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Trump, Biden to Participate in Competing Town Halls Tonight; COVID Surges, U.S. Adds 59,000 Plus Cases Wednesday; Sen. Harris Cancels North Carolina Event After Campaign Staffer Tests Positive for COVID-19; Fauci: Vaccine may be Widely Available by April. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this very, very busy news day with us.

Coronavirus disruption simply everywhere today. The count of new infections is heading up, and dangerously so. The number of Americans filing for unemployment is also up again, proof the coronavirus recovery is on very shaky ground.

And campaign 2020, also being disrupted. This was supposed to be debate night in America. Instead, 19 days to Election Day, Americans are forced to choose tonight between primetime town halls with each candidate. Joe Biden takes voters questions on ABC. The president is on NBC.

The debate was called off of course because of the president's coronavirus case. He refused to switch to a virtual event. Well, a fresh example this morning of how the Democrats are handling all things coronavirus very differently than the Republican incumbent.

The Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, is canceling a North Carolina campaign event after a campaign staffer tested positive. The campaign says there's no reason to believe Senator Harris was exposed but it is protocols call for caution. So, she will do events online instead of in person for a few days now.

The president is on the road insisting all is well and insisting he is immune. A North Carolina Trump rally first and then to Miami for his town hall. If truth matters to you, then you are at odds with the president. He says the virus is on its heels, and you need not to worry.

The numbers simply don't lie. Nearly 60,000 new infections added to the U.S. case count yesterday, Wednesday. 14 states registering record highs in their daily average of new cases. All the data tell us we are climbing toward a new peak, not coming down.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the math is self-evident and says the United States enters the next month in quote a "compromised position." Look across Europe. What do you see? Leader after leader talking about the urgent fall challenge. Leader after leader urging more personal responsibility. Some imposing new restrictions. Look here, closer to home, and see denial and defiance. President Trump ignores the rising challenge and defies science and commonsense by packing rallies with supporters, shoulder-to-shoulder. Dr. Fauci calls that dangerous. Plain and simple.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't like to be pitted against what the president says, but it's so clear when you have congregate settings and so many people. When you're in a situation, when the community infection rate is there, you can't run away from or argue with the numbers. It's a high-risk endeavor.


KING: You hear Dr. Fauci talking about high risk, talking about the baseline of cases. Let's just look at the numbers. And they're heading simply in the wrong direction. Dr. Fauci for months has talked about shoving the baseline down. Well, we have 50 states. 35 of them, 35 out of the 50 states right now reporting more new coronavirus infections today than a week ago. 35 states trending in the wrong direction. Again, it's everywhere but public health experts will tell you, no coincidence.

Look at the northern half of the country where it's getting colder sooner as we head into the autumn. 35 states trending up. 12 states holding steady. Only three states reporting fewer new infections now compared to a week ago. You look at this. Here, three states setting single day records in their case count yesterday, North Dakota, New Mexico and Ohio. This is new cases versus last week. Three states setting new recods.

Again, the president says the virus is on its heels. It is not. And sadly, the death trend. When you have a high case count, wait a couple weeks and this map changes, too. We have 23 states right now. You see 10 reporting 50 percent or more deaths this week compared to last week. That's the deep red. Orange means going up at a slower pace but still going up. 23 states in all reporting more coronavirus deaths now compared to one week ago.

That is not going in the right direction. And you can just follow the red line here. You don't need to study deep into the data. Just follow the trends. Beginning of the summer surge, up we went, down we started to come, now we're heading back up again.

And here's what all the public health experts worry about. If when we started at 18,000, 20,000 we got up above 60,000. What happens if we start at 40,000 and start heading back up? How high do you go? That's the question facing the country right now. Just shy of 60,000 new coronavirus infections reported yesterday.

Watch that red trend line. It is pointing up. The reason it's going up is because of positivity rates. More people testing and coming back positive. 40 percent in Wyoming positivity rate, 32 percent in South Dakota, 22 percent in Idaho, 22 percent Wisconsin, 20 percent Iowa. Double digits, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Nevada. Double digits or higher, more cases today, more spread, more cases tomorrow. It plays out pretty simple.


And then the hospitalizations. You get more cases. You're also seeing peak of the summer surge came down with hospitalizations now starting to trend back up this way. So, we are months away from a vaccine. Many people say so-called herd immunity. Just let this keep happening, eventually people will get enough exposed to it. Things will get better. Dr. Fauci says the let it rip strategy is reckless.


