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Trump to Campaign in Wisconsin; Misconceptions about Covid-19; Stimulus Standstill; Ballot Ruling in North Carolina; Texas Judge Strikes down Drop Box Limits. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired October 16, 2020 - 09:30   ET





The surge of new COVID-19 infections that health experts had warned about might happen this fall, it's here, sadly. And the northern Midwest in particular is already being hit especially hard. Cases skyrocketing in states like Wisconsin.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our correspondent, Adrienne Broaddus joins us again in Janesville, Wisconsin, where the president is set to hold a rally tomorrow despite the surging cases there. Many are worried that this could be another super spreader event because they are not mandating masks, right? They've giving them out, but there's no mandate.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy and -- absolutely, you have it right. Officials here are not only worried, but the governor is pleading with folks here in Wisconsin to stay home. The test positivity rate tops 21 percent, more than 3,700 new cases were reported yesterday. And in the last six weeks, the average case number nearly quadrupled. In the same time period, the average number of the deaths nearly tripled.

But despite these troubling numbers, President Trump is still expected to come here tomorrow for a rally. We're in Janesville. You might remember, this is the same town the president was planning to visit before he tested positive for COVID-19. By contrast, the president's task force is reminding people here in Wisconsin to wear a mask, socially stay distant from folks around you, or prevent -- or risk, I should say, preventable deaths.

And the governor echoes that message. Governor Tony Evers said mass gatherings is not the way to stop the spread of the virus.


GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): We've had many record-setting days recently for hospitalizations, new cases and COVID-19 deaths. And just because some folks out there want to see full bars and full hospitals doesn't mean we have to follow their lead.


BROADDUS: And did you pick up what the governor was throwing down? Essentially, if the numbers of cases goes up, you will see more hospitalizations. And we know what has happened to so many people who were sent to the hospital to be treated for COVID-19. They never came home.

Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Adrienne Broaddus, good to have you there. I mean, I think of all the families being impacted by this.

Well, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about the virus, and, sadly, some of them spread by the president himself.

HARLOW: That's right. What is the truth? What is the best strategy for getting COVID-19 under control?

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, clears up the confusion.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I went through it and now they say I'm immune. I can feel -- I feel so powerful, I'll walk into that audience.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Misconception number one, once you get COVID-19, you're forever immune. One study has shown that neutralizing antibodies are produced for at least five months after someone's been infected, but we don't know just how that translates to how long someone will be protected or immunized after an infection.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're starting to see a number of cases that are being reported of people who get re-infected, well-documented cases of people who were infected after a relatively brief period of time. So you really have to be careful that you're not completely, quote, immune.

GUPTA: Misconception two, we should try to mitigate this virus by naturally achieving herd immunity.

DR. SCOTT ATLAS, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It's important for people to understand medical science, to know that natural human immunity of populations, that is sometimes called herd immunity, it's very important that that develops. That's how viruses are eradicated.

GUPTA: Let me clarify something, herd immunity is not necessarily a bad thing, it's just a question of how you get there. One way is a vaccine, which many people are hopeful for, but what Dr. Scott Atlas seems to be describing is just letting the infection run free. And now this idea has gained more traction with a controversial declaration written by some scientists who seem to be encouraging those who are not vulnerable to go ahead and get exposed to COVID-19, to resume normal life in order to reach herd immunity.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: A majority of our nation, more than 90 percent of the population, remains susceptible.

GUPTA: What CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is talking about is a study that shows fewer than 10 percent of the people in the United States have likely been infected. Now, keep in mind, to achieve herd immunity, that number would need to be around 60 to 70 percent of the population. Now considering more than 217,000 people have already died from COVID-19 with 10 percent infected, look at what 60 percent infection could mean. IHME calculates this could mean more than 1.2 million deaths.


GUPTA: Misconception three, early travel restrictions helped prevent millions of deaths.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The country would have been left wide open, millions of people would have died, not 200,000.

GUPTA: On February 2nd, the Trump administration began to implement travel restrictions from mainland China. Restrictions but not a complete ban. Since U.S. citizens and permanent residents were still able to travel into the country from China.

