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California Fires' Record Rage; Big Pharma Push Back Against Rushed Vaccine; COVID Exponential Warning In Europe; Germany's Russia Challenge Over Navalny; U.K. to Override Parts of Brexit Withdrawal Pact; India Reports Nearly 76,000 New COVID-19 Cases; Family of Black Woman Who Died at Party Wants Answers; French Man Denied Opportunity to Live Stream Final Days. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from studio seven at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.

California, burning once again. A 600-mile stretch of flame from the Mexico border to the forests of Sierra Nevada. An unprecedented fire emergency fueled by a record-breaking heat wave.

From big pharma to the WHO to his own health officials, all pushing back against the U.S. president and his promise to release a vaccine by election day.

Also ahead. Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in France, why is the number of hospitalizations almost unchanged?

We begin with a rescue attempt in California. Right now, a military helicopter attempting to reach dozens of hikers and campers trapped by raging wildfire.

An earlier attempt failed because heavy smoke prevented the pilot for making a safe landing.

This is the state's worst wildfire season fueled by record heat and scorching more than two million acres or 800 hectares so far -- 800,000 hectares so far.

That fire which you're seeing right there is the Creek Fire. It's one of more than 20 blazes currently burning.

Now CNN's Dan Simon was on the scene just earlier.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fire is getting dangerously close to some of these mountain communities.

The town of Auberry which has about 2,500 people had to evacuate as the flames basically took over a hill side above that town.

For the most part though this fire is burning in the rugged Sierra National Forest. But you do have, of course, a lot of campers who use this area for recreation.

And that's why you had all off those people that were at the boat launch who had to be airlifted to safety. About 10 or so people suffered moderate injury but hopefully everyone will be OK.

In the meantime, we're getting more information about that so-called gender reveal party in Southern California in San Bernardino County.

You did have this couple that went to a nearby park to basically announce the gender of their baby, and they had a pyrotechnic device and you light it off and it either goes pink or blue -- well, in any event set this wildfire in motion.

Dan Simon. CNN, Auberry, California.


VAUSE: On the line now is Stacey Nolan, public information officer with the Fresno County fire protection district. Thanks for being with us and taking the time.

Can give us an update right now on what's happening with this rescue attempt? Exactly how many people are we trying to get out of this region and is this underway? Do we know what the status is?

STACY NOLAN, FRESNO COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT (VOICE OVER): I don't have any information regarding that. I believe I was speaking with you regarding what the acreage containment and what the situation was right now.

VAUSE: Sure. Well, tell us what you can about this area that we're looking at?

NOLAN: I'm sorry. Can you repeat that?

VAUSE: Tell us exactly what you can about the area that we're looking at here with the fires --

NOLAN: Absolutely.

VAUSE: -- the extent of the fires?

NOLAN: So the acreage right now is 135,523 acres that are affected. We have zero percent containment and we have over 5,296 structures that are threatened, that is homes, outbuildings, can be commercial buildings. And we have 65 structures that are destroyed.

And this is all -- this goes on two different counties, it's on the Fresno County side and the Madeira County side.

And today, obviously, we've had stronger winds than we had had. And it's more with upper level winds that blow in from the northwest and variable lower level winds. So that's helped the fire increase and grow.

VAUSE: Stacey, sorry about the confusion. And forgive me, I don't know how much you can say about the rescue effort. But what do you know about that region where these campers are in that Lake Edison China Peak region?

And just in general, what -- the problem here seems to be that just roads are closed because of the fires and people can't get out.

How common is that across the region right now?

NOLAN: So right now what we've asked the hikers to do is to shelter in place at a couple of locations. And China Peak is one of them.

And you're absolutely right. Because there was fire on both sides of the road it's very dangerous for people to either come and go. So obviously, that's why the roads were shut down.

And we'd rather have people shelter in place and be in a safe area as opposed to try to get them through walls of fire.

VAUSE: We're looking at what some are calling an unprecedented disaster here with the Creek Fire.

Clearly, the terrible heat wave which California is going through right now isn't helping, it's making it worse.

Is there any other factors that's making this particularly an unprecedented fire season?

NOLAN: Absolutely. Well, all the dry timber and brush plays a big factor.


That area is known for bark beetle infestation so we have a lot of dead and dying trees in that area.

So that's like 80 percent of the trees that are affected in there, that helps with that heavy fuel load. And that's what you are seeing now.

VAUSE: Very quickly, did --

NOLAN: And we haven't had any rains for a while.

VAUSE: Yes. Sorry to interrupt but very quickly, we're out of time. Can you just let this burn at the end of the day, is that's what's going to happen?

NOLAN: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you?

VAUSE: Could we just let this fire burn out, is that essentially what happens here?

NOLAN: You cut totally out. VAUSE: Well, actually, you know what, Stacey, we're out of time. So we may leave it.

We appreciate you being with us. Stacey Nolan there. Public information officer from Fresno. With an update on those wildfires which are unprecedented.

