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Trump Defies Science & State Ban on Large Gatherings with Indoor Rally; Deadly Wildfires Ravage U.S. West Coast; Tropical Storm Sally to Strengthen into Hurricane Soon; Early Absentee Voting Delayed in Pennsylvania. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people who are forced to wear masks, they're sensationalists. I'm not going to let a government tell me what to do.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: This is awful. It's in defiance of the science, in defiance of public health.

ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: We will know if the product works or not by the end of October.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see a CEO get out ahead of the science here is something that we should all take with a grain of salt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all gone. It looks like a war zone hit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some six million acres have burned during this treacherous fire year in Washington, Oregon, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is climate change. And this is an administration that's put its head in the sand.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 14, 6 a.m. here in New York. We hope you all had a really nice weekend.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I did, relaxing. Yours?

BERMAN: Good. It's about to get very serious right now, though.

Negligent homicide. That's what Dr. Jonathan Reiner says President Trump is guilty of this morning. Negligent homicide. Overnight, the president held a packed rally in Nevada indoors.

Thousands of people indoors; many, if not most, people not wearing masks. This is the opposite of what medical experts say is safe. And by the way, it's actually banned in Nevada.

But the president openly and proudly flouted Nevada's coronavirus restrictions, basically mocking them. This is his first indoor rally since the one he held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, attended by Trump supporter Herman Cain, who died weeks later from coronavirus.

The president knows exactly how risky and potentially deadly this is. He told Bob Woodward that coronavirus is deadlier than the flu, transmissible through air. A hundred and ninety-four thousand Americans have now been killed by coronavirus; 194,000 since the president told Bob Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the severity of the virus. And now we're hearing for the first time the president says he has no regrets.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


CAMEROTA: All right, there are several other stories developing at this hour.

Severe weather impacting millions of Americans, from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast. Thirty-five people now confirmed dead and dozens more missing in the devastating wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington state.

Evacuation orders underway in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, as Tropical Storm Sally intensifies. It's expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall tonight. So we'll have much more on those stories in a moment for you.

But let's begin with CNN's Alexandra Field with the president's rally and the pandemic -- Alex.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning to you.

The difference in the messaging on the pandemic coming from White House health experts versus what's coming from the campaign, Trump's campaign, could not be more stark.

President Trump hosted his first indoor rally since June, this time in Nevada, telling a nearly maskless crowd that, when it comes to defeating the coronavirus, the nation is making its last turn. Which, of course, is not accurate, not at all.


FIELD (voice-over): President Trump holding a crowded indoor rally without social distancing and very few masks.

TRUMP: A great gentleman who owns this building said, You know what? What they're doing is really unfair. You can use my building.

FIELD: The event going against his own administration's safety guidelines and defying Nevada's restriction on gatherings of more than 50 people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I thought I was at risk, I wouldn't be here. I'm not an idiot.

FIELD: Trump's last indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, was followed by a spike in coronavirus cases, that risk sending Nevada's governor to call Trump's actions, quote, "reckless and selfish," adding, "The president appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic."

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The virus doesn't care whether you believe in it or not. If enough people contract the virus -- and at a gathering like this, people will -- some people will die.

FIELD: Meanwhile, in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine, drug maker Pfizer offering some hope, saying theirs could be ready to give to the public by the end of the year.

BOURLA: Our base case, we have quite good science, more than 60 percent, but we will know if the product works or not by the end of October. But, of course, that doesn't mean that it works. It means that we will know if it works.

FIELD: Medical experts stressing an approved vaccine by that date is not likely.

DR. TSION FIREW, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It's appropriate that we gather an appropriate amount of Phase 2 data, which they're in right now, and not rushing the vaccine, for the matter of, like, for the public safety and also good science.

FIELD: This while coronavirus surges continue to plague college towns. Florida State University will begin randomly testing asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff today, as the university's first football game of the season showed some fans at the stadium without masks, defying the school policy.

Health officials asking all Michigan State University students to self-quarantine, linking a third of new cases to parties. As of Saturday, at least 342 people affiliated with the school testing positive since August 24.

LINDA VAIL, HEALTH OFFICER, INGHAM COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: We need a break in transmission to get this to stop. And that means just getting everything to just die down for several days, so that we kind of can restart the clock.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FIELD: Now, just because the company says that their vaccine is safe does not mean that it can immediately be made available to the public. Of course, any vaccine would still have to go through an approval and licensing process.

