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Cases Surge to All-Time High as U.S. Heads into July 4th Weekend; Texas Governor Mandates Wearing Masks as Cases, Hospitalizations Surge; Florida Leads Nation in Number of New Daily Cases; Pence Claims Florida in "Much Better Place" as Cases Surge; Mayor Jane Castor (D-Tampa, FL) Discusses Pence Comments on Florida, Mandating Masks; Masks Optional, No Social Distancing at Trump's July 4th Mt. Rushmore Event; Randy Seiler, South Dakota Democratic Party Chair, Discusses Trump's July 4th Mt. Rushmore Event. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 03, 2020 - 11:00   ET




"NEWSROOM" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us.

Fireworks and face masks. The country is facing a Fourth of July like we've never seen before, with the country setting a new record for the number of new coronavirus infections in a day, breaking the previous record, which was just set the day before.

And 52,000 new cases yesterday. Combine that with Wednesday's number, more than 100,000 new infections in two days.

Dr. Anthony Fauci's warning earlier this week that the country could soon see that in one day. Now, unfortunately, it really doesn't seem too far off.

Here is what Dr. Fauci is saying now.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think it's pretty obvious, Howard, that we're not going in the right direction. Right now, if you look at the number of cases it's quite disturbing it. And we're setting records practically every day of new cases in the number that are reported. That's clearly not the right direction.


BOLDUAN: And here is what that looks like. Cases were leveling off and in some cases trending down until the last big holiday, Memorial Day. Now 36 states are trending in the wrong direction. Only two states are

in the green meaning that they are seeing a decrease in new cases. The rate in 12 other states is holding steady right now, which, I guess, at this point, almost seems like a victory.

Let's check in on the states seeing the worst of it now, because, remember, they should serve as a review for the rest of the country if things don't change quickly.

In Texas, they are seeing around 7,000 new cases a day. The governor is now mandating face coverings in public throughout the state.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is joining us now from Houston.

Lucy, what are you hearing?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an interesting reversal for Governor Abbott, Kate, because he's previously barred local officials from penalizing folks from not wearing masks in public, even as health officials continue to say that masks are one of the best ways in curbing the spread of this disease.

Now it's the law here in the state. If you live in a county that has 20 or more cases, you are now required to wear a mask in public. That applies to about 95 percent of Texans.

He's also empowering local officials to restrict gatherings to just 10 people and encouraging more people to practice social distancing, six feet or more if they are going to be getting together.

All of this, of course, as the trends continue to go in the wrong direction here in Texas. More than -- nearly 8,000, pardon me, new cases yesterday. Hospitalizations soaring. More than 7,300 people in hospitals across Texas putting a strain on facilities here. Houston so overwhelmed that patients have begun being transferring their patients out.

And doctors say this mask mandate is an excellent idea but it should have come sooner. Take a listen.


DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, HOUSTON: Unfortunately, I think that, you know, the cow is out of the barn. I think that we are a little too late. I mean, this is something that could have been instituted months ago.

We are now being what New York was a couple of months. And now we're telling people to go ahead and wear your masks and things like that. And yet, you know, we're allowing people to go and participate in mass gatherings.


KAFANOV: Officials in Houston is taking this a top further. There's a positivity rate of roughly 25 percent here. That means one in four that get tested for coronavirus come out positive.

The mayor, while he can't enforce this, he is asking businesses to slash capacity from 50 percent to 25 percent. He's asking houses of worship to try to do virtual services. And he's encouraging people to stay at home when they can, especially as we head into the Fourth of July weekend -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Lucy, thank you.

In Florida, we find out this morning that the state now leads the country in the average number of new daily coronavirus cases. So this is the new epicenter in the nation.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is on Clearwater Beach in Florida and joins me now.

Boris, there's new numbers in from the state. What are you seeing and hearing there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Kate. We just got new numbers from the state of Florida. And though there's a slight dip from the record breaking, more than 10,000 single cases that we saw yesterday. It still shows a surge in the Sunshine State.

More than -- close to 9,500 cases recorded yesterday in the state of Florida. That's about the third-biggest day they have had in new coronavirus cases here.

The question is what these numbers are going to look like after the Fourth of July weekend. There will almost undoubtedly be a surge, the kind that we saw after Memorial Day, and it may be an uneven one.


Keep in mind, Governor Ron DeSantis has allowed local officials to effectively determine what the restrictions are in their municipalities.

