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Dr. Birx: I Wish U.S. Lockdown Had Looked Like Italy; New Study Finds Possible Coronavirus Spread on Airplane; Study Suggests COVID-19 Can Spread Via Dust Particles like Flu; UNC, Chapel Hill, Halts In- Person Classes after Virus Outbreak; Dr. Mimi Chapman, UNC, Chapel Hill, Faculty Chair, Discusses Virus Outbreak on Campus; Trump Blasts Michelle Obama: "She's In Over Her Head"; Valarie Jarrett, Former Senior Adviser to Barack Obama, Discusses Trump's Reaction to Michelle Obama's Convention Speech & Julian Castro Warning Democrats of "Potential Slide of Latino Support"; Austin Beutner, L.A. County Unified School District Superintendent, discusses L.A. Schools to Test All Students, Staff Before In-Person Classes. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us this hour.

It seems crystal clear now that when it comes to the coronavirus, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. You can't, on one hand, not do the hard work, not dramatically change behavior, not wait until the science-driven guideposts have been met and then still expect to have nice things.

And by nice things, I really only mean getting back to something that looks like normal. It's clear you can't just beat this virus by hoping for the best.

Take a look at the process of reopening schools and universities. In multiple places around the country, COVID outbreaks are forcing school officials to reverse course and suspend in-person learning.

The latest and most glaring example, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which announced that it is no longer holding in-person classes for undergrads after about 130 students tested positive for COVID in the first week.

This wasn't a surprise to folks on campus. I talked to one professor last week, who, way back then, just last week, told me that this is exactly what he feared.

So where is the failure there? The school's leaders blaming students. Are they really the only ones to blame?

A prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx, she now appears to also be placing blame, blaming the American people for dropping the ball at the outset of the pandemic.

Listen to what she said yesterday.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: I wish that when we went into lockdown we looked like Italy. But when Italy locked down, I mean, people weren't allowed out of their houses. Americans don't react well to that kind of prohibition.


BOLDUAN: She doesn't think America was up to this challenge or something? I mean, country's failure has nothing to do with the failure in leadership here?

Regardless, here's a look at big picture of where the country is right now. The virus has killed more than 170,000 people. And for the 22nd consecutive day, the U.S. has averaged more than 1,000 deaths a day. The number of Americans infected with COVID is now approaching 5.5 million.

But in a bit of positive news -- let's take it where we can get it at the moment we can get -- Monday marked the lowest day for new reported cases in the United States since June 24th. And the daily average for new cases is down nearly 10 percent from a week ago. What that means we'll have to see.

And this is also just in. Researchers in Europe have found possible evidence of the spread of coronavirus on a commercial flight. This is one of several new studies out this morning that has some really interesting information that you will want to know.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is all over this for us.

Elizabeth, what are you seeing in this research?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you know, for months, I think people have suspected, well, of course, if someone has COVID on a flight, you can do it, too. But the German team has done a great job of documenting what happened.

This was a flight in March from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt. About four-and- a-half to five hours. There were seven infected passengers, that didn't know they were infected, sitting near two uninfected passengers. Those two passengers became infected likely on the flight itself, the researchers say, but it could have been before or after.

The two uninfected passengers who became infected, they were sitting across the aisle in the back of the plane.

Kate, I thought it was actually interesting. You know, the researchers reached out and actually could talk to almost everyone who was on that flight.

I was surprised that actually more people did not get sick. This was back in March before anyone was wearing masks on flights.

So the fact that you had seven infected passengers and they only infected two out of other, you know, 90-something passengers, actually, I thought that was interesting.

But it does show you that when you're on a plane you never know who you're sitting across the aisle from. Wear your mask.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

And what are you also hearing about the study of how the virus can travel on dust particles.

COHEN: Yes, so this was a study that was done of the flu, Kate. And if you look up how is the flu transmitted, the CDC and others will say sneezes, coughs, talking to someone who sort of spits at you a little bit. That's how you get infected.

