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University Of Illinois President: Constant Testing Allows Us To Identify "Early Trends That Could Be Disturbing"; Eleven States Report A Rise In New Coronavirus Cases; Trump Departs For Battleground States Florida And North Carolina; President Donald Trump: "We Have To Spend A Lot Of Money" On Election; Pence And Harris Strike Different Tones In Wisconsin. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody. It's the top of the hour I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us. Millions of children across the country start a new school year today and as with everything the Coronavirus pandemic is a major disruption.

Of the 16 largest school districts that start today, 14 are doing it fully online, remote learning, more than 7.3 million students beginning the academic year not in a classroom but at home on a computer. It's still a big unknown when they might be able to return to the classroom.

Today also eight weeks to Election Day, the president traveling to two of the biggest battleground states. He just spoke to reporters we'll hear what he said in just a few moments. The environment is in focus in Florida and then an evening airport rally in North Carolina.

The second presidential visit to North Carolina in less than a week that tells you point blank the president has trouble. And they include states absolutely essential to his re-election path.

His morning tweets tell us what matters most to him. While many of you were testing the school's zoom log-in, the president was attacking Joe Biden and Black Lives Matter protests and taking aim at Democratic Governors he says are keeping their states closed until the election just to hurt him. One constant refrain from the president is that there should be a vaccine ready by Election Day.

Well, today nine bio pharmaceutical companies that are rivals signed a very unusual joint pledge to uphold "High ethical standard" and be certain they promise that science alone dictates any vaccine approval request.

As we continue to wait for that vaccine, testing is absolutely key as people go back to work, students go back to campus. Listen here; this is the President of the University of Illinois System speaking here last hour. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY KILLEEN, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS SYSTEM: We have about probably 1,400 students who have tested positive. But what I want to remind you all is we're testing everybody, twice a week, so we're not interested in the iceberg we're looking at the whole iceberg so that the positivity is about 1.2, still very low like a South Korea kind of number. And so our testing approach is doing just what we hoped it would do, identifying early trends that could be disturbing, allowing us to take rapid action.


KING: Let's bring in for insights Dr. Tom Inglesby. Dr. Inglesby thank you for joining us today. As we look at this I'll be able to show some of the trends in just a moment. We come out of the holiday weekend and you hear the University of Illinois President talking about the testing challenge with more people back.

We are now at a baseline of about 40,000 new infections a day. Went under 25,000 yesterday but we don't always - we question if whether the holiday is just a blip. In terms of where we are at this moment, back to school, back to campus, some more parents back to work as their children go back to school and we turn the page to the fall. Where are we?

DR. TOM INGLESBY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR HEALTH SECURITY, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, as you say we are moving in the right direction in terms of overall daily numbers, we are slowly moving downward, downward in hospitalizations, downward in numbers of deaths.

But we are beginning to do things we haven't done since the start of the pandemic. K-12 schools are beginning to go back. Universities are going back. As the fall moves forward we're going to be unfortunately having to move things indoors in some places where it gets colder.

So there are a lot of risks that we could move in a different direction and it's going to be more important than ever to physically distance, avoiding large gatherings, moving testing forward, moving tracing forward, isolating people those strategies are going to be more important than ever.

KING: So help me walk through some of these numbers we take a look up here. If you just look at the state trend now this map actually looks a little better than it has especially if you go back to the middle of July and August.

But 11 states trending up, meaning reporting more new infections now than a week ago. 24 holding steady, 15 trending down you try to be trending down. If you look at the case trend, I just want to bring up the case trend here.

And Dr. Inglesby, this is why I think this moment is so critical. If you go back to around Memorial Day we were 20,000 new infections sometimes a little bit lower than that. Then you had the summer spike we get up to 70,000 in some cases again a plateau at about 40,000 now. Let's hope this number is right 24,000 new infections reported yesterday but it is a holiday.

And you see these drops, some of the anomalies they tend to be coming out of the weekend. Here's the question. Nationally Dr. Inglesby we are down to about a 5 percent positivity rate, 5 percent yesterday, a little higher than that coming in the seven-day trend still between 5 percent and 6.

How critical is that to get that down below 5, below 4 and even more as we get into that important point you made about the change of seasons?