Thank you, Stacey.

Well, big pharma is pushing back against the U.S. president and his promise that a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready by next month.

On Monday he tweeted the vaccines are coming in fast.

There is progress on that front.

But "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting at least three vaccine makers will issue a public promise not to seek government approval until they have extensive data on safety and effectiveness. That's Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

And there are rumblings that others from big pharma could join those three, at least six perhaps.

Pfizer and its partner Biotech have been cleared to start the next phase of their clinical trial in Germany. It's the only vaccine maker which could have late-stage results by October, and that's certainly not a given.

The World Health Organization is also stressing the need for due diligence. It says it will not endorse a vaccine before it's shown to be effective and safe.

And the former U.S. surgeon general says the Food & Drug Administration has no room for error in this. And must learn from past mistakes.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FMR. U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: They've got to avoid making the same mistakes they made with convalescent plasma, with hydroxychloroquine.

They've got to really let the science and scientists guide them in their decision making here.


VAUSE: Well, at the White House on Monday the U.S. president falsely claimed that the United States is, quote "an absolute leader in every way when it comes to fighting the pandemic."

Mr. Trump is clearly tying the release of a vaccine to the coming election.



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 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.


VAUSE: Gosh, could it November 3rd, election day?

When Democratic rival joe biden was asked if he would take a vaccine if it was offered before then he said he'd listen to the scientists.

Biden also warned about a lack of trust.


BIDEN: One of the problems is the way he's playing with politics. He's said so many things that aren't true, I'm worried if we do have a really good vaccine people are going to be reluctant to take it. So he's undermining public confidence.

But pray God we have it. If I could get a vaccine tomorrow, I'd do it. If it cost the election, I'd do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now.


VAUSE: And there's this from a federal official familiar with the Trump Administration's so-called Operation Warp Speed.

He says despite those promises from the president, quote: "I don't know any scientist who thinks we will be getting shots into arms anytime before election day."

So far nearly 190,000 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus, 6.3 million have been infected.

These are staggering numbers. But as summer gives way to autumn, experts warn cases could rise exponentially.

Here's CNN's Athena Jones with more.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: I worry that that any new surges will be potentially quite catastrophic.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Labor Day weekend scenes like this dance party in San Francisco raising concerns among health experts and public officials that a surge in COVID-19 cases could soon follow.

Just like they did after previous holiday weekends.


MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ, MIAMI, FLORIDA: We have seen, as you mentioned, spikes after long weekends, after spring break. And so that's certainly a concern.

In fact, new coronavirus infections are averaging around 40,000 a day, double the daily average going into Memorial Day, with cases on the rise in the northeast and in Florida.

While states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri and Tennessee lead the nation in a seven-day average of new cases per capita.

Also a concern, flu season is almost upon us which, combined with coronavirus, could present new challenges as experts worry people may be letting down their guard after months of restrictions.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FMR. FDA COMMISSIONER: People are exhausted. People have been social distancing and wearing masks and staying home for a long period of time right now.

I think that people's willingness to comply with the simple things that we know can reduce spread is going to start to fray as we head into the fall and the winter.


JONES: With the federal government increasingly focused on the swift approval of a vaccine --


-- two former U.S. Food & Drug Administration commissioners tell CNN that while they think it's very unlikely that President Trump could pressure scientists into approving a COVID-19 vaccine, it's possible.

A third former commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says he has faith in the agency's scientific staff.


GOTTLIEB: There's a very rigorous process around the development and approval of a vaccine.

I don't think those people are going to be pushed around to make a decision that they're not absolutely confident in.


JONES: "The Wall Street Journal" reporting pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are preparing an unusual joint pledge. Promising not to seek approval for their vaccines until they have been proven safe and effective.

A move aimed at increasing public confidence in a vaccine, if and when one becomes available.


DR. ESTHER CHOO, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: Yes, that was a tremendously important statement. The vaccine manufacturers know that trust is such an important component of distributing vaccine.


JONES: Meanwhile, more than 33,000 COVID cases have been reported at colleges and universities in all 50 states. With some schools cracking down on students who violate safety protocols, including rules on congregating and mask wearing.

NYU tweeting over the weekend that it suspended more than 20 students, days after Northeastern University suspended 11 students without refunding their tuition.

One thing that could slow down the vaccine approval process, experts warn that phase three clinical trials are still not enrolling enough minorities, something that's necessary to better reflect the population hit hardest by COVID-19, and to make sure that the vaccines work for everyone.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Spain is the first country in Western Europe to report 500,000 COVID-19 cases.

The latest surge is linked to the reopening of schools. The death rate though is much lower than the peak back in March and April.

Also in Europe the U.K. has hit its highest daily death rate in May. The health secretary an increase in affluent younger people are among those catching the virus.

Experts also warning there could a return to exponential growth. Cases in France also higher. Fatalities have slowly climbed as well, now the seventh highest death toll in the world.