But what this showed is something a little different, that perhaps you could get infected a little more easily. They find the flu virus, dry virus, on materials and on live animals.

Also, and this is really important, on aerosolized dust particles. In other words, the virus kind of attached itself to dust particles flying around.


So what this shows is dust particles, animal dander, that kind of thing, that can also spread it.

Someone doesn't have to spit or sneeze on you. Maybe just running into the dust particles would be enough to get the flu. Yet more reason to get a flu shot.

BOLDUAN: Yes. If you weren't a germaphobe before --

COHEN: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- I think we all become one.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Elizabeth. I really appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: It's really great to see you.

Let's get back to that sudden reversal on UNC, Chapel Hill. The university announced yesterday that is shifting all undergrad classes to remote learning starting tomorrow.

That wasn't the original plan. And this is happening just one week after the campus reopened for the fall semester with a hybrid learning model. The reason for the change is the virus. About 130 students have tested

positive in the first week.

The UNC chancellor was asked yesterday if they had made a mistake bringing students back in for in-person learning. He said no.

And here is what he then said and who he blames.


KEVIN GUSKIEWICZ, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL: When things started, activities began to happen off campus and then bring some of that back into the residence halls. That's where we began to see positive cases.

And we were surprised to see the velocity and magnitude of the spread. And we made the right decision for the health and safety of our campus community.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is the faculty chair at UNC, Chapel Hill, Mimi Chapman.

Thank you so much for being here.

You have been calling for the school to start the school year online only. And this was well before we saw what happened in the last week.

What do you say now about this situation before you?

DR. MIMI CHAPMAN, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL: Well, actually I wasn't calling for the campus to go online only. I was calling for our campus to have local control over decision-making.

Like a number of other public universities, we're part of a big 17- campus system that has a governing body, called the board of governors. And they are ultimately responsible for making these sorts of decisions and for giving our campus the local authority to make those decisions.

So I wanted us to be able to make any decision that we needed to make, any modifications that we needed to make in response to changing conditions.

BOLDUAN: I'm not trying to misinterpret your position. Everything that I saw suggested, though, that you saw the best way to start in the first five weeks was to start online only at UNC, Chapel Hill.

CHAPMAN: So that was our local Health Department recommendation that did come out and give that advice. And I certainly want our campus to be able to follow such advice when it comes out.

BOLDUAN: You heard who the chancellor -- what the chancellor said there. He says that this is all because of students and activities that started, that happened off campus, and we've heard some on campus even.

Do you think that is where the failure -- the failure is, that is where blame should lie, with students?

CHAPMAN: You know, these organizations that are off campus, that are outside of the university's control, do bear a lot of responsibility in this situation.

Our campus, though, is a microcosm of the larger country. And there are -- you know, we have a situation in which many, many people are not willing to follow public health guidelines, whether they are 18 to 24-year-olds or whether they are -- you know 35 to 50-year-olds.

So we have lots of people that are in doubt of the science and that have been unwilling to -- to modify their behavior.

So, yes, in our situation, there have been a number of things that have been brought to the administration's attention about what has been going on off campus and among student gatherings. And that's, you know, just a microcosm of what's happening elsewhere.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned local control, board of governors versus local control over the campus being able to decide what's best for Chapel Hill's campus.


BOLDUAN: One thing that does strike me -- and you mentioned it -- the local county Health Department had recommended that the school start the year online only because of the level of infection in the community.

That recommendation, from what I saw was in late July. And I also saw that the school didn't really alert anyone to that recommendation.

Have you received a good reason why they didn't follow the county's recommendation?

CHAPMAN: So when I heard about that letter, I certainly reached out to our chancellor and our provost right away and asked them to meet with us as faculty, which they did that afternoon.

You know, they -- they have been working with the Orange County Health Department all along.

And, you know, they -- they felt that for whatever reason they had resolved that matter to the best of their ability, again, having discussed it with the board of governors, and the board of governors advising them to stay the course.


