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Growing Fears Holiday Weekend Will Fuel Surge In Virus Cases; Mask Optional, No Social Distancing At Trump's Mt. Rushmore Event; More California Cities Announce Fines For Face Mask Defiance. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 03, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

Just hours from now, President Trump will travel to South Dakota for an 4th of July celebration at mt. Rushmore. Thousands are expected to attend, but the state's Republican governor has already promised that people will not be social distancing and will not be required to wear a mask.

The science shows, and that's what we focus on the science, that those measures are the most effective way we have to fight this pandemic, keep the virus from spreading and now growing fears we could be in for another super spreader type situation this holiday weekend, just like we saw on Memorial Day weekend, and that's in the numbers.

Right now, 36 states are seeing a rise in infections, the country setting a new single-day record for new cases. The president says this is about increased testing, it is not, because we're seeing increased positivity rates. That is a greater percentage of people testing positive.

We are live across the country. First, let's go to Boris Sanchez. He's in Clearwater, Florida. So, Boris, pivotal next couple of days there. I know folks love to go to the beach this weekend. And, boy, I would love to go to that beach right behind you. We all do. What is the state doing now to control that and keep people apart?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it really depends on where you are. And we got the news within the last hour that the State of Florida now leads the nation in the average number of new coronavirus cases per day, yesterday reporting more than 10,100 cases in it the Sunshine State, a record. Obviously, it actually has only been eclipsed by one state and that's New York back in April when the wave of cases was cresting there.

And governor, Ron DeSantis, is effectively leaving it up to local leaders to decide what restrictions they want to place on their municipalities. Case in point, in the southeastern part of the state in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade Counties, the beaches are closed this weekend. Here, in Clearwater, well, they are slowly getting packed. At about 10:00 A.M., you see families outside, though the rules that are in place for the beaches are clearly outlined as soon as you get to the beach. They are asking folks who don't live together to stay six feet apart, to not congregate in groups, no groups larger than ten people.

I've seen some people out here wearing masks as well, an important reminder of just how widespread the devastation from coronavirus is too. You'll remember that a few weeks ago, Governor Ron DeSantis was talking about how Florida had not had any minors perish because of the coronavirus. That has changed recently. In Pasco County, a 17-year- old, a 16-year-old in Lee County and last night, we got word that an 11-year-old boy in Miami-Dade County passing away because of coronavirus.

Again, there are cries from health experts for people to heed the warnings. It's going to be difficult to enforce these rules and we'll see how they respond to them out here on Clearwater Beach, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's going to be a big test this weekend. Boris Sanchez there, thanks very much.

The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, just announced he will now require almost the entire state to wear masks in public as cases continue to surge there, something he had resisted.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov, she is in Houston. This new executive order extends about 95 percent of Texans. It's something that this governor had resisted. But now, he's connecting to reopening. In other words, saying, you've got to have this so that the economy can reopen.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what we've been hearing, Jim, from the health experts all along, wearing masks save lives. It's not a political issue. It's not a partisan issue. It's one way in which the state can get its surging numbers under control.

The governor previously barring local officials from penalizing people from not wearing their masks in public, now, this new executive order, which goes into effect in just a few hours, will require masks to be worn for anyone who lives in a county with 20 or more cases that applies to roughly 95 percent of all of Texans.

The executive order also restricts or at least empower local officials to restrict gatherings to just ten people. Already, seeing some county judges saying that they are not going to stick to that, some of them, in fact, allowing gatherings of up to 100 people as we go into the 4th of July weekend.

But take a listen to how the governor phrased this.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Now, I know that wearing a face covering is not the convenient thing to do, but I also know that wearing a face covering will help us to keep Texas open for business. I also know that not taking action to slow the spread will cause COVID to spread even worse, risking people's lives and ultimately closing more businesses.


KAFANOV: Some people say it's too little too late.