But Pfizer, like so many other drug companies, is already going ahead, producing hundreds of thousands of doses of a possible vaccine. Should they receive approval, they would then be able to start to distribute those doses rather quickly -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Alexandra Field, keep us posted throughout the morning. Thank you.

We have major developments to report on. At least 35 people have now died in the wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington. CNN's Stephanie Elam live in Arcadia, California, with the very latest from there -- Stephanie.



We are talking about fires just devastating the western part of the United States. There are 97 fires that have destroyed some 4.7 million acres as of Saturday, in the western part of the United States.

But on top of those 35 people that you're mentioning, 24 of those people that have died have been here in California. When you look at the numbers here in California, it's astonishing: 3.3 million acres have burned so far in the state in 2020.

And of that, we can say that 4,100 structures have been destroyed, because of wildfires here. I'm actually standing in what is underneath the Bobcat Fire, which is in a suburb of Los Angeles. We know that there are some 300 homes that are evacuated here, because this is a residential area, where I am standing now.

So this is what they've been dealing with. There are so many fires across the state that the system is taxed. Even though California has a great system of taking firefighters from one place and putting them in another place, the entire state has really been battling this. It's very clear to many officials here that this is about the climate crisis, from the mayor of Los Angeles all the way up to Governor Gavin Newsom. Take a listen.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: Well, I listen to fire professionals, not the president of the United States or a politician when it comes to actually what causes these fires. It's been very clear that years of drought, as we're seeing, whether it's too much water and too much rain in parts of our country right now, or too little, this is climate change.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Mother nature is physics, biology, and chemistry. She bats last, and she bats a thousand. That's the reality we're facing. The smashmouth reality. This perfect storm. The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California.


ELAM: Definitely a change here from what many of us remember when we were kids. Taking a listen to that, knowing that President Trump, after his campaign events in Nevada, will be coming to California to a suburb of Sacramento and will also be meeting with Governor Newsom and also with local and federal fire and emergency officials to get a briefing on exactly what is happening here on the ground in California -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Stephanie, thank you very much for previewing that.

Also developing, Tropical Storm Sally is gaining strength and taking aim at the Gulf Coast. Louisiana bracing for its landfall tonight.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in New Orleans with more.

What's the plan, Ed?


Louisiana officials are urging residents along the southeast Gulf Coastline here to have emergency supplies for about three days. This as Tropical Storm Sally is expected to intensify throughout the day, possibly reaching a strong Category 1, Category 2 hurricane. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out throughout the day.

But residents, officials here are urging people not to wait too long before getting the emergency supplies that they need. Evacuation orders have been sent out in a number of areas in the New Orleans area. Evacuation orders are in place for the zones outside of the levee protection system here in the city of New Orleans.

Remember, this is an extensive levee protection system that was put in place, cost billions of dollars, that was put in place in the years after Hurricane Katrina. And this particular storm taking a very similar track to what Hurricane Katrina took 15 years ago, coming into this corner of Louisiana, as well as the Mississippi coastline.

So those hurricane warnings have been dispatched all up and down the Gulf Coast here in Louisiana and Mississippi and forecasters urging people to pay close attention to how this storm develops here in the coming hours -- Bret [SIC] -- John.

BERMAN: I'll take it. Let's get the latest on the track and the timing. With us now, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, I also know that Sally's not alone right now in the Gulf.

CHAD MYERS, CNN WEATHER CENTER: You know, there's so many things out there, five other storms that the hurricane center is watching, not in the Gulf of Mexico, but one actually going to be hitting Bermuda later on today as a Category 2 hurricane.

This right here is Sally, though. It is to the south of Pensacola and going to make a run at the mouth of the Mississippi and then almost stop and then turn to the right. We know what happened when Harvey stopped over Houston. We don't need this here.

But this storm is developing overnight. Still 60 miles per hour, still not a hurricane yet. But the forecast is for it to be a Category 1 hurricane. And some models still have it going to Category 2, as they've had it going all weekend long.

But as a Category 2, the storm turns harder to the right and Mississippi, Alabama, you're more in it. If it stays a Category 1, you're looking really all the way in Plaquemines parish and then on up towards Lake Borgne. This is the area that could see the storm surge, as well.

We are going to see significant rainfall with this, as it begins its slow trek. John, from here to here, about 180 miles. It's going to take 24 hours to get there. That's like seven miles per hour. So that is going to be a slow rain-producing event. Storm surge-producing event, too. Seven to 11.

