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New Coronavirus Cases Level Off But Death Rate Is High Across The U.S.; Isaias Forecast To Become A Hurricane Again Today; Parents Form "Pandemic Pods" To Teach Kids In A Bubble. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. enters a new phase fighting coronavirus. Cases are more spread across the country, but the number of new cases is finally trending down.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And, Isaias now expected to become a hurricane later today. The storm set to make a mess on the entire east coast this week. We'll take you live along the Florida coast.

ROMANS: Yes, hurricane season in the middle of a pandemic.

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Hi, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Hi, Christine. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Laura Jarrett. A pleasure to see you this week, Christine.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Boris.

All right, let's talk about this. America and the opportunity -- another opportunity, perhaps, to slow the pandemic. 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 eight percent. Cases only rising in a handful of states, many where the numbers were already low. And the number of Americans in hospital beds, that number 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, are still up in 30 states and the CDC is now forecasting 173,000 deaths by August 22nd. That's 1,000 deaths per day for almost three weeks.

White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, says the fight against the pandemic has entered a new phase.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, RESPONSE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: 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 a particular threat and what mitigation has to be done.


SANCHEZ: Look, by any measure, it was a very rough July. The U.S. saw nearly two million new coronavirus cases. California now above 500,000 with Florida, as you can see, not far behind.

Dr. Birx says Americans traveling this summer need to be mindful and if you choose to vacation in a hotspot, you need to assume that you're infected.

Another member of the task force who oversees testing says the easiest way to stop the virus and keep the economy open is simply to wear a mask.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT AND HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We have to have like 85 or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. That 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.


ROMANS: But not every state is following guidelines. South Dakota, one of 11 states now adding cases, still plans to host the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally. That's a quarter of a million people expected.

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

SANCHEZ: And at this hour, Tropical Storm Isaias is surging toward the east coast. It is expected to become a hurricane later today. It is packing punishing winds and a storm surge that could make for a very challenging week.

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.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, do we have a timetable now on when this might make landfall?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, within about 12 to 18 hours. Sometime later tonight -- this evening into tonight is where the best possibility is for this landfall to occur somewhere along the border of South and North Carolina. It could be a hurricane category one. That's, in fact, the latest update, as you noted there, from the National Hurricane Center, saying this has the potential to strengthen a little bit more, and it really doesn't take much.


It currently sits at a strong tropical storm. It only needs about four miles per hour more in wind speed --sustained wind speed -- to push it up to category one. And it looks like it will get there as it moves over the warm waters of the Gulfstream.

But here we go -- this is the timing. We think, again, 10:00-11:00 p.m. on approach just north of Charleston. Winds would be sustained around, say, 75 to 80 miles per hour.

And then beyond this landfall through the Carolinas, it really picks up its forward progression and speed. And you'll notice by Tuesday evening it is pushing right through portions of New York with 40 to 60 mile per hour winds possible. It would potentially still be a tropical storm as it works its way across parts of New England and then quickly loses tropical characteristics before it moves into the Canadian Maritimes.

But we know with those winds of anywhere from, say, 55 to about 65 and 70 miles per hour, this is certainly going to leave some power outages along portions of the east coast.

And, in fact, the power outage forecast kind of highlights the areas in orange and red. Those are the widespread areas of coverage where outages are expected right along the immediate coast -- much of the state of New Jersey and certainly parts of New York. That includes areas around New York City where power outages could be very much a probability there within the next 24 to 36 hours.

But notice the storm surge also a big story -- as much as two to four feet about what is normal high tide. And Monday is the astronomical high tide for the entire month because today is a full moon.

And, of course, you take a look across Charleston, an area very much prone to flooding, high tide occurs at around 9:00 p.m. That will be a little over six feet there. In Wilmington, around 10:30 p.m., at about five feet. So an additional two to four feet storm surge added to the top of this number here really could bring water into parts of these communities.

And we know, again, Charleston well-known for seeing flooding and this tropical system certainly not going to make much of a difference when it comes to bringing in another round of water into this region.

SANCHEZ: Yes. If you know that area, Pedram, as you noted, just about any storm poses a threat of flooding, so this is something that could potentially be serious.

