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New Coronavirus Cases Level Off But Death Rate is High Across the U.S.; Punishing Winds and Dangerous Storm Surge Expected in Florida; Stimulus Deal Unlikely As Lawmakers Remain Apart on Key Issues. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: The U.S. in a new phase now fighting coronavirus. Cases are more spread out across the country, but the number of new cases is finally trending down.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Meantime, a tropical storm set to make a mess on the entire East Coast this week. There's a new report just in from the National Hurricane Center. We'll take you live along the Florida coast.

ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans. Hi, Boris?

SANCHEZ: Hi, Christine, I'm Boris Sanchez in for Laura Jarrett. It is Monday, August 3rd, 5:00 a.m. in New York, exactly three months to the election, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, America could have another opportunity to slow this pandemic in the meantime. The biggest question, will citizens and the government get it right this time? New cases down or steady across most of the country. The two-week average is down about 8 percent, cases only rising in a handful of states. Many where the numbers were already low. And the number of Americans in hospital beds is now trending lower.

But a big part of this is numbers heading down in states that desperately needed to turn a corner. COVID-related deaths very much a lagging indicator. They are still up in 30 states. The CDC is now forecasting 173,000 deaths by August 22nd. That's a 1,000 deaths per day for almost three weeks. White House coronavirus taskforce coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx says the fight against the pandemic has now entered a new phase.


DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASKFORCE COORDINATOR: I think the federal government reset about five to six weeks ago when we saw this starting to happen across the south. This epidemic right now is different and it's wide, it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban. We've gone to very specific state, and local city-by-city, county-by-county showing out which counties and which cities are under particular threat and what mitigation has to be done.


SANCHEZ: Really glaring that Dr. Birx is talking about a reset five weeks ago after the response from the Trump administration. Look, by any measure, it was a very rough July. The U.S. saw nearly 2 million new cases. California now above 500,000 with Florida not far behind. Dr. Birx says that Americans traveling this Summer need to be mindful, and if you choose a vacation in a hot spot, you need to assume that you're infected. Another member of the taskforce who oversees testing says the easiest way to stop the virus and keep the economy open is simply to wear a mask.


BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH: 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 --


GIROIR: Texas, Louisiana. These measures are being implemented and that changes it.


ROMANS: Now, not every state is following guidelines. South Dakota, one of 11 states now adding cases still plans to host the annual Sturgis Motorcycle rally. Get this, expecting a quarter million people. Many of these states have shut down their states there, but Sturgis will go on.

Trouble for schools as they reopen, especially in Indiana. Students at Elwood Junior-senior high school now have to go remote after staff members tested positive for COVID-19. And one student at Greenfield Central Junior High School tested positive on the very first day of school. Other students who came in close contact were notified but that building will remain open.

SANCHEZ: And now the Des Moines public schools superintendent planning to ask for a delay to the start of school, and have online classes for high schoolers, even though Iowa's Republican governor has insisted on in-person teaching. In Florida, Miami-Dade students will continue with virtual learning until at least October, and around 260 employees in Georgia's largest school system have been sent home after testing positive or being exposed.

Gwinnett County schools in Metro, Atlanta are scheduled to reopen with online learning in just about a week from now on August 12th.

ROMANS: Yes, this is going to be a big test for these school districts and for parents who are really worried about sending their kids to school. All right, the other big story this morning at this hour, Tropical Storm Isaias is surging towards the East Coast and it's packing punishing winds and a storm surge that could make for a very challenging week.

A twin threat with the pandemic that changes the emergency response. A hurricane watch is in effect for parts of the Carolina coast with tropical storm warnings and watches from Florida all the way to Long Island. Let's go live now to Daytona Beach, Florida, bring in CNN's Natasha Chen. Hi Natasha?


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, it looks pretty calm right now, But the storm is actually passing just off shore behind us and moving north very slowly at about 9 miles per hour. Like you said, it's going to be a problem for the Carolinas and the National Hurricane Center actually said just a few moments ago that it's going to be a hurricane soon today.

So right now, Florida has really gotten lucky here. We did experience some squalls overnight. And right now, there's a lull at the moment, but what this storm has caused is an interesting problem for much of the East Coast this time. In prepping for a storm while also being in the middle of a pandemic. And I spoke to the Volusia County Emergency Management director on Saturday about that experience. We actually stood in a room, in their war room, which typically has up to 100 people there preparing for something like this.

Instead, it was pretty empty. And I asked him how bizarre that experience is just preparing for a storm in the middle of COVID-19.


JIM JUDGE, DIRECTOR, OEM: We're looking at the evacuations and the transportation and then solving the problems that are going to come up. Because now we've got to get on a computer, get on a phone to be able to get a hold of people to do those things when I can walk across the room and solve that problem immediately. It may take a little bit longer.