And there are fears of a possible second wave come winter.

Joining us is Dr. Syra Madad, senior epidemiologist with NYC Health & Hospitals. That's the largest public health care system in the U.S. Dr. Madad was one of those overseeing New York's pandemic response.

So, Doctor, good to have you with us. Thank you.


VAUSE: OK. Right now in France, there is both this big surge in the number of confirmed cases but also a very small, almost unnoticeable rise in hospitalization.

According to Reuters, as of last Friday --

"the number of people in intensive care units, ICUs, for COVID-19 rose by nine to 473, far below the April 8th of more than 7,000 but increasing for an eight consecutive day."

So how much can be accounted for by the increased testing and, in particular, people testing younger with mild or no symptoms and how much is doctors doing a better job at treating the disease?

And what do you take away from these numbers?

MADAD: I think it's a combination of a lot of those things. I think, first, one thing to state is we know that hospitalizations and death are a lagging indicator.

And now we're seeing more of this caution fatigue, or this pandemic fatigue and people congregating more and not socially distancing. You're going to see an increase in the number of cases.

But with that said, we are seeing a trend, both here in the United States and as you've mentioned both internationally and other countries, where you're seeing hospitalizations and the number of death associated with COVID-19 going on a downward trend. Which is great.

And it could be attributed to a couple of different things.

First, the improvement in treatment for COVID-19. And we have a couple more, in our arson, if you will -- arsenal.

So we have cortical steroids, we have blood thinners. Things like that the we didn't not have in the beginning that is helping with the overall case management.

But on top of that, as you've have mentioned, when we talk about testing we are able to test more people, find more individuals with both mild and severe cases and be able to catch them earlier on. And prevent further cases from infecting other individuals.

And so it's a combination of a number of different things as to why we're seeing a downward trend.

On top of you're seeing also more people wearing masks, which is also great.

VAUSE: Is there an argument to be made here that what really matters that the end of the day when it comes to this pandemic is the number of people who get really sick that they go to the hospital and they face -- they potentially die, as opposed to the overall number of the confirmed cases?

MADAD: That's correct. And so what we're seeing is that essentially with the number of good treatments that we have for COVID-19 -- it's not obviously a lot. We're learning a lot more every single day.

But what we're seeing, just nationally and also internationally, is that the younger population is the one that's being infected more, in certain sub-sets. And these are the individuals that are now seeding the spread in communities at large.


VAUSE: The U.S. president, he seems to avoid any talk about this pandemic. And when he does he often gets it wrong. Like he did on Monday.

Listen to this.


TRUMP: The United States has experienced among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country in the world.

And we are an absolute leader in every way.


VAUSE: Ah, if only that were true. According to Johns Hopkins, the U.S. is in the top five when it comes to the number of deaths per capita.

What does it say about the White House response to this pandemic that Mexico has a lower death rate than U.S.?

MADAD: Well, the federal government and specifically the president is certainly ill informed when it comes to the overall epidemiology and this statistics behind COVID-19.

And so he's looking at a completely different subset of data and not per capita or per population.

And if you look at the number of cases we have here in the United States, certainly, we certainly have a number of -- a lot of virus within the community.

And even though over the past couple of weeks we are seeing about a four percent decrease -- in the past, really two weeks -- in both the number of cases and hospitalizations, we still have a persistently very high number of COVID-19 infections just throughout the nation.

On top of that, what you're also seeing is that -- our (ph) behavior not being mimicked.

And so what you're seeing is the president not wearing a mask, not following the advice of consensus of medical and public health community, that is also adding to a lot of this misinformation and this disinformation.


MADAD: And on top of all that, what you're also seeing is that a number of schools and colleges are also opening up. And just here in the United States we have seen a record number of 51,000 cases reported just over 1,000 campuses.

And that number's only going to continue to rise.

VAUSE: And this comes in the context of that Labor Day weekend when everybody is expecting another surge in cases.

Dr. Syra Madad, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

MADAD: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: To the White House now where President Trump spent the Labor Day holiday with an unprecedented criticism of 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.

But we're getting out of the endless wars.


VAUSE: It's important to know that Donald Trump is criticizing leaders he appointed.

More now from CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Just as President Trump has been trying to convince the world he has not made disparaging remarks about the troops, he suddenly Monday launched an unprecedented attack on his own military commanders and the defense secretary here in Washington.

The president saying that these commanders just want to stay at war to help benefit defense contractors.

Look, presidents often chafe when the Pentagon says just a few more months and we'll have victory. The president today did something very different. He tied military

advice to trying to benefit defense contractors. And that is something that I don't know any military person that wouldn't find offensive.

In this country, the U.S. military goes to war at the direction of the president of the United States and stays at war because the president tells them to. There was no indication of presidential responsibility in Mr. Trump's remarks.

So where it all goes from here is unclear. Because Washington is on edge, waiting to see if more information comes out, more revelations, about what Mr. Trump may have said in the past about the U.S. troops.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VAUSE: We'll take a short break.