So in that context, you know, what I wanted to communicate to -- to our chancellor and to our provost was that letters like that are almost inevitably going to become public. And so to discuss them with faculty and to discuss their decision-

making around them at the very least is what needed to happen. And I think they heard that message.

BOLDUAN: Mary Chapman, thanks for coming in.

CHAPMAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: President Trump lashing out at Michelle Obama, saying the former first lady is, quote, "in over her own head." It comes after Michelle Obama said the very same about Trump in her convention speech.

Plus, the nation's second-largest school district now attempting to test all students and staff. That's roughly 800,000 people. How can they pull that off?

We'll be back.



BOLDUAN: "It is what it is." That is the line from the night from former first lady, Michelle Obama, speaking on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention.

Obama offering a scathing analysis of President Trump and it appears using his own words against him.

This morning, President Trump is making it clear that she got under his skin. He lashed out at the former first lady when speaking at an event honoring women and women's right to vote.

First, let me play what the first lady said.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head.

He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.


BOLDUAN: And then here is what President Trump just said this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She was over her head. And frankly, she should have made the speech live, which she didn't do. She taped it. And it was not only taped but it was taped a long time ago because she

had the wrong deaths. She didn't even mention the vice-presidential candidate in the speech.

And, you know, she gets these fawning reviews. If you gave a real review, it wouldn't be so fawning. I thought it was extremely divisive speech, extremely divisive. We have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for my campaign.


BOLDUAN: And this just into CNN. Former President Bill Clinton is set to deliver what is being described as his, quote, "sharpest rebuke yet" of President Trump in his speech, which will be tonight at the Democratic National Convention. That's according to a source familiar.

Before then, let's talk more about the former first lady's speech last night.

Joining me now is former senior adviser to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, the author of the new book, "Finding My Voice, When the Perfect Plan Crumbles, the Adventure Begins."

Valarie, thanks for coming on once again.

I guess, can I just ask what your reaction is to hearing the president's reaction this morning?

VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is what it is. Look, if he wants to try to take on the most popular person in our country, I think that that is probably a mistake. But you know, what bring it on.

She certainly is far, far in a stronger position than he. And she just gave her forthright opinion about his leadership, which is a perfect segue into tonight's theme, which is leadership matters.


So on the, "It is what it is line," was that a direct reference to the president from that "Axios" interview that we've all seen?

JARRETT: Well, I think -- I think it summed it up in a way where every American knows what you're talking about. It's a common phrase. And his record speaks for itself. It is what it is.

We have lost 170,000 lives and wreaked havoc on so many more. Millions of people have lost their jobs.

The hopeful sign is that the racial tensions have been responded to by people demonstrating, Kate, in all 50 state, mostly peacefully.

And now the question is: Are they going to show up and vote?

And now one of the other points that Michelle Obama tried to make last night -- and I should mention, she's now Michelle Obama. She's not just the spouse of the president. She has earned the respect and trust of people all around our country on our own two feet.

And the point she was making is, look, we have to show up and vote. And 100 million eligible voters did not vote in the last presidential election.

And so she doesn't want people to just be inspired by her words. She wants to motivate them to realize that we are all in this together and we all have a role to play. Vote.

BOLDUAN: Who do you think the target audience was last night from her speech?

JARRETT: I think it was a broad audience. I mean, look, one of her strengths is that she -- she rises above politics. She said last night she hates politics.


BOLDUAN: Yes, I was actually going to ask about it. She said it in no uncertain terms last time.

JARRETT: Yes. She has devoted her life for the nearly 30 years that I've known her to public service. And she sees a difference between that.

And on her book tour, I had the privilege of traveling around the country, red states, blue states. And the reaction she received from people all across our country was dramatically supportive. It's respect. It's love. It's trust.

And so I think, with her huge platform, she hoped to reach as many people as possible. Yet, she did say in the speech there may be people who don't listen to me. I'm speaking at the Democratic convention. I'm a black woman.