In the southeastern part of the state, Broward, Palm Beach and Miami- Dade Counties, meaning beaches will be closed this weekend, but there are strict curfews in place for restaurants and bars.

But here on the west coast of the state, facing the Gulf of Mexico, on Clearwater Beach, no real restrictions on beach access. Take a look behind me. Families have been pouring in from early this morning. A lot of folks playing volleyball, enjoying drinks on water.

There are signs pointing to some beach rules. They are asking people who do not live together to stay six feet apart, not congregate in groups. Groups of 10 people or more are now allowed.

The real question, Kate, is how that's going to be enforced. We haven't really seen a police presence or a health organization presence out here keeping those rules in order.

The governor, again, Ron DeSantis essentially saying he's not going to return to a statewide stay-at-home order, the kind that shut down Florida a few months ago.

He's also not leaning towards putting statewide, nearly statewide mask mandate in place, the kind that we're seeing widespread throughout Texas.

The question ultimately will be what the Fourth of July weekend is going to do to those numbers. Likely to be a surge even further forward -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Mark this weekend and then look forward two weeks.

Boris, thank you.

On the same day that Florida hit a new record of 10,000 infections, which was yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence was there, and he had this to say.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want the people of Florida to know that we're in a much better place thanks to the leadership of President Trump.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is the mayor of Tampa, Florida, Jane Castor.

Mayor, thank you for coming back on.

When you heard Vice President Mike Pence --


BOLDUAN: -- when he was in your city yesterday saying that Florida is in a much better place to fight this outbreak now -- he went on to specifically to talk about more levels of PPE and levels of testing. Do you agree?

CASTOR: We have dramatically increased the number of tests that we have had and we have more availability of the PPE.

But, you know, there's a big difference or distance between words and actions. And so I put a face mask order in place in the city of Tampa two weeks ago yesterday. The county followed suit a week ago. And so we are very hopeful that our numbers are going to start decreasing dramatically in the city of Tampa.

We've had incredible adherence to the wearing of the face masks and provided more reusable face masks than we have residents in the city. We've provided over 400,000.

BOLDUAN: CNN spoke to a doctor at Jacksonville Memorial in Miami, who described the reality that he's seeing in Florida. And I want to play that for you. Listen to this.


DR. NICHOLAS NAMIAS, CHIEF OF TRAUMA & SURGERY CRITICAL CARE, JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: It won't be controlled until everybody is wearing a mask, until we see the percentage of new positive cases going down, until we see more tests and positive cases going down and less hospitalizations. So it's absolutely not controlled.


BOLDUAN: You know, it's different in different parts of the state but it all works together because there's nothing --


BOLDUAN: -- stopping people at the border.

Do you agree that the situation is still out of control?

CASTOR: Yes. I agree with exactly what that doctor said. And I have been calling for mask order since April, and we have an emergency policy group here in the county.

I do believe that masks are -- mandatory mask wearing is the only thing that will reduce the number of positive cases dramatically.

Opening up of the bars, I believe, was mistake. That's where we've seen the surge, is basically the 21-34-year-old age group.

And while they are young and healthy and haven't seen a dramatic increase in the deaths, my fear is that those younger people are going to pass that on to theirs in the households that can least afford to have this.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- do you think the governor should -- do you want the governor to put in place a statewide mandate for face coverings?

CASTOR: Well, leaving it up to the mayors and the county administrators, county commissioners, frankly, I believe is the best bet. That's the way we've been doing this from the beginning. And Florida, like many other states, is very diverse. You're going to urban to highly populated --


BOLDUAN: Right. But, Mayor, I mean, the county health officials have --


BOLDUAN: -- have been calling for masks, mask wearing since the very beginning. I mean, health experts have been saying this from the very beginning.

I mean, do you think there's any good argument to not call for a statewide for a statewide mandate for face coverings right now? [11:10:04]

CASTOR: Absolutely not. There's no good argument anywhere in our nation against mask wearing. There's no good argument. The science is there. If we had done it earlier, we wouldn't be in the position we're in now.

But we have to deal with what's going on day-to-day here. And the only way we're going to reduce those cases is by individuals wearing a mask.

BOLDUAN: You know, you mentioned the age of people you're seeing that are getting infected right now. The governor said that the median average of new cases in your county is about 34 years old. Younger people becoming infected was why the governor says that he ordered bars to close.

