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U.S. Awaits To See If Holiday Weekend Brings Rise In Coronavirus Cases; Sixteen Of Nation's Largest School Districts Start Instruction Today, But Mostly Virtual. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Lauren Fox, I appreciate the live reporting and I appreciate you spending some time with us today. I do hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Eight weeks from tonight, we count votes. If you're going to vote early, make a plan.

Brianna Keilar picks up our right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: John, thank you so much. I'm Brianna Keilar and I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.

The most unprecedented first day of school in modern times happening today as the nation waits to see if long holiday weekend brings another rise in coronavirus cases. At least two million children, kindergarten through 12th grade, are heading back to class but nearly all of them are not heading back to a classroom.

Of the 16 largest public school districts starting instruction this day after Labor Day, 14 districts are beginning their year fully online, the decision to keep students at home coming as the majority of states are seeing trends of steady or declining case numbers.

But the nation is currently averaging at about 38,000 cases a day, which is lower than the summer surge but it's higher than the top health officials would like as they warn of the dual challenge that is now only weeks away, a flu season in the middle of a pandemic.

I'm going to turn now to Bianna Golodryga. She has been tracking the developments on the education front.

And, Bianna, there are a lot of students, as we said, who are starting today. It's a big day for them but a very different day. School has been under way for several weeks in other parts of the country. Overall, tell us just how many students started the year online.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, millions of students are starting the school year online, Brianna. You and I remember that first day of school, we actually went to school and thought that was normal. Well, what's going to be normal for at least the next few months for students is to learn from home. As you mentioned, more than a dozen of the largest school districts began today starting online. That includes Chicago, Houston and Dallas school districts, and as well as Fairfax County in Virginia, Baltimore County, as well. And some are starting with a hybrid program, so Charleston, South Carolina, has students that are either showing up online or in classrooms as well. And Cyprus Fair Banks, just outside of Houston, students also have that option as well.

But as we know that online learning comes with its challenges as well. Remember what we heard about the cyber attack in Miami last week, and a 16-year-old was implicated from that. Well, we now have news of a Hartford attack, Hartford, Connecticut, cyber attack there for their 20,000 students and thus they could not learn online. They will have a hybrid program where some would be in schools, some online. They have rescheduled the opening of school because of that attack and they are still investigating that, Brianna.

KEILAR: Wow. All right, Bianna, thank you so much, Bianna Golodryga, for that report.

The latest stats from the World Health Organization show, unfortunately, just how much worse the United States is handling the pandemic compared to much of the world. And the figures really blow up President Trump's repeated attempts to downplay the severity of this crisis. WHO officials are finding that North and South America are the source for a disproportionate number of cases and deaths. And in the Americas, the U.S. is doing the worst with more than 6 million cases right now and nearly 190,000 deaths.

CNN's Tom Foreman is covering this story for us. Tell us about this report, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All you have to do, Brianna, is look at this one graphic to see the picture very clearly. It is a look at the cases by region and total deaths. And the Americas there, in gold, are way out front of everyone else. Brazil is a significant part of that, but the United States is a bigger part of it.

The Americas are leading by a long margin. Right below that there, that's Southeast Asia, the purple there. You can see that, like the Americas, they have been trending upward but in a much lower level. And then in that sort of lime green color, that's Europe down there. Europe is the one that's started to basically flattened out and not climbing through the roof.

So all the times that the president keeps saying, oh, we are doing so much better, we're making so much progress and other countries aren't doing as well, that's simply not the truth, and these new numbers show that very clearly.

Another way of looking at it in case you're wanting to say, well, the United States is a huge country by population and it is, the Americas are a big region, look at this world map where, basically, they are highlighting the hot spots over the past week.

You can look at Europe, you can look at Asia, you can look Australia, Africa, all of them have less intense color there showing the number of cases per 1 million people. And then look at the Americas. That's where all the hotspots are.

Yes, South America, huge problems all the way down there, but look at the United States of America. Those colors alone tell you how intense it has been here and how this problem remains very difficult here when compared to rest of the world.

