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Thirty U.S. States Record Spiking New Deaths; Deborah Birx Slammed By Trump And Nancy Pelosi; Trump Still Touts Hydroxychloquine for COVID-19 Treatment; FL Set To Become 2nd State Behind CA With Half Million Cases; Fauci: Default Position Should Be To Keep Schools Open But Primary Consideration Should Be Safety; 260 Employees Infected Or Exposed To Virus In Georgia's Largest School District; 7 St. Louis Cardinals Players, 6 Staffers Test Positive For Coronavirus, More Games Postponed. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's going to be a long couple of days.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is frightening, and here we are in a middle of a pandemic and now we have this. All right, thanks so much Tom. I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. Follow me on twitter @PamelaBrownCNN or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

We're standing by to see if President Trump takes questions at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing, as the U.S. death toll climbs past 155,000 people with almost 4.7 million cases now confirmed here in the United States with the rate of new deaths trending up in 30 states.

And amid the worsening numbers, the president is taking new aim at yet another member, a top member of his task force. We're talking about Dr. Deborah Birx who gave this somber warning about the virus. And I'm quoting her now, "What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread." Her words.

Let's go to our national correspondent Athena Jones in New York for us. Athena, we are standing by and we are seeing some very disturbing new numbers right now. What's going on?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Just like Dr. Birx said, this virus is so widespread that it's now threatened to re- emerge in places that had brought the numbers way down like New Jersey where Governor Phil Murphy who is citing an upward climb in COVID-19 infections, many or some of them linked to house parties.

He is now re-imposing restrictions limiting the maximum number of people allowed in indoor gathering to 25, down from a hundred.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: What we're seeing today is different from March and April.

JONES (voice-over): In case you hadn't realized it yet, coronavirus is everywhere. That's the latest warning from White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

BIRX: 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.

JONES (voice-over): While new COVID-19 cases nationwide may be leveling off, holding steady in hard-hit Texas and falling in Arizona and Florida, Mississippi has the highest percentage of positive COVID cases in the country at 21.1 percent.

California just became the first state to report half a million infections and daily death tolls there and across the country continue to climb. The CDC now projecting the death toll will surpass 173,000 people in the next three weeks.

CAITLIN RIVERS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: 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.

JONES (voice-over): One way to bring it under control, mask wearing. Something the University of Washington team behind an influential model says is not happening nearly enough. And that government experts say would make a huge difference.

BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: We have to have like 85 or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. That is essentially gives you the same outcome as a complete shutdown.

JONES (voice-over): Parties presenting another challenge for communities trying to slow the spread. An indoor celebration at a bar to honor first responders causing alarm in Los Angeles. And the New York sheriff's office intercepting a party boat off Manhattan and making arrests after alleged illegal partying.

ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: Really reckless, rude, irresponsible, and illegal.

JONES (voice-over): The death and breath of the epidemic in America raising new questions about schools. Experts calling for caution in places with high case numbers.

JEFFREY GOLD, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: There has to be control in that local community before we can think about safely re-opening schools.

JONES (voice-over): Community spread of the virus already causing problems in Georgia's largest school system. Gwinnett County public schools reporting some 260 employees have tested positive for the virus or come into contact with someone who has. But Gwinnett County had been planning to re-open next week with online

only classes. Schools in Mississippi and Indiana that just reopened for in-person learning reporting students or staff testing positive for COVID-19, leaving officials scrambling to warn their contacts.

HAROLD OLIN, SUPERINTENDENT, GREENFIELD CENTRAL SCHOOLS: It's not exactly the start we were looking for in that specific school.

JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, more news on the treatment front. Eli Lilly and Company announcing the beginning of phase three clinical trials of an antibody therapy to treat COVID-19 with plans to recruit 2,400 residents and staff at long-term care facilities to take part.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (on camera): And with all the focus on schools re-opening, a new study says it may be necessary to test college students frequently like every two days in order to keep college campuses open. The study's lead author saying that colleges that can't meet minimum screening standards need to reconsider whether they re-open for in- person classes. Wolf?