Texas is already dealing with 175,000 active coronavirus cases, but, of course, these measures do help. Hospitals though very much concerned. They have seen surges in cases after every holiday weekend, whether it's Mother's Day, Memorial Day. And they are worried that even though we have these new rules in effect that it will be hard to enforce that. The first time you're caught violating it, you get a verbal or written fine, the next time -- warning, pardon me. The next time, you can get a fine of up to $250.

But, again, it's a difficult thing to enforce and we are entering this holiday weekend. People like to get together. It's a serious message. They have to wear masks. It's not clear how widespread that will be, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And Miami handing out fines as well. Lucy Kafanov, thanks very much.

In Arizona, the state's health system under siege as the state sees an explosion not just in new cases, that is infections, but also hospitalizations, people getting really sick.

joining me now from Prescott, Arizona is Evan McMorris-Santoro. Evan, you're at a giant arts crafts fair there in Prescott, so one of these big public events you have on holiday weekend. Do you see change there? Are people taking this seriously?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this weekend is going to be a great test of the word of the governor, who has asked people to not gather in big groups versus the allowance he's still giving to cities and counties to make their decision about this.

Here in Prescott, they made some changes to the 4th of July schedule. A dance was cancelled. The parade was cancelled. But as you mentioned, this big craft fair is going to be going on, as well as a rodeo that had its big final weekend this weekend.

Now, the challenge here in Arizona, according to public health officials I've spoken to, is the balance between trying to get people to understand how important social distancing and mask-wearing is versus the skepticism that people are agreeing with.

I spoke to the president of the Arizona Medical Association yesterday and he told me that, look, he went on T.V. and said, hey, people should wear masks. And shortly after that, got a phone call from a patient who fired him for saying that. I talked to him yesterday.


DR. ROSS GOLDBERG, SURGEON: The fact is that we had a relationship where they trust their life with me, and now because I went on T.V. and said you should wear a mask while you're out in public shatters that trust is -- it's a devastating thing for a doctor to hear because all I'm doing is offering sound medical advice.

And, yes, you can disagree with me, but like to go that extreme is like I'm done with you, is a shocking thing for me.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, look, this kind of thing is what people who are trying to get this distancing going here in Arizona are facing. At this craft fair today, vendors are required to wear masks but people who show up are not required to wear masks. There's a sign that says to people, look, if you want to wear one, you can wear one but it's not a requirement.

So that is the challenge that Arizona is facing as these cases rise and these deaths rise and local officials still want to have economic drivers like this craft fair. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Listen, listen to the doctors. Again, the doctors are unanimous on whether a mask helps you and others, and it does. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thanks very much.

Hospitals across the nation are seeing an increase in coronavirus patients right now but facing a major shortage of funding. The pandemic has cost hospitals millions of dollars due to the cost of protecting workers, also canceling elective procedures, where they earn a lot of money.

CNN's Sara Sidner has more.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The dreaded sound of an emergency seem to be the only sound filling the air in New York City for far too long.

JAKE VITULI, FIRST RESPONDER: The beginning of this whole pandemic was very, very hectic. It was crazy. It was the craziest of my career.

SIDNER: While hospitals were packed with coronavirus patients here, they were also losing staggering amounts of money.

MICHAEL DOWLING, CEO, NORTHWELL HEALTH: We've hit our hospitals to the tune of about $1.6 billion. So it's been roughly between $300 and $400 million a month that we have been losing.

SIDNER: From the largest healthcare system in New York that has treated more than 40,000 COVID patients to the Seattle suburbs where the first known major coronavirus outbreak hit in late February.

DR. JEFF TOMLIN, CEO, EVERGREENHEALTH: Even in this first month of March, we projected a $15 million loss, and that's one small hospital healthcare system.

SIDNER: To hospitals across Michigan, both rural and metropolitan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our revenue went down immediately 60 percent, I mean, overnight.

SIDNER: The American Hospital Association estimates that hospitals and health systems will have losses this year of $323.1 billion, the hospitals that saw a surge of patients and the ones that did not resulting, in real-life impact for healthcare workers.