So all the claims that we're somehow doing better, Brianna, you said it right at the top, this is yet another piece of evidence that says that is simply not true, the U.S. is trailing pretty much everyone in the world right now in terms of handling this virus.


KEILAR: Tom, thank you so much for showing us that and walking us through that.

There is an unprecedented pledge that has been made. Nine of the world's largest bio pharmaceutical companies have promised to uphold high ethical standards as they develop and test potential vaccines for COVID-19. And they pledge to only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a phase three clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities, such as FDA.

This all appears to be a response to the president's vaccine timeline, which he once again laid out yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have it soon. Wait a minute. So now, what they're saying is, oh, wow, this is bad news. President Trump is getting this vaccine in record time. By the way, if this were the Obama administration, you wouldn't have that vaccine for three years and you probably wouldn't have at it all. So we're going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I'm talking about.


KEILAR: Election Day. We know what he is talking about.

Let's talk with Professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Hotez with us.

I mean, Dr. Hotez, this is unusual because it goes almost you would think it would go without saying that pharmaceutical companies would be, if they are seeking approval for a vaccine, that they would be doing so with one that is safe. So what's going on here with this pledge to reassure people?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. Look, Brianna, the pharma CEOs are smart, right? They don't want to put anything out there that's going to be either unsafe or doesn't work. One, it would undermine not only the public confidence in the U.S.

COVID-19 vaccine program Operation Warp Speed but it would undermine confidence in their companies. And these are publicly traded companies and it would affect their shareholders.

So what they're doing is actually makes a lot of good business sense. They don't want to put anything out there that's unsafe or doesn't work. It would destroy their companies and destroy their careers. And I think that's probably what you are seeing by issuing that statement.

KEILAR: To be clear, they could submit a vaccine, right? Let's talk about the timeline here. They could submit a vaccine for approval before the election but that's certainly a different thing than having a vaccine by the election. Tell us the distinction.

HOTEZ: Well, actually, I don't really think they can really submit anything before the election. I don't see a path by which they're going to have sufficient data to show that the vaccines works compared to the placebo controls or that we have enough patients enrolled for safety.

So I'm finding it very hard to understand some of the statements I'm hearing that we could have a vaccine before the election or you could even submit the dossier to the FDA by that time because it takes two doses for each of these vaccines. We have seen that from the phase one trials.

And when you start adding up the fact that the phase three trials didn't start really underway until August, or into September, and it's going to take two doses, a month apart, and then you have to give it time to show that it works, compared to the controls and you have to show that it's safe. When you add all that up, essentially, if you are going to try to get a vaccine released or approved before the election, you pretty much have to submit it around now, and I just don't see a path by which that's happening.

KEILAR: Really? OK. And can you back time that for us in a way because you say that there has to be two doses? There are questions about whether they even have enough people that would be getting the first dose.

HOTEZ: Yes. These are large studies and multiple centers across the country, possibly internationally, 30,000 individual trials. I think the clinical trial set is doing an amazing job trying to enroll their patients and doing this at an accelerated timeframe without compromising the integrity of the study.

But even with all of those things, to get two dozes in to allow time for the immune response to happen, because it doesn't happen immediately after the second dose, it takes a week or so after that, and then to give it time for people going about their daily activities, to show differences between controls and the placebo, when you -- the weeks add up pretty quickly.

So we're hearing from Dr. Fauci that he thinks maybe by the end of the year, we'll get an idea whether these vaccines are working and I think that's a much more realistic timeframe.

Is it possible that if a vaccine is amazing and is protecting 90 percent like the Ebola vaccine or measles vaccine that we could get an answer faster?


Yes, it is, but it's really hard to see how the stars can align so that we could get something out before the election. I think that's a very low probability.

KEILAR: Okay. CNN had the chance to interview the CEO of BioNTech about their research. Let's listen to what he said about it.


