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Trump and Biden Take Part In 9/11 Memorial Ceremonies; The U.S. Is Averaging More Than 35,000 New Cases Per Day; Majority Of States Seeing Downward Trend In Cases; Dr. Fauci Warns 6 States About Surging Cases; Fauci: It Is A Waste Of Time To Debunk "Nonsense" Amid Pandemic; Trump Tries To Justify His Response By Invoking Churchill And FDR; NFL Opens Season In Kansas City Amid Pandemic, Racial Reckoning. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody. Top of the hour. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us.

It is a somber day. Today, we remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, 19 years ago. Nearly 3,000 killed in New York City at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

President Trump attending the memorial in Shanksville this morning, honoring the heroes of the United Flight 93.

The Democratic family Joe Biden will visit Shanksville a bit later. He began this solemn day at the remembrance in New York City. There was a ground zero greeting, there you see it, with Vice President Mike Pence, as the 2020 campaign pausing for a moment to honor those killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers and the heroes who rushed to help them.

Nearly 3,000 killed that day by terrorist hijackers. This year's 9/11 anniversary comes during the coronavirus pandemic and in the countdown to a presidential election. That day 19 years ago, made George W. Bush a wartime president.

President Trump often says the same about his leading or misleading the country during this pandemic. This week, of course, we learned that what he told the country early on is just like the flu. China's on top of it, children can't get it. It was the opposite of what he learned in his briefings that he shared with the journalist Bob Woodward.

Today, the president continues his "All is well" mantra tweeting it is time for workers to get back to the office. Once again, his scientists telling us something very different. Yes, Dr. Anthony Fauci says, the number of new infections is down some, but not down enough, he says, and he worries about what is going to happen when a combination of cooler temperatures and back to work pressures force more people inside in close quarters.


INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It really is interesting how human nature with behavior that is clearly detrimental to the goal of containing an outbreak, particularly young people, because they perceive, in some respects, correctly, that they likely are not going to get seriously ill. But what they forget is their societal responsibility to not propagate the outbreak.


KING: You can think about the cumulative toll of the coronavirus this way, more than 60 times killed by the coronavirus, more than 60 times than died on 9/11. There are some encouraging trends if you look at the state by state data and let's hope they continue.

In terms of the map of new infections, eight states currently reporting more new infections this week than a week ago; eight states trending in the wrong direction, up 14 holding steady, that's the beige; 28 states, that's a good number, 28 states trending down, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, California. Those four were the big drivers of the July and August surge all trending down at the moment. This map can bounce around, but eight states going up, 28 going down at the moment.

The death count always lags the case count. So there is still a lot of sadness on this map, 16 states reporting more deaths now than they did a week ago; five of them 50 percent more, or higher deaths this week than last week; 16 states trending up; 11 holding steady; 23 states reporting fewer deaths this week than a week ago. That's the way you want the trend line to go.

The case trend, it is better, but better from what is the question you need to ask. Averaging now somewhere in the area, you see the red line coming down a little bit, 30,000 plus average on new infections right now, somewhere in the 35, 36 range; now, yes, down from close to 70,000, it's a height of the summer surge, still low, not down as far as it was around Memorial Day at the beginning of the summer surge; down around 20,000 here then the big surge, now down to here. The question is, can you push it down, or as we go into fall, does it start to come back up?

If you look at the death trend now again, again improving some. If you look, it's a miserable map to look at, miserable chart to look at, but it is improving some, coming down some. But still you see this line, that's 1,000, pretty much back to late July averaging 1,000 Americans losing their life every day to the coronavirus pandemic. We will hope that goes down.

One of the challenges at the moment, back to campus means clusters of coronavirus cases, more than 40,000 cases now reported in all 50 states on college campuses. That is a major source of concern in many parts of the country.

From a testing perspective, nine states, say, they are testing more people this week than last week. Most experts would tell you, you need to test, especially as people start to get back out to school, to work, et cetera. Only 9 states reporting more this week than last week; 19 holding steady; 22 states, fewer tests this week than last week.

Dr. Fauci, you heard him a moment ago, he looks at the data and he is trying to look around the corner. So you see, the case counts actually down in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Montana, but Dr. Fauci looks at the data and says, "I'm worried. I see things in the data, positivity rate, other. You should be on alert". He says, "Michigan should be on alert as well".

Another top expert, Dr. Collins, the Head of the National Institutes of Health says, "For those people the vaccine is absolutely critical, but it's going to take some time". And he says, "Those who think somehow, rip it, let people get out of there, let's develop herd immunity". He says, "They're not stopping to think about how those numbers would change".



DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Suppose, we decided, ah well, let's give up all of these public health measures and just let it rip, the estimates are another 2 million people would die. Is that an outcome that any of us are willing to accept? I would say, no.


KING: Let's talk this over now with our CNN Medical Analyst and the former Baltimore city Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen, thank you. As always, grateful for your insights here.

You heard Dr. Collins just there. The president this morning tweeting "get back to work", essentially applauding, he overstated what JPMorgan is doing, but saying, "Great, JPMorgan is getting people back to work, that's what everyone should be doing".

You heard Dr. Collins there saying, "Until we have a vaccine, that's kind of dangerous".

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We are not at a good place, John, in this country. You mentioned that we are at a much higher baseline than we were over Memorial Day, and we all know what happened after that. We saw surges, and we saw hospitals in certain parts of the country reaching capacity. We are entering fall/winter, which is already a difficult time, because many hospitals are already strained because of flu season. Every year there are hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, tens of thousands of deaths due to the flu. And now we have the possible convergence of the flu and COVID-19.

This is still a very dangerous, very contagious disease that's among us, and we need to take every precaution. We need to look at issues like cumulative risk, just because things are open, doesn't mean we now need to do it all. If we can go to restaurants, maybe we should not go to bars and restaurants, and movie theaters, and go back to work, and go back to school. We really should look at what are the most essential activities and do that and still following every precaution when it comes to washing our hands, wearing our masks, and following social distancing guidelines too.

KING: Well, sometimes and I put you in this position, sometimes we broken records, because we keep trying to - I keep trying to relay the smart fact data-driven advice, experts like yourself give me, and obviously sometimes it's not taken. I just want to show you some pictures of last night. This is Michigan, this is another Trump rally. Yes, it's outdoors, and I know you'll say that that's better than indoors. But when you see pictures like this, people crowded close together, if one or two of those people has COVID-19, we got a problem.

WEN: That's right. These are the potential for super spreader events. Now we don't know if a super spreader event necessarily is going to happen because of this rally, because for whatever reason, sometimes individuals cause these large spreads and sometimes they don't, when they're actively infectious, but it could happen. And really in the middle of a pandemic, these are the last types of events that should occur, and I should just make a statement here that this is not about politics. This virus doesn't care if the reason we're getting together is a rally, or a protest, or whatever reason, but these types of large events with a lot of people congregating in small spaces, shoulder to shoulder, not wearing masks, that just should not be occurring.

KING: Right, it's not that hard. If you're close to other people, put it on. It's pretty simple. So one of the frustrations I just said, I have a frustration sometimes that I have to repeat things with experts like yourself. I know, kind of wasting your time, I don't mean to waste your time, I think it's important we put these things out there.

I want you to listen in a similar way, this is Dr. Fauci just a few moments ago. For seven months, he has tried to help educate the American people out there, but he says he has to spend too much of his time on things he shouldn't. Listen.


FAUCI: The one thing that bothers me is the amount of things that aren't evidence-based and then we've seen examples of that in the United States like claims that certain drugs have a great positive effect, when there's no scientific evidence whatsoever, that they have a positive effect. And yet it gets ingrained and I and my colleagues have to spend a lot of time trying to debunk that. And when you are in the middle of a pandemic and you're trying hard to address all the appropriate issues, it is truly a waste of time to have to debunk nonsense, but unfortunately, we have had to do that.


KING: Dr. Wen, now Dr. Fauci was playing diplomat there, he did not name names, but I would put hydroxychloroquine and the president of the United States on that list. I would put the plant extract, only Andrew and I think, and the MyPillow guy who got time with the president on that list. It is frustrating, is it not, at a time of crisis, at a time when people need factual science-based information that there are people, including people in positions of high-leadership authority who throw something else out there?

WEN: Public trust and public health go hand in hand, and that public trust is quickly eroded when there is mixed messaging between our top- elected officials and public health. And I also, John, during this entire pandemic, I've also been put into the position of trying to debunk these claims that have no base in science. But we have to remember that there are millions of people for whom.


WEN: President Trump is the most credible messenger. And so when they hear the president say things, like injecting bleach, or hydroxychloroquine, they might go out and do these things too. And so it is important for public health and science to be leading this response and really important, too, for all of our elected officials, including the president to be supporting science and letting public health lead.