When we come back, the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is out of that coma. When we come back, we'll tell you what doctors are saying about his recovery from a suspected poisoning.

Also, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing a tough decision on what to do about Navalny.

An 11 million dollar energy project now hanging in the balance.



VAUSE: A hospital in Germany says long-time Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, is coming out of a coma and slowly off of a breathing machine.

It's still too early to know if he will fully recover from being poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports now from Berlin.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SNR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some good news coming for Alexei Navalny and his loved ones after that poisoning the German government says came from novichok, a chemical agent, without any sort of reasonable doubt.

The Charite Hospital here in Berlin announcing on Monday that Alexei Navalny has been brought out of a medically-induced coma and that his condition is improving.

Now in a press release, the hospital said he is responding to verbal stimuli. It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning. Now we were able to get in touch with a member of Alexei Navalny's

team. And that person said, look, of course, they're very, very happy about this news, but at the same time they don't want to make any sort of further comments about how exactly Alexei Navalny is doing.

The hospital here in Berlin from a very long time, has said that they believe that the road to recovery is going to be very long and very difficult for Alexei Navalny. And that it's not clear whether or not he's going to be able to make a full recovery at all.

Now all of this causing major international issues between Germany and Russia, the European Union and Russia, NATO and Russia as well.

The Russians, for their part, continue to say they're not even sure whether or not Alexei Navalny was poisoned at all. They claim that when he was flown out of a hospital in Omsk, in Siberia, that the doctors there had no traces of any sort of poisoning in his body.

The Germans, for their part, are saying without any sort of doubt their lab results show that it was novichok and they're calling on the Russians to urgently shed light onto what exactly happened to Alexei Navalny.

The German government, for its part, is now also under pressure to possibly freeze a big gas project between the two nations.

Fred Pleitgen. CNN, Berlin.

VAUSE: That gas project is known as Nord Stream 2, an 11 billion construction project which German chancellor Angela Merk might put on hold in response to Navalny's poisoning.

It's been a controversial project since construction began in 2018. The pipeline will bring Russian gas to Germany via Finnish and Swedish waters.

CNN's emerging markets editor, John Defterios, is live this hour in Abu Dhabi with more.

The U.S. president got in on this. He said Germany is too weak to cancel that project, the Russians seem to think the same.

It would be a costly move by Angela Merkel. So, I guess, how realistic is it that this could end up being canceled? Eleven billion dollars is a big chunk of change.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes. I'm a little bit cynical myself, John, because it is such a big project.

But Germany is making the calculations now, whether they can afford to do so. There are both economic and political calculations, of course.

Angela Merkel wants to be seen putting the pressure on Vladimir Putin, trying to get an investigation, may call on Brussels to support that effort. But on the other side, there's economic interest in Germany, a number of German contractors involved in the Nord Stream project and also other Europeans, like the French as well.

So what does she do? This project is nearly 95 percent done and this is where the U.S. comes in.

John, get this. Because it's U.S. sanctions holding up the project against the port operator on this operation, Mecklen Port (ph) on the Baltic Sea.

And also against the contractors who have U.S. interests at the same time.

Here's Donald Trump and his view on the security matter.



TRUMP: When I came along, I said wait a minute, we're protecting Germany from Russia, right, NATO?

We're protecting Germany from Russia. Germany's paying Russians billions and billions of dollars to get their energy -- and the real number's probably 60 to 70 percent, ultimately, of their energy's going to come from Russia.


DEFTERIOS: So Donald Trump is correct about the numbers though, John. The dependency now of Germany and then even for the most part of Europe with the exception of the U.K. is about 35 to 40 percent. That would climb in Germany to 60, 70 percent.

But you have to also see the political motivation of Donald Trump and an economic one as well. They want to export U.S. L&G energy from the Gulf Coast around Texas into Europe.

It's more expensive because the pipeline gives cheaper delivery. But this is the real motivation of Donald Trump. To help the oil and gas patch in America and say we're not responsible for protecting Germany and letting Russia get that power.

VAUSE: There's a couple of things here. Is Navalny really worth $11 billion in protest? I guess that's one point.

And when you look at the ties between Russia and Germany, they go way back longer when it comes to gas, at least. Much longer than the ties between Germany and Navalny.

DEFTERIOS: Yes. This is a fantastic point, John. Because everybody's looking at or honing in on this project that started in 2018.

Go all the way back to 2005, and Angela Merkel's predecessor, that would be Gerhard Schroder, and he signed this contract of Nord Stream 1 with Russia, back then in the last few months going into office.

He's been serving as the chairman of the shareholders' committee ever since.

So the ties between Russia and Germany are extremely tight. This is one question.

And Angela Merkel certainly doesn't want to be the only one putting forward on Navalny, to your point here.

So listen to the language going forward, whether the European Union steps up. Do they really want to cut off the Russian gas?