UGUR SAHIN, CEO, BIONTECH: It has an excellent profile and I consider this vaccine as a vaccine which is near perfect, which has a near perfect profile, yes? We have done preclinical experiments. We have shown that this vaccine is able to protect animals from infection in really tough challenged experiments.


KEILAR: The vaccine that's in the works is near perfect. What do you say to that?

HOTEZ: Yes. I think that was an unfortunate statement. Maybe it was language but, at face value, that's an irresponsible statement. Let me say why. One, we know from the phase one trials that at the high doses, it was reactive (INAUDIBLE) and the human volunteers could not tolerate a second dose of the vaccine. So, right off the bat, it's not a perfect vaccine. The highest dose, it wasn't tolerated well.

All we know is, from the phase one trial, yes, you are getting pretty good virus neutralizing antibody titers and -- which has an important component that we think is important for protection. And we know that pre-clinical animal studies look good. But that's all we know. We know, again, good antibody responses, and in the phase one study, at the lower doses, it seemed to be safe.

And that's (INAUDIBLE). You know, you cannot make at this point any statement of efficacy or say things like near perfect. I mean, this is the difference between CEO of a smaller biotech versus the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company. What the CEOs at the biotechs are doing is they're talking too -- they're not talking to you, they're not talking to me, they're talking to their shareholders, very entrepreneurial and transactional.

And the problem is some of these CEOs are sort of tone deaf to the fact that when they make statements like that, it's amplified all over the world at a time when people are scared and upset and this disease is affecting homeland security. So it was a bit tone deaf. I think it was well intentioned but he shouldn't have made that statement.

KEILAR: And, look, Dr. Hotez, I appreciate. You always are saying to us, I don't want to read the press release. I want to see the data. And I think it's so important to make that distinction, so we appreciate you doing it here. Dr. Hotez, thank you.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: Are there different strains of COVID? Can you get the flu and COVID at the same time? We're going to have a doctor who will answer those questions.

Plus, the president launches a Labor Day parade of lies at the White House. We're going to fact check.

And a retired major general joining me live to respond to the president's new attack on the military, this one accusing top leaders of waging war to boost profits.



KEILAR: Now that school has resumed mostly online across the country and concerns about the flu season's possible impact on coronavirus are mounting, we want to get your answers to some of your questions in front of an expert.

Let's talk with Dr. Adrian Burrowes. He is a family medicine physician. He is here with us.

Dr. Burrowes, I want to start with a question of strains of coronavirus. Because like all viruses, we know that this one mutates regularly, but what does that mean for us and how concerned should we be?

DR. ADRIAN BURROWES, FAMILY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: So that's a great question. So we have definitely seen that there have been some mutations in the COVID-19 virus. And what that means for the viewers is that there are these things in your body called amino acids and the sequence of the amino acid is how we determine the identity of a virus.

What we have seen with COVID-19 is that some of these amino acids are changing as time goes along and that has made some experts concerned that that might make it more infectious.

KEILAR: Okay. That's alarming, right? So people should be alarmed or they might need to be alarmed? What do you think?

BURROWES: I think that there is some of the viewers, some of the American public that believe that COVID-19 is not a real entity. My patients come in and they keep asking me, is this real, is this not real? It certainly is real and I think that everyone should be concerned about the mutations in the virus because that, like I said, is lending itself to potentially being more infectious and definitely a concern.

KEILAR: Okay. Here is another question. Can you have the flu and coronavirus at the same time?

BURROWES: Yes, absolutely. One of the things we need to make sure of as we wait for the COVID-19 vaccines is to make sure we take advantage of what's available now which is the flu vaccine, because you can certainly get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could be catastrophic to your immune system.

KEILAR: Geez. Okay. Can food be a source of COVID-19 transmission?

BURROWES: Okay. So that's another good question. So as of right now, there has been no evidence to show that food is a way of transmitting COVID-19. One of the things we need to make sure of is that we frequently wash and sanitize all food contact surfaces and utensils. But as of right now, there is no evidence to suggest that you can get it through food.