KING: Dr. Wen, as always, grateful for your time and insights, and looking forward to the day we can look forward every time and not have to go back and clear up, I'll call the messes created by others. I'll try to be a semi-diplomatic myself. Dr. Wen, thank you so much. Very much appreciate your time.

President Trump says, he didn't lie to the American people about the dangers and severity of the pandemic. That he did not omit key details about the coronavirus, including just how deadly it is. He says, he did not leave out facts that might have saved thousands of lives but, of course, the president's own voice is on tape. His interviews with the journalist, Bob Woodward, make clear. He was telling you one thing, telling Bob Woodward another. If that isn't enough, the president now trying to compare himself to some of the great wartime leaders of the 20th century, Winston Churchill, FDR.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. Jeremy, we sometimes live in a parallel universe, but FDR, Churchill?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's what the president is saying. I mean, look, initially, John, as you said, the president has denied having misled the American public despite it being so clear in his own voice that he did exactly that, and then he insisted that he was simply trying to keep the public calm and in doing so he is comparing himself to FDR and to Winston Churchill. Listen.


TRUMP: America will prevail over the China virus as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". As the British government advised the British people in the face of World War II, "Keep calm and carry on". That's what I did. When Hitler was bombing London, Churchill, great leader, would oftentimes go to a roof in London and speak, and he always spoke with calmness. He said, "We have to show calmness".


DIAMOND: Now, to start with there are some factual inaccuracies there, the "Keep calm and carry on" slogan was not actually used by the British government during World War II. Winston Churchill never gave public speeches from rooftops, though he did go there to watch some of the bombing raids.

But the bigger point here is that the president is completely misleading when he compares himself to those two leaders. Those two leaders and Winston Churchill, in particular, were very blunt about the truth, about the struggles that the British and American people were going to face during World War I thought. They did not sugarcoat anything, they did not mislead the American public, or play down the seriousness and deadliness of the situation as the president did during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

But John, what's notable here is that the president last night at his rally in Michigan, not only was he making these false comparisons, but he was also claiming, he was also continuing to downplay the threat of coronavirus, continuing to mislead about it, insisting that we are now rounding the final turn, one of these phrases that he's been using a lot lately, even though Dr. Fauci and others have made very clear that these next several months are going to be very, very difficult coming ahead. John?

KING: Jeremy Diamond, appreciate the very, very important fact checks and context there. Jeremy, thanks so much.

Up next for us, remembering 9/11 in the age of the coronavirus.



KING: Ground zero at the World Trade Center memorial site in New York City, the Pentagon; Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The president; first lady; Vice President Pence; Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, all pausing today to remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

The Vice President and the former Vice President crossing paths, exchanging a greeting in New York City.

Joining me now CNN's Ryan Nobles, he is in Shanksville; Athena Jones is in New York. Athena, to you first at ground zero. This is always a moving, solemn, very important day for the families, and because of the pandemic, a very different day this year.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. And that's exactly right. Due to the fact that we are living through another kind of tragedy - a tragedy of a very different sort, but it has impacted today's events where we have grown accustomed to seeing the traditional 9/11 memorial service, where you see the families of the victims reading out their names. That was different this year, that was done by recording. The idea being to avoid crowds.

And now you did see quite a few people gathered at ground zero reflecting on this day of loss, but everyone was wearing a mask. So there were some differences. We caught up with New York Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea, and we spoke with him about the importance of honoring all those who were lost on this day. Listen.


DERMOT SHEA, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: It's honestly hard to put into words, the emotion that you feel this day. I think the whole department will start today by reading the names of those that we've lost as we do every year since sacrifice and just remembering our vow to the families and to the officers to never forget their sacrifice. I mean, that's what I keep coming back to. But there's so many emotions tied to that event.


JONES: And so many emotions, whether or not you're American, whether or not you're living in New York City, or in Washington, or in Shanksville, you can remember the fear and the pain and the sadness of that day. You mentioned some of the dignitaries, who were here, former Vice President Joe Biden, current Vice President Mike Pence are greeting each other with an elbow bump, also New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Bidens were heading to Shanksville for the afternoon, and as we know, the president and first lady were in Shanksville this morning, to honor the lives lost. John?

KING: Athena Jones at ground zero for us on this very important day. Athena, thank you very much.

And let's move to Shanksville and Ryan Nobles. Ryan, the museum at the ground zero site is a national treasure, but also the memorial there in rural Shanksville.


KING: Smaller, much more modest, but also incredibly powerful.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, John. This is my first time ever been to this memorial, and it is powerful. It is - for the most part, out in the middle of a field just like it was on that day when the United 93 flight came down in Pennsylvania saving perhaps hundreds, maybe thousands of lives as that plane and we believe was headed to Washington, D.C. to create even more tragedy on that day.