[17:05:02]

BLITZER: All right, Athena, thank you very much. Athena Jones reporting. Let's go to the White House right now. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us. Jim, the divide seems to be growing almost on a daily basis between the president of the United States and his own top health experts.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is facing something of a revolt on his coronavirus task force. There are now three members of the task force who are contradicting the president's view on the surging number of cases in the U.S. as well as his recommendation that hydroxychloroquine be used to treat people with the virus.

The president sounds like he is running out of answers on COVID-19 claiming today that the U.S. is doing a "amazing job on the pandemic" when that's just not the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Ask why members of his own Coronavirus Task Force are going rogue and contradicting his comments on COVID-19, President Trump side-stepped the question and praised his administration's handling of the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are so many of these people on your task force contradicting you?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think we're doing a great job.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Three high-profile members of the task force are now only differing with the president on the virus. While the president is blaming it on increased testing, Dr. Deborah Birx is warning the virus is simply seeping into every corner of the U.S.

BIRX: 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.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That assessment outraged the president who pointed the finger at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a recent criticism of Birx, tweeting, "Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combating the virus including vaccines and therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait and hit us. Pathetic."

But task force member Admiral Brett Giroir is also distancing himself from the president taking issue with the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus, Mr. Trump's drug of choice.

GIROIR: At this point in time, there has been five randomized control, placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine. I think most physician and prescribers are evidenced-based and they're not influenced by whatever is on twitter or anything else. And the evidence just doesn't show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Asked about that, the president appeared to take criticisms of the drug personally.

TRUMP: There's a lot of people that in a lot of areas that have gotten very, you know, better very fast. Hydroxy has tremendous support, but politically it's toxic because I supported it. If I would have said do not use hydroxychloroquine under any circumstances, they would have come out and they would have said it's a great thing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also sounding defensive when it comes to the U.S. leading the world in COVID-19 deaths.

TRUMP: Why would they call it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does the U.S. have so many deaths. The U.S. has so many deaths compared to so many countries around the world.

TRUMP: Hold it. We haven't been given -- enough me. I'm not talking about me. Vice president, the task force have not been given the kind of credit. The United States has done an amazing job, a great job. And you're going to see that because we have vaccines and we have therapeutics coming very soon.

ACOSTA (voice-over): As for Pelosi, she doubled down on her tough talk on Birx accusing the doctor of looking the other way when the president pushed bogus treatments for the virus.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't have confidence in anyone who stands there while the president says swallow Lysol and is going to cure your virus. ACOSTA (voice-over): The president doesn't sound eager to work with

Pelosi on another coronavirus relief package, though he insisted he's been involved in negotiations, despite making his way to the golf course twice over the weekend.

TRUMP: The fact that I'm not over there with crazy Nancy? No, I'm totally involved. I'm totally involved.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on camera): Now, as for the negotiations over a new coronavirus stimulus bill, both sides say they are very far apart on reaching an agreement and blaming one another for the impasse. That's a bad sign for Americans who are hoping for an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and money for schools to add COVID-19 safety measures.

And as for the virus and the battle against the virus over here at the White House, the White House announced today that mandatory random testing will begin for all employees on the complex here. That's despite the fact that the president has repeatedly downplayed the importance of testing throughout this pandemic. Wolf?

BLITZER: Does that include journalists as well, Jim?

ACOSTA: We are tested on a routine basis, Wolf. For example, I was tested today because I was in the pool, but they're referring to White House employers, administration employees on the complex. Before today, this random mandatory testing -- with the random testing, was voluntary, Wolf.

Now they're making it mandatory, essentially a heads up to every employee aren't on the grounds of the White House that they could be tested at any moment. We should point out its August and it's taken them this many months to get to this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

[17:10:03]

Dr. Hotez, thanks for joining us. And as you heard Dr. Birx, a top member of the coronavirus task force says, and I'm quoting her now, "what we are seeing today is different from March and April" she says because the virus is now extraordinarily widespread across the United States. How much more dangerous is this situation we're in right now?

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. Dr. Birx is absolutely correct. This is a runaway train, Wolf. The southern states now account for 20 percent of the world's new COVID-19 cases.

