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Miami Beach Mayor Asks Florida Governor for Statewide Mask Mandate; Colleges in the U.S. Struggle to Contain Spread of Coronavirus; Sweden's COVID-19 Infection Rate Falls to Pre-Pandemic Levels. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified about the importance of wearing a mask, he also talked about the timeline for a vaccine. It comes as the mayor of Miami Beach is challenging the Florida governor in a scathing letter to enact a state-wide mask mandate. He writes, "too many people are still unconvinced that they need to wear a mask. Some treat not wearing a mask inexplicably as a political statement, others just believe it is not needed."

Joining me now is the mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. Dr. Redfield; the head of the CDC testified before Congress yesterday on how wearing a mask might ultimately be as effective or more effective than a vaccine. It could save lives. Why isn't that message getting through?

MAYOR DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, it's not getting through because for really a reason I can't figure out. Maybe, I have my suspicions. The president -- even our governor refuse to simply say to the American people and my residents and my visitors, because I'm the mayor of Miami Beach, wear a mask. It's the -- it's the right thing to do.

And a mask by the way is the one thing we can do that doesn't impair our opening of our economy, unlike a curfew or unlike a capacity limit on a restaurant. You can have your economy open if you wear a mask. So it's so logical to do it. But for, you know -- maybe because he just simply likes -- his secret sauce seems to be creating divisions among people, he's created divisions among mask-wearing, which is just inexplicable.

BERMAN: So when he mocks Joe Biden for wearing a mask, he says he doesn't understand why Biden wears it so much or when he suggests that waiters -- and I'm not sure exactly how many conversations President Trump generally has with the wait staff, but when he claims that waiters have told him that masks or show him that masks aren't effective. What impact does that have on the people in Miami Beach?

[07:35:00] GELBER: It's -- well, it's lethal to everybody. You know, without a vaccine, good information is your vaccine. Misinformation, wrong information, withholding of information, it just becomes lethal. Because we know for every number of people that come to the hospital because they're sick with COVID, a certain percentage will be on ventilators and a certain percentage will die. So the more people that get this, the more are going to die.

Unfortunately, it's math. We had -- we had 39 people die yesterday in Miami-Dade County, in one day. That was a good day compared to other days. And when 39 people dying is a good day, you know you're giving out really bad information, and unfortunately the president is giving it out and our governor needs to implement a mask mandate. He has to do that.

BERMAN: I learned something in your letter to the governor, as I was reading it overnight. You write, "last time we reopened our economy, our country experienced a surge in the virus that has since killed more than 2,000 residents in Florida.

Over four times the number that died prior to the reopening. As we reopen again, our positivity rates are actually worse than the last time we reopened." I didn't realize that. Your positivity rates now, where you are, are worse than when you reopened in the Spring. Why is that so important to point out?

GELBER: Well, I mean, you know, we're doing the same thing. I think it was Einstein who said, you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And you know, we're not in as good a shape as we were. We were at 2 percent before we reopened last time, now we're at 4 percent-5 percent.

And by the way, if we're wearing masks and if we are learning a little bit more about how to deal with the disease and we learned more about how we're supposed to comport ourselves, well, then, maybe we can navigate that. But if all we're going to do is the same thing and the president is going to mock people who wear masks and have events where everybody is not wearing a mask so that I have residents and visitors who say, why should I wear a mask? You're an idiot.

I mean, it's really become this divisive thing because of the president, when he could just lead. I mean, why doesn't he just stand up every day and say, we can get through this together. We can open up our economy if you follow these very simple measures. If he led us in that rather than dividing us in that, less people would die and eventually we would have handled this thing.

BERMAN: I've got just a few seconds left here, mayor. I don't know what wave this would be in Florida, whether it would be a second or a third. Let's just call it a new wave. As you look forward to the coming days and weeks, what are your concerns about a new wave of infections in Miami Beach?

GELBER: My concerns -- and it's just not my city. My city gets millions of visitors every year from all over. My concern is that people are going to think this is a green light. They're going to listen to the misinformation from the president, and they're going to -- you know, think that everything is fine, and then many of them are going to get sick and a certain percentage are going to get worse than sick. And that's just horrible and tragic and unnecessary.

BERMAN: Mayor Dan Gelber, I know, bars are not reopening where you are yet. Not happening in Miami or any of the areas there, but there is some reopening overall across the state. We appreciate your time this morning, thanks so much for being with us.

GELBER: Thank you.

BERMAN: So colleges and universities struggling to control coronavirus outbreaks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the middle of a pandemic, and the fact that people think that it's OK to party right now is the biggest mistake.


