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Trump Says U.S. "Doing Very Well" As Deaths Rise in 30 States; Fauci Says Asymptomatic Community Spread Driving New Phase; Dr. Birx: U.S. Outbreak Extraordinarily Widespread; Isaias Downgraded to Tropical Storm after Landfall; Melbourne Faces New Restrictions as Outbreak Grows; Brazil Reports More than 16,000 New Infections; Iran: One Person Dies of COVID-19 Every Seven Minutes; Outbreak Turns Vietnamese Resort City into Ghost Town. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 4, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, President Trump criticizes his own medical experts slamming a member of his own coronavirus task force for speaking an inconvenient truth.

North Carolina hit by hurricane Isaias now downgraded to a tropical storm. We will have the latest on that.

And President Trump says the sale of TikTok can go through but with a big catch.

Thanks for joining us. And we begin in the U.S. where President Donald Trump is defending his handling of the coronavirus pandemic despite the death toll rising in 30 states.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're doing very well and I think that we have done as well as any nation. If you really look, if you take a look at what's going on, especially now with all of these flare-ups.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump attacked and contradicted the nation's top health experts during his briefing Monday. He again touted the drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for the virus even though multiple officials from his own administration have repeatedly debunked that claim.

More than 4.7 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 155,000 people have died from the virus nationwide.

The Trump campaign appears to recognize the growing crisis. The President's campaign sent an email asking supporters to wear facemasks, something Mr. Trump is seldom seen doing himself.

Well the top U.S. infectious diseases expert warns the nation is entering a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci said it's being driven by people with symptoms who are unknowingly spreading the virus in their communities.

CNN's Athena Jones reports on the latest warning from officials.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you have community spread, it's much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): In case you hadn't realized it yet, coronavirus is everywhere.

FAUCI: There are people who are spreading it who have no symptoms at all and we know that definitely occurs. It's difficult to identify it and it's difficult to do identification, isolation and contact tracing.

JONES: 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: Parties presenting another challenge for communities trying to slow the spread. An in-door 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 an alleged illegal party.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: Really reckless, rude, irresponsible and illegal.

JONES: And in New Jersey where the infection rate while still low has ticked up in recent days, Gov. Phil Murphy imposing new restrictions, limiting most indoor gatherings to 25 people down from 100.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D) NEW JERSEY: For the actions of a few knuckleheads leave as no other course.

JONES: 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 have been planning to reopen 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 COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION: It's not exactly the start we're looking for in that specific school.

JONES (on camera): And there's more news on the treatment front. Eli Lilly and Company announcing the beginning of phase 3 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.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.



CHURCH: So let's talk now with Dr. Celine Gounder, a CNN medical analyst and infectious disease expert. Always good to talk with you.


CHURCH: So one day after Dr. Birx told Americans the coronavirus was extraordinarily widespread, President Trump called her pathetic and falsely claimed the virus is receding and the U.S. is doing very well with its fight against the virus. As a doctor, what would you say to the President about that and his handling overall of the pandemic?

GOUNDER: Oh, wow, that's a loaded question, Rosemary. You know, I think the President has frankly been very dishonest in his portrayals of the coronavirus pandemic, whether it's here in the United States or elsewhere. We have been saying as infectious disease experts and epidemiologists, we've been saying for months now that it was inevitable that the virus would eventually spread out sort of like falling like dominoes. Starting from the urban centers like New York City but eventually spreading to suburbs and rural areas, which is exactly what we've seen.

And frankly, it didn't have to be quite such a rampant spread. We allowed that to happen by not implementing strict enough lockdowns in most of the country. That's really just in the northeast that we had adequately strict lockdowns. And so we allowed the virus to run rampant.

CHURCH: And Dr. Fauci reiterated what Dr. Birx said and added that asymptomatic cases are driving this new phase of the virus, which makes it more difficult to contain. And these two top doctors are trying to alert all of us, but President Trump apparently doesn't want us to hear. What do we all need to be doing to protect ourselves given how widespread this now is? And how concerned are you right now with where things stand in the United States?