Pedram Javaheri, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. This storm poses a twin threat with the pandemic that changes the emergency response.

Let's go live now to Daytona Beach, Florida and bring in CNN's Natasha Chen. Good morning, Natasha.


We are just getting a little bit of moisture now compared to 30 minutes ago when I last spoke with you, but there were some squalls that we experienced overnight. As you've been discussing, the storm has been passing us -- just behind us, offshore, and is making its way slowly northward to the Carolinas.

But the people here have been very prepared for this storm as well as the entire hurricane season, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic.

There have been county testing sites that temporarily closed for a few days -- they're expected to reopen soon -- because of this storm, even though some private testing sites have remained open.

And we talked to the Emergency Management director about the fact that they're going to have more shelters on standby because each of the shelters will have reduced capacity when they're giving families more space to socially distance. And when people go into shelters they will have to wear masks. They will have to go through temperature checks.

Luckily, they didn't have to use the shelters much. They opened some Sunday morning but then closed them back down in the afternoon when not a whole lot of people showed up.

Here's a bit of the conversation I had with the Emergency Management director standing in a war room that is typically filled with people.


JIM JUDGE, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, VOLUSIA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC PROTECTION: 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 ahold 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 he also said that he had consulted with his counterparts in Corpus Christie, Texas to figure out how they handled an earlier storm in this season and also during the pandemic. So people are definitely preparing for this and consulting with others who have gone through his experience. But it's something that they're prepared for in the coming months as well because hurricane season is far from over, Christine.

ROMANS: Far from over and a pandemic still here. All right, thanks so much, Natasha Chen in Daytona Beach.

About 25 million Americans lost a key lifeline. That extra $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits expired last week. Some Republicans argue the money is a disincentive for people to go back to work. Some people, especially the retail industry, were actually earning more in their wages there.

Neel Kashkari is the president of the Minneapolis Fed. He said no, that is not the case right now.


NEEL KASHKARI, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF MINNEAPOLIS: Not right now. Not when 20 million people are out of work relative to February. There's just so many fewer jobs than there are workers available.

At some point, it will be an issue. But right now, it's simply not a factor in the macroeconomy that we have in the U.S. because we have so many millions of Americans out of work.


ROMANS: Yes, at some point it could be an issue, but not now.

Look, in normal times we debate this -- whether jobless benefits keep some people -- some people on the sidelines instead of working. These are not normal times. Over this summer, one-third of the labor market has filed for unemployment benefits. The problem is a lack of jobs to go back to until the virus is contained.


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

Now, that includes money to pay rent. Programs to stop evictions have either expired or run out of money. As many as 23 million renters are at risk of losing their homes by the fall, Boris.

SANCHEZ: A terrible situation.

ROMANS: It really is.


So, his nomination for a senior role at the Pentagon fails, but the president managed to get him a top job anyway.

Don't go anywhere. EARLY START continues after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: A controversial Trump pick for a top Pentagon post, the retired general whose nomination failed, has now been inserted by the president into a new senior role.


National security reporter Ryan Browne has more from Washington.


RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (on camera): Good morning, Boris and Christine.

Retired Brigadier Gen. Anthony Tata has been put into a senior policy post at the Pentagon despite his nomination for another post collapsing last week under Senate scrutiny.

Now, Tata had made controversial comments unearthed by CNN's KFILE team on a wide range of issues, accusing a former CIA director of plotting to kill President Trump, calling President Obama a terrorist leader, and making comments that many viewed as Islamophobic.

Now, Tata has been working as a senior adviser at the Pentagon since April. The details of that role have not been revealed. The Pentagon has declined to offer any details about what he's actually been doing.

But he will now be placed into a position that is normally Senate- confirmed. Now, he is on a temporary, technically, acting basis but the move has been slammed by Democrats on Capitol Hill with a top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee saying that the efforts to skirt their confirmation process were destabilizing and an insult to U.S. troops and the American people.

Ryan Browne, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, great reporting there from Ryan. Thank you for that.

Another fake Nancy Pelosi video is going viral on Facebook. It's been labeled partly-false by Facebook's fact-checkers and it's already amassed more than two million views. The video is manipulated, of course, to make it appear as if the speaker is drunk or drugged -- somehow, impaired.

