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Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) is Interviewed about Reopenings; Coronavirus Update from Around the World; California Wildfires Rage. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: As you have begun to allow in-person dining at 25 percent capacity in some establishments.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NY): John, good to be with you.

All in all -- and, again, this is still largely anecdotal, we're gathering the data still -- this was an incredibly good weekend. I mean the weather could not have been better. The shore, our lakes, were crowded. Listen, outside, you don't see enough masking as you'd like. But we also know that the virus outdoors is a lot less lethal than it is indoors. At least, anecdotally, the early moments of indoor dining, which as you rightfully point out is capped at 25 percent, and the feedback has been very good. The weather was good enough, by the way, that restaurants that offered both had a lot of people still outside. That won't be the case forever, so we're going to monitor this. Our gyms are now at the same capacity. Movie theaters, similar. We'll monitor this, obviously, but I think it's gotten off to a really good start.

BERMAN: So in the northeast in general, particularly in New Jersey and New York, obviously, the amount of virus is very low. Lower than it has been for some time and consistently low.

However, in New Jersey, the transmission rate has been rising, albeit slightly and albeit with fewer cases when it rises it's not as big of a deal, but we are starting to see it go up. The are not (ph) is now consistently above one, which means that one person infects more than one people. That's not where you want to be.

So what are you seeing and why?

MURPHY: Yes. I think as of yesterday it was 0.09. And, obviously, that's a number you want to have below 1, meaning you're -- as you rightly point out, you begin to drive the virus to the ground.

One of the things we've learned, other than we're going to monitor this, obviously, very closely, we look at that, we look at spot positivity rate, how many folks getting tested were positive. We have among the lowest in the country. We want to keep it that way. New hospitalizations are a series of data points that we look at. One of the things, I think we're learning is that this virus sort of

undulates. It ebbs and flows. We saw this earlier in mid to late June, early July, we saw a similar reality. At that point we pinpointed it to a combination of House parties, folks at that point who were not yet obeying the quarantine from other high infection states.

At this point, we don't see any hot spots. We don't see any specific reason. But this is virus that is still among us. It ebbs and flows. We'll do everything we can to obviously monitor it but also put the policies in place that will keep it in a box. And that's what we're trying to do every day.

BERMAN: You know, even in New Jersey the good weather's not going to last forever. It's going to start getting colder. It will be harder to do things outside and, of course, flu season is coming to.

So what are your specific concerns about a possible new spike in cases given those eventualities?

MURPHY: It's got to be a concern. So that's something clearly we're -- we're monitoring. There's a fair amount of medical opinion around a second wave. I'm not a medical expert, but we speak to folks all the time. That's got to be in the -- as part of our plans.

So we're, for instance, we are bulking up probably on -- almost unlike any American state, on PPE. We're bulked up on ventilators, hospital bed capacity and then we're going to monitor the policies that we put out there. You rightfully point out as much as the weather's been phenomenon, it can't stay that way, and the virus is more lethal inside than outside by a lot. So we're just going to have to stay on top of this as we go into the fall and the colder weather.

BERMAN: All right, let's talk about schools. Over the course the summer, you changed your guidance for schools in New Jersey. Initially it was you really wanted them all to open in-person learning. Then you backed off that a little bit and allowed for schools to apply for remote learning.

This has drawn some criticism from some educators, including from the superintendent of the Freehold Regional High School District, this is Charles Sampson who writes, in allowing this remote choice, Governor Murphy opened the door to a cascading series of events that placed intense staffing pressures on schools committed to opening as they struggle to remain open as neighboring districts shutter their doors. This poorly developed plan has had the distinct impact of forcing many districts to adopt a remote option regardless of community sentiment. This approach has also pitted school districts and communities against one another.

What's your response?

MURPHY: Well, you won't be surprised that I don't agree with the premise of the superintendent's remarks. And I will hasten to say you can find a lot of superintendents who would be on the other side of that. We've got the number one public education system in America. Just

reclaimed that position for the second year in a row last week. A huge reason why we have that is that we have hundreds of school districts that take great pride in how they approach education.

[08:35:00]

And that includes both not just the regular day in and day out educational reality, but also how they closed in March and how they're reopening in September. And, frankly, when we put our guidance out in June, we told everybody, we don't control the virus. The virus is still among us. We have to see how that -- that moves through the summer and what we think it will look like in September. And -- and we -- we promise safety, high-quality education and equity where our principles and flexibility. And we've got now, as of today, John, I think 400 districts that will be hybrid, a couple of hundred that will be remote until a certain date. We still want them to be in-person, and about 70 or so that are full-bore in person.