DR. INGLESBY: It is really important. If you look at actually a state by state breakdown, you see that a majority of states are still above five percent so while the country is below five percent a lot of the country is still above five percent.


DR. INGLESBY: We saw in Europe where schools were openly successfully without large outbreaks but the percent positivity there was a lot lower than 5 percent and that their daily incidents was a lot lower than where it is in many parts of the U.S. So we still have a lot of work to do to get to a place where we can open the large educational institutions more safely.

KING: And we're at a point, I often tell you I don't want to drag you into the politics when we have these conversations. You just had nine pharmaceutical companies that are rivals issue a joint statement trying to address the fears of the public health. Now the president keeps saying we will have it before Election Day, we'll have a vaccine before Election Day.

The issue this remarkable statement saying science and science only will dictate. I just want to show you some of the polling here, this is what they're trying to get at here. If there's a vaccine this year, your first thought would be well, 35 percent of the Americans say that would be a great scientific achievement.

65 percent worry that it would be rushed through. If there is a vaccine would you get one? 21 percent say they'd get one as soon as possible. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say they would consider getting or they would wait meaning they want to get more information. 21 percent said they would never get one. Listen here Dr. Inglesby, this CEO of Pfizer trying to explain why these companies came together to get people to trust their work?


ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER PHARMACEUTICALS: With increasing public concerns about the processes that we are using to develop this vaccine and even more importantly the processes that would be used to evaluate these vaccines we saw it as critical to come out and reiterate our commitment that we will develop our products, our vaccines using the highest ethical standards and the most scientific rigor processes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How significant is the concern, number one, that politics might be at play in trying to speed things up and more importantly the level of trust or may be the right word is the level of distrust out there among the consumers who you would think would be rushing to get one and yet you see a lot of skepticism.

DR. INGLESBY: Yes, it is really important. We have to do everything we can between now and the time the vaccine is authorized for use to get people to have confidence in the system, to provide people the surety that we're following the usual rules that our scientific agencies are insulated from politics.

And that pledge was really important from the vaccine manufacturers, the pharmaceutical companies. But we're going to need similar levels of assurance from government and from the outside scientists that review the data as it comes out otherwise people are going to be skeptical about the vaccine and that's a terrible thing for the country. If we have a safe and effective vaccine we should be using it and we want people to be fully confident in it.

KING: And so as we talked at the top of the program, a lot of students go back to school today. Many of them are at home for an undetermined period of time. But some places are sending kids back. I want you to listen here because we've had this conversation for months now are kids safer, are they less likely to be infected?

Or do they get infected but maybe they don't get as sick but they're still carrying the virus and if they're moving around that's a threat? I want you to listen, this is a Dr. Carlos del Rio trying to explain the latest what we know about the Coronavirus and children.


DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATION DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: When children get exposed we are beginning to learn that they do get infected but the great majority of them don't get sick. Some of them can get sick and they can die and so it is not totally - in children I mean there is some risk.

But there is also the possibility that children can then infect others right? And while the rate of infection appears to be lower than for example in the flu where children are clearly a major of vector of transmission they can still transmit.


KING: To help understand the context there, major vector of transmission as some parents are sending their children back into a classroom, some full-time some in one of these hybrid programs, what do we know more? What do we know may be that we didn't know a couple of months ago on this question?

DR. INGLESBY: We have seen some studies showing that have showed us that younger kids look like they have a lower chance of spreading infection than older kids. Older kids look like they're little bit more like adults.

We do that kids overall do much better with this virus than adults do. Especially older adults but as Dr. Del Rio said there are some terrible outcomes with children, they're relatively rare but it is not a benign virus.

And so in schools we should do everything we can to try and prevent the spread of disease, we should be using masks, we should be doing physical distancing, trying to bring in outdoor air into the indoor environment as much as we can. It is the same as we're talking about for other businesses and that should be uniform across the country.

KING: Dr. Tom Inglesby, as always grateful for your time and your insights very much.

DR. INGLESBY: Thanks John.

KING: Thank you. Up next for us, President Trump and Joe Biden ramp up personal attacks against each other. Eight weeks until Election Day.