BERMAN: We have new information on the measures being taken on campus, next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Coronavirus is spreading through college campuses. Clusters linked to fraternities, sororities and off-campus parties. Now school leaders scrambling to keep their reopening plans from unraveling. CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Chicago with more. Now, what's the plan, Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, for starters, there are more than 50,000 cases of coronavirus being reported at colleges and universities, spanning all 50 states with the major concern being student activity outside of the classroom. Some places are expelling students or threatening suspension over breaking COVID rules as schools try to salvage a school year.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): In 2019, this would have been a typical college Saturday night. But in 2020, it's a nightmare for universities across the country trying to gain control as coronavirus cases continue to increase on America's college campuses.

(on camera): This is where students here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison get taken when they test positive for COVID-19, to isolation housing. Nobody goes in, nobody comes out. It's all part of the university's effort to try and get a handle on the outbreak here on campus, where it took just five days to go from the first day of classes to students restricted to essential activities only. (voice-over): Since move-in started at Wisconsin in late August, more

than 2,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

KEIR METTER, FRESHMAN, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: They sent me an e-mail, pack your bags and be out of there as soon as possible.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Freshman Keir Metter is one of them.

(on camera): Why do you think it's so difficult to contain COVID-19 outbreaks on college campuses?

METTER: You could say like don't do this and don't do that, but it's very difficult to enforce all of that. And that's probably why they can't send everyone home, that's why I think -- because we're just going to spread it all across the country if we do.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Metter says he's had mild-to-no symptoms so far and he's been in isolation housing for days as he waits out his two- week period. In total, more than 350 students are in isolation at the university, with another 100-plus quarantining.


The rest of the undergraduate campus has been restricted to essential activities only, a move students say they only learned about last minute, rushing to grocery stores as cases continue to climb.

PETER GIRZADAS, FRESHMAN, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: You're standing in the elevator with people that might have it, of course, you're going to have your mask on, and you're like, well, that does something, but not a 100 percent of, you know, everything.

JIMENEZ: Across his dorm and another, roughly 20 percent of the students have been infected according to the school. Residents in those dorms have been told they can leave the building for 30 minutes, three-times a day to secure meals and get a breath of fresh air.

REBECCA BLANK, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: Well, I'm assuming, going to see significant case numbers continue over this coming week. We're identifying people who test positive and moving them into isolation.

JIMENEZ: The school says they're investigating more than 380 student- violations and reviewing 12 students for emergency suspension. A step that's been taken at other schools. The University of Missouri expelling two students for disregarding COVID rules. And at the University of Kansas, large gatherings like these leading to public health bans at off-campus residences according to a statement given to "The University Daily Kansan". A concern at schools across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the middle of a pandemic, and the fact that people think it's OK to party right now is the biggest mistake.

JIMENEZ: It's all part of a reality some students say they assumed would come with back to school. METTER: Obviously, I don't want to have COVID, but it seemed kind of



JIMENEZ: Now, one student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is now hospitalized with complications of COVID-19, according to the school. And that campus positivity rate is right around 10 percent, and their hope is to drive down that number through testing and by limiting in-person interaction. It's why testing is not only free to all students, but required now for those living in dorms and in off- campus fraternities and sororities. John?

CAMEROTA: Appreciate that and just -- you've spelled out how complicated it is for all of these college administrators on campus. Thank you very much. John?

BERMAN: All right. This morning, we have new information about coronavirus in Sweden. Obviously, Sweden has received a ton of attention because it limited restrictions on people. So how are things going there now? CNN has reporters all around the world bringing you the latest developments.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean in London where Europe is struggling to get a handle on its second wave of the coronavirus, especially France and Spain. Spain has reported a 100,000 new cases of the virus in just the past ten days. Madrid which is seeing about a third of the new cases is set to announce new restrictions tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., the virus is starting to creep back into care homes just as the country is facing a shortage of tests. The U.K. is doing more tests than any other major European country, and yet some healthcare staff are having to self-isolate for extended periods of time because they can't find one.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Max Foster in Stockholm, Sweden, where the mortality rate is now down to pre-pandemic levels after a spike earlier in the year. The coronavirus infection rate is also falling, despite an increase in testing.

It currently stands at 1.2 percent, according to the National Health Agency. Sweden never had a lockdown strategy like other countries in Europe, such as the U.K., France and Spain, where the infection rate is currently surging.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: I'm Vedika Sud, New Delhi. India has reported almost 98,000 new infections of COVID-19 on Thursday morning. The highest global rise in a 24-hour period. On Wednesday, India became the second country after the U.S. to surpass 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

It took the country five and a half months to surpass a million cases of the virus and just under two months to add over 4 million cases of the infection. Experts have criticized the government's response, but India's Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan estimates that the decisions taken by the Indian government on COVID-19 prevented approximately 1 million to 3 million cases of the virus and 37,000 to 38,000 deaths.