Miami and Palm Beach have gone further. They are -- they are ordering curfews now. Are you considering that?

CASTOR: I don't know that we'll need that curfew.

One of the issues, you know, data has to be timely and accurate. And so the timeliness of it is -- is very difficult because we are doing -- we've incredibly increased the number of tests that we're providing, but we're still around a seven-day average on getting that information back. So the data that we're dealing with is seven days.

But we should see a dramatic decrease in the number of cases here in the city of Tampa and in Hillsborough County. And if we don't in the coming days, then we need to -- we need to take additional steps.

BOLDUAN: You know, as we've pointed out before, but just to remind folks, you were, I believe, the first in the state to order a shutdown in your city. Would you do that again, Mayor?

CASTOR: Honestly, I hope it does not come to that. We just got back up on our feet economically here in the city of Tampa, and the last thing we can afford is to be knocked backwards.

And that's why I've encouraged everyone to wear a mask. And I have seen -- I've seen our -- our community respond very, very positively.

So I -- I, again, am hopeful that this mask wearing will stop the spread of COVID-19 and we won't have to take those additional economic steps of shutting down businesses. Because it's -- you know, we've been through a rough time. The last thing we need is to go backwards and not move forward.

BOLDUAN: The scary thing I'm hearing, though, is the horse might be out of the barn and those extreme measures --


BOLDUAN: -- might already be called for, but again.

Mayor, thanks for coming on.

CASTOR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Good luck this weekend.

CASTOR: Thanks, Kate. Always appreciate it. Have a great weekend.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, no social distancing plans in place, no masks required, but big crowds expected. President Trump heads to Mt. Rushmore today for a Fourth of July fireworks show.

And a new study shows the virus has mutated and it's spreading quicker. What does that mean for the fight, then, to slowed spread?



BOLDUAN: Soon, President Trump will be leaving the White House heading to South Dakota for the Fourth of July celebration at Mt. Rushmore that he's promoted and pushed so hard for, despite the fact that the state is one of the 36 states that's seeing new coronavirus cases jumping.

The president and the first lady head out this afternoon for what's going to be a fireworks show and a flyover at the monument. And 7,500 people are expected to attend.

The governor there says face coverings and social distancing will not be required or enforced.

CNN's Joe Johns is at the monument and is joining us now.

Joe, set the scene for what's going to be happening tonight.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you know, any large gathering the president attends will be controversial because of coronavirus. But there's really a mountain of trouble, issues and controversy here that goes back years and years, even generation.


JOHNS (voice-over): It is a made-for-TV election-year photo op for the president to kick off the Fourth of July weekend.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be a fireworks display like few people have seen.

JOHNS: Standing in the shadow of four presidents at Mt. Rushmore, with military flyovers and the first fireworks display at the monument in a decade, all amid a global pandemic.

Critics say the event is risking coronavirus spread among the expected 7,500 spectators. As cases continue to spike across the country, there are nearly 7,000 confirmed cases in South Dakota and 97 deaths.

There will be no social distancing, but masks will be provided.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): 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.

JOHNS: It's not clear how many of those 7,500 visitors will come from other places experiencing rising cases.

MAUREEN MCGEE-BALLINGER, CHIEF OF INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION, MT. RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL: We are concerned about the coronavirus. We want our visitors to be safe and healthy. We're very confident that we have been quite careful in analyzing the situation on how to have a safe and responsible event.

JOHNS: The president once suggested to South Dakota's governor that he'd like to be the fifth face on the mountain. And here in Trump country, people actually buy into it.

LOIS DEYOUNG, VISITING FROM BRENTWOOD, NEW HAMPSHIRE: One day, Donald J. Trump will be on that monument, I firmly believe.


JOHNS: But at a time of racial unease, when protesters are tearing down statues of slaveholders and calling for the names of Confederate generals to be removed from army bases, the Rushmore event is a reminder that Trump is fighting to preserve these relics of heritage and history that some see as symbols of oppression.


And to indigenous people, Mt. Rushmore, with four white presidents, two of whom were slave owners, is one of those symbols.

NICK TILSEN, FOUNDER & CEO, NDN COLLECTIVE: Indigenous people and my ancestors fought and died and gave their lives to protect this sacred land.

And to blow up a mountain and put the faces of four white men who were colonizers, who committed genocide against indigenous people, the fact that we don't, as America, think of that as an absolute outrage is ridiculous.