Politically, people try to keep gas interests or oil interests away from politics, right? They don't mix. Even here in the Middle East with Qatar, for example. They have an embargo from the UAE but the gas still comes in.

Secondarily here, they need to get this gas into that market because otherwise German consumers will complain we're paying a very high price for, as you suggested, Alexei Navalny.

VAUSE: Yes. John, thank you. John Defterios in Abu Dhabi. Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, he was grown man, a police officer, he was wearing that tactical gear.

She was a twelve-year old girl, says she was out buying art supplies.

But in middle of a pro-democracy demonstration -- take a look at this.

The young girl seen trying to run from police. She makes it a short distance before she's taken down. Police are defending the officers saying the girl was acting suspicious and only minimum force was used.

Critics call it another example of police brutality.

The girl was fined more than $200 for violating the city's ban on public gatherings.

Well, still to come. A fresh round of Brexit talks, a new serving of Brexit drama. Everything old is new again.



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

A British official has told CNN the U.K. is considering fallback options in case outstanding Brexit issues over Northern Ireland cannot be resolved. The comment follows A "Financial Times" report the U.K. is planning new legislation that will override key parts of the withdrawal agreement.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson explains why this could all have serious consequences.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Along the E.U.'s only land border with the U.K., the 300-mile meandering, invisible line between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson's latest shift on Brexit negotiations will be causing consternation.

Farmer Andrew Little will be back to wondering if his dairy farm can survive.

And not far away, the local cattle market could be counting the cost of uncertainty again, fearing new border controls.

On Wednesday, Johnson announces a new law, potentially weakening customs controls from Great Britain to Northern Ireland by undermining protocols already agreed with the E.U. and in so doing, risks a so- called hard border between the north, Northern Ireland, and the south, the Republic of Ireland and damaging the north's two decades of peace, angering nationalists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is too serious for game playing. This is far too serious; this is about our livelihoods for the people who live in the north. This is about protection of the Good Friday Agreement. I will not stand idly by and allow the British government to play fast and loose with our interest here.

ROBERTSON: Unionists who Johnson let down last year with his protocol deal welcome his latest gambit.

CHRISTOPHER, STAFFORD, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY: We as a party are opposed to this protocol. It will damage our economy because it houses us off from our largest market, the GB market.

ROBERTSON: In the north, power sharing government tempers are already rising.

DANIEL MCCROSSAN, SDLP MLA: Boris is a blundering buffoon that cannot be trusted when it comes to the affairs relating to this list (ph). He will go down in history, in fact as the prime minister who ignored an aide (ph).

ROBERTSON: South of the border, the foreign minister raising his alarm at Johnson's apparent disregard on already agreed international law, tweeting, "This would be a very unwise way to proceed, #Brexit.

Brexit even with a U.K.-E.U. trade deal will hit Ireland's economy more than any other E.U. nation. Without a deal, the only certainty from the island of Ireland will be uncertainty and a greater risk of violence.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is in Los Angeles for more on this. So Dom, it's been awhile. Good to see you.


VAUSE: Well, well, here we are, back again. Good old days, you know.

Every time there's a sort of Brexit brinkmanship, the questions seem to be how serious are they about blowing up this agreement crashing out? How much of this is just of what we have become used to as Brexit bluster, how much is this Boris Johnson trying to get a little more leverage over the E.U., because he doesn't have a lot or leverage right now?

THOMAS: No. And you know, this is a prime minister who's been in office for under a year, who as we all know, you know, grossly mishandled the COVID pandemic, the economy is not doing well and his government has been embroiled in a whole range of controversies. So there's nothing like attacking the E.U. to distract from those kinds of questions and to galvanize his supporters.

And also, by reintroducing this controversy around the Brexit agreement, he is reminding the electorate that he won a landslide on delivering Brexit and he's trying to shift the conversation. So you have on side of the table, the U.K. government with this sort of nationalistic, sovereignist agenda. And then the E.U. 27 that are interested in policies and decrease and the values of international law here. So two very different heads coming together.

VAUSE: Just in general, reneging on international agreements usually doesn't go well. If Britain walks away from, you know, an agreement which they signed on to, and they agreed to all the rest of it, how does that impact their standing with other countries? Or is this whole Brexit fiasco sort of stovepipe in one big pile of, you know, over there?


THOMAS: Yes. Well, as you're going into negotiations, you know, the question of trust is really important with your E.U. partners or former partners. And then of course, in terms of the global reputation, it doesn't do you a lot of good.

The thing about this that's so really, you know, incredible is that this withdrawal agreement was rejected three times by parliament with historic votes. It cost Theresa May the prime ministership.

And it was Boris Johnson who was then elected who signed this withdrawal agreement, brought it back to parliament, got their support and it was then ratified by the E.U. and they got to leave on the 31st of January of this year. So that's what's all so incredible about it.

He'd removed the backstop. They've found a path forward and it really leaves us quite sort of puzzled as to what really his aim is here.