KING: Despite a minute away from hearing from the President of the United States. He is on his way now to Florida. He spoke briefly to reporters at Joint Base Andrews that of course just outside of Washington D.C. we'll bring you those comments in just moment. The tape is feeding in.

While we wait let's get to CNN's Kaitlan Collins live for us at the White House. Kaitlan, it is interesting that the president is more active, we're at past Labor Day now, eight weeks to Election Day, eight weeks from tonight we'll be counting votes.

Florida and North Carolina two states absolutely critical to his math, four years ago two states, we rate as toss-ups right now and two places where the Democrats actually feel that they're in play here and the president, his actions, his travels tell you he's all nervous.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly. That's why you're starting to see them ramp up the president's travel starting with this week, starting with today really because he did not travel anywhere yesterday even though you saw the vice president, the former vice president and Senator Kamala Harris all out on the road yesterday making campaign stops.

And so the president will be going to Florida first and then he is going to North Carolina. And it's notable--

KING: Kaitlan, I'm sorry. The tape of the president is feeding let's listen. This is the president at Joint Base Andrews, I'm sorry Kaitlan. TRUMP: You see what's happening with respect to the economy. Vaccine is looking very good for pretty soon. We'll be talking about that a little bit later on. We're going to Florida. We are going to North Carolina. We are doing a double stop.


TRUMP: We'll be doing some triples along the way but right now we are in the earlier stages. The poll numbers you saw were very good they really getting good despite all of the disinformation campaigns that the Democrats run, pure disinformation. So we are doing very well. We'll have a good trip today and I'll see you during the trip. Any questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, when you talk--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --in your own campaign?

TRUMP: Yes, if I have to I would but we're doing very well. We needed to spend more money up front because of the pandemic and the statements being made by Democrats which were again disinformation. We have done a great job with COVID. We have done a great job with the China virus a great job.

Whether it's ventilators or whether it is vaccines which you'll be seeing very soon or therapeutics we have done a great job. But the press was fake and we have to spend a lot of money. If we did need we don't because we have much more money than we had last time and going into the last two months, I think double and triple.

But we need it any more I would put it up personally like I did in the primaries last time. In the 2016 primaries I put up a lot of money if I have I'll do it here. But we don't have to because we have double and maybe even triple what we had a number of years ago, four years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you spent $60 million in that primary. How much are you--

TRUMP: Whatever it takes we have to win. This is the most important election in the history of our country. We have a radical left group going around these people, there's something wrong with them. There really is there is something wrong with them. And Joe doesn't have the strength.

He doesn't have the mental capability to control these people and you take a look at what's going on and I looked at Pittsburgh, I looked at Rochester, I looked at L.A. last night, I looked at these Democrat-run cities. You look at Portland every night. They don't have the strength. They don't have the - I don't think the Democrats have the courage to control these people.

They're afraid to even talk about law and order. They can't issue the words law and order. All we want is law and order. And I just put out something the suburbs are coming big to us because the suburbs are next. If you elected this guy, the suburbs would be overwhelmed with violence and crime. So that's where we are.

This is the most important election in the history of our country so that's it. We'll see you in Florida. Thank you very much.

KING: The President of the United States boarding Air Force One, that's a short time ago at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington. As you heard the president say he is on his way to Florida and then North Carolina. One of the challenge is in our business when you're listening to the President of the United States is that so much of what he says is simply not true.

Kaitlan Collins is still with us at the White House as the president gives the wave there at Air Force. He said that we'll have a vaccine pretty soon. We have no reason to believe pretty soon unless you define December, January maybe next year as pretty soon.

He says his poll numbers are pretty good. They are not. He is says the Democrats are running a pure disinformation campaign. He is the President of the United States who routinely lies and says things that are not true. He also said we are doing a great job on COVID.

Kaitlan, he said at the end there have been reports that he may because of what many believe to be mismanagement and a lavish spending by the Trump re-election campaign may have to pour some of his personal money into the campaign. I urge our viewers believe it when you see it but the president says it is possible, it is possible if necessary he would put some of his own money into the campaign.