And now we're seeing a new front where it's going up the Mississippi River, the Mississippi delta, of course, into Tennessee, now St. Louis, and then into Ohio and Indiana. And the deaths are mounting. We're going to be at 160,000 deaths by the end of this week, 170,000 in a couple of weeks after that.

And 230,000 deaths by the end of October according to the Institute for Health Metrics. So this is a tragic situation. We cannot have a normal life in areas where there is significant levels of virus circulating. We cannot open schools across the south, at least safely we can't do that, and now into the Midwest.

We've got to recognize that we need a containment strategy now for every state. We're starting to get to the point now where this is affecting the homeland security of our nation, people don't feel safe, certainly teachers and school staff don't feel safe, nor should they. This is a terrible situation.

BLITZER: Yes. It looks like a terrible, terrible failure over these past several months in dealing with this crisis that we're unfolding right now, this deadly virus. I want to show our viewers, Dr. Hotez, a map, and it shows the trend in positivity rates.

That's showing the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the coronavirus, compare that to the overall number of cases. So, what do these trends show you? You see 32 states have a positivity rate that is so disturbing.

HOTEZ: Yes, I mean, when I do -- when I look at these trends, I tend not to rely on any single metric. I look at the total number of cases. I look at the positivity rate. I look at the hospitalizations and deaths and all signs point to a steep acceleration.

Although across the south, we've kind of plateaued. We've plateaued at about a hundred miles an hour. And, you know, for instance, here in Houston, we've got between 1,200 and 1,500 new confirmed cases a day. And what that means practically speaking, probably 5,000 to 6,000 real new cases.

And what it means, Wolf, is you can't do all of the things you usually do for public health. You can't easily do contract tracing. You can't open classrooms, all of these things we can't have a normal semblance of life.

So, I can't see the current trends that you're looking at, but I've seen many positivity rate curves. It is the point now where we are in a dangerous situation across America.

BLITZER: Yes, very dangerous situation. And, Dr. Hotez, despite all of the president's top health advisers confirming that the drug hydroxychloroquine simply doesn't work and is dangerous to treat the virus, the president continues to promote the drug. His experts, his own Coronavirus Task Force members say that it's simply not true that there are serious dangers.

I just checked by the way, the July 1st Food and Drug Administration warning says, yes, the drug works for malaria, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, but it doesn't work for coronavirus. And there are side effects including, according to the FDA, serious

heart rhythm problems and other safety issues including blood and lymph symptoms disorders, kidney injuries and liver problems and failure. Yet, despite that, the president keeps touting it.

HOTEZ: Yes. We have massive evidence and multiple clinical trials, as Dr. Giroir pointed out in your segment that hydroxychloroquine not only does it not work, it's very toxic in those high doses causing heart disease. We actually saw that back in May in studies coming out of Brazil. So that book is closed.

And then you have to ask, why does the president keep on reverting back to the same old things going back to these miracle cures, hydroxychloroquine, going back to saying it's all due to increased testing, the cases, minimizing, saying the virus is still harmless 99 percent of the time.

And what's so -- you've got this now really difficult situation where not only is the American public very worried about their health and about their families contracting COVID-19. They have the extra layer of worry that nobody has their back, that the White House doesn't understand the depth and breadth of this epidemic and so far has showed no signs that they're willing to take it on and fight it.

[17:15:04]

And then you start to get this situation where you're affecting homeland security because people don't feel safe. And that's what I'm worried about in the coming weeks that this is going to cause further destabilization.

I've put out a plan that we can get our nation back into containment mode by October 1. We sent it to the White House. No real response or interaction. Others, Johns Hopkins has put out a plan. We've got to do this because we can't get to the situation where 300,000 Americans die by the end of this year and that's our current trajectory.

BLITZER: Yes, a thousand Americans every single day are dying from this coronavirus and it's an awful, awful situation. And the sad thing is no end in sight, at least until there's a therapeutic at least and a vaccine and that could be quite a while. Dr. Hotez, thank you very much for joining us.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're standing by. President Trump is getting ready, we're told, to answer reporters' questions at a White House coronavirus briefing. We'll have coverage.