KEILAR: Okay. So we are -- this is school time, right? A lot of schools have already been operating here for a few weeks and today is first day for so many people. So are parents more likely to spread the virus to teachers than the children themselves?


BURROWES: Okay, so another wonderful question. So we had at the beginning thought that children were a low likelihood of spread of the virus because they were largely asymptomatic and even when they had the virus, they had minimal symptoms. Of course, now, we've been seeing these mini outbreaks, schools have reopened, which certainly tell us that children have the ability to spread the virus.

So I would caution all of your viewers to treat everyone like they have the same level of transmissibility of the virus and take the appropriate social distancing precautions.

KEILAR: Okay. So then in light of that, here is the next question. How safe is it to allow children to play soccer or attend ballet classes and I would add in there other activities, of course, that kids are hoping to get back to this school year?

BURROWES: Yes. So when we're talking about ballet, I think that you have the ability to socially distance and probably in the dance rooms and to kind of sanitize those areas and do that in a safe manner. So I think that' if they take the appropriate precautions, that's probably something that you could do.

When you talk about sports and soccer especially, things like, where you're having high touch surfaces, like the ball, right, that a lot of the kids are going to be contacting, if they're not having the ability to test the children, I would be more cautious of that.

You're going to be in close proximity with other athletes as just the way of a competitive nature, and then you'll be having a high touch surface as the ball, so I think that I would take more precautions with that. I wouldn't advise it with that necessarily right now.

KEILAR: I want to ask you a follow-up on ballet or dance classes. If you are in an enclosed space and there isn't a lot of air flow, and then in addition to that, you know, when you have kids doing dance, they might be moving across the room as well. They might not just be staying in one place, when I think of the dance moves and the mobility. Is that a concern?

BURROWES: So that would be a concern, especially if we're not being able to utilize our masks. And, of course, as we do these high impact activities, it's not natural to have that mask on when you're doing that. So in those classes, they probably are not using that on the dancers when they're doing that. And as you're coming into that proximity where you're less than six feet apart, you would definitely have a concern about transmission.

KEILAR: Okay. Dr. Burrowes, thank you so much for answering our questions. We really appreciate it.

BURROWES: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: Next, the president listed off really a litany of lies and falsehoods at his news conference. We're going to go through them.

Plus, new CNN reporting on how the claims that he disparaged members of the military are impacting him.

And white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the U.S., that is according to a disturbing new assessment by Homeland Security.



KEILAR: While America was enjoying a three-day weekend yesterday, the president held a news conference most deserving of a fact check, including more comments that he made last hour. So let's take a look here.

While defending himself against reports from multiple media outlets that he disparaged rank and file service members, including calling them losers and suckers, he disparaged military leaders.


TRUMP: I'm not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.


KEILAR: He is accusing his current top brass of wanting to line the pockets of defense contractors. But it's the president who has championed this defense spending that he is now criticizing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display, brand new and we're very proud of it. We are making a lot of new tanks right now.

We had great people in the military but they weren't given the right equipment, so now they are, $2.5 trillion.

We have invested the $2.5 trillion in all of the greatest equipment in the world. And it's all made here right in the USA.


KEILAR: Only one-fifth of that $2.5 trillion, still a lot but one- fifth of it, was spent on equipment. And on the report by The Atlantic that he called war dead losers and service members suckers, the president said this.


TRUMP: Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say a thing like that. There is nobody that has more respect for not only our military but for people that gave their lives in the military, there's nobody.


KEILAR: Nobody has more respect for those that gave their lives? He's repeatedly disproven that by going after their families, including one over and over again, he attacked the Khans, a gold star family, whose son, Humayun, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004.


TRUMP: His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say. She probably -- maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.


KEILAR: The president lacks credibility on this issue and so do the relative few who were defending him against this story.



SARAH SANDERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That story couldn't be further from the truth. This is a president that loves our country and will do anything to fight to protect it.