GOUNDER: Well, Rosemary, previously some of the hot spots for transmission were places like nursing homes and meat packing plants, but now the virus is so widespread that the kinds of places that we're seeing a lot of the transmission being driven by are not just bars but just private parties. It could be a wedding, it could be a baby shower, it could be your Friday night beers on the couch with your friends. But that is precisely the kind of setting that's driving much of the transmission. It's the people you know who are closest to you.

And that's why Dr. Birx, in fact, recommended if you have some high- risk people, vulnerable people at home, you may actually want to be wearing a mask at home because you want to prevent transmission in the home.

CHURCH: Yes, that was certainly a critical point she raised. And doctor, a new study reveals that college students need to test every two days to ensure it's safe to be in class. We've also learned the 260 school employees have been infected or exposed to COVID-19 in Georgia's largest school district. All of this as more studies reveal that kids catch and spread COVID-19 just as much as adults do. But still President Trump insists all schools must open for face-to-face learning. What will happen when schools do that?

GOUNDER: Rosemary, there was a recent publication looking at a camp outbreak in Georgia where they brought kids of all ages as well as adults to this camp. This was in the midst of widespread transmission in Georgia. And not surprisingly there was a big outbreak. I think unfortunately, there's this insistence to open schools. But it's not about opening schools, it's about keeping them open. And if you don't take the measures necessary to prevent spread and you're opening unwisely in the midst of widespread community transmission you are going to have outbreaks. If it was really a priority to safely reopen schools, there's a lot of work we needed to be done in the past couple of months that unfortunately has not been done.

CHURCH: All right, Dr. Gounder, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

GOUNDER: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Isaias has now been downgraded to a tropical storm just hours after it roared ashore in North Carolina as a category 1 hurricane, but it's still a dangerous system with life threatening conditions that will persist as it travels up the east coast. And we obtained these dramatic images of structures on fire near an area where the storm came ashore. Isaias has also caused flooding and knocked out power to nearly 245,000 customers in North Carolina.

Meantime, Charleston, South Carolina, dodged a bullet and escaped major flooding and damage from the storm's path. CNN's Derek Van Dam has our report.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Charleston, South Carolina, was spared the worst from Isaias as it continues to move away from the region. Of course, the Carolinas no stranger to land falling tropical storm systems. They've had several over the past consecutive years. Dorian being the latest last hurricane season.


Now there were no hurricane shelters open in the region because they didn't deem that that was necessary. However, if they do open hurricane shelters for future oncoming tropical systems, they will be at a reduced capacity because they need to take into consideration the social distancing that needs to take place within those shelters. In fact, Charleston County having an 80 percent reduction in their shelter space for the future of the hurricane season. Which, by the way, we still have 90 percent left to go for the remainder of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

So we had a few minor areas of flooding within the city, but that's quickly being mopped up. A couple of branches that fell over. But it is really business back to normal. And the city is ready to move on from Isaias as some of the nicest weather sets in behind this departing storm. Back to you.


CHURCH: Thanks so much for that report, Derek.

And we turn to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri now to bring us up to date on the situation. What are you seeing now?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Rosemary, you know, this is you noted as downgraded to a tropical storm. But it is still a pretty a potent tropical storm just a couple of miles shy of still being a category one. So, it kind of shows you the intensity maintained. 70 miles per hour as it works its way now out of the state of North Carolina into the state of Virginia. And the damage -- of course you saw some of the images coming out of North Carolina.

But how about some 300,000 customers. You notice the population in the counties here heavily impacted across the area that was impacted there in the past several hours. But that's the number of customers without power across this region. And we know the tropical storm warnings extend not only just across the Carolinas but even as far north as the state of Maine. An incredible area coverage here when it comes to the expansive nature of this particular fast-moving system now.

Notice New York City is about 400 miles away from the center of this storm. We expect it to get within this region inside the next 10 to 12 hours as it rapidly shifts off towards the north. So expect it to push just east of Washington, D.C., sometime around the early afternoon hours. Potentially go directly over Philadelphia and possibly just around or west of New York City as well by about say 5 to 6 p.m. still as a tropical storm. Notice even potentially into parts of Canada as a tropical storm before it loses its tropical characteristics.