BERMAN: This week, CNN is bringing you inspiring stories of people making big, positive changes in our "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" series. This morning, we meet a young man from Atlanta who is reshaping harmful narratives about African-Americans. He uses superheroes to empower youngsters through media literacy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No justice! No peace!

TONY WEAVER, FOUNDER & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, WEIRD ENOUGH PRODUCTIONS: The United States is in a place of reckoning and that what some people interpret as rising racial tensions that are recent are actually things that have been present in our country for a really long time. That I believe are actually woven into the fabric of what this country is.

Black students are dealing with something especially stressful right now. They see pictures and videos of people that look like them being killed and assaulted by police around the country. When I think about kids right now, it makes me realize that there's a lot of work that needs to be done. When I was younger, I was dealing with a lot of bullying, and I wanted nothing more than to not exist.

I can't rest, knowing that there are kids that look like me that want nothing more than for somebody to look at them and say, I believe in you, you're worth something and they don't have it. When I started Weird Enough in 2014, I was struck by the fact that media portrayals of Michael Brown were having a tangibly negative impact on the way that I as an individual was treated on a predominantly white college campus.


So, I had a thought process that, maybe media representation, it can have a positive impact as well. My work is rooted in creating a new world of diverse in original stories, featuring characters and heroes that help young people find the hero in themselves.

I'm really excited to see everybody.

The Weird Enough team is scattered around the globe. Our thought was what if we could take that same amazing feeling that you get when you watch an anime and translate it scientifically to the way that young people behave in school and the way that they develop. So, we have a program where we take an original comic series that we create called The Uncommons, and we partner it with lesson plans and curricula that can be used in school, but also any kid or any parent or caretaker can access from home, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roland(ph) has very great power. What I like most about the Uncommons is that, it is about black heroes that save the day. My favorite character is Iris because she is mostly curious and funny. She is a black girl and a hero. Kind of like me.

WEAVER: Our characters do fight giant monsters, but they're not the type that are the size of buildings. They're different types of monsters, insecurities, fears, past failures. Things that people spend their entire lives running from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This doctor approves of Tony Weaver's message. When we have books that can speak to what messages we are trying to encourage in our children, there's one thing for me to say it as a mommy, but there's something completely different when my daughter can look at a book and see herself and the messages speak to some of the challenges that she has as a little black girl growing up in this country.

HATTIE MITCHELL, FOUNDER, CRETE ACADEMY: There has not been in my experience a curriculum that represents our black and brown kids in a positive way. When Tony introduced his literacy program in 2017, he also just spoke to the kids about being a young, black entrepreneur. So they were inspired that this young kid with a cape who's super cool, and has a high-top, you know, haircut, looks like them.

WEAVER: For me, my cape is a way to unapologetically bring myself into any space I enter. My way of saying that I'm not going to allow any people to minimize who I am. But what's a cape for me might be different for a different young person. So, I encourage them to find the thing that makes you feel empowered and don't let anybody take it away from you.


BERMAN: He has earned that cape. Look, what you see shapes how you think. What a wonderful -- what a wonderful effort that is. And we're going to share these inspirational stories all week long. Alisyn and I are anchoring a special Saturday night, "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE", 10:00 p.m. Eastern only --

CAMEROTA: It's such a --


CAMEROTA: Good one, we highly recommend it. It will renew your faith in humanity.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think we may well be within a month or so of having the first safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's shown efficacious in November or in December, we don't have enough vaccine doses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea of getting the entire population that wants to get vaccinated, vaccinated in a month or two, that's going to be very difficult to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are continued threats here in this area posed by some of the damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I just can't believe what I'm seeing out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house was shaking, it was shaking. It really was. I was concerned about the roof coming off the house.


CAMEROTA: Good morning everyone, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world, this is NEW DAY. And if you felt whiplash yesterday about the future time line of a possible coronavirus vaccine, we don't blame you.

First, the CDC director testified on Capitol Hill that wearing a mask right now is more effective protection than any future vaccine might be, and that a vaccine will not be available to the general public until earliest next Summer or likely next Fall. President Trump then tried to claim that a vaccine will be available next month. He claimed that Dr. Robert Redfield; the CDC director was confused and misunderstood the questions.

Then remarkably, the CDC director was apparently forced to alter his own words. Mr. Trump is also blaming blue states for the U.S. having the highest death toll in the world as though we're no longer the United States. Nearly 200,000 Americans have been killed across the country. Cases are rising this morning in 23 states and deaths are on the rise in 25 states. Nearly 1,000 Americans died just yesterday from this virus.