And as the divide grows between the president and his own top health experts, how fine of a line are they walking as they try to inform the American people about what really is at stake right now and what they really need to do, while at the same time not upsetting the president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:00]

BLITZER: Now as we wait for President Trump to take questions at today's White House coronavirus briefing, I want to bring in our chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, you did a truly excellent interview yesterday with Dr. Deborah Birx. She acknowledged that the coronavirus is extraordinarily widespread throughout the United States right now.

The president responded to your interview by tweeting that Dr. Birx, in his words, took the bait after being criticized for earlier comments by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling it pathetic her response, Dr. Deborah Birx's response. Calling Dr. Birx's response pathetic.

So how fine a line are these coronavirus experts, these doctors, walking as they try to inform the American public about what's really at stake, what's really going on without upsetting the president?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The finest of lines, and the fact that the president tweeted criticizing Deborah Birx today for the first time, and we've certainly seen some criticism of Dr. Fauci, but not deborah Birx.

And that happened because she made the error in Trump's mind of telling the truth. And she didn't really have a choice, Wolf. I mean, you have been talking about it every single day I think since the beginning of this pandemic on our air how things are changing.

And right now things are as bad as they have ever been. And there was no way to sugar coat that even for somebody who, you know, has been accused of trying to do so. Deborah Birx couldn't do it. The numbers are just too blatant and too horrific when it comes to how widespread this virus is right now.

BLITZER: Yes. As I say, with almost a thousand Americans dying almost every single day, it's a horrendous situation unfolding. Right now, look, more than 155,000 Americans have died over these past five months alone.

Dr. Birx also painted in the past at least a bit of a rosier picture for the president than, let's say, Dr. Fauci did. So, this was a significant shift in her tone, in her answers to your questions yesterday when discussing this horrendous spread of this virus.

BASH: Yes. I mean, she was -- look, she tends to answer questions talking about the statistics and the numbers that exist out there. And Dr. Fauci tends to answer the question in more layman's terms.

And so the goal that we had was to try to get her to speak to the real fear and the panic, frankly, that so many people are feeling in this country because the numbers are going the absolute wrong way, as she admitted, not just in urban areas, not just in hot spots that have been, you know, identified, but in rural areas, because people are on the move, to use her term.

And so, you know, she did kind of lay it out as clearly as she had. And, you know, what's interesting about the president's tweet today is that he hung it on Nancy Pelosi.

It was Nancy Pelosi who yesterday morning actually while we were on the air said that she no longer had confidence in Dr. Birx. By that time Dr. Birx had already laid out a more candid picture than she ever had while defending herself against the House Speaker.

BLITZER: And the president today calling her response, Dr. Birx's response, pathetic. You also asked, Dana, Dr. Birx about whether it was time right now in the United States for a reset on the coronavirus response. I want you and our viewers to listen to how she replied.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIRX: Well, I think the federal government reset about five to six weeks ago when we saw this starting to happen across the south. And that's why we've done these very rather than generic federal framework. We've gone to very specific state and local city by city, county by county showing which counties and which cities are under particular threat and what mitigation has to be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But, Dana, have we seen any shift at all, any substantive shift at all from the president where it matters?

BASH: Not really, no. I mean, if you look back now I guess two, three weeks, he said it's okay to wear a mask, and it's patriotic to wear a mask, though he has not actually done as he has said. He's only said to do that.

[17:25:03]

And we certainly haven't seen very many other changes. What Dr. Birx was talking about is the fact that she and other members of the task force are not just laying out their principles, not just laying out their guidelines in the hopes that governors and other local officials heed them.

She and others are being much more aggressive about calling governors and saying this is going on, you need to act on this. And it doesn't always work. Remember, she was with the governor of Tennessee in Tennessee saying that they need to be more aggressive. And in front of her the governor of Tennessee pretty much blew her off.

So that speaks to the bigger question, which is that why is the president leaving it to her and others as opposed to really using the bully pulpit and the power that he has to be more of an enforcer on this?

BLITZER: And, Dana, it's now been, what, two weeks and one day since President Trump promised Chris Wallace and the American people, for that matter, that he would sign what he called a full and complete health care plan within two weeks.