ELISE HOLLENBECK, FURLOUGHED NURSE: Being a nurse I never thought that I would be on unemployment, ever.

SIDNER: But that is what happened to Elise Hollenback, a nurse and mother of two in Empire, Michigan.


HOLLENBECK: I get really emotional about thinking about for my kids. What is their reality now going to look like?

SIDNER: Her reality changed when the hospitals didn't see a coronavirus surge but had to abide by the state order suspending medical procedures and surgeries that kept the hospital in good financial health. Less work meant furloughs even as coronavirus spiked across her state.

HOLLENBECK: I have no idea what our life will look like.

SIDNER: Harder life?

HOLLENBECK: Yes, yes, different, harder.

SIDNER: It seems counterintuitive. But during a pandemic, hospitals would lose money but here is what happened.

DOWLING: And the reason for that are twofold. One is that we cancelled most of the other services, including most surgery to be able to accommodate COVID patients.

SIDNER: The other reason, hospitals say they generally lose money treating COVID-19 patients because it requires mounds of personal protective equipment, it's staff insensitive and creates the need to retrofit areas to protect everyone.

TOMLIN: So we live in very thin margins in the world of healthcare. And for something like this, it's really apocalyptic in terms of what it means.

SIDNER: And if that's not bad enough, as hospitals reopen for all manner of emergencies and surgeries --

This place looks pretty empty.


SIDNER: Is this normal?


SIDNER: The public isn't showing up, even when they need to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one of our biggest concerns, is we know there's still people having strokes, having chest pain and having pneumonias, appendicitis, and they are not really coming in.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Seattle, Washington.


SCIUTTO: Still to come, cases are surging but the president is the still going to a celebration today that does not require a mask and that they are saying openly will not have social distancing. What message does that send to the country?

Plus, California is tightening up rules as cases go up in the state. We're going to be there live.

And as Georgia's governor maintains a mandate for masks is not needed, one mayor in that state is taking matters into his own hands as a result, and we're going to speak to him.



SCIUTTO: Just moments ago, President Trump arrived at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia. It is the 365th day he has spent at one of his properties since becoming president.

In just hours, the president and first lady will travel to Mt. Rushmore where they will join thousands for an early Independence Day fireworks show. President Trump's visit raising major health concerns because masks will not be required and the governor saying outright there will be no social distancing. The Mt. Rushmore celebration sparking a national conversation about the history of the landmark.

Joining me to discuss is CNN's John Harwood, as well as Stu Whitney, he's a Columnist for the Argus Leader, a daily newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Good to have you both on.

Stu, I want play Governor Kristi Noem's comments saying without apology or embarrassment, there will be really no mitigation efforts at this event and just get your reaction. Have a listen.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): Those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one. But we won't be social distancing. We're asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: What is the reaction of the public there to hear their governor say, we're not bother with requiring masks or even no effort at social distancing given that every health expert, doctor, says those are simple methods that work?

STU WHITNEY, COLUMNIST, SIOUX FALLS ARGUS LEADER: Well, this is still a very solid conservative state, obviously. So, normally, a governor being in lockstep with President Trump would be just fine and warranted, but I think nothing is normal in 2020 and Governor Noem's steadfast message that we're going back to normal, the numbers do look fairly tolerable in South Dakota right now with about 7,000 total cases, only about 64 hospitalizations right now.

But to have an event where you're going to have 7,500 people and more people swarming the streets of Keystone, I think there's some concern about the overall messaging to go on and just outright say, we're not going to be social distancing. And, of course, Noem is one of the few governors who has not worn a mask in the public and has not spoken about the benefits of wearing a mask.

SCIUTTO: Much like the president.

John Harwood, the fact of the matter with these events, as we know, is that not only do they endanger the people who go in place like Tulsa, such as Herman Cain, but also the president's own staff, Secret Service staff, and now twice with the trip to Tulsa but the vice president's trip as well to Arizona. You have Secret Service agents are infected. Is that moving anyone in the White House to caution the president about these events?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not publicly, and certainly not enough privately to change what the president is doing. It's remarkable the extent to which some on the right, some in the Republican Party following Donald Trump are so stubbornly determined to fight the culture war even at the expense of the health of themselves, of their allies, not to mention the rest of the country.

