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Dr. Birx Says, U.S. in New Phase of pandemic with More Widespread Cases; Tropical Storm Isaias Strengthens Overnight, Taking Aim at Carolinas; Soon, Negotiations Resume over Coronavirus Relief Bill. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day. Erica Hill in this morning for Alisyn, good morning to you.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEW DAY: Good morning.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Deborah Birx tells CNN that we're in a new phase of the pandemic, a phase that's different from March and April, and she doesn't necessarily mean better, not at all. She says we're in this new phase, because the virus is so widespread. California just became the first state to reach a half million cases. Florida will likely hit that milestone this week. The daily death rate rising in 30 states now. The CDC predicts 19,000 more Americans will die in the next 20 days. And do the math, that could be a conservative estimate.

For millions of Americans, enhanced unemployment benefits have expired. Extra money that so many have depended on is gone. Washington leaders have failed to reach a new deal on the measure. Negotiations will continue this morning, but they're pretty far apart.

And with more than 150,000 Americans dead in this pandemic and an unprecedented health crisis, the president missed his own self-imposed deadline to announce a new healthcare plan he promised one more than two weeks ago. Yesterday was the deadline, deadline missed, unless he was lying about announcing a new plans in the first place.

HILL: Well, meantime this morning, we are also watching a strong tropical storm bearing down on the Carolinas. It's forecast to become a hurricane today before making landfall tonight. Isaias has already brought powerful wind and drenching rain to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Florida. There are tropical storm watches and warnings that stretch all the way up the east coast into Maine.

We'll have the latest on Isaias' track in just a moment.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is Andy Slavitt. He's the former Acting Administrator for the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services for President Obama. Andy, great to have you with us this morning.

Just so people can hear it, I want to play Dr. Deborah Birx in this really interesting interview with Dana Bash, explaining that we are in a new and not good phase of this pandemic.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We are in a new phase. And that's why I really wanted to make it clear to the American people, it's why we started putting out governor reports, directly to the health officials and the governors in every single state, because we could see that each thing had to be tailored.

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


BERMAN: It's interesting, Andy, because she suggested that five or six weeks ago, the administration pivoted and formulated a new plan given this new phase. What do you make of the quality of that new plan, if it, in fact, exists?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTER FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: We should be grateful that they now acknowledge that we have a problem in the country in the White House, because they should be working on it, but, you know, welcome to the rest of the country. States around the country has been worried about this and working on this for May, June and July. And it feels like the White House took those three months off.

Five or six weeks ago, when she said they started working on this is when Vice President Pence published an op-ed that said that things were well under control, the media was blowing things up too much. So, this is a White House that clearly, politically, does not want to acknowledge this problem. You know, I understand that Deborah Birx is a scientist, is actually trying to make an effort here, but she's not making an effort to the point where she's willing to make any of the important steps.

So in terms of the plan that they've put forward, they're not closing bars, they have not withdrawn President Trump's statement that every school in the nation has to open. And so I don't know how they're going to make things better when they're stuck in the reality that everyone else was a few months ago.

HILL: It's interesting you bring up bars, because it makes me think of, as we heard from Dr. Birx saying over the weekend, emphasizing to Dana that rural areas are at risk. But we heard last week as we learned more about these tailored responses that the task force is putting out for different states, giving them to governors, a lot of them did include recommendations to close bars, and she talked about it.

And two of the states that stick out, Tennessee and Kentucky, taking those recommendations very differently, which I think, to your point, Andy, really underscores that the lack of a national plan means there is no follow-through, necessarily, on even those scientific recommendations. SLAVITT: And I think it's going to be an interesting case study to see what happens between Tennessee and Kentucky. I think, you know, they're being very careful to say, we have a pandemic, but don't do anything that harms economic activity. So they will not call for things that will hurt, what is perceived to be a better jobs report for the president. So they have not made this the most important thing, in my opinion.


So, the fact that she says wear masks at home tells us that she knows this is serious. The fact that she says, wear masks at home, which means she knows it's very widespread, but won't suggest that people question whether or not they have enough data to open their schools on time, tells us that they are really not optimizing for public health yet. They are still trying to focus on the things that Trump says are important to his election.