That time line, by the way, seems to be his time line of choice. I want you to watch, I want our viewers to watch several times the president, he often uses that two-week phrase. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: We're signing a health care plan within two weeks. A full and complete health care plan.

We have tests coming out perhaps over the next two weeks that will blow the whole industry away.

We're coming out with a report on two weeks on it.

But I'll have a statement over the next two weeks on minimum wage.

You'll be seeing over the next two weeks I'm doing something that's extremely bold.

We'll have some announcement on that over the next two weeks, yes.

And you are going to find it to be a very exciting two weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: So, is it two weeks -- the two weeks thing I've been paying attention to that, I was assuming yesterday there would be an announcement on a brand new health care plan for the United States. Didn't happen. Didn't happen today. Is two weeks just far enough away that he thinks people will forget about what he just promised as time rolls on?

BASH: It sure seems that way. That is kind of a crutch, a verbal rhetorical crutch that the president uses to punt. And, you know, in this case, it didn't work because we are reminding people of that.

But just on the substance of it, the fact that the president felt the need to say that he has a health care plan in that interview is a reminder that obviously the coronavirus is, and the economy, is the big issue right now and the big crisis right now.

But Democrats run the House and they have the majority because they ran on health care. And the president dismantled big parts of Obamacare without really putting much out there to replace it with.

And despite the fact that everybody is understandably focused on this, maybe even because people are focused on the health care crisis, the fact that the health care system is still so uncertain and we don't know what the president wants to do, even though he's the one in office, is very telling.

BLITZER: All right, Dana thanks very much, and thanks again for the excellent interview yesterday. Appreciate it.

We're standing by once again for President Trump to answer reporters' questions at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

Also, the debate over re-opening schools here in the United States clearly intensifies, especially in Florida right now after the coronavirus claims the lives of two teenagers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:33:21]

BLITZER: Florida right now is on the verge of becoming the second state with more than half a million confirmed coronavirus cases, that's after California. CNN's Randi Kaye is joining us right now. Randi, you're there in Palm Beach. Is there any sign that Florida can actually slow the outbreak?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the numbers are really interesting, Wolf. 4,716 new cases and 73 new deaths to report. That number of new cases, Wolf, as you know is about half of what we've been seeing.

Now we don't know if that's because of the hurricane that was brewing off the coast of Florida over the weekend if people stayed home and didn't go and get tested or if it's because the state closed most of the state run test sites. Certainly those here along the east coast of Florida, and most of those will start reopening tomorrow.

So it's unclear at this point why that number is so much significantly lower, in fact. But we do know that the governor announced today two more test sites, Rio are going to open in Miami-Dade. One at Marlins Stadium, one at Hard Rock Stadium.

These, Wolf, are going to be antigen testing sites. So specifically for people who are symptomatic, they'll have special lanes for those people, also for people 65 and older, they want to get those results to them within 15 minutes they're saying now. Because some cases, it's taking two weeks. So within 15 minutes, which would really be something.

So the governor announced that today. One thing he wouldn't talk about today, though, is his plan to reopen schools safely. He was asked about that by my colleague, Rosa Flores at the press conference today. And all he did was go back to his talking points saying that parents can have choices and that the Department of Education is in touch with the State Department of Health, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Randi, thanks very much. Randi Kaye for us in Florida.

Dr. Anthony Fauci just weighed in on the debate over reopening schools. I want to discuss that with our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

[17:35:08]

Sanjay, Dr. Fauci says the default position should be to reopen schools. But then he says the primary consideration should always be the safety, the health of the welfare of the children. Do we know enough about this coronavirus yet to make really well-informed decisions on this critically sensitive potentially life and death kind of issue when to fully reopen schools? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, a couple things, Wolf. I would say, remember, when we shut down schools, there were a few thousand people in the country had been infected and a few dozen deaths, right?

That was when we decided to shut down, can look at the right side of the screen and the numbers are obviously much larger and growing and now we're making the decision to open up schools. So lack of certain logic there, right, just in terms of what was a trigger to shut down and now how are we thinking about how to open up.