BERMAN: One concern -- once concern that is --

MURPHY: And so I think all things considered -- please.

BERMAN: One concern that I know that a lot of people have, I have, is that what you're starting to see is a stratified or bifurcated system where the districts that can afford to make the physical changes to the schools are having some in-person learning and maybe more income, lower, more urban, lower income districts aren't. So you're having kids who might be in the most need of actually the most attention are the ones not being allowed physically in school.

MURPHY: Yes, that's an ongoing concern, even in a normal environment. New Jersey, even with the great honor of being number one in the country, has too much, like any -- like any state, and we're no exception, the dispersion of the educational experience is still too wide. But it's another reason, John, why the state plays an outsized role in those districts that may not have the wherewithal, that may have unique challenges.

I mentioned safety, high-quality education and equity as our three principles. We have to accept that no two families are always going to necessarily have the same circumstances, no two districts, no two communities. And that's where the state weighs in and plays a much bigger role to help the districts along.

BERMAN: Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, thank you for being with us this morning. Good luck in the weeks ahead.

MURPHY: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So has the number of coronavirus deaths been drastically undercounted? The staggering figures from one country that may illuminate this, next.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But first, humans are blamed for injuring millions of wild animals every year. Non-profits around the country, like AWARE Wildlife Center, which is just outside of Atlanta, are trying to save them. How can you help? You'll find out in this week's "Impact Your World."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT LANGE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AWARE WILDLIFE CENTER: AWARE is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation center, like a hospital for injured and orphaned native wildlife.

We are responsible for feeding them, medicating them. They might need swim time or other physical therapy to get their strength back. We just try to get them ready for release back into the wild.

We had about 1,300 patients in the last year. Most animals that have to come into care are coming in from human impact and the number one reason is being hit by a car. People throw food waste out the window. It brings small animals to the side of the road and then larger animals come and they get hit.

MARJAN GHADRDAN, DIRECTOR OF ANIMAL CARE AWARE WILDLIFE CENTER: Cats, as much as we love them, they are kind of hurting the wildlife. They're responsible for 5 billion deaths every year.

LANGE: We put out rat poison to deal with mice and rats that gets into the food chain and hurts fox and owls and foxes. We do occasionally go out and do rescues ourselves. We usually give the public instructions on how to safely bring animals into us.

NEAL MATTHEWS, GOOD SAMARITAN: The goose showed up in the backyard and its foot was ensnarled in fishing line and it was having trouble walking. They loaned us an air propelled net, covered the goose. We picked it up. They operated on it and we brought it home the same day and released it back.

It was special because we knew because of us this goose was going to live.

We can't save them all. But I think it's important that we help those that we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[08:43:37]

CAMEROTA: Mexico and India struggling with spikes in coronavirus cases and deaths. We have reporters covering the pandemic around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VEDIKA SUD, CN REPORTER: I'm Vedika Sud in New Delhi. After two days of reporting over 90,000 new infections per day, India, today, has reported less than 76,000 new cases of Covid-19. The country's Covid- 19 caseload stands at over 4.28 million. India's death toll remains the third highest across the world, after the U.S. and Brazil, with over 72,700 fatalities being reported.

One reason for high Covid-19 numbers from India is aggressive testing. According to India's health ministry, India has now tested over 50 million samples with over 13 million being conducted in the last two weeks.

Also, according to the health ministry, 60 percent of India's total Covid-19 cases are being reported from five states.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm will Ripley in Hong Kong. The city is falling short of its goal of test its entire population for Covid-19 one week into a plan that opened up more than 140 testing centers and gave the opportunity of free and voluntary testing for all 7 million plus who live here, 1.2 million people have agreed to be tested so far. Some have cited privacy concerns about their DNA being sent possibly to China because China helped set up the testing.

[08:45:00]

Also people are angry that the city was able to hold mass testing but not its general election, which was scheduled for Sunday.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers in Mexico City. From March 15th to August 1st of this year, Mexico's government reported more than 120,000 excess deaths as compared to the same time period in other, more normal, non-pandemic years. Now we know that more than 47,000 of those deaths are attributed to the virus, but what about the other 75,000 or so?

I spoke to a director of a Covid unit in Mexico City at a prestigious hospital not far from here, and he said that of all those excess deaths, he believes that the vast majority are due to the virus. And Mexico's government routinely says that the actual number of deaths from the virus is higher than officially reported because many people here with symptoms die before ever getting a test.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

An eight-year-old in South Carolina told his mother that he was afraid of the police and ended up forming an unexpected friendship with a deputy.