FAUCI: There's about 30 percent of the population has underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to getting the adverse events and outcomes of serious disease with COVID-19. If you just let things rip and let the infection go, no masks, crowd, it doesn't make any difference, that quite frankly, George, is ridiculous, because what that will do is that there will be so many people in the community that you can't shelter, that you can't protect who are going to get sick and get serious consequences.


KING: Joining me now, Josh Dawsey, White House reporter for "The Washington Post." Josh, great to see you on this day. You hear Dr. Fauci, you look at the numbers you don't have to be a medical expert to understand the case count is climbing and that a pretty steady pace right now.

And yet, I was making the point if you look across Europe, the case count is climbing as well. Macron has spoken to the French people. Boris Johnson has spoken to the people of the United Kingdom. I believe we lost Josh Dawsey there. We'll see if we'll get him back. Angela Merkel has also spoken to the German people, but President Trump is doing rallies across the country right now. We'll come back to Josh Dawsey in that conversation a few moments ago.

Let's shift until we get him back to some other news. The vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris off the campaign trail temporarily. This after a key member of her staff tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus.

CNN political correspondent MJ Lee joins us with that. So, MJ, the Democrats are saying this is a precaution. Is there any worry Senator Harris might have been exposed?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is big news coming out of the Biden campaign, two people who recently travelled with Senator Harris tested positive for COVID-19 late last night. The two people first of all was her communications director, the second person being a non-staff member, a member of the flight crew. So, let me just walk everyone through what we know so far based on what the campaign has told us. We know that these two people were on a flight with Senator Harris on October 8th. And the campaign says that on this flight Senator Harris and both of those people were wearing N95 masks and the campaign also says that Harris did not have close contact with either of those two people, this is according to the CDC's definition of exposure -- potential exposure to COVID-19 and both of these people tested negative before and after the flight.

What we're also told is that both of these people attended personal events some days after being on that flight with Senator Harris and then they returned and tested positive. Now, the campaign is also emphasizing that neither of those people had close contact with either Vice President Biden or Senator Harris 48 hours prior to testing positive. And it's important to note, too, that Senator Harris, according to the campaign last tested negative for COVID-19, this was a PCR test yesterday, and she's also going to get tested again today.

Now, what does all of this mean in terms of Senator Harris and her campaign events? Well, out of an abundance of caution the campaign says she's going to be suspending all in-person travel through this Sunday. She's going to be participating just through virtual events and she's going to be heading back on the campaign trail next Monday. Remember, she was supposed to be in North Carolina today and those in- person events have been cancelled.

And In terms of Vice President Biden and his schedule, you know one of the things that we asked the campaign on a press conference call this morning was whether there are now growing concerns, are there going to be changes that we see that the campaign make more broadly? And they essentially said, no, that they feel confident about the protocols and the precautions that the campaign has put in place and that they do feel like they can continue in-person campaigning through November 3rd. And that, of course, includes Vice President Biden participating in that ABC News town hall tonight in Philadelphia. John?

KING: MJ Lee, appreciate the hustle on the live report there. Just more coronavirus disruption impacting the campaign. We'll keep an eye on that and see if Senator Harris does get back on the trail, soon. MJ, thanks so much.

Let's bring back Josh Dawsey, White House reporter for "The Washington Post." Part of the coronavirus disruption is technology sometimes goes down. And Josh, the point I was trying to make is Prime Minister Johnson of the UK, President Macron of France, Chancellor Merkel in Germany, all of them talked to their people in recent days about the spiking cases across Europe. Some of them imposed restrictions, all of them have verged people to have personal responsibility. We do not get that. This president has not delivered and addressed the American people or walked into the Rose Garden to talk about the alarming rise in new infections instead he does his campaign rallies, packing people and he did a few moments ago, call into Fox Business to say this about coronavirus. Listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens if you get a big spike in cases in the United States and cases are rising. What are you doing?

TRUMP (via telephone): We're not doing any more lockdowns. And we're doing fine. We're not doing any shutdowns. We learned about the disease. Young people, 99.9 percent, right, are in great shape, strong immune systems, the younger the better, it's hard to believe. We're not doing any shutdowns. We learned about the disease, young people, 99.9 percent, right, are in great shape. Strong immune systems. The younger the better, it's hard to believe.


KING: Josh, I get the president's position, you can say we're not going to do a lockdown, we're not going to a shutdown, but there are other things you can do. You can talk to people more carefully about please wear a mask, you can talk to businesses about please make sure your work sites are safe. The president says we're doing fine. We're not doing fine.