Everybody wants schools to open because of, obviously, the educational, the other ancillary services it provides. But I think it's tough. You know, where I am in Georgia, there was a school district where I think over 200 teachers -- 260 teachers and faculty work now for a while because some tested positive, some came in close contact. If that happens right away, after you open up, you can see the stutter start sort of situation.

And, Wolf, you know, we talked about Israel before. You know, we do look around the world to see how have other countries done. And look there, Wolf, I mean, it's one example -- sort of examples where things have gone better. But, look, they got the numbers down, but then as soon as they opened up, that makes a suggestion that kids are spreading this even if they're not getting sick, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they could be totally asymptomatic, but they could easily transmit this virus to their parents, their friends, their family, others. And you were referring to that one county school district outside of Atlanta, you're there in Atlanta, Gwinnett County Public School that says about 260, Sanjay, 260 employees either contracted the virus or exposed to someone who had the virus. So what does that say about the challenges these schools across the country are about to run into?

GUPTA: We talk a lot about the students, and understandably so because, you know, this is going back to school. But if the premises -- which I think is true that kids are far less likely to get sick, which is good and that data has held up since the early data came out of Wuhan, but they are still possibly spreading this just like adults do, then what about the teachers and faculty?

You know, if you look at some of the studies, they say a third of teachers' faculty would be considered vulnerable for some reason, either because of pre-existing illnesses or age or whatever it might be. And if they're in a closed environment, indoors in particular, without proper ventilation in some situations, not able to physically distance because schools are crowded, that's putting them at real risk.

So you have, you know, considerable health risks potentially to people within the school and then the idea of kids, you know, bringing the virus home. That was a significant event. 260 faculty and teachers. That was just a few days after they started up, that gives you a sense of how quickly things can spiral. BLITZER: For those schools, Sanjay, that are opening up within person classes, not virtual, but in person classes, do they really have the resources to catch cases before it potentially could lead to an outbreak?

GUPTA: No. The answer is no, Wolf. And, look, this has been a source of frustration for me. I've talked to you about it many times over the last several months. You know, one of the things about the whole thing in terms of it working was to bring cases down. You also had to have adequate testing in place, testing, rapid, accurate, point of location, testing.

You can imagine, Wolf, at schools, if they had easy testing, you could start -- it wouldn't be perfect, but you'd start to get a real sense of people who have the virus, you could quickly isolate them. If people did not have the virus, you have the confidence that you're walking into an environment that is virus-free. We should be there at this point in this country, and we're still not. I mean, we still don't have adequate testing.

We're still using testing to sort of put out a fire here, put out a fire there. We're not into this either surveillance or what I just described, this sort of assurance testing. I have an assurance that I'm OK.

BLITZER: Yes, that's so important. I want you to stand by, Sanjay. After the President answers reporters' questions on the coronavirus, I want you to join us. You'll do some fact-checking. We have others. We'll do some fact-checking as well. So don't go too far away.

GUPTA: OK.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have a closer look at coronavirus headlines around the globe including a strict new lockdown in Australia's second largest city. And Russia announces a mass coronavirus vaccination program in October, but will it be safe?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:44:17]

BLITZER: In global coronavirus headlines, a state of disaster has been declared in southeastern Australia, meaning even tighter restrictions for the City of Melbourne. CNN's Anna Coren is monitoring the situation from Hong Kong. Anna, tell us more.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Australia's second largest city, Melbourne, is under the toughest restrictions ever imposed in the nation's peacetime history in response to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The 5 million residents of Melbourne have spent the past month under stage three lockdown.

But due to the rising numbers of daily infections, the government has announced stage four restrictions for the next six weeks. That means a curfew will now be in place from 8:00 p.m. through 5:00 a.m., or nonessential businesses will be closed along with schools and childcare centers. And only one member of each household is allowed to leave the house each day to buy groceries.

[17:45:09]

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who has declared a state of disaster, says these restrictions will cause substantial pain, but says this is the only way to bring the crisis under control. The death toll continues to rise in Australia. It currently stands at 221. Wolf?

BLITZER: Anna Coren reporting for us, thank you.