So here's what we're looking at as far as wind gusts are concerned across the outer banks, generally 50 to 70 miles per hour. We notice it quickly skirts up towards New York City, around Atlantic City where about 65 to 66-mile-an-hour wind gusts are possible. Keep in mind it was superstorm Sandy the last time we had winds this strong. That was a 69-mile-an-hour gusts back in October of 2012. So it has been a long time since we have seen a tropical system impact this particular region and bring with it, powerful winds.

So the concern, of course, is for widespread power outages in this region. Notice as you work your way towards the Jersey Shore into Long Island, even in and around the New York City here is highlighted in orange there, could leave a possibility here for some widespread outages. Of course, with the pandemic it could really be a long sort of an event before conditions get back to normal in that region, the Power outages.

CHURCH: Absolutely, and this is going to be a tough hurricane season overall mixed in with the pandemic. Pedram, many thanks bringing us up to date on the situation there. Appreciate it.

Well, Australia's second largest city is already enduring a curfew to fight the virus. Now millions of residents are bracing for further containment measures. We'll have the details in a live report.



CHURCH: Well, new, incredibly strict measures in the Australian state of Victoria as the government says it will deploy another 500 troops to enforce stay-at-home orders. Australian officials have also announced new restrictions for the city of Melbourne in an effort to contain its growing outbreak. Starting at midnight Wednesday local time the city is expected to close some non-essential industries including retail and manufacturing businesses.

CNN's Anna Coren is live in Hong Kong. She joins us now. Good to see you, Anna. So Australia is taking the lead to respond swiftly and severely to this virus. Some are saying too severely. What is the latest on this?

ANNA COREN, CNN COREN: Yes, some people are saying that these are draconian measures. But the Victorian Premiere Daniel Edwards says this is what is required to bring the second wave in Melbourne under control.

For the past month, the state of Victoria has been averaging something like 500 cases every day. That is unsustainable. So they need to drastically get these numbers down. Under these stage four lockdown restrictions, as you say, a curfew, nightly curfew now in place in Melbourne, all non-essential businesses closed, shops, schools, childcare centers. The plan is to keep people at home. Only one person can leave the household each day to go and shop for groceries.

They announced 439 new cases today, 11 deaths in Victoria. All of them at age care facilities. We know they have massive outbreaks of coronavirus in age care facilities. Taking the national death toll now to 232. But the Premier says everyone must do the right thing, and that includes wearing facemasks which are now mandatory in all of Victoria. Take a listen to what he had to say earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANIEL ANDREWS, VICTORIA PREMIER: Wearing a mask is about keeping you, your loved ones, and every Victorian safe. It is not too much to ask the nurse in the intensive care ward will be wearing a mask and it's not too much to ask that you wear a mask in order to avoid that nurse having to treat more patients than they otherwise would.


COREN: As we know, it's a small sacrifice, a small price to pay to protect others and stop the spread of this highly infectious virus. They have also announced fines, on the spot fines, have increased them from 1,000 U.S. dollars to 4.5 thousand U.S. dollars for those who flout the rules.


Especially those who test positive and should be self-isolating at home and are not.

The Premier said that of the more than 3,000 people who tested positive for coronavirus were supposed to be home self-isolating, more than 1/4 of them, Rosemary, were not home when authorities, including the military, went and door knocked to check on them. So as you say, an additional 500 military personnel will be brought in to assist with that door knocking campaign -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Maybe a view into our future if we don't get control of this. Anna Coren, bringing us the very latest there. Appreciate it.

Well, Brazil has been reporting five figure case totals every day and Monday was no exception with more than 16,000 new infections confirmed. Among them, the President's chief of staff, the latest top ranking official to contract the virus.

Brazil has now reported more than 2.7 million infections since the pandemic began. The outbreak there is one of the worst in the world second only to the United States. But that didn't stop large gatherings on Rio's beaches over the weekend.