CHEN: And, of course, they've also prepared for the fact that they may need more shelters, hurricane season because of reduced capacity, giving families more space and those shelters to socially distanced, masks required, temperature checks required. But at least, for this storm because they got a little bit lucky here, they did close any shelters that they had opened on Sunday because not many people needed them. Christine?

ROMANS: Sure, we know that Florida is a hot spot. Is it changing how they're doing testing or how they're handling the coronavirus?

CHEN: Right. So a lot of the counties on the Eastern Coast of Florida temporarily stopped their testing sites for a few days. They're expected to reopen early in the week, probably by tomorrow. But at least for this county, and Volusia County, a public health official reassured people that this would not likely throw off the numbers too much because they are closing the county-run testing sites. There are still private sites. Some of them continued running and as far as this area right here, the county sites did not account for the majority of the testing going on.

ROMANS: All right, Natasha Chen for us in Daytona Beach, thank you so much for that. Stay safe.

SANCHEZ: And as you heard from Natasha, the storm is expected to be near hurricane strength when it reaches the Carolinas later today. Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with a look at the forecast.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Boris. Yesterday, just look at the latest update coming in from the National Hurricane Center. They actually increased that verbiage, saying they are expecting this to become a hurricane sometime later this afternoon. Landfall sometime later tonight, potentially into the early morning hours there of Tuesday morning into portions of say North or South Carolina, right along the border.

But 70 mile per hour winds right now, sitting about 115 miles away and east of Jacksonville, Florida. Here's the forecast track at around 11:30 p.m. tonight, it could be a category 1 hurricane on approach just north of Charleston, somewhere just south of Myrtle Beach. That's where we think landfall is the most likely scenario for that location. And then you notice, beyond this, but it potentially pushes in right through the northeast on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Plenty of gusty winds, plenty of wet weather as well. And it's the steering environment across this region that really makes this forecast kind of an ominous one for the northeast because we've got the jet stream from the east pushing the system off towards the east and then off towards east. We do have of course areas of high pressure nudging it back towards the west. So, we'll want to hug the coast and that is where the storm surge is really going to be the highest.

Parts of Charleston into, say, Myrtle Beach, 2 feet to 4 feet above normal high tide. Key to mind today, this Monday, this is a full moon which means it's the astronomical high tide for the entire month of August across these area. So, essentially 2 feet to 4 feet on top of their high tide that is expected right around the time we have Isaias come ashore there, which would be -- again, closer to the late night and to the potentially the overnight hours.

But 6 and a quarter foot there as high tide there in Charleston, if you know much about Charleston, you know that a historic city that of course, takes on quite a bit of water with any storms. But when you put in the astronomical high tide, which is today on top of an incoming hurricane, it could be a bad news for that region in the next few hours. Guys?

ROMANS: All right, Pedram Javaheri, thank you so much for that. A hurricane season in the middle of a pandemic and a critical moment here for millions of Americans. Talks on the next stimulus package have stalled. Lawmakers need to act quickly before the Summer recess. Negotiations are set to resume today, but Democratic leaders, the GOP, the White House remain far apart here. Whether to renew or reduce the extra $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits is the major point of contention.


Economists at Bank of America say taking away that extra money amounts to$18 billion a week out of the pockets of jobless people and out of the economy.


STEVE MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: I think on the concept, we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment. We want to fix the issue where in some cases people are overpaid and we want to make sure there's the right incentives. But again, let me just emphasize, we put on the table a proposal, let's extend it for one week at the same rate while we negotiate, so we don't hurt the American public.


ROMANS: The Treasury Secretary also said he and the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made three or four other offers to the Democrats to deal with enhanced unemployment, he didn't provide any details. Democrats passed an extension of the jobless benefits in their $3 trillion package back in May. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said extra money is essential for working families and suggested it could be tied to the unemployment rate.

And Boris, the big issue here is this kind of philosophical question of whether extra unemployment benefits disincentivizes going back to work. That's a legitimate argument or debate to have in normal times. These are not normal times.

SANCHEZ: Right --

ROMANS: Twenty five million people are barely getting by with the extra $600 a week. So, this is really a critical question they've got to resolve in Washington.

SANCHEZ: Yes, really -- and what I find most glaring is that the lead on messaging here from the White House, it's Steve Mnuchin, it's Mark Meadows, it's not the president himself. In speaking to aides at the White House, they say that the vast majority of his input has been about getting funding for that new FBI building in this bill, something that Republicans on Capitol Hill have simply scoffed at. The time --

ROMANS: Interesting --

SANCHEZ: Is 5:11 a.m. Could TikTok remain in the United States after the president threatened to pull the plug? New details overnight on talks with the tech titan that may step in.



SANCHEZ: New overnight, Microsoft confirming it is in discussions to buy TikTok. The Chinese-owned short form video app that President Trump is threatening to ban in the United States. Hadas Gold joins us live from London with more. Good morning, Hadas. The company that owns TikTok, ByteDance apparently in talks with Microsoft, Microsoft saying that this could wrap up in just a couple of weeks.