You played that bite from Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota. Herman Cain, the former Republican president candidate surrogate for President Trump tweeted out an affirming message about what Noem had said with all caps, people are fed up, after he already knew that he had coronavirus.


He has now hospitalized for the coronavirus and yet that has not sort of humbled his outlook, urged him to direct others to change their behavior. He appeared without a mask at the president's Tulsa rally.

He tweeted this morning that he's in the process of kicking coronavirus' ass. Well, let's hope that he does. That would be great news. But 128,000 Americans have died of coronavirus and many more will die. And the price of the culture war becomes more evident every day. SCIUTTO: So, Stu, the visit to Mt. Rushmore, of course, happening at a time of deep national protests to a whole host of historical figures. Tell us how Mt. Rushmore's history is factoring into to this event as well.

WHITNEY: Well, from -- I'm sure from team Trump's perspective, it's a perfect postcard, patriotic moment. You're surrounded by those four faces. You're surrounded by fireworks and its 4th of July weekend. So I think it's supposed to serve as sort of a rallying point for a struggling campaign for an incumbent.

But the background is that they have not had fireworks at the monument for a decade. There're concerns about forest fires. There're some concerns about what some of the embers will do. There're been concerns about water contamination levels from pyrotechnics. There's a reason they haven't had it there in a decade.

But the combination of Trump and Governor Noem sort of saying, this is going to happen, and trying to almost use this as perhaps fodder for campaign imagery. There's some fundraisers going on. I think that is a source of concern for people that see this certainly within a state with a Native American population nearly 10 percent and much higher in Rapid City, concerned about a place that has a lot of spiritual significance, And historical significance when you look at what they and most historians consider to be broken promises and broken treaties.

SCIUTTO: Well, Stu Whitney, thanks for walking us through all the context there. John Harwood at the White House, thanks as well.

In California, officials are now threatening up to $500 fines for those who ignore that state's mandatory mask order. Why the governor is calling this a matter of life and death, coming up next.



SCIUTTO: Several California cities are now vowing to fine people hundreds of dollars for not honoring the state's mandatory mask order. This as governor Gavin Newsom releases a public service announcement warning of the true cost of not wearing a mask this holiday weekend.

Powerful stuff. CNN's Dan Simon joins me now from Santa Monica, California.

Dan, are they handing out fines like this a lot?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we'll see what happens over weekend, Jim. But I can tell you the beaches are closed in several counties, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties. We're in Santa Monica. You can see the sign along the bike path.

And what officials are looking for, of course, is voluntary compliance. But they do reserve the right to issue citations for people who willfully ignore the order. And it comes as we're continuing to see, Jim, a surge of cases throughout California in Los Angeles County. 1 out of 140 people are considered infectious. And Mayor Eric Garcetti says, next week, that could go to 1 out of 70 people.

We continue to see this push to get people to wear a mask. Certain cities now leveling fines for people who are caught not wearing them. West Hollywood, for a first violation, you could get a $300 fine, in Santa Monica, $100 for the first time and then $500 for the third time.

And, Jim, we should also tell you that this weekend, if you plan on going to church in California, the Department of Public Health is now saying that chanting and all singing activities need to be discontinued to prevent the spread of the virus.

Jim, back to you.

SCIUTTO: Because singing has been shown to expel a lot of particles, make it easier to spread this infection. Dan Simon, thanks very much.

Joining me now to discuss all the news, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, CNN Medical Analyst and Professor of Medicine at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, always good to have you on.

It's regrettable how much time we have to spend on this broadcast knocking down falsehoods coming from the White House on this infection. But we got to do it because it keeps happening.

So, the president, again, yesterday, said that the increase in cases is all because our testing is so massive. This is false. We know this because Dr. Giroir, his own assistant HHS secretary, one of the leaders on this, said.