DR. PAUL SAX, CLINICAL DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Travel bans could potentially prevent the spread of infection in a country, but not if they're instituted solely for the people who are traveling as citizens of the foreign countries.

GUPTA: And an analysis by the CDC found that the restrictions on travel from Europe came too late, since by March 15th there was already widespread infection in New York City, an early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Back then we had fewer than 100 deaths. Now we are have more than 200,000.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


SCIUTTO: Listen to the facts. They matter.

Well, many American families are hurting right now. Perhaps many of you. And another stimulus package badly needed. So how can one get done when President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have not personally spoken in a year?



HARLOW: Well, the president has been saying, especially in the last few days, that he wants a stimulus deal, right? Maybe even a bigger one than is being proposed by the Democrats. One of the key issues though here is they're not talking.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the president, we've learned, have not spoken in a year. This was the last picture, I guess, when they did talk face-to-face. Pelosi and Democrats walked out of a meeting with the president. Pelosi later said the president had a, quote, meltdown. He called her a third grade politician.

So, all right, so here -- here we go, grade school in Washington, I suppose, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And he also now repeatedly refers to her as crazy Nancy.

Talks between Pelosi and the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, they are still ongoing. So for that hasn't helped the millions of Americans who have fallen into poverty during this pandemic in America in 2020.


SCIUTTO: CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, and chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, they join us now.

Manu, to you first. You know, this has been dead on arrival for some time now but some recovering hopes, perhaps, realistic before the election?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very unrealistic before the election and whether it happens soon after the election is still a major question.

Just last night, Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic caucus detailing her conversations with the Treasury secretary. They had spoken for more than an hour yesterday. And she said that there are, quote, many disagreements that they still have, whether it's about state and local funding, tax provisions, big -- another big outstanding issue involving the Republican push to try to provide liability protections for companies, for workers, et cetera, for -- in dealing with this pandemic.

That is something the Democrats don't want to do. And there's also the disagreement about how much to spend. So you have the overall price tag, as well as a lot of the specific policy areas.

She did indicate that they're moving closer to figuring out how to provide more money for testing, but that is just one small part of a much larger package.

HARLOW: Right.

RAJU: And then you have the issue with the Republicans, guys. I mean the president said last night that he could get the Senate Republicans on his side if they can only cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi. That is just simply not the case. The president and Steven Mnuchin are talking about $1.8 trillion or more. Nancy Pelosi's at $2.2 trillion. The Senate Republicans are at $500,000 billion. And Mitch McConnell made very clear he would not go for a much higher price tag.


He said his conference would not go for that. They are going to move forward with that smaller bill next week. Democrats don't want that. They plan to block that next week. So we're going to be left with the American people waiting, as they've been waiting for months, you guys.

HARLOW: It's such a good point, Manu, because McConnell isn't in the room. You've got the Treasury secretary in the room. You've got Schumer in the room. You -- Pelosi. You do not have McConnell in the room and he knows exactly what, you know, what his senators are onboard with and what they're not.

Romans, there is this new report out this morning from JP Morgan Chase --


HARLOW: And they show there study that spending is down after the increased unemployment benefits expired in August, saving accounts are dwindling rapidly. So is it correct to say that if there is no deal here in the near term that it's just going to further tank the economy when 70 percent of our economy is based on consumer spending?

ROMANS: You know, that's the big fear here. We know that the stimulus worked. We know that those stimulus checks and those extra jobless benefits prevented a recession from becoming a depression. We know -- a New York Fed study found that like 36 percent of that money was actually put in savings accounts. So now people are drawing down those savings accounts.

And that JP Morgan study says that at some point, when that extra money that has been squirrelled away is gone, it's going to be, do you pay your bills, do you pay your rent, do you pay for food, because we don't have a job market that has come back strongly enough to support all these people who have been thrown out of work.

We know -- we know that the stimulus worked. It kept people from falling into poverty. And we know there are real concerns that people are now falling into poverty late summer because that money ran out. So it is really urgent here.