But she thought it was important, because of people do trust her, to say exactly what she thinks about the president and his leadership. And why she thinks that Vice President Biden's competency, his character and his empathy make him absolutely the right person for him to vote.


BOLDUAN: I want to get your take, Valerie. Julian Castro has been vocal. And he's not alone in saying that the convention program features too few Latino speakers.

He's even warning of a potential slide of Latino support for Democrats. That's in a new interview with "Axios."

Do you see that?

JARRETT: I don't. And I actually think that, look, we're just now entering the next phase of the election cycle, the general election. I think that the momentum is growing by the moment.

I think that there was broad support for the lineup last night that did reflect the diversity of not just the party but our country.

And I think it was important to Vice President Biden to include people who are Republicans, people who have been in the business community, regular Americans to tell their stories.

And so I'm pretty confident that when we get down to the election, that the Latino community will come out in full support of Vice President Biden and Senator Harris, who is very popular with the Latino community.

BOLDUAN: Valerie, thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.

JARRETT: You're welcome. You're welcome, Kate.

BOLDUAN: It is what it is -- I will now end every segment.

Thank you so much.

Be sure to watch CNN's special coverage of the Democratic National Convention. It continues tonight. Jill Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more. It starts -- our coverage starts at 8:00 Eastern.

Coming up for us still, an unprecedented effort to test everyone in the nation's second-largest school digs traffic. L.A. schools now working to test nearly 800,000 students and staff. The superintendent joins me live next.



BOLDUAN: With every school district across the country trying to figure out how to open and stay open safely for students and faculty, the nation's second-largest school district is trying something no other school system has done thus far, testing everyone.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has nearly 700,000 students.

Although the district is starting the school year this week online only, it just announced a plan to test every student, teacher and staff member.

This huge effort, bringing in the help of three universities, two health insurance companies and technology giant, Microsoft, to do it all. Can they pull it off?

Joining me right now is the man really leading the effort, the superintendent for the L.A. Unified School District, Austin Beutner.

Thank you for being here.

What is this testing program -- how is this testing program going to work?


What we're going to do and what we've done, as you've said, we've brought together three world-class universities, two state-of-the-art testing labs, two health insurers and one technology giant, and I guess a partridge in a pear tree, because this is something that has to be there.

We've all talked at great length about health practices which will be necessary in schools: cleaning, sanitizing, changing air filtration systems and making sure students and teachers stay apart.

But we should be testing for the virus and contact tracing at school because science takes us there. Science has told us children can carry the virus. Those without symptoms can spread the virus.

And we know schools bring together many families and many multi- generational households.

So if we want to keep schools from becoming a petrie dish and keeping all in the school community safe, we need to test and trace at schools.

BOLDUAN: I hear you on all of that. That makes complete sense, except no one is doing it.

Are you sure you can pull this off? Because this kind of scale is exactly what, quite frankly, cities, state and the federal government have not been able to pull off to this point.

BEUTNER: Well, the scale is daunting. But we have to do the best we can. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures. And while this is unprecedented, it's necessary and appropriate.

And that's why we brought together the best and the brightest, the best testing labs, Microsoft to help us build an end-to-end information system, and three of the world's leading research universities.

We will be well advised. We'll go about it deliberately and carefully because we're building the foundation for that time when it may be possible in Los Angeles to go back to schools. We're looking ahead.

Right now, conditions are about three times the level the World Health Organization would say that we could think about opening schools. But we'll be ready when that time comes to keep our school community safe.

BOLDUAN: I've seen that you've said the goal is to make a program -- make the program a national model.

How will you know that it's working? How will you know if you can? And do you think that this effort can really be replicated?

BEUTNER: Well, we'll share information along the way. We'll measure our progress. And we'll go about it carefully. And it may become a national model. And I think part of what has happened is a health crisis it is becoming an education crisis, is becoming a job crisis. And schools connect all of those.


So while this effort is not without costs, to do this at a national level is probably $15 billion, $20 billion to $25 billion. Sounds like an extraordinary amount of money. But the congressional leaders are talking about trillions.