I want to see you here.

So, leave your business toward the end. So every family needs to find a level of comfort, but they need to be smart about it.

BALDWIN: Isn't that what we all need to be doing at the end of the day in all facets of our life as we're going through this--

RODRIGUEZ: That's right.

BALDWIN: -- who knows how much longer, part of our lives?

Dr. Rodriguez, you are the best. Thank you so much. We will talk again, I'm sure.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: The battle, meantime, over this new stimulus bill is under way.

Lawmakers, the White House negotiators just wrapped a meeting on Capitol Hill. Is there any hope for a deal to help millions of Americans who are struggling right now? Let's find out.

And another setback for Major League Baseball, more COVID-positive cases, sparking more schedule changes.

We have those new details ahead.