COLLINS: Yes. But he says currently he doesn't think they need to he says he would do it again. Of course, whether or not that actually materializes is another question that even campaign aides aren't sure about, John. But it is notable because of course that we do know that the Trump Campaign is facing something of a cash crunch that they were not expecting to right now.

That's normally one of the perks of being the incumbent is that is a easier for you to raise money and to have a lot more on hand compared to your opponent given that he - not go through any kind of a primary process like what you saw Joe Biden have to go through.

But that's really the reality of where the Trump Campaign is at right now. And their campaign has not released their August numbers we're waiting to see those. You saw what Biden and the Democratic National Committee raised a $365 million a pretty mind blowing number there in August.

So the president saying that that's something that's TBD but as we were talking about before we saw the president's comments. These comments as part of this aggressive campaign schedule that they're preparing to put the president on what he was saying today he is making two stops, he may be making three stops in the coming weeks as they're getting closer and closer to Election Day.

KING: And Kaitlan, you have some new reporting, I want you to take us inside the curtain. The big, damning story on the president late last week was the Atlantic report and then quickly the gist of it confirmed by many other news organizations that the president has said some horrific, disparaging things, suckers and losers his words allegedly to talk about fallen American heroes.


KING: You have some reporting on what went on behind the scenes there as the president and his aides tried to combat that story.

COLLINS: Yes. So when this story first broke on Thursday the president was furious over it, he was telling aides to get out mobilize these denials. Those denials that you saw start to roll in on Thursday and Friday from some aides that were on the trip and some who work there now but were not on the trip.

And something the White House has repeatedly pointed to. But we're told that as the time went on and over the weekend the president was distressed over this story and actually he was calling a lot of people, having a lot of conversations, talking about it, denying that the remarks were made and said touting really what he's done for the military.

But what you have seen is a president who's really been concerned basically is what people took away from these conversations that this could hurt his support within the military. And he had been a pretty quiet weekend at the White House until he decided yesterday he wanted to hold that Labor Day press conference where right wing aides thought that this story was quieting down a little bit.

That's when the president made his remark accusing top Pentagon leaders of basically being beholden to defense contractors is how the president put it. And while his Chief of Staff is trying to do some cleanup today saying that he wasn't referring to the Defense Secretary who's a former top lobbyist for a defense contractor.

He also said he wasn't referring to the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff but then it's not clear who the president was referring to if not those top two people at the Pentagon. But basically this is what the president is saying is they're worried about this story eroding his support within the military.

The president is going after top military leaders and we're told that a lot of that John had to do with the fact that the president was upset that there weren't more senior military leaders speaking out on his behalf after that story came out on Thursday.

KING: Important reporting. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, I appreciate that very much. Let's continue the conversation. What we just heard from the president the stakes in the campaign, with CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson and Alex Burns of "The New York Times".

Alex, I want to start with you and something that the president said at the end of those remarks at Joint Base Andrews. He has made this case before that a Joe Biden presidency would destroy America's suburbs that they would be overrun, that they would be unsafe, that your property values would plummet. During the Obama/Biden Administration the American suburbs actually grew quite substantially they also diversified quite a bit. If you look at crime statistics they were down and the change of the suburbs is one of the fascinating demographic dynamics under way, one of the many fascinating demographics dynamics under way in the United States of America and the reason Nancy Pelosi is Speaker, when the president - they will be overrun I guess we know what he is trying to do there?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He is trying to speak to those voters who have rejected him so emphatically since the 2016 election and try to make them more afraid of what their lives would be like under a Biden Administration than they're displeased with the way their lives are right now under a Trump Administration.

And, John, I got to tell you, I think it's a really heavy lift for him. This has been one of the most consistent political features of the entire Trump experience is that suburban voters do not like the president. It is not just more educated white affluent moderate suburban voters, it's folks who are little to the right of center, it's folks who are not white who live in the suburbs.

It's folks who are a little bit less educated but live in the suburbs that people who have chosen to make their lives in that kind of environment just reject this president on a visceral level. And that was true before as you said, it was before the Coronavirus pandemic.

So the challenge I think for the president is that when you're speaking to the country as a whole and essentially trying to project this very dubious idea that if you re-elect me things will quickly go back to the way they were last January before the virus hit, suburban voters weren't happy with this president last January.