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Boris. This a lot of developments just in the past 24 hours on this quickly moving story. Microsoft confirming that its CEO Satya Nadella has been speaking directly with President Trump about this deal, saying they fully appreciate the importance of addressing the president's concerns and are committed to acquiring TikTok, "accepting to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the U.S."

They say that they actually plan to complete discussions and a possible deal by September 15th. So that's just in a few weeks. They say that they would run the app in the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And importantly, this is where the national security concerns have come into play from the U.S. government, that all-American data would stay in the United States if they were to run this app.

ByteDance, which is the parent company of TikTok for its part has not specifically addressed the possible sale, but did say in a statement on Sunday, that they have faced all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties including a tense international political environment that they will strictly abide by local laws and actively use the rights granted to them by the law to safeguard the legal rights of the company.

Now all eyes will be of course on the price. We haven't heard yet how much TikTok is really worth. We know hundreds of millions of people use it. We know a lot of our friends and family, especially teenagers are really obsessed with it. So how much could this app actually be valued? And then also, of course, whether the White House, whether President Trump would be satisfied with this deal, with Microsoft taking TikTok over. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, Hadas, obsessed with TikTok is perhaps an understatement among some of my younger friends especially -- and that's part of the national security concern. Hadas Gold, thank you so much for the time from London.

ROMANS: All right, 17 minutes past the hour. Mystery in the outfield solved or sort of. How one Mets slugger opted out of the game and then the season without letting anyone know.



SANCHEZ: The coach of the Philadelphia Eagles Doug Pedersen is now in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Good morning, Carolyn, the good news here is that Coach Pedersen at least reportedly is feeling OK.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: That's right, good morning to you, Boris. You read my mind. That's exactly what I was just thinking about. You know, he is the first coach to test positive for the virus during these training camps. And this is an indication for the NFL. But the list of concerns that they have ahead of their planned opening in September is continuing to grow, but he is asymptomatic. He is feeling well according to the team.

And the Eagles maintain that they're following the health and safety protocols that were established by the league and the players union. Any individuals who were in close contact with him have been notified. They're going to continue to be tested daily here. It was just a week ago that Pedersen told reporters he felt comfortable with the protocols in place and the team's facility.


DOUG PEDERSON, HEAD COACH, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: I feel extremely safe. You know, obviously coming into it, there might have been some skepticism, you know, about the testing and, you know, the screening that goes on. But this is very thorough, and, you know, when you're here, you know, when you get tested in the morning, you get a screening process that you have to go through to get into the building. Wearing masks in the building everywhere we go, I feel extremely safe.


MANNO: Meantime, Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Gardner Minshew was placed on the NFL's newly created reserve COVID-19 list. This coming a day after Detroit lines quarterback Matthew Stafford received the same designation. However, we should point out that, that does not necessarily mean that either player has tested positive but they are on the list.

Yoenis Cespedes opting out of the rest of Major League Baseball's 2020 season after a hectic couple of hours on Sunday where nobody knew where the 34-year-old was for a time. The sluggard skipped the Mets loss in Atlanta without disclosing his whereabouts to the team. It turns out he had packed up all of his belongings and left the team hotel. His agent told the Mets mid game that he would be opting out of the rest of the season for COVID-related reasons. The team's general manager saying, his first concern was the outfielder's well-being.


BRODIE VAN WAGENEN, GENERAL MANAGER, NEW YORK METS: Any time a player doesn't show up there's -- you know, there's questions and concerns. Now, you know, as far as anger or the -- you know, the situation that really was put in or the teammates were put in, you know, I think that first and foremost, it was about making sure he was OK. And then now we have a far better understanding that he had a -- you know, a decision that just hadn't communicated to us yet.



MANNO: Cespedes is in the final year of his four-year $110 million contract, so this could be the end of his tenure with the Mets. And a group of PAC-12 football players are threatening to opt out of the upcoming season unless key demands are met. In a letter in the "Players Tribune", the group outlined a lengthy list of items that they would like legally addressed ranging from health and safety insurances to financial compensation and a plan to address racial injustice in this country and in sport.

Players showing concerns on Twitter using the hash tag, we are united. The PAC-12 says the conference has not yet had formal discussions with the group. And Christine, one thing we know is that coronavirus has shed light on the number of issues in college football. And now the players are drawing a clear line here that they want their voices heard in an official capacity. They want to be part of the conversation.

ROMANS: Yes, it's putting their lives at risk in some cases or the worry of that, at least. They want to -- they want to talk about it. All right, thanks. Nice to see you, Carolyn. Thanks. Well, the number of new coronavirus cases is finally trending down in the U.S. Will Americans seize upon a new phase in the fight to keep those numbers down?