BERMAN: I'm so glad you brought up the wear masks at home recommendation, Andy, because that jumped out at me. It did seem to me in that interview, and I'm sure you listened to it even more closely than I did, and doing a forensic analysis, her level of concern was higher than I've ever heard it. It really was. You don't say wear masks at home, unless you're very worried about something. Yet, yet, she seems limited also in her recommendations.

SLAVITT: You're exactly right, John. I talked to some White House aides over the last few days, in fact, longer than I have in a long, long time. So, they're clearly worried about this. And from what I understand, Dr. Birx has spent a lot of time looking at this most recent JAMA study, which shows that kids carry just as much viral load. And she knows that kids, when they sneeze and they cough, are efficient spreaders.

And so we know that she's very worried about this. What puzzles me is -- and I assume she's expressed those words to the president, and I assume that's one of the reasons why Trump hasn't renewed his calls for every school in the country to open no matter what.

Having said that, they think it's a victory, his political aides do, if he doesn't tweet something bad in a given day as opposed to going back and correcting what he tweeted earlier, which is that this ought to be, perhaps, driven by local decisions. And so he gets it both ways. He gets to kind of wink at his supporters with his tweets and have his public health officials out there trying to be more careful and it's confusing to the public.

HILL: There is a lot of confusion.

Let's talk for a little bit about vaccines, if we could. A fascinating piece in The New York Times talking about vaccines and the politicization of it, right, and the political pressure. And they specifically note that Jared Kushner has been a regular participant in these meetings, and that there are questions asked about October, a date that hanging over -- that hangs over the effort. Trump campaign advisers privately calling this a pre-election vaccine, the, quote, Holy Grail.

And the article also goes on to say that there are some questions about whether it would be unethical to withhold a vaccine, which is just fascinating to me. I mean, is that unethical to withhold a vaccine if you don't know if it's safe and effective?

SLAVITT: Well, the president was quoted as saying that the FDA has been great at my instruction, which is really concerning. Because right now, the thing we want the most is the FDA to be walled off from any political pressure, particularly with what happened with hydroxychloroquine, where that got an emergency use authorization, because of the president's push, when the scientists and the FDA clearly didn't believe it.

For Americans to have a vaccine, they have to be able to trust it, they have to be able to trust that it's safe and effective. And with all due respect to the president, we need to hear from scientists who have reviewed the data and they need to put the data out very transparently, saying this vaccine is safe and here is why, this vaccine is safe and here is why, or here are the risks. And that can't appear come with any political pressure to it, or people won't trust it. It will set us back so far.

And I don't care about the election. I want the vaccine to come when it is ready, whether it's September, October, November, December, January, February. When we have a safe and effective vaccine, let's put it out there. If we rush it a month or two because we're in the middle of a phase three trial, we don't have the data that the FDA said we're going to have. I do think there's going to be a lot of concern about the vaccine.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Andy, because we have to let you go. Dr. Deborah Birx, again, and my forensic analysis also raised the issue of travel in a way that I haven't quite heard her say before. She said if you go -- first of all, she said, we're moving around too much, that there's a lot of travel in the country right now. And she said, if you go to any one of these states where there are concerns right now, you have to assume you are coming home with the virus and act accordingly. How concerned are you about travel?

SLAVITT: Well, you're getting on an airplane with people from all over, including high-spread states. I have a particular interest in Las Vegas because there are a lot of people going in and out of Las Vegas for just a couple of days. It's very hard to control the spread inside a casino. I think they're probably making efforts, and their economy is completely dependent on one industry, so I have a lot of sympathy.


But we have hot spots. And what happens when people go to Las Vegas, those hot spots don't emerge in Las Vegas. They'll emerge when they get back home and interact with other people. So I think we should be very careful at this time.

BERMAN: Andy Slavitt, terrific having you on this morning. Thanks very much for being with us.

SLAVITT: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, Tropical Storm Isaias expected to strengthen into a hurricane as it makes landfall near the Carolinas. That could happen tonight.

Chad Myers tracking the system for us. Chad, what do you see?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It better hurry up and strengthen if it's going to be a hurricane, because right now, I don't see it. Hurricane hunter now in the storm, pressure didn't get any lower, the winds did not go up and the satellite presentation doesn't look as good as it did six hours ago. That's the good news.