And what we saw today from President Trump was a speech that was really dedicated to the sacrifice of those 40 passengers and crew members that were on board that flight, that basically took it upon themselves to overcome the hijackers and bring that plane down to prevent an even greater loss of life. And listen to how the president made tribute to that sacrifice in his speech here this morning.


TRUMP: The men and women of Flight 93 were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Nothing could have prepared them for the dreadful events of that morning. But when the moment came, when history called, they did not hesitate, they did not waver, 40 towering patriots rose up, took charge, made their stand, turned the tide and changed the course of history forever.


NOBLES: And what was particularly poignant about President Trump's speech is that he talked and used the lesson of this sacrifice that those on board the flight, gave to the country as a way to represent a unification of the country, a need for Americans to come together, which is not often the language you hear from the president on the campaign trail. It was a much different Donald Trump that we saw here this morning.

He and his wife, Melania Trump, the first lady, also laying a wreath here in honor of the victims of the United 93 flight. And the other thing, John, was as Athena talked about in New York, a much different ceremony here in Shanksville than what they're traditionally accustomed to, a much smaller group of people. There were members of the family here that were able to remember those lives that were lost, but obviously just like everything, everything so much different because of the coronavirus pandemic. John?

KING: Ryan Nobles on the ground first in Shanksville. Ryan, thank you so much. I have visited several times over the last 19 years. It is a remarkable community. The people there take so seriously, the heritage of keeping the honor going and keeping that memorial up and running. Ryan Nobles, thank you.

Still hit for us, the NFL season opener kicking off last night. Some of the biggest drama took place before kickoff.



KING: Football is back with a social justice message and with coronavirus restrictions. CNN's Andy Scholes was right there in Kansas City for the kickoff game.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as a part of the new social justice initiatives, the NFL is playing both the Black national anthem, which is the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing", and "The Star-Spangled Banner" before every game in week one. And the Chiefs stayed on the field for both of those games, while the Texans decided to remain back in the locker room, and the Texans' executive telling NBC that they didn't want to be seen as celebrating one song, while throwing shade at the other, that's why they remained in the back.

The Chiefs, though, they all lined up at the goal line for the video tribute and Black national anthem, then just one player, defensive end, Alex Okafor, kneeling during the national anthem with his fist raised in the air. Now once the Texans did take the field, both teams gathering at midfield for a moment of unity.


SCHOLES: Now, some boos were heard on the broadcast, but I was in the stadium and I didn't hear any fans booing in the area where I was sitting. And J.J. Watt said after the game, he didn't understand why anyone would boo that moment.


J.J. WATT, DEFENSIVE END, HOUSTON TEXANS: The booing was unfortunate during that moment. I don't fully understand that. There was no flag involved, there was nothing involved with that, besides two teams coming together to show unity.

PATRICK MAHOMES, QUARTERBACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: We wanted to show that we are unified as a league, and we're not going to let playing football distract us from what we're doing in making change in this world.


SCHOLES: As for the action on the field, Chiefs coach Andy Reid battling a foggy face shield all game long, but his team is picking up right where they left off, scoring 31 unanswered points at one point in the ball game. Patrick Mahomes at 3 touchdown passes, rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 138 yards rushing in a TD in his debut.

Chiefs cruised to a 34-20 win over the Texans. And the Chiefs one of just two NFL teams, along with the Jaguars that are allowing fans in the stands during opening week. And about 16,000 fans showed up here at Arrowhead for the game last night. And the stadium normally seats about 76,000, so the fans were very spread out there, all the concession stands, bathrooms open. They even had zip ties on the seats that weren't sold to keep fans from getting too close to each other. And we spoke to many fans in the game, John, they said they felt safe in this atmosphere. They were all required to wear mask, unless they were eating or drinking, but they did play a couple video disclaimers throughout the game, saying that by entering the stadium grounds fans assume all risk when it comes to COVID.

KING: With me now is the Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner. Mr. Mayor, grateful for your time.

Now let me start by condolences for your Texans. Sometimes opening week doesn't go as you would like. And we'll see how the Texans do in the weeks ahead. I'm glad you can laugh about it, sir. If my Patriots lose, I won't be laughing. But I appreciate your good humor.

So, lessons - I want to get your take on lessons learned here. We have talked several times throughout this COVID pandemic, which hit your city incredibly hard.