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Study Shows Death Rates in U.S. Higher than Expected in Spring/Summer; Early Data Shows Schools Don't Appear to be Major Spreaders of COVID-19; Biden to Hold Campaign Event in Toledo, Ohio. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Some new information today on death rates in the United States and the affect of the coronavirus on a surprising spike in death numbers. CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, what is this new research?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, as if there were any doubt, what these numbers show is the incredibly devastating effect that this pandemic has had in the United States. Let's look at what the numbers show.

It's found that in March through July of 2020, so just that time period, there were 1.3 million deaths from all causes in the United States. That's 20 percent more than the same time periods in each of the years 2014, '15, '16, '17, '18 and '19, so 20 percent more than the same time period each of those years.


That's incredible for one disease basically to have that much effect is just, as I said, devastating.

Now, let's take a look at the death rate in the U.S. compared to death rates in other countries. This isn't total number of deaths, this is death rates. So, in the U.S., what another study showed is that there have been 60.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Compare that death rate to Canada, 24.6 deaths, Australia 3.3 deaths. As you can see, the U.S. is not doing a great job here.

Now, John, President Trump has said that the U.S. has the best mortality rate in the world. As you can see from the numbers, that is simply not true.

KING: Yet another stunning example of where the president says one thing and the statistics, the data tell us something else. And, Elizabeth, researchers also now thinking about another possibly symptom, another new symptom when it comes to COVID-19, tell us about that.

COHEN: Right, it's hearing loss. And I think this is surprising to many people but viruses can cause sudden hearing loss. John, it is heartbreaking. I spoke with a 42-year-old, with a 23-year-old, both totally healthy, came down with COVID, had very mild symptoms. It wasn't a big deal, except each of them lost their hearing in one ear. Viruses can do that.

And there's some thinking that COVID may be even worse than other viruses because we know that COVID can cause blood clots and the arteries and the veins, the vessels in the ear are some of the tiniest vessels in the entire body and can become clotted easily. So this is something that doctors are really on the lookout for now, hearing loss after a COVID infection.

KING: Yet another kick in the teeth, if you will, from the virus. Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate the important new reporting.

Up next for us, President Trump's long war against Obamacare.



KING: President Trump's war on Obamacare is front and center today. Democrats, of course, making the Affordable Care Act central to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Joe Biden is making the issue of health care central in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.

Remember Republicans used opposition to Obamacare as their big issue back in the 2010 and 2014 election cycles. Yet now, Republicans, including the president, learning the political terrain on this issue has shifted quite dramatically in the Democrats' favor.

CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood joins us now with some new reporting on this. John, the president loves this slogan but, politically, it's coming back to bit him a bit.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is, John. And, of course, it bit the Republicans badly in 2018 because health care is one of the things that propelled the Democratic takeover the House. But now, it's becoming a significant issue in the presidential race.

Let's just review what President Trump is telling the American people on health care. First of all, he says he's already essentially gutted the law by getting rid of the penalty for the individual mandate, which was the most unpopular feature. Secondly, he says he's going to offer a cheaper, better alternative that preserves the most popular part of Obamacare, which his protection for Americans with pre- existing conditions. And, finally, on the issue of whether or not the Supreme Court will strike down Obamacare, oral arguments will occur next month, of course, perhaps with Amy Coney Barrett on the court, he said that would be a big win for the USA.

So let's just run through those things. First of all, if you look at the enrollment figures for Obamacare exchanges, they're down 10 percent from 2016 when Barack Obama was president but not significantly. He has not ended Obamacare. Secondly, seven states during the Trump presidency have expanded Medicaid under provisions of Obamacare, even conservative states, Utah, Oklahoma, Missouri, for example.

And, finally, on that big win for the USA, we had Fox News polling last week that showed by a 2-1 margin Americans wanted to preserve Obamacare rather than get rid of it. And that's why Democrats are highlighting it in the hearings, that's why Joe Biden is highlighting it and that's why Republicans are on the defensive on this issue, John.

KING: As we get into the final weeks. John Harwood, great reporting Thank you so much for that important facts and context, God forbid. John, thanks so much.

Up next for us, early research now suggesting schools just might not be the coronavirus super-spreader sites many feared they would be.



KING: Let's look now at some new and interesting data on the reopening of K through 12 schools and their role question about whether they're spreading coronavirus. Our next guest is tracking school-related cases nationwide and says early data suggests, quote, schools are not super-spreaders and fears from the summer appear to be overblown.

Emily Oster is Professor of Economics at Brown University. Emily, thank you for your time today.

So I just want to put up from your early data, put up some stats here. Among students, 0.13 percent infection rate, among staff members, 0.24 percent infection rate. This is the last two weeks of September. You studied 200,000 students across 47 states. Again, I know you're still at this and it's preliminary, but what jumps out at you as most significant about what you've learned so far?

EMILY OSTER, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, BROWN UNIVERSITY: So I think that one thing is that the rates that we're seeing, they're fairly low, they're kind of slightly lower than what we're seeing generally in the community.