You know, I watch Wall Street every day and they go back and forth over hopes for stimulus. The stock market goes up. This isn't about the stock market. This is about millions of families who really need relief and quickly. It's not about gaming out when in Q1 there could be some extra spending. It's about right now.


SCIUTTO: No question. That's what's to watch here.

Manu Raju, Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Well, President Trump has denied the request from California for disaster assistance in the wake of several record-setting, destructive and deadly wildfires. California Governor Gavin Newsom requested that aid back in September citing the financial impact caused by the wildfires during the pandemic.

He says the infrastructure damage alone, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. This year, more than 8,500 separate wildfires have killed at least 31 people, they've destroyed 9,200 structures, many of them peoples' homes. The state plans to appeal the president's decision.

HARLOW: Voters in North Carolina are setting early voting records. This as Republicans, they are pushing to count only the mail-in ballots received by the end of Election Cay and not past that. We'll explain more ahead.



HARLOW: Well, this morning, the election is very much underway, right? In some fashion, people are voting in all 50 states this morning. And while we're 18 days out from the official election, more than 17 million people have already cast their ballot. In North Carolina, lawmakers are pushing to stop absentee ballots from being accepted after Election Day.

In Texas, a state judge is striking down Governor Greg Abbott's order limiting ballot drop boxes, you've heard a lot about this, to one per county. That's caused a lot of confusion because a federal appeals court upheld Abbott's order earlier this week.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about all these developments.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now.

Let's begin with North Carolina. What is the law there about went absentee ballots can be accepted if they're postmarked before the election, and what then is the GOP's effort intending to do here?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, let's take a step back. All of this is coming after a mixed ruling earlier in the week. Meaning, of course, that Republicans won a little, voter advocacy groups won a little, but they also all lost a little bit.

Now, in terms of a win for Republicans, a judge ruled that every single ballot, in order to be counted, had to have a witness signature. In a winning -- excuse me, in a win for voter advocacy groups, a judge ruled that the ballots, if they had some mistakes, could still be fixed and counted.

A big win there. And then the other one was this 12 days after Election Day. Now we see these GOP lawmakers, they are filing appeals on both of these. And that's the question, Jim, is what is the law? They had just ruled that you can count them up to 12 days afterwards. Now, of course, that could be not in effect.

It's causing a lot of confusion for a lot of these voters. And really what it means is that there are thousands of ballots right now that are currently in limbo, particularly when it comes to fixing those mistakes, because North Carolina state officials had told ballot counters to put aside ballots with errors until this was solved. And, clearly, this is still not solved.

SCIUTTO: OK, so Texas, it seemed like this issue was done, right, this idea of having only one ballot drop box per county, even a county like Harris County with five million some odd people. But now a Texas judge has struck that down.

Where does this go from here?

HOLMES: Jim, that is the big question. And, unfortunately, not only do we not know, but the voters in Texas don't know either. There's a lot of confusion around this issue as to what exactly is going to happen next.

Now, we do know that an appeal has been filed by the state. They are trying to issue a stay again so that none of these ballot boxes are put back in place. But there's a real lack of understanding of what happens in this kind of situation given that we have an appeals court that had said that it would uphold Governor Abbott's ruling.


And now we have another judge striking it down. So this is a bit of an unprecedented situation and really, again, it effects the voters the most.

But I do want to say two things here because this is a very positive thing. One, despite all of this confusion in Texas, we still saw record numbers showing up to vote in person earlier this week and it's happening all across the country. In Louisiana today we have already started to see those long lines. It is the first day of early, in- person voting there.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it looks like folks are saying, hey, whatever the roadblocks, I'm going to get my vote counted.

HOLMES: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Kristen Holmes, good to have you on this every day. And, folks, we're going to continue to bring this to you every day because it's important.

If you want to find your polling station, your voter registration status, get information on absentee or early voting, the facts, not all the claims floating around out there, please go to A lot of stuff there can help you out.

Today, the U.S. could reach 8 million confirmed coronavirus infections as more than half the country right now is dealing with this growing surge. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)