A similar video of Pelosi went viral on Facebook last year and she blasted Facebook for not removing it. The video also circulated on YouTube but was removed there.

SANCHEZ: It's a big week for Joe Biden's campaign. He's expected to pick his running mate in just a few days. People close to the vetting process say that California Congresswoman Karen Bass, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is gaining traction in the late stage of the search.

Bass is now facing more scrutiny, including for past comments about Fidel Castro. She called his death a great loss to the people of Cuba.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio calls Bass the highest-ranking Castro sympathizer in the U.S. government's history.


REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, one, I don't consider myself a Castro sympathizer.

Number two, my position on Cuba is really no different than the position of the Obama administration. As a matter of fact, I was honored to go to Cuba with President Obama. I went to Cuba with Sec. Kerry when we raised the flag. So there really isn't anything different.

And then, frankly, I believe the Republicans have decided to brand the entire Democratic Party as socialists and communists. So I'm not surprised by Rubio's characterization of me or of a role I would play if I were on the ticket.


SANCHEZ: Kind words for Castro have hurt Democrats before. You might recall Bernie Sanders' praise of the late Cuban dictator and his defense of Castro's policies preceded the demise of his campaign.

ROMANS: All right.

So, August, here we are -- typically, back-to-school time. Some kids are going to go to real classrooms. But some parents worried about safety during the pandemic are forming something called Pandemic Pods. They are hiring tutors or retired teachers for small private classes, but only if you can afford it.

EARLY START's own Laura Jarrett filed this report for us.


MARNIE WEINSTEIN, EDUCATION CONSULTANT: The first thing that you need to do is get out your homework.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): With coronavirus resurging across the country and so much uncertainty about what school looks like this fall, many parents are now taking matters into their own hands.

WEINSTEIN: Right now, people are in panic mode. They are going to check each other.

JARRETT (voice-over): Marnie Weinstein, an education consultant in Washington, D.C., says parents are reaching out, desperate for other options.

JARRETT (on camera): How many parents would you say have reached out to you?

WEINSTEIN: My e-mails are overflowing. My text messages are overflowing.

JARRETT (voice-over): She's helping parents form what they're calling learning pods -- small groups of young children paired with a single teacher in a home.

WEINSTEIN: It could be a basement, it could be a room upstairs, just as long as the teacher can set it up to feel like a classroom.

JARRETT (voice-over): This pod in a suburb of Atlanta has 12 families and 28 kids from kindergarten through fifth grade.

MEREDITH COPLEY, MOM, LEARNING POD ORGANIZER: We've talked about consistency and routine. Whoever is hosting the group of kids -- my kids are going to get their backpack -- laptop, and their backpack, their water bottle, and a snack, and they're going to take it to whatever house they're going to. We're, hopefully, going to stay pretty consistent with that.

ANDREA LABOUCHERE, MOM, LEARNING POD ORGANIZER: I envision a one-room schoolhouse. We wanted to create an environment where our kids could work together and read together and have that social part of school. It's so important for their development.

JARRETT (voice-over): And their kids like this option, too.

ADDY LABOUCHERE, FIFTH-GRADER: I'd rather be in a pod with my friends than be at home just working on school by myself.


JARRETT (voice-over): From San Francisco to Toledo, Ohio to Tampa, Florida, pandemic pods or micro-school groups are popping up all over social media, each with their own set of rules.

WEINSTEIN: We are going to say that we can go to the grocery store but always wear masks and wash our hands.

JARRETT (voice-over): But in-person instruction doesn't come cheap, with some parents guaranteeing a teacher their full salary or more, even if their child ends up back in a classroom at some point this year.

WEINSTEIN: So, a lot of the teachers, they'll tell me they're not sure they want to sign on. And a lot of them are coming back because they can get the same amount of money or more working half-day, staying safe.

JARRETT (voice-over): A lucrative deal for teachers but yet, another way COVID has highlighted how a good education often depends on what your parents can afford.

A more cost-effective option, families who plan to follow their school's virtual learning plan.

LABOUCHERE: We're not homeschooling them.