JOHN DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sorry we got disconnected, John. But the president's hospitalization and hospitalization of so many of his advisers have actually taught him to be more defiant now that he has survived this virus and he is back at work. He's having these large mega rallies. A number of his surrogates and family members all over the country indoors and mask less events.

The campaign and the White House has not really changed any of their rules or policies or tactics. What they're doing is you know continuing to say masks are encouraged at the White House but not everyone wears them. And they're campaigning totally differently.

As you said earlier, you know Kamala Harris is down off the trail because one of her staffers had it. You're seeing spikes in cases across the country. The president though is not taking a more empathetic tone.

You know I talked to a lot of folks in the White House and the campaign for the story we did today. Where they essentially said, we want the president to take a more empathetic tone. We want him to say we know senior citizens have suffered this. We know so many different people have suffered this. We're with you. We are trying to help you. Not this kind of more callus in the words of his critics' tone that he's showing right now.

KING: Right. And I wish we hadn't had the technical disruption because I talked more about that piece. I encourage people to go online and read essentially making the point in these final days of the campaign. In some ways the president is doing exactly the opposite of what his campaign advisers think he should be doing on a number of fronts.

Josh Dawsey appreciate the reporting and insights.

Up next for us, Dr. Anthony Fauci gives a very important update on the timeline for a coronavirus vaccine. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: An important reminder just this morning about the vaccine timeline and that what the president says every day is misleading at best. The president promises vaccines are on the way. Possibly he still dangles from time to time before the election. Dr. Anthony Fauci says on the way, means April.


FAUCI: That will likely be within the first quarter of 2021, by let's say April of 2021. But that would be predicated on the fact that all of the vaccines that are in clinical trials have proven to be safe and effective.


KING: Joining our conversation is Dr. Paul Offit. He's director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit, grateful for your time especially on this important day.

You hear Dr. Fauci talk about April. We have also seen in recent days a couple of the big studies put on pause. Johnson & Johnson put on pause because of an illness, AstraZeneca put on pause before that because of an illness. That in of itself not unusual. Dr. Fauci says that happens. You put them on pause because you're being careful. I want to ask you about this part of the AstraZeneca. This is from CNN reporting.

"AstraZeneca whose phase three coronavirus vaccine clinical trial has been on hold for more than a month, did not get critical safety data to the US Food and Drug Administration until last week, according to a source familiar with the trial."

Is that delay normal? I know that illnesses do pop up and you're being safe when you say let's study this, but what about the delay sharing the information with the government?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER AT CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: You know I haven't heard of that before. I mean certainly they're off clinical pause in Europe. They've met the European regulator standards for what it took them to get off clinical pause. Obviously, those standards are different here in the FDA. But it sounds like this is more technical than it is having to do really what those cases itself. Actually, AstraZeneca was on two clinical pauses. One in July, one in September in Europe. And then now it's on clinical pause. It's sounds like a technical issue but not anything having to do directly with those cases.

KING: You have been a voice of caution for months saying that when you hear the president say we'll have a vaccine yesterday or by Election Day, everybody should just take that with a grain of salt. Based on developments in these recent weeks and you just heard Dr. Fauci say maybe by April. Does that sound reasonable to you based on everything you know, April?

OFFIT: Yes. Assuming we can get back on track with these vaccine programs which I think is highly likely, I think April is a perfectly reasonable time. We have five vaccines in Operation Warp Speed, we have one vaccine, Pfizer, which I think the U.S. is interested in. It is outside of Operation Warp Speed. I think April is a perfectly reasonable time. I think that what Dr. Fauci said is exactly right.

KING: You mentioned the Pfizer study that's underway. This is some more new reporting.

"Drugmaker Pfizer has plans to start testing its experimental coronavirus vaccine in children as young as 12, and parents have already expressed interest in enrolling their kids, the researcher leading the trial told CNN."

How important is that to diversify essentially the pool of people being tested so you have better data on the efficacy.

OFFIT: It's very important. We're not going to be able to immunize children, unless we have data in children. Unless we have studies in children. And right now, all the trials were being done up until this most recent Pfizer have been in those over 18 years of age. I think it will make it easier for children to go back to school, to vaccinate them, so we're going to have to generate those. And I think we will over time.

KING: You heard Dr. Fauci earlier in the program talk about this concept of herd immunity, which many of the people in the White House now start to talk about, which is well, it's going to be several months for a vaccine, we don't want to shut down the economy again, so let it rip, right?