Now, if you look at the Jacksonville radar, the storm has tried to form an eye a couple of times overnight and it has been squashed by this wind we talk about, by this wind from the southwest, we call it sheer, but it won't allow the circulation to be a circle. It wants to be a football and footballs don't get bigger. Circles get bigger and deeper. Still forecast to be a category one, making landfall in about 13 hours.

Now, this thing is going to scream to the north as well, all the way up even into New York State and New England. But the big surge will be from above Pauley's Island on up to about North Carolina. And the rain onshore about four to six inches could, with that wind, bring down quite a few trees and power lines, so power outages could be fairly widespread. John?

BERMAN: Yes, I'm very concerned about trees around where I live. Chad Myers, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

So how are cities preparing for this storm in the middle of a pandemic? One mayor tells us what the situation is, next.



BERMAN: Breaking overnight, Tropical Storm Isaias is bearing down on the Carolinas, where it may make landfall as early as tonight as a hurricane. Cities all along the east coast dealing with the threat of severe weather during a pandemic.

Joining us now, Mayor Derrick Henry of Daytona Beach, Florida, which, so far, has largely been spared from the storm. Mayor Henry, it's great to have you with us.

It was just about a year ago I was standing in your city on Daytona Beach with Hurricane Dorian, which also scraped by. It seems like you may have missed the worst of this, but how hard was it to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane strike in the middle of a pandemic?

MAYOR DERRICK HENRY, DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, it was quite concerning because people's emotions are all over the place and their emotions are largely centered around the pandemic. We've been through hurricanes and while we certainly don't take them for granted, it was concerning that people would not take this one as seriously as necessary.

But, fortunately, as you said, it seems as though this one has glanced us and we've been fortunate of late and we're hoping that it continues to be that way as it relates to hurricanes, because as I said to our residents, hurricanes are going to be with us. We're accustomed to those. We have to do what we're supposed to do. And so, hopefully, this one is getting us, you know, geared up for this season.

BERMAN: Yes, the season is really just beginning, a few more months to go here.

I want to ask you about masks in your city. You have a mandatory mask order in place. How has it been received and how closely are people hewing to those orders?

HENRY: The mask ordinance is doing quite well. We've seen a drastic turnaround in the number of people who are wearing masks. Of course, I continue to get the occasional call from residents complaining that a business is not enforcing it or that visitors or residents are not wearing masks.

But, overall, we've seen this debate, if you will, sort of begin to subside in the community as residents are beginning to embrace the science, so too are most visitors.

But most of the problems we have with masks are typically from those who are uninformed, as well as those who are frustrated because they do have medical conditions. So sometimes, you'll have a business that's rather overzealous and doesn't really take into account the fact that, you know, there are exceptions to wearing masks, or those who have medical impairments.

But, overall, I'm very happy with the progress that our community is making, as it relates to masks and delighted to see people begin to take it out of the political realm and simply embrace the reality of the science.

Because, as I've said to residents, the mask is not -- excuse me, the virus is not Democrat, it's not Republican, it's not black, it's not Christian or Muslim, it has one objective, and that is infect as many people as possible. So our goal is to fight it in a unified manner.

BERMAN: So task force member Dr. Deborah Birx made a point of saying that travel is something that she is concerned about. She says Americans are moving around. Daytona Beach is somewhere where people love to go. It's a great place to visit under normal circumstances. What are your concerns about people coming in and out of your city?

HENRY: Well, that's very concerning, and that's why we are putting in place as many measures as we can to be as safe as possible. As you know, we host two bike week events and we have our Biketober-fest events, which would normally be scheduled for later in October. And we're in the process of deciding whether we will move forward with those, or not.

As it stands for me, it's a definitive no at this moment in time unless things drastically turn around. that's not something that we're going to be supportive of at the moment.

BERMAN: Yes, people have to change, think a lot of the plans they have made for a long time.


Mayor Derrick Henry, we're glad you missed the brunt of this storm. Thanks so much for being with us. Good luck going forward.

HENRY: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Erica?

HILL: We want to remember some of the more than 154,000 American lives lost to coronavirus.

Lieutenant Eric Lloyd was set to celebrate 30 years with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department last month and planned to retire at the end of the year.

Before contracting the virus, Lloyd served as the president of the Injured Officers Police Fund, where he raised money for colleagues hurt in the field. Friends remember him as a man who dedicated his life to helping others.