KING: Right. And one of the things they don't like is constant tweets and a lot of people have verged him to a stop. 50 plus tweets today Nia-Malika Henderson, 50 plus tweets today attacking Joe Biden, criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement - so the president - he will not reform himself if you will in that regard.

But it is interesting, you do have Joe Biden running an ad saying I'm against any looting, I'm against any violence and yesterday during an interview in Pennsylvania ANTIFA came up. Listen.



JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I do. Violence no matter who it is.


KING: And so, to Alex's point, the Democrats feel on pretty safe footing in the suburbs but you also do see some evidence with that ad and with that answer that they want to make sure that they don't let the president if you will fill in the slate. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And you saw Biden last week give that speech as you said it was turned into an ad that president trying to say that Joe Biden is essentially in bed with the looters, that he is encouraging looters but he is on the same side of those folks.

But what actually is happening is that the president he himself hasn't been able to condemn some of the violence that we have seen from his supporters so for Joe Biden I think this was pretty easy to go out there and say that violence on both sides is bad, violence from ANTIFA is something that is bad.


HENDERSON: We hear this from Black Lives Matter protesters, some of the families involved in some of these incidents, Jacob Blake's family for instance. So I think that was a very easy lift for Joe Biden to do but something he felt like he needed to do.

You had the RNC basically for a week put out this idea that Biden would be a dangerous figure that he would encourage some of this violence that we have seen and so he had to rebut it and I think listen, this was easy for him to do.

And what is interesting is that we don't see from Donald Trump a need to pivot at this point. He is trying everything he can with these suburban voters who he thinks are sort of the 1950s, '60s, '70s version of the suburbs that those idea of white flight and that isn't.

What the suburban looks like anymore. 40 percent of African-Americans who live in the suburbs and so you know we'll see if he changes, he feels like this is a good strategy. He is watching Fox News and getting this idea that the whole world is on fire and that this is a good strategy for him.

But so far in the polling as Alex talked about it doesn't seem like this is working but something that he is going to double down on and triple down on we imagine now that it gets worse over these next two months of this campaign.

KING: Florida today. North Carolina today, Wisconsin was the big battleground yesterday. We are never going to have a normal campaign but it is getting a little bit more traditional in the sense that you have the candidates out travelling.

It was the vice presidential candidates, the Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, Democratic Nominee Kamala Harris in Wisconsin yesterday two different cities, two different messages. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this violence against civilians, against property and against law enforcement must stop and it must stop now. SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Really wonderful. I mean, they're an incredible family and what they have endured and they just do it with such dignity and grace and carrying the weight of a lot of voices on their shoulders.


KING: Senator Harris there talking about the meeting with the Blake family, Jacob Blake of course that black man shot seven times in the back. But Alex it is a remainder when you're coming here campaign that even within a battleground there could be battleground within the battleground. Mike Pence in Lacrosse and Kamala Harris in Milwaukee, speaking to very different audiences.

BURNS: That's right and I do think John it's one of the things that can tend to get sort of flattened or the nuance can get removed when we look looking back at what happened in the 2016 election with Donald Trump squeaking out these tiny victories in these traditionally Democratic Midwestern states that, yes, it is true there were a whole lot of white working class voters who voted Republican for the first time.

Also true that there were African-American voters who voted enthusiastically in 2012 and 2008 and did not show up or did not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. And if you are the Trump Campaign you are trying to max out every last vote you can from the more rural and outer, outer suburban parts of Wisconsin because you know that it is not going to get too much better for you in the suburbs and in the cities.

And if you are the Biden/Harris ticket you're trying to simultaneously hold down Trump's margins out in the rest of the state and make sure that you're talking to black voters in Milwaukee about why your ticket is in touch with them and has plans for their lives.

And sort of is in touch with this moment, this moment in Milwaukee and with the Jacob Blake family to make sure that you're not just sort of playing defense with white folks outside the city and taking black voters for granted.

KING: The race within the race can be kind of fascinating. Eight weeks from tonight we count them. Alex Burns and Nia-Malika Henderson I appreciate the reporting and the insights. Up next for us, back to school for millions children today and many kids trying what's called pod learning. We'll talk to two parents trying to navigate that challenge.