The vaccine - you now we're up to around 50,000 plus new infections a day, just let that playout. Some people will get infected, community immunity will then rise. Dr. Fauci says that's not to listen here, to the World Health Organization experts saying, no, dangerous.


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: With this idea of herd immunity, this is a phrase that's used when you use vaccination, when you vaccinate a certain amount of the population to be able to protect the rest of the population that isn't able to get that vaccine. Herd immunity as an approach by letting the virus circulate is dangerous, it leads to unnecessary cases and at least to unnecessary deaths.


KING: That's a polite way of saying it. Isn't it? By unnecessary cases, unnecessary deaths, we're talking about thousands, tens of thousands potentially deaths if you just let it rip, right? OFFIT: Here's a trick question, name the virus that eliminated itself by community immunity, it's never happened. Never, historically. Also, if you look for example, every year there's four human coronaviruses that circulate in the population, unmitigated by vaccines or therapies. Every year, 15 to 20 percent of the respiratory infections have come to our hospital are caused by one of those or all those four viruses and they've been unabated.

If you had to pick the perfect virus to induce community immunity by infection, it would be measles. Measles is 10 times more infectious than COVID virus. And it induces so called sterilizing immunity. Meaning you are protected for the rest of your life against all manner of disease including asymptomatic infection.

Yet despite that, every year in this country, there would be one to two million case of measles. There will be 50,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths. And that virus would be much more likely to do community - to cause community immunity than this one because this virus even after natural infection you can still be re-infected and asymptomatic re-infected.

We eliminated measles in this country by vaccination by the year 2000. It's come back to some extent because some parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children. Smallpox was only eliminated by vaccination even though that too is a much more highly contagious disease and that too induces lifelong immunity. So, the notion of community immunity by natural infection is made up, it's never happened.

KING: Made up, it's never happened. And that's not a plan, it's a crime. Those are my words not your words. Dr. Offit, grateful for your insights. Thank you very much.

When we come back, a look to the 2020 campaign trail. We are 19 days out. More new polling shows a very big Joe Biden national lead. If you look deep into the weeds of the polls is there any evidence of a Trump comeback?



KING: 19 days left, so obviously the battleground states in play as we get closer to Election Day. Joe Biden today, remember it was supposed to be a debate night instead he'll do a town hall in Pennsylvania. President Trump about to hit the road first a rally in North Carolina, then he moves down to Florida for his town hall tonight in prime time. Those three states.

Let's go back to 2016, remind ourselves why these three states are so important. On the 2016 map, Trump, Trump, and Trump, they were part of Trump's electoral college victory. They're part this year of Joe Biden's strategy. New national poll today, NBC/Wall Street Journal shows another double-digit Biden national lead. Then a lot of those lately. So, you look at the battleground states, and you say wait a minute, President Trump came back in 2016, right, he was losing at this point and he came back. Are there - is there any evidence? Are there any seeds of a Trump comeback out there?

Look at these 10 battleground state polls. What's missing? Nowhere is President Trump leading, a tie in Iowa, Joe Biden leads North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio. Some of them were close, many of them are close. Ohio is very close, North Carolina is very close, Iowa is a tie. More than plausible President Trump could win those states, right?

They have Republican DNA. They're very close now, time for a comeback but look at Wisconsin. Look at Michigan. Look at Pennsylvania. Even Florida. If you discount that lead, no way it's 11, still it's a Biden lead even if you cut it in half. Arizona another state changing. So, right now, the battleground states look good for Biden. The national numbers look good for Biden. On the campaign trail this week, one big debating point the economy.


TRUMP: They betrayed American workers, disparaged American values and crushed our middle class. For decades Biden and his cronies laughed while they shipped millions of your jobs to their friends in foreign countries.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In our house growing up, every penny my dad made went to paying the bills. I see hardworking women and men are just trying to earn an honest living and take care of their families just want an even shot.


KING: Joining us now for their analysis, Margie Omero, she's a Democratic pollster for GBAO and Neil Newhouse, Republican pollster, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies.

Neil I'm going to start with you again because you're the Republican in the conversation and your candidate is in a deep ditch right now if you're a Republican. I know he's not your candidate meaning you don't work for the campaign. But look at the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the Republican who does that poll is your partner and good friend (INAUDIBLE). Look at the Biden advantages when you go through the demographic groups, among women he's up 26 points, twice what Hillary Clinton won the women's vote by in 2016. Joe Biden whites without a college -- with a college degree, excuse me, Biden plus 19. Trump won that group four years ago. Senior citizens Biden plus 10, Trump won that group.