VAUSE: Yes. I mean one thing which was interesting. The U.S. President, he's been a big supporter of Brexit, also a big -- talk of this trade deal with the U.K. We'll see if that actually happens.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, the Democrat nominee, not so much. He's more concerned about, you know, security for Northern Ireland and the peace deal.

How much of the outcome of the U.S. election will sway Boris Johnson on, you know, which where he decides to go in one way or the other, if Trump is returned or Biden returned? Does it matter?

THOMAS: Yes. I mean there's the election and then there's, you know, the sort of the questions that will follow after that. But I think you're absolutely right. There is something, you know, crucial here.

Clearly, you know, for Donald Trump, from the moment he assumed office everything that had to do with multilateralism and international organizations, he broke them down. And weakening the E.U. was something that appealed to him, beyond the fact that Brexit echoed with his own anti immigration kind of nationalistic rhetoric and so on.

With Joe Biden, in a way you have something that is diametrically opposed. Yes, the recognition of the crucial importance of the Atlantic relationship, but also an unambiguous commitment to the value of the Good Friday agreement and a clear understanding of what that represents for peace.

While at the same recognizing that the aspects that he is fighting against himself, in this electoral campaign are so closely linked to that nationalistic protectionist rhetoric of Brexit and that is something that his administration is going to struggle with when it comes to talking about any kind of particular deal.

And of course, as you mentioned in the runup to this, a deal with Donald Trump is not an obvious thing either, when you consider all the controversy around taking care -- you know, the health care and all of those sorts of questions. So a lot of uncertainty there.

VAUSE: Yes. Very quickly, if nothing else, you know, threats to walk away, pounding the table, British sovereignty, hard border with Ireland. It seems to show just how little the British have matured despite four years of negotiations on this.

THOMAS: Yes. and I mean it was the single, you know, issue that really shaped the election and the sort of the details were quite fuzzy. You know, Boris Johnson was able to run without answering too many questions on simply the idea of delivering Brexit. It's when you get into the details of it that it becomes, you know, sort of problematic.

And I think there are many people around him, the hard-core Brexiteers who from the very beginning have been completely disingenuous. All they wanted was to get to that 31st of January deadline and leave the European Union. And they ultimately had no intention of respecting the withdrawal agreement.

But Boris Johnson needs to be very careful here. The state of his economy, the future of the U.K. is in his hands and it's his responsibility. And it is clear that the E.U. is concerned about the future of the U.K. within that broader space of Europe and concerned about E.U. citizens and U.K. citizens should they walk away with a no deal.

So Boris Johnson talks about an October 15th deadline but as we all know with Brexit, there's no such thing as a real deadline. And in any case, the transition period does not end until the end of December of this year. So we will be talking about this again, I'm sure.

VAUSE: Great. Dominic, thank you. Dominic Thomas in Los Angeles. We get it.

THOMAS: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: India just reported nearly 76,000 new cases of the coronavirus just a day after passing Brazil with the second highest number of infections in the world. India, marked by the yellow line here, has now reported close to 4.3 million cases, almost 73,000 deaths. That's the third highest death toll worldwide. Maybe let's just say the actual figure, the real number is expected to be much higher.

Vedika Sud, live now in New Delhi, so Vedika, essentially what are we looking at here in terms of the blame for these -- well, not the blame but the reason for the surging numbers. Is it essentially the reopening of the economy, a desire to get the economy going again?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Largely so, yes. Because we've had a very frail economy, as you've known. Ever since the lockdown took place, and successive lockdowns in fact. So that's one of the reasons the Indian government addressed -- repeatedly said that, you know, we need to coexist with COVID-19 now and reopen the economy. A lot of people have been losing their jobs as we know, John.


SUD: But there are other reasons as well. Aggressive testing being one of them. India has now crossed (ph) 50 million tests and that's a huge number given that in the last few weeks it really ramped up testing and have been reaching about a million tests a day.

Along with that, the other reason also is the poor infrastructure, you know, in rural areas. About 70 percent of our population lives in rural areas and that's another reason. But the highlight also being that experts are now coming out and talking about how the reported deaths could be higher than officially mentioned.

Now listen (ph) to the experts through this report.


SUD: On Monday, India crossed an unenviable milestone. The country surpassed Brazil's COVID-19 case load and is now second only to the U.S. in known COVID-19 cases.

DR. SANDEEP NAYAR, BLK HOSPITAL: We are not taking all the precautions. We are not maintaining all the decorums (ph) and all the -- we are not following all the restrictions given by the government. Not a good idea.

SUD: After restrictions were eased to boost India's frail economy, many Indians have taken the government's guidelines lightly. Some can be seen without masks, paying little attention to social distancing requests.

The surge in infections is also because of aggressive testing. India has tested around 50 million, reaching about 1 million a day. But experts worry India's the death count could be higher than where it stands.

RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN (PH), PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: The deaths are certainly being undercounted because a lot of people who die without getting a COVID test are not counted at COVID deaths, so it's unclear India has a lower mortality rate than other countries in the region. It's certainly lower than in Western Europe and in the United States, but India's death rate as far as the world is concerned is sort right up there in terms of an average.

SUD: Despite the surging numbers, further easing of restrictions have been announced for September. Metro services resumed partially with strict safety protocols in place. Later this month, gatherings of up to 100 people for public functions will be permitted.

While the government has repeatedly cited low fatality and high recovery rates to encourage people to head back to work, experts say the country's caseload is too high to ignore.

LAXMINARAYAN: If you talk about 2 percent case fatality rate, that's still incredibly very high, that's, you know, one in 50 chance of dying from a disease for which you have been tested positive, which I think is an unacceptable risk for most people.

But I can understand what the government is trying to do here which is to play this fine balance because they do have the concern that the economy will not recover for months if they were not to provide that reassurance.

SUD: With the highest daily infections in the world being reported from India, many here fear the worst is yet to come.


SUD: And that is the fear that a lot of people in the medical fraternity also have, John, at this point in time. The government is to speak today. The Health Ministry is going to be holding a press conference, more clarity on their part on how they're going to counter the surging numbers is expected today.

But I leave you with this thought that a lot of people here in India have also been talking about people are complacent here ever since the reopening of the economy. Some are not wearing masks and some are not maintaining social distancing, John.

VAUSE: Yes. it's that COVID, I guess, weariness that everyone has had enough of it, but Vedika, thank you. Vedika Sud there --

SUD: Thank you.

VAUSE: -- in New Delhi. Appreciate it.

The U.S. has seen a recent jump in COVID testing averaging more than 740,000 tests over the past week of community COVID tracking project but still far short of the July peak. Last week the CDC announced new guidelines which appear to be designed to lower the number of tests. That came from pressure from the top down, according to one official.

Health experts though have complained saying more testing is needed, not less. CNN's Doctor Sanjay Gupta reports now how actor Sean Penn is changing the testing landscape.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What you are looking at is testing, something any public health expert in the world will tell you is the key to controlling a pandemic, like COVID-19.

And here in Fulton County, Georgia where I live that need, which has been slow to be met has finally found some help from the non-profit organization CORE and this familiar face, Sean Penn.

SEAN PENN, CO-FOUNDER OF CORE: This partnership sets an example, not only for the state of Georgia, but for the rest of the nation.

GUPTA: When was the moment you realized that this county or at least Atlanta was but in over its head on this?

ROBB PITTS, FULTON COUNTY BOARD CHAIRMAN: When Georgia got in the spotlight, that's when it started to hit home.

GUPTA: For Fulton County board chairman Rob Pitts, that spotlight came when Georgia became one of the first states to reopen on April 24th. Today, there is no statewide mask mandate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm confident that Georgians don't need a mandate to do the right thing.

GUPTA: And average daily cases in Georgia are more than doubled since that last week in April.

PITTS: When we started to follow the advice of the scientists and the medical professionals, we focused on testing.

GUPTA: It's part of the reason Chairman Pitts funded a $3 million contract with Core to help build the gaps.

I would think that's going to be Georgia Department of Health--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. [01:45:00]

GUPTA: And instead it's this nonprofit from the other side of country doing this work.

JONATHAN GOLDEN, CORE GEORGIA AREA MANAGER: The Department of Public Health, the counties can have these ideas and know the implementation of the action. They don't necessarily have the personnel to carry it out. But we are the feet on the ground and we can bring the personnel at search capacity.

GUPTA: The numbers seem to show that so far the strategy is working.

If you look at Fulton County's positivity rate over the past two weeks, it's around 6 percent. Georgia is around 10 percent, but still, as the most populous county with the most cases, it is like Fulton County is a blue petri dish in the middle of a red state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was not experiencing any symptoms, I just came to get tested because one of my friends tested positive.

GUPTA: And this is important, who to test. Finding asymptomatic cases. That's been a priority for CORE since they first came here in May.

PENN: Every essential worker, symptomatic or asymptomatic, is encouraged to come here and we will test you.

GUPTA: Remember, according to the CDC, 40 percent of people who carry the virus have no symptoms, and yet they are responsible for around 50 percent of the spread. And now, with a number of tests and cases are moving in the right direction, Fulton County Board of Health director, Dr. Lynne Paxton says it's time to think about the next steps.

DR. LYNNE PAXTON, FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH DIRECTOR: Contact tracing becomes even more crucial as the numbers start to fall.

Think about it almost as if you're trying to stamp out, you know, embers from a fire, you know. You put the fire out but if you have, you know little embers they can catch fire again.

GUPTA: And CORE is helping to do that as well. That means going door to door to try and reach those who have tested positive but could not be contacted any other way. And that is because every test, every contact informed, every step we can possibly take is what is going to help us win this battle.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


VAUSE: Still ahead, a mysterious death in Georgia, a black mother at a party with girlfriends ends up dead. We'll hear from her family, an exclusive interview, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Amid nationwide protests in the U.S. over racial injustice, a case here in Georgia is getting renewed attention. Authorities have reopened the investigation into Tamla Horsford, 40-year-old. She's the mother of five, who died at a party when she was the only African American.