So it looks like a lot of maybe what's happening is some people get COVID elsewhere and they're at school, so it's not that there's no COVID but that the rates are relatively low compared to what people would expect that there would be huge outbreaks at schools, we're not seeing as much of that in our data in other data outside of our data.

KING: And so what is most important for you as you take this early data and try to expand it? And what questions do you have after round one or round two, I guess, that you're looking to answer as you get more people to help you participate?

OSTER: Yes. I think the big question is what mitigation factors are working.


A lot of the schools in our data are doing masking, some of them are doing distancing, some of them are doing smaller pods. I think as we get more data, and we're really working to recruit larger samples, more schools, more districts, we'll be able to say things like how important is masking, how important is distancing, three feet versus six feet. Those are the kinds of things, I think, we can learn from this data, which will help other schools reopen more safely.

KING: And it's interesting, because we can show people some of that, things like staff mask use, student mask use, in-home screening, meaning take your temperature, do a checklist, make sure you don't have symptoms before you come to school. They're almost universal. 95 percent requiring staff mask, 92 percent, student mask, 92 percent, you do that home screening.

And then you get to the other end, the right side of your screen there, only about half of schools say, keep all the students in one class all day long, symptom checks if entering school or on the bus, temperature check upon entering school on the bus, only about half. So how do you take it from there? How much more data do you need to say, okay, should schools be doing more of those things where you have half and half?

OSTER: So I think what we really need is this. This week, we are collecting another biweekly poll of data. And from that, we'll be able to look at places two sort of time periods in a row, see whether there are outbreaks, whether outbreaks are growing, whether we're see a single case turn into many cases and we'll be able to analyze the relationship between that and some of these mitigation practices.

I think that will be key for understanding how to prevent spread in schools as opposed to preventing cases from coming outside, which is going to be much harder to regulate. So that's really what we're looking for in the next wave of the data.

KING: And what was striking to me, reading some of the analysis, some people who are looking at your data, saying, hey, it is early but this is helpful, also saying that the United States government is not giving us this information. Was that part stunning to you, that you're essentially a pioneer here doing it yourself, because the government is not keeping this?

OSTER: I think our team feels like there should be somebody else doing this. We're kind of a team of volunteers of like ten people doing this on nights and weekends. So I'm sort of hoping as we grow this, maybe there will be more input from the government, but I think that so far we haven't seen that, which is why we're doing it.

KING: as a parent, I can tell you, it is a critical issue for millions, millions and millions of American parents and families around the country. So we're grateful for what you and your team are doing. Keep up the work. Thank you.

OSTER: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us, to the campaign trail, Joe Biden today, two stops, in battleground Ohio.



KING: Joe Biden is on his way to Ohio, proof the Democrat is playing offense in the final three weeks of this most unusual campaign. Toledo and Cincinnati are on tap for Biden in Ohio. Tomorrow, two stops in cities in Florida. And then on Thursday, Biden will take part in a nationally televised town hall from Philadelphia, which replaces the now canceled town hall debate with President Trump.

Pennsylvania is central to Biden's strategy. He does not need to win Ohio or Florida to win the presidency. But a Biden win in either of those states would make the president's re-election math nearly impossible.

CNN's Jessica Dean covering the Biden campaign, she is live for us in Cincinnati. Biden keeping the foot on the gas, if you will, Jessica, on the road.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he certainly is, John, appearing at two stops in Ohio today, a state that the Biden campaign counts as one of 17 priority states, but a state that hasn't gotten nearly the attention of some of the higher priority states in the lists have gotten states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, you mentioned.

But, look, they are making a play here in Ohio. Vice President Biden is going to travel into Toledo earlier, then he's going to give remarks on his economic speech, more of that Scranton versus Park Avenue messaging that we've heard from him in the last several weeks. And then he is going to come here to Cincinnati for a voter engagement event.

And that will be really interesting to see as he makes his way through Ohio, a state where the Biden campaign is also expanding its advertising. Recent polls have shown essentially a tied race here. And, look, the Biden campaign has the financial ability to do this.

They can, to your point, put their foot on the gas in places like Ohio and Florida because of all of the fundraising and the records that they have been breaking within their fundraiser. Local democrats here think that Ohio is winnable for them, John. And if that happens, it could have significant impacts on Trump's ability to get to 270. Now, President Trump, of course, traveling to Florida today, Vice President Biden releasing a statement on that trip. Let me read you a portion of it. It says, President Trump comes to Stanford bringing nothing but reckless behavior, divisive rhetoric and fear mongering, but equally dangerous is what he fails to bring, no plan to get the virus that has taken over the lives of over 15,000 Floridians under control, no plan to protect Floridian's health care amid his attacks against the ACA and certainly no plan to mitigate economic impact the pandemic is having on families across Central Florida. You mentioned Biden going into Florida later this week.

Mike Pence is in Ohio today. So we are getting at that point, of course, just three weeks out from election day, John, where we are seeing a lot of activity and Trump, of course, returning to the campaign trail as well.


KING: State by state chess, that's interesting part. Jessica Dean, thank you, from Hamilton County. We look at it by county, some of us with maps. Jessica, thank you.