Angie and Eugene Hunter were married for 35 years. They died from coronavirus just four days apart. Their son, Justin, a high school senior, plans to dedicate his final football season to his parents. Angie and Eugene will be remembered for their big hearts and their desire to give without thinking about getting back.

We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Later this morning, negotiations resume between Congress and the White House on a desperately-needed economic relief bill. They've already missed a key deadline.


The supplemental $600 a week federal unemployment benefit expired Friday.

I want to bring in Julia Chatterley, CNN Anchor and Correspondent. This was $600 extra in unemployment benefits that millions of Americans were getting every week. It's gone as of now, Julia, unless and until they reach some new deal.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's crisis point. It's unacceptable, John, that it's come to this point where, in certain cases, people have lost 90 percent. In some states, they have 90 percent less money as a result of losing this $600 a week.

The argument being made here, of course, by the Republicans is that, look, there's a disincentive effect to work. I think that kind of logic works in an environment where we have an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, not where we have an unemployment rate above 11 percent.

And we know the situation is far worse. There simply aren't the jobs available for people to go back to. And the benefit of this money is not just allowing people to pay their bills, to feed their families. It's also having a supportive effect for the economy. It's boosting the entire economy, with people spending far more, in fact, in many cases, than they were pre-virus.

So this is something that we have to fix. There's also a huge $1 trillion mind the gap situation between state and local government spending as well. In fact, it's far easier to talk about here, where there are points of agreement, which is the direct stimulus checks to people, more money for small businesses and the PPP protection scheme. The gaps here in an agreement are far bigger, John.

BERMAN: It is interesting. There's a study out of Yale over the weekend and Neal Kashkari, who is the president and a Minnesota fed made the point that you just made right there, that $600 extra a week maybe in normal times would be a disincentive to work, but these aren't normal times, because, for a lot of people, there just aren't jobs.

CHATTERLEY: I made this comparison on the show last week, and this is such a critical point. According to the last check we have, around 30 million Americans collecting some form of benefit, job openings in the United States around 5.5 million. So we've got three, four, five potentially times people out of work than there are jobs available.

You know, there are other studies that have been done that have said, look, some form of benefit, enhanced benefit is not long-term security. A job is. It's quite insulting at this stage to assume that people will go back to work if they can.

And, John, I think the bigger issue here is, we're not in control of the virus. We don't have a plan for that. And what we've seen around the country is when we go back to normal life, cases rise. So in the absence of that, we have to have a plan to support people short-term.

The Democrats are operating like we are still in an emergency situation. We are. In fact, the emergency is bigger. The Republicans are operating in a consistent manner in the way that the White House is handling this, that the emergency is over. It isn't.

BERMAN: Back at table today. We'll see if any new progress is made. Julia Chatterley, thanks so much for being with us.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Erica? HILL: let's bring in David Gregory, CNN Political Analyst. David, I think Julia made such a great point there about 30 million people filing for unemployment, 5.5 million available jobs. And, by the way, these, you know, extra benefits running out on Friday, that deadline was not a surprise. So the fact that we are still here now, days after that benefit has expired is telling in itself.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not surprising that Congress and any administration over a package this big would have a difficulty reaching an agreement after they've operated in a crisis level before. You know, you reach a kind of breaking point about how much money the federal government is going to pump into the economy.

But I think Julia is right, that we're still in a crisis. Yes, there are industries, mainly for part-time work, the food industry, where there are people who are sitting out rather than going back to work, because they're probably making more with this federal help than they would back at a job. But I think that's perhaps more isolated. It's hard to get the sense of the overall.

And here is just one anecdote. Think about, you know, where I live in Washington, D.C., when you have major school districts that are going to be virtual only now in the fall, for people who don't have an opportunity to go out and seek work, even if it were available, because they're going to have kids at home, how vital would that extra support be?

BERMAN: The part of this that does surprise me, I have to say, David, is that the politics of this seem fairly simple. I don't understand why in a campaign you would think that an administration would just spend. I mean, purely political. Forget the merits of the argument, but from a political standpoint, why not pump money in as quickly as you can into the economy?

GREGORY: Yes. Well -- and they've done so much of that. And I think, you know, why not maximize any positive economic news amid a crisis that could be attributed to the fact that you were there and encouraging Congress to provide as much aid as possible.