Despite ethical and medical questions about its upcoming coronavirus vaccine, Russia already is scheduling mass vaccinations. CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow for us. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Russia again tonight claiming to be way ahead of its rivals in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, with approval being promised in less than a week, followed by frontline vaccination of medics and teachers then mass production in September and then vaccinations for the general population, a month later in October. It is a staggeringly ambitious timetable for what would be the world's first approved COVID-19 vaccine.

But, of course, there are huge questions. Firstly, is it safe? The normal three phases of human trials before approval have been cut to just two. So it's not been tested with the same rigor that a vaccine normally would. Secondly, does it work? There's still no published data for peer review to prove this Russian coronavirus vaccine is actually effective. And so, in the rush to win the vaccine race, critics say that Russia has cut far too many corners, Wolf.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you. There's more breaking news next. More Major League Baseball games are now being postponed as the coronavirus sweeps through yet another team.

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[17:51:45]

BLITZER: There's more breaking pandemic news we're following here in "The Situation Room". Seven St. Louis Cardinals players and six team staff members, they have now tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing Major League Baseball to postpone the team's schedule four- game series against the Detroit Tigers.

Let's go CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, this is raising more doubts about whether major league sports, Major League Baseball specifically, can play safely in the midst of a pandemic.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely raising those doubts, Wolf. As you point out, another apparent team outbreak in baseball is again threatening their season. Basketball and hockey are holding their own for the moment, but right now, the NFL is also nervous.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Inside America's most popular sports league, teams are barely into training camps. But already some high profile people sidelined in the NFL are raising coronavirus alarm bells. Philadelphia Eagles head Coach Doug Pederson has tested positive and is in self- quarantine. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II and four of his teammates all placed on the NFL so called reserved COVID-19 list. For players who have either tested positive or been quarantined after being in close contact with someone who's infected.

MIKE FREEMAN, COLUMNIST, SPORTICO.COM: I think there's a real chance that the league starts and then stops. You may, in fact, see several of those. You may see the league start, stop, start, stop. It could stutter along. But of all the leagues, I think the NFL has always been in the most jeopardy.

TODD (voice-over): This comes as Major League Baseball's return to action tonight is shakier than ever. Several games involving the St. Louis Cardinals have had to be postponed after at least seven players and 16 staffers tested positive. And the Miami Marlins meltdown continues. A source within the team telling CNN at least 21 Marlins players and coaches tested positive in recent days.

That does suggest that the outbreak is fairly widespread, and they might have trouble turning the corner on that in time that continue the rest of the season. I think it depends on what their mitigation plans are for responding to an outbreak, but it's not a great place to be starting.

TODD (voice-over): It's gotten so bad in baseball that according to ESPN, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in recent days worn the head of the players union, that if the league and the players don't do a better job following protocols and managing the virus, Manfred could shut down the rest of the season.

FREEMAN: Manfred is definitely covering his blood (ph) here a little bit. I think he and the owners in baseball, but especially him, they completely underestimated how bad this could potentially be.

TODD (voice-over): In Orlando, the resumption of the NBAs and Major League Soccer seasons in their bubbles have started relatively smoothly. But analysts say all sports are hanging by a thread as they return.

FREEMAN: I don't think the players are really the issue here. The issue is the virus. This is how viruses work, and a bunch of people and in the same space, even if you take a lot of precautions, it's still an issue and we haven't even gotten into what happens when players like go out into town. And they really shouldn't, but they do.

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[17:55:06]

TODD: Now epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers points out that football does have an advantage over the other sports and that they play only once a week, that's going to give the NFL time to test, identify cases and get players into quarantine. But she also worries that that extra time between games is going to allow NFL players time to venture out into their communities.

And again, Wolf, they are not in the bubble. They're not going to be as many people monitoring the NFL players between games.

BLITZER: Serious situation indeed. Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you.

There's more breaking news we're following. We're waiting for President Trump to start answering reporters' questions at his coronavirus briefing. We'll be right back.

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BLITZER: All right, the President is getting ready to answer questions. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Marines and the Navy (INAUDIBLE) died in a training accident a couple (INAUDIBLE).

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're actually briefing me a little while. We have it scheduled for a little while from now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) speak to the families?

TRUMP: It's terrible. No, it's terrible, and we'll be in contact with their families. Thing like that is terrible.