Now, not the 26 feet or 30 feet we had with Katrina. But still, 7 and 11, a significant surge if you're along the coast. Today is the last day. Really, this morning is the last morning that you can make preps for winds between 74 and about 115.

And then the rainfall, all the way into Georgia and the Carolinas. Spots in here -- Mobile, New Orleans, maybe Slidell -- that will be 10 to 15 inches of rainfall in the next 48 hours -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Chad, I know you're watching it very closely. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

President Trump says he could have done nothing more to prevent the spread of coronavirus, months after being warned about the danger. We ask a doctor -- we will ask a doctor about the president's indoor rally last night, next.



REINER: Negligent homicide? What else could you call an act that, because of its negligence, results in the deaths of others? People will die as a consequence of this. If enough people contract the virus -- and at a gathering like this, people will -- some people will die.


BERMAN: That's Dr. Jonathan Reiner, talking about the president's indoor rally in Nevada overnight. Thousands of people inside a building, many, if not most of them, not wearing masks.

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Professor, thank you very much, for being with us this morning. You saw -- you've seen the pictures of the president's rally last night, indoors, his first indoor rally since Tulsa, which of course Herman Cain went to and died several weeks later. What do you think of holding large events with thousands of people indoors?

HOTEZ: John, it's almost unexplainable. This is the White House telling us that they really have a callous disregard for human life or for the sanctity of human life.

Let's face it, this is not a rookie mistake, right? This virus entered into New York City from Europe about eight months ago, so we're eight months into this horrible epidemic, where the United States is at the epicenter of. We have more deaths than any other country by a long shot. And even still today, more new cases and more new deaths on a daily basis than any other country.

And yet, the president continues to want to show he's in defiance of science. He's basically running his campaign partly on anti-science disinformation. And it's -- it's awful. It's hurting the nation. And it's literally taking lives, as we're -- as we speak.

CAMEROTA: It was bad enough last week when we found out that the president knew on -- by February 7 -- we now know it was even earlier -- that this was airborne and that it was going to be much more deadly than the flu, and he was actively misleading the public.

Now he's leading the public into harm's way. I mean, now it's cruel. Now it's -- it's -- you know, I mean, I can't help but think about Herman Cain and if his family thinks it was a mistake to go to that rally.

Here's where the numbers are in Nevada right now. This is the seven- day moving average. Their positivity rate yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins, was 8.5 percent. Just for some context in New York, the positivity rate is 0.9 percent.

And just one more thing. I mean, he's not only ignoring the science, he's ignoring the state mandate. You know, they have a rule there that you can't gather with more than 50 people. But this manufacturing plant called Xtreme Manufacturing decided to waive that and take the possible consequences of getting fined to hold this rally.

HOTEZ: Yes, it's almost as if they're deliberately defiant of what makes sense in terms of public health and science. And they show no willingness to want to protect American lives.

I mean, let's put this in perspective. This weekend, Canada celebrated 24 hours without a single death in the entire nation of Canada, a nation of 40 million people. They had 26 deaths in all of Canada in the last seven days.

They're more than double that in Clark County, alone, where Henderson, Nevada is, and Las Vegas is, where the president spoke. So more than twice the number of deaths than all of the nation of Canada, just in that one little area. And now it's going to spike because of that rally. So this is -- this is what we're dealing with. And -- and as I call

it, a science -- an anti-science disinformation campaign, and you hear the voices of the people you interviewed at the rally. And this is -- this is a major approach that this president is taking and his party has decided to take.

BERMAN: Well, let's hear those voices. You just brought up what we heard directly from the people that did choose to put their lives on the line indoors. Let's hear them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have any of the symptoms. And neither do they. And if they did, they wouldn't be here. We're not stupid people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you know the virus can be spread with people who don't have symptoms, as well? Right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course. If they thought that they were hurting anybody, do you think that they would be here? Do you think we're all a bunch of animals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned at all about attending an event like this with thousands of people crammed in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because I feel like that's my freedom as an American. If I catch COVID, that's -- my apologies. The consequences of my action. So I'm willing to take that risk and have a -- have a good time today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't you wearing a mask? Why aren't you -- you know, there's a lot of people here and very few people wearing a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm not a sensationalist. I think people who are forced to wear masks, they're sensationalists. You're wearing a mask right now, because you want to give off that -- that vibe of doing something right.

Doing something right is being here, being patriotic, cheering for my country and rooting for my president. If -- if they feel -- if they feel that I need to protect them, they would say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are perfectly fine!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't the science say that outside and in the sun kills the virus?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's what it says.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's what they said.