And in Iran, someone dies of the coronavirus every seven minutes. That's according to state media quoting a government health minister. Iran is the hardest hit country in the Middle East with 17,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. 215 of those were recorded on Monday.

And CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is following the story from Istanbul. She joins us now. So Jomana, one person dying of COVID-19 every 7 minutes is staggering. Why is the virus surging again and what's the government doing about it?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a very grim statistic, Rosemary, that we're hearing from state media including the health ministry. Now if you compare this to the start of the pandemic in Iran early on back in March, then seven, every seven -- sorry, every ten minutes a person in that country was dying from coronavirus. Now we're looking at every seven minutes. More than 200 deaths are being registered every day according to the official figures. You know, as you mentioned, Iran does have the highest number of

coronavirus cases and deaths in the Middle East. It was the epicenter of the outbreak in this region and, you know, it did seem at one point, Rosemary, that they got the situation, the pandemic under control in the country.

But like so many other countries, you know, they were faced with a struggling economy. They could not afford to keep the country shut down for a long time, especially when you're looking to impact of U.S. sanctions and what they all are doing to the economy in the country. So in April they began to ease restrictions. They began opening up the country again and in the weeks that followed we started seeing the numbers rise again. Experts believe that is when the country started going through this second wave of the pandemic.

So a lot of concern right now about where the country's headed, especially as they cannot really afford to shut it down again. They are slowly starting to put more restrictions in place. You saw the government there announce that wearing facemasks is mandatory. They've also hinted that there could be more restrictions that could be reimposed to try and control the spread.

But one issue they're facing, Rosemary, like so many other countries around the world, that you've got these measures, you've got these rules but people are not really complying. We've seen pictures running on state television of people walking around without masks and reports that police there are not really enforcing it just as you see in other countries and that despite the staggering figures that we're seeing coming out of that country.

CHURCH: Yes, it is a story we're hearing all around the world. Jomana Karadsheh, bringing us the very latest on Iran, many thanks.

Well, Vietnam has been praised for effectively curbing its coronavirus outbreak but now they're struggling to contain a recent wave of infections. Most have been linked to the resort city of Da Nang which confirmed another 10 cases on Tuesday. Now as the outbreak grows the popular tourist but is quickly becoming a ghost town. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has our report.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vietnam, like other countries in Asia, reported its very first COVID-19 case in late January but with proactive border closures, aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantine measures, the country quickly became a model for successful containment of the virus. The load numbers were impressive. Fewer than 500 confirmed cases of the virus. No locally transmitted cases reported in the last three months and no deaths. But all of that changed in late July.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Patient 428 has died. Cause of death is hypertension, heart failure, pneumonia, ischemia and COVID-19. LU STOUT: The new outbreak, appearing to have started in the popular

tourist destination of Da Nang and spread quickly to neighboring Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Quang Nam. Months of near normal life of reopen restaurants, bars, schools and resumed tourism within its own borders ground to a halt.

The Vietnamese government, now trying once again to employ the aggressive measures it took at the start of the global outbreak. Immediately sending 80,000 local tourist home from Da Nang. The beach is now closed. The streets once again eerily empty with lockdowns in place and returned mandatory widespread testing and contact tracing. The government has also enlisted several hundred military students to help test all 1.1 million residents of Da Nang.

Some medical officials say they believe the strain of the virus is a more contagious one, although not necessarily more deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The number of people, that have returned to Da Nang to Hanoi, as well as Nam Dinh, is very large. So the risk of an outbreak is huge. We are also aware that the situation of this outbreak is very complicated.

LU STOUT: Authorities have yet to find the origin point of the new cases. No matter what the cause. Vietnam is now scrambling to try and figure out just how the virus reemerged after nearly 100 days while standing at the precipice of widespread transmission. An outcome that looks more possible, with each passing day.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN Hong Kong.


CHURCH: After days of uncertainty over the future of TikTok, President Trump says he will allow an American company to acquire it, but there's a catch and a deadline. We'll explain.


CHURCH: Months into the coronavirus pandemic many Americans still don't seem to be getting the message about social distancing and wearing masks.