JOHNS (on camera): The dispute over Mt. Rushmore has gone on for decades, carved out of South Dakota's Black Hills on land sacred to Native Americans, who have never gotten over the fact that the government took over this location and turned it into a tourist attraction.

(voice-over): Native American activists say the government should give back the land to the original owners. They're planning protests. And local tribal councils have denounced the Trump visit.

TILSEN: All of a sudden, what indigenous people have been saying for generations, there's an appetite to have a conversation about symbols of white supremacy, structural racism.

JOHNS: Historian Tom Griffith says getting rid of the monument is not the answer.

TOM GRIFFITH, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN & BOARD MEMBER, MT. RUSHMORE SOCIETY: We can easily erase all of the symbols of our past but we can't ignore the history. It will remain, no matter what sculptures, what are torn down around the country. And that continues today.

JOHNS: To some, Mt. Rushmore, the creation, is almost as controversial today as its creator, Gutzon Borglum. The sculptor was an ardent supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, though he never took the oath.

GRIFFITH: I think more than ideology, but more practically, he was affiliated with the Klan to raise money.


JOHNS: About the fireworks, there's concern that there could be a forest fire as a result of that, but the park service says they have got it under control.

And a footnote on coronavirus. A law enforcement source tells CNN that eight United States Secret Service agents tested positive for coronavirus before the vice president was supposed to go to Arizona earlier this week. That trip had to be delayed for a day.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Joe, thank you so much. So much to get out there. Really appreciate it.

Joining me right now is Randy Seiler. He's the chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for coming in.

What do you think this event tonight is going to mean for your state?

RANDY SEILER, CHAIRMAN, SOUTH DAKOTA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, good morning, Kate. You know, we're coming to you from beautiful Ft. Pierre, South Dakota.

You know, South Dakota, like most Americans, celebrates Independence Day and we're proud of the fact that the president is coming to South Dakota to help us celebrate the Fourth of July and our Independence Day.

But the terms and circumstances under which he's appearing basically are turning out to be a dud. There are a lot of concerns among South Dakotans about the plans for fireworks at Mt. Rushmore.

BOLDUAN: The governor was, in the piece Joe Johns just ran, he seemed to be suggesting that disregarding health guidelines is somehow patriotic. And she also said in the same interview that we're telling folks who have concerns -- and this is in regard to COVID -- to stay home.

What is your message to anything thinking about attending?

SEILER: You know, it's an increasing concern. And I think the concerns I've heard are fourfold. One, susceptibility of that area around Mt. Rushmore to wildfires. It's Ponderosa Pine land. According to the National Park Service it's highly flammable. So that's an ongoing concern.

Two, are the kind of ecological and environmental concerns regarding groundwater and the increase of toxic chemicals after the fireworks display.

Our third concern centers around $350,000 of South Dakota taxpayer money that was supposed to be utilized for economic development.

And, fourth, of course, are the issues with respect to COVID and the pandemic. There will be no social distancing.

Our governor talks a lot about personal responsibility and personal choices with respect to attendance at Mt. Rushmore.


But, you know, it's larger than that. Park Service employees don't have a personal choice with respect to whether they want to be there. The volunteers, the concession workers, our visitors, the residents of the gateway communities, law enforcement, they are all at increased risk because of the lack of guidelines with respect to CDC and the pandemic.

Not requiring social distancing and making face masks optional is a recipe for a disaster.

BOLDUAN: And you don't have to look any further than what we've been reporting about Secret Service members traveling with Vice President Mike Pence who also don't have an option, right, to do their jobs. A big group of them coming down with coronavirus as well.

Randy, thank you very much. Good luck.


BOLDUAN: Oh, go ahead, I'm sorry.

SEILER: I was going to say, the other aspect of this, of course, our governor talks a lot about personal responsibility and personal freedoms, but when it comes to our nine sovereign nations, our Indian tribes in South Dakota who have implemented checkpoints, that's a different story from her perspective.

She's contacted the president in an effort to get our nine independent sovereign nations to take down their checkpoints. And they are doing it because of concern for their residents, for their members. They are a long way from critical care facilities. And our tribes should be allowed to take whatever steps are necessary

to ensure that their members going forward are safe and healthy. And if that includes checkpoints, that's appropriate.

BOLDUAN: Randy, thank you for your time.

SEILER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a new study detailing how the coronavirus is changing and spreading even faster. Is it more dangerous now? One of the authors of a new study joins us.