Ashton Williamson (ph) says her son Gavin told her while they were in the car that he was worried about getting pulled over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAVIN WILLIAMSON (ph): I feel kind of scared, nervous, I was afraid.

ASHTON WILLIAMSON: He said, mommy, I don't want to get stopped because I'm scared I'm going to get shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Ashton knew she had to change this fear. So she found Deputy Kerry Shelton (ph) and told him the story. Deputy Shelton immediately stopped what he was doing to have a conversation with Gavin. Sheldon says that's when their friendship started. Now Gavin says Deputy Shelton has taught him about bravery and says when he wants to grow up, he wants to be the same kind of officer as Deputy Shelton.

That's nice to see, the interaction.

CAMEROTA: Wow, though. I mean that -- what a story. I mean it just captures also what little kids are thinking about right now in this news (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Well, I actually agree. I think that's the big part of this story where you have young children afraid -- afraid of getting shot.

An unprecedented disaster unfolding in California from a series of raging wildfires. And this fire season is just getting started.

We'll get the latest, next.

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[08:51:04]

CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news.

Emergency evacuations underway in the mountains of central California as a wildfire burns out of control. The so-called Creek Fire burning buildings and more than 100,000 acres. But it's just one of several massive fires burning across the state.

So joining us now is Chief Thom Porter, he's the director of Cal-Fire.

Chief Porter, you are so busy. I mean you're in charge of the entire state. And so can you just tell us, are there people still -- because of the Creek Fire, are people still trapped and needing to be rescued at this hour?

CHIEF THOM PORTER, DIRECTOR, CAL-FIRE: Well, good morning.

Yes, on the Creek Fire in particular, it's a fire that's burning in a pretty remote area. A lot of camping and recreational cabins and also a ski area that has had plenty of use, but also over the holiday weekend a lot of people were there for vacation time.

We have been doing sheltering operations, meaning people are staying in place until the fire passes areas, and then shuttle operations to try and get them out by road. But in some cases we have been working with the National Guard, Cal Guard, to get some extractions done by helicopter.

BERMAN: Do you have an count of how many people are trapped as we sit here this morning?

PORTER: No, not at -- I don't. At the incident, they might have more specific details on numbers. But the numbers are less than they were a couple of nights ago. There were a couple hundred that were moved out of an area called Mammoth Pools two nights ago.

CAMEROTA: Chief, I can't imagine how frustrating it is for you when a fire like this is started by a gender reveal party. I mean what -- what is your message to people who may be careless and doing things like this?

PORTER: Well, let me -- let me clarify one piece of that. The Creek Fire was not started by -- you're talking about a fire in southern California. And I think that the broader issue is that humans cause most fires. The vast majority, over 90 percent of all fires, wildland fires, are caused by humans. The vast majority of those ae caused by -- by an accident.

And so right now, in the -- in the heart of our most critical season, it's so important for people to do things or to stop doing things, not do things that could cause a spark, particularly when you're near dry brush or grass.

BERMAN: You talked about how humans are often the cause. I think the final cause of these fires, but the conditions right now are also extraordinary. What are the conditions that are making California so vulnerable right now to the extraordinary, unprecedented fires?

PORTER: Yes, we've had some good rain years, but we've had a lot of drought years. And this year in particular we had a winter that was very dry and then, at the last minute we got a lot of rain, a lot of grass. But the heavier fuels, the fuel -- the soil moisture never really recovered early in the year. So now it's even more dry than it would be just in an average year.

What we're finding is, particularly along the coastline, the soil moisture and the moisture in the plants is much reduced to what it normally would be.

[08:55:00]

We're seeing, in our lifetimes, and then in kind of the conventional history of fire suppression, we've never seen fires like we've seen in Redwood Forest, just in the last three weeks. We've seen over 100,000 acres of fires burning in Redwood Forest, which we previously have thought of as the asbestos forest. It really doesn't burn. The trees will probably survive, by and large, meaning the redwoods, but there have been very hot and intense fires of many acres more than we would expect.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's really telling, I mean, that you've never seen that in your career and this was a place that you had thought was, if not immune, at least fire resistant, but not so this year.

So, Chief Thom Porter, we know how busy you are. Thank you very much for taking all the time to talk to us and giving us a status report.

PORTER: Thank you and thank you, United States, for all the support hat we're getting from across the nation to help fight our fires.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for all you're doing for California and beyond in terms of these warnings. We'll talk to you again.

All right, new details on the global push for a coronavirus vaccine.

CNN's coverage continues right after this.

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