CNN's Lynda Kinkade talked with her family in an exclusive interview.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With a beaming smile and a sparkle in here eye, Tamla Horsford was a ray of light according to her family, a mother of 5 boys who put everyone else First.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Super mom, super mom. She made sure she could provide for them.


SUMMER ST. JOUR JONES, TAMLAN HORSFORD'S SISTER: She was always the type of person who would like stand up for the little guy, you know.

KINKADE: Now, a tragic death is seeing renewed cries for justice in the midst of a nationwide movement.

JONES: It's unfortunate that it has to take other people's heartbreak and other people's loss for the proper attention to be given to this case involving my sister.

KINKADE: The November 2018, Horsford went to a friend's sleepover birthday at a home in north Georgia. The next morning, the 40-year-old was found in her pajamas unresponsive in the backyard. Until now, her family has not spoken out publicly. Their grief still as raw as the night Horsford died.

The Forsyth County sheriff ruled her death an accident, concluding she fell from a second story balcony. An autopsy uncovered a blood alcohol level of 0.23, nearly 3 times the legal driving limit in Georgia. Traces of Xanax and marijuana were also found.

JONES: Never, ever, ever, ever have I seen my sister become sloppy drunk and incoherent, and so I doubt that she would pick a sleep over with people that she was just getting to know to start behaving that way.

KINKADE: The attorney for Horsford's family says despite repeated requests, police never provided any autopsy photos. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said he did not follow procedure. Raul Fernandez says that's not true.

How unusual is it to request autopsy photos and not be given them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's never happened. But it defies logic.

KINKADE: And he claims that is not the only issue that defies logic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The placement of the body, multitude of injuries. The -- what I would consider to be a defensive injuries. The inexplicable post-mortem bleedings.

KINKADE: The sheriff's office says it conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation. But Fernandez believes there's a strong possibility Tamla Horsford's death was a homicide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were numerous in consistencies in a series of statements. The disposal of evidence. The relationships between the parties.

KINKADE: Fernandez says the fact that Horsford was the only black person to attend the party may have played a role in how her death was investigated.

She became a casualty. She is a casualty, consistent with what I would says a percent of the people that are found of color in places that no nobody cares to pursue for the easiest assessment is reached.

KINKADE: The sheriff's office responded saying detectives each investigate without bias, no matter who the victim, witnesses or suspects are.

Across the U.S., the case has sparked a huge petition where celebrities like Kim Kardashian and 50 cent also calling attention to the cause.

JONES: I'm think people are tired of seeing, you know,, loved ones being taken so senselessly.

KINKADE: After the public outcry, Georgia authorities reopened the investigation at the request of the sheriff's office. But the family is not satisfied.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just want justice for the boys. I just want justice.

JONES: We need answers that makes sense. None of this makes sense, none of it.

KINKADE: Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, why Facebook is saying no to a dying wish from one man who want so share his final moments with the world.



VAUSE: Welcome back.

Facebook has blocked planned by a right to die campaigner to live stream his own death. The terminally ill man has stopped eating and stopped taking medication. He wanted his final moments shared with the world to highlight a ban on medically assisted suicide in France.

CNN's Melissa Bell reports from Paris.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For more than 30 years, Alain Cocq has lived with a rare and painful disease that causes his arteries to stick together. Now, he wants to die. On Friday night at his home in Eastern France, he stopped all medication as well as food and drink, his plan to livestream his last few days on Facebook.

ALAIN COCQ, TERMINALLY ILL PATIENT (through translator): I have taken my decision and I'm at peace. I understand that this can surprise you, but since taking my decision and the closer to September 4th I get, the more I feel serenity.

BELL: On Saturday, Facebook stopped the feed, saying in a statement that the depiction of suicide attempts could be triggering and promote more self-harm. Euthanasia is illegal in France unless a person's death is imminent.

Back in July, Alain Cocq wrote to Emmanuel Macron asking to be allowed to die with dignity. But the French president replied that although he was moved by Cocq's plight he could not intervene because he was not above the law.

Jean-Luc Romero, who wants the law changed, says he's surprised that Facebook acted so swiftly in this case.

JEAN-LUC ROMERO MICHEL, PRESIDENT, ADMD (through translator): Here we have a man who was just going to let himself die with no spectacular gesture. And Facebook decides to suspend? But why are they so lax when it comes to acting against racism and homophobia. And here, so violent with a man who just wants to show the situation in which the government has pushed him.

Facebook declined to comment on Jean-Luc Romero's allegation. On his Facebook page, now deprived of a live feed, Cocq expressed his anger at not being able to share with the world the pain of his last few days.

Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us. I'll be back with another hour right after a short break.

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