JARRETT (on camera): Yes.

LABOUCHERE: There's a difference.

JARRETT (voice-over): They're forming their own pods and hiring a tutor to help with all the digital homework and check-ins.

HELEN ARCHER, MOM, LEARNING POD ORGANIZER: Once they're done with the digital learning, then they take a break. And that's where the tutor will come and facilitate and make sure that they stay on track with that curriculum.

JARRETT (voice-over): In many cases, the details are still being ironed out. But parents who have kids with a preexisting condition or special needs say the pod model is the safest for their families as the pandemic continues.

NIKKI COHEN, MOTHER: I think it's a fantastic option because you can -- you can kind of tailor your educational needs to whatever your family needs.

ARCHER: When the kids look back, they're going to -- they're going to remember a fun community time that they had --

JARRETT (on camera): Yes.

ARCHER: -- for these few months because it's not going to be forever.

JARRETT (voice-over): Laura Jarrett, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: All right, Laura. Thank you so much for that.

To California now. This morning, the Apple Fire is burning out of control east of Los Angeles. It's already grown to over 20,000 acres, forcing more than 7,000 people now to evacuate. It is five percent contained.

Evacuation orders now issued for residents north of Banning and Beaumont in Riverside County. No injuries have been reported.

SANCHEZ: A huge search and rescue effort has ended for seven Marines and a Navy sailor missing after a training accident off San Diego. All eight are now presumed dead. Authorities say 15 Marines and the sailor were training in an amphibious assault vehicle when it sank near San Clemente Island.

The ages of the victims were released overnight. All of them were between 19 and 23 years old.

Chicago and New York City setting tragic milestones at the end of a violent July. A 9-year-old boy heading to his friend's house shot and killed in the final hours of the month in Chicago. Murders in that city jumping nearly 140 percent from last July.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says, quote, "When a 9-year-old's life is ended by a bullet, we must all be outraged."

There have now been 760 -- 776 shooting incidents in New York City in 2020. That's the same number for all of last year.

ROMANS: All right, 53 minutes past the hour this Monday morning.

Taking a look at markets around the world, global markets start a new month mixed. Asian shares closed mixed but European shares have opened higher.

HSBC's profits plunged 65 percent in the first half of the year. The pandemic weighed down the business there. The bank said credit losses could hit as much as $13 billion this year.

Taking a look at Wall Street where we start the week looking mixed here. Futures barely moving here. But stocks closed higher Friday for the final trading day of July.

Get this, all three major averages rose for the month. That's the fourth-straight month of gains following the March sell-off. You don't see a pandemic when you look at these sorts of returns on Wall Street. It's being felt on Main Street; not on Wall Street, yet.

The coronavirus has forced another retail giant into bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor, the nation's first department store, filed for chapter 11 protection Sunday, almost a year after the fashion rental subscription service, Le Tote, bought if for $75 million. Le Tote also filed for bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor did not respond to a request for comment.

You are looking at the Space Butterfly. It was captured by the European Space Observatory's very large telescope, thousands of light- years away. It's actually a planetary nebula. That's a giant cloud of gas that forms around an ancient star that has yet to explode.


NASA EMPLOYEE: Splashdown.


SANCHEZ: NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken safely back on earth after a historic flight to the International Space Station. The successful splashdown marks the end of SpaceX's first crewed trip and potentially, the beginning of the space agency's next chapter in space exploration.

NASA now hopes to buy space flight and other services from private companies, like SpaceX, in order to help create an economy in earth's orbit.

ROMANS: And that was, really, just awesome -- awesome to watch.

SANCHEZ: Yes, great to watch -- historic moment.


ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez in for Laura Jarrett. Thank you for joining us. "NEW DAY" is next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. continues to report more cases and more deaths than any other country.

BIRX: And no matter where you live in America, we need to wear a mask and socially-distance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very frustrating as an epidemiologist to see these case numbers continuing to rise without a national strategy, without adequate testing. And these numbers are going to continue to go up until we do have these things in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The National Hurricane Center talking about this being, potentially, a category one hurricane within the next 24 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not too worried. We have a generator.

JAVAHERI: Storm surge is always the biggest threat.