BERMAN: Yes, look, it doesn't, but they're also going inside without masks in a packed house right there.

And Dr. Hotez, it was also interesting to hear. You talk about the now. We now know that President Trump knew about this eight months ago and knew how deadly it was. But it's interesting to hear them talk about it to Bob Woodward in August, where he's reflecting on where we are as a country now with 194,000 deaths.

Listen to what the president says we could have done more or differently.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the time of their final interviews in August, Mr. Trump had become the leader of the one nation suffering the most from the virus. The president came to this conclusion.

WOODWARD: You and I --

TRUMP: Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


BERMAN: "Nothing more could have been done," which is backwards looking, but Dr. Hotez, we now see with this rally overnight in Nevada, he doesn't want to do anything more, even going forward.

HOTEZ: You know, John, if you listen to the voices that people at that rally, this is not the first time we've heard those things. Where have we heard those things? We've heard them from the White House.

The people are taking their cues from the leadership of the nation, which is telling them the science is not real, listen to me. And this is so dangerous.

I mean, let's remember what built this nation. One of the major pillars of our nation is science, our great universities, our research institutions. This is why people love America.

And this is a president who's decided to marginalize all of these things. And he had a lot of help, from everyone else in the White House. And we are now suffering the consequences of that.

As we spiral towards 200,000 deaths by the end of this month and then 300,000 deaths by December 1. All of those deaths, or the vast majority, were all preventable. We didn't have to be this way.

And the fact that Canada now is celebrating zero deaths, we could have done the same thing. We could have had an amazing fall with opening up school safely, colleges safely, and instead we decided to thumb our noses at science; and the consequences are not only deaths, but permanent injury. We're hearing more about long-lasting injury from this virus. And it just makes me sick to see, to know what we could have been as a nation and what we are today.

CAMEROTA: You're right. It does have a sickening quality. Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you very much.

All right, we have some other breaking news to get to right now. A mail-in voting delayed in one key swing state. It has hit a major speed bump. So we will tell you what this problem is with just 50 days now until the election.



CAMEROTA: Breaking overnight, early absentee voting was supposed to start today in the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania, but not a single county is ready to send out ballots to voters, just 50 days away from election day now.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is live in Washington with more. So what's going wrong, Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's not the fault of the counties. They don't have a ballot to send out. There has been no ballot that has been finalized by the state. And here's why.

Democrats remain in a lawsuit tangled up in court with their effort that they can get the Green Party off of the ticket. Because of that, the state says there's no ballot yet that's ready to be certified.

But this is why it's such a big deal. Of course, you mentioned the 50 days before the election, but we also spoke to election officials who said that once it is certified, it's not as though they can just send it out the next day. It takes time. There are steps there.

And Alisyn, just to set the stage, as you mentioned, Pennsylvania is a critical swing state. I talked to officials from both campaigns who still believe it's any man's game. And of course, we've seen them crisscrossing the state campaigning there.

And there was already a lot of scrutiny on the Keystone State because of a primary in June in which some counties took weeks to actually count their ballots. And a lot of that was because of the surge in mail-in ballots.

Well, as we all know, there is going to be -- there always is more votes in a general election than a primary. So that was already being watched. The other big thing that's been under question in Pennsylvania is the

fact that they aren't allowed to process those ballots, those mail-in ballots until the morning of the election, which means it's possible and almost inevitable that we've heard this from election officials that they're not going to have any sort of result on election day.

And of course, we know that these officials have been working on the ground, trying to correct this, but this, again, is not off to a good start here in a state that could determine the election.

CAMEROTA: You're so right, Kristen. Thank you very much for explaining all of that.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst, Toluse Olorunnipa. He's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post."

So Toluse, bad omen. And I mean, obviously, this doesn't support President Trump's narrative that there is fraud, which there's no evidence of. But it does play into his hand that, you know, this is too complicated. Mail-in ballots create chaos.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this is definitely a new system. If the president had his way, we'd have a bunch of people voting in person and sort of acting like everything is normal. That's what he did at his rally in Nevada and trying to make it seem as if the pandemic is either over or turning the final corner, and that just is not the case.

We do have to come up with new ways to vote, in part because the pandemic continues to rage and there continues to be large numbers of cases, and it continues to pose a risk to the public. So this is something different states are working through.

Unfortunately, they haven't had a lot of support from the federal government. They've had the White House and the president spreading misinformation about mail-in voting and sort of not putting in this all-hands-on-deck effort to make mail-in voting and alternative forms of voting safe and easy for people.