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Birx Contradicts Trump on Virus Testing; Battle for Electoral Votes; FEC Urges Patience; U.S. Economy on the Ballot. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 06:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, more than 84,000 -- excuse me -- 84,000 --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right, 84,000 new coronavirus cases reported. The fourth highest day since the pandemic began.

CAMEROTA: That's not 84,001. That's just my allergy pill. Everybody remain calm. Thirteen states reported record hospitalizations in just the last month. The number of Americans hospitalized has soared more than 50 percent.

Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

But I am nervous every morning when I wake up and I feel my allergies and I wonder, what is this, you know? And then I take an allergy pill and I feel better but I sound worse.

Dr. Hotez, one of the things that I was struck by in seeing these numbers is that Dr. Birx said, this is not about more testing, as President Trump often claims. Testing, in fact, has been flat or declined. I didn't know that. So just as we're seeing this surge and this spike, testing is actually not keeping up with it.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, Alisyn, you know, as we've been discussing, it's not just about the number of cases, although that's really concerning because we're about to hit 100,000 new cases per day. If you remember, that was Dr. Fauci's apocalyptic prediction back in the summer and now we're hitting that.

But it's also the hospitalizations. We're already seeing surges in hospitals and places like El Paso and Utah and up in the Dakotas, hospital staff getting overwhelmed. We're basically revisiting all the -- some of the terrible stuff we saw back in March and April in New York. That's also starting to happen. And, of course, the positivity rates going up. So, again, it's not just the number, there's real stuff going on that you can't hide, which are hospitalizations and ICU admissions. And we know what happens after that. We know the deaths will surely follow. And it's just so heartbreaking. We'll hit 1,000 deaths per day in a matter of weeks and they're horrible, horrible projections from the Institute of Health Metrics are that by February 1st we're -- we'll be looking at 2,000 American deaths per day with the numbers reaching 400,000. So we're looking at a doubling of the number of Americans who perish in this COVID-19 epidemic, all of which was predicted, all of which was preventable had we had some national leadership.

BERMAN: I think what's interesting about this Deborah Birx memo that has been reported out of "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" is she's laying down a clear marker. And, remember, Dr. Birx, the coordinator of the White House task force, is someone who the president liked to stand beside and have be the public face for a while, until he apparently turned on her, and now she is saying something that is completely in opposition to what the White House is saying. She's saying, Professor Hotez, we are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of the pandemic leading to increasing mortality. This is not about lockdowns, she says. It hasn't been about lockdowns since March or April. It's about an aggressive, balanced approach that is not being implemented.

This isn't about lockdown, she says. It's about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented. She's saying the White House isn't doing what it needs to do.

HOTEZ: Yes, that -- what she wrote is absolutely correct. I wish there was a memo like that back in -- back in June, or May or June, which could have prevented that big second surge that we saw over the summer across the southern states.

Remember, Europe never had that. We did. That could have been prevented as well.

But I'm glad she's done that. You know, we've got this terrible situation now with the White House Coronavirus Task Force that we've got Stephen Atlas effectively leading it and the approach is to launch disinformation to deny the severity of the epidemic, to attribute deaths from COVID-19 to other causes, fake concepts of herd immunity, still discrediting masks and now you're seeing the governors in states like South Dakota and others also not enforcing masks. This is terrible. We are creating our own massive third surge in this epidemic, which doesn't have to be the case.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, Dr. Deborah Birx has clearly been marginalized. She has been for a long time. She's taken it upon herself to pack up her bag and go around to different states and try to sound the alarm.


Dr. Scott Atlas has clearly come to the fore. You know, I hear you about -- it would be great if we had had this memo earlier. But the president does the messaging. The president does the messaging. He is the person that so many Americans listen to. And so on this Election Day, Dr. Hotez, when millions of Americans

have to leave their home and go inside a building and stand maybe for hours with other people, if they can somehow stay six feet apart, do you think they'll be safe?

HOTEZ: Well, I sure hope so. I voted two weeks ago and my polling station in Houston did an excellent job. I mean they really followed CDC guidelines very rigorously. Everybody had masks. There was lots of Plexiglas. There was a really attention to social distancing, a real awareness. I don't know if the rest of the country will be that way, but that's -- that's the hope. I think the key is trying to -- if you are voting, trying to maximize the amount of time you are outside, bring your own pen, or even if you have a stylist, because you have to sometimes, depending on the voting machine that's used, if there's any pre-registration that can be done online, do all of those things and try to minimize the amount of time you're inside and closely connected to somebody else. And so try to maintain that social distancing.

So I think the polling stations, the voting booths have really done a very good job trying to follow CDC guidelines. And I'm hoping for the best.

CAMEROTA: That's really good advice, bring your own pen and hand sanitizer.

Dr. Hotez, thank you very much for all the information.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, it's all about 270 electoral votes tonight. So who wins the White House, though, could hinge on just a few counties. John Avlon here to explain, next.



BERMAN: In about 19 minutes, polls open in 20 more states on this final day of voting in America. Obviously, this is about your vote. It's also about the path to 270 electoral votes.

John Avlon joins us now with a look at where things stand on that front.


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, guys, it is game day and here is where we begin.

The yellow states are the battlegrounds. and notice that these are all states that Donald Trump won last time around with the exceptions of Nevada, Colorado and New Hampshire.

But here is where we actually begin because while we have a historic early turnout and not enough could be said about that, it is still a blank slate until all those votes are counted. Now, we talk about 2016 as a baseline. We talked about red states and blue states. But sometimes it's useful to take a look at how people actually voted by county. It's a more complex map. And I want to take you up to some of the critical battleground states we're going to look and these pivot counties that could be so crucial.

There are more than 200 counties across the country that Donald Trump flipped to Republican after they went twice for Obama and Biden.

Let's start in Florida. It is always the big kahuna in terms of swing states. It is always decided by roughly 100,000 votes, as it was last time around. This time, when you look at pivot counties, here's what you want to look for. There are three big ones, St. Lucie, Pinellas, Jefferson and Monroe.

Now, why do I say pivot? Take a look at them. Look in 2012. They change their shade. That's the mark of a pivot county.

And, interestingly, as we look it -- as we look at 2018, two of these counties drifted to Democrats, notably St. Petersburg, where Pinellas is, and St. Lucie. But Monroe and Jefferson stayed in the Republican column. It speaks to how complex the politics in Florida are. But these are things to watch.

Also one other degree people should pay more attention to, 26 percent of registered voters in Florida are independents or non-affiliated. So as you think about things in red v. blue, understand that how they break could be critical.

All right, let's take a look up the state. We're going to take a look at the critical state of North Carolina. This one seems really to be in play. Again, tightly decided last time around. Just take a look at these areas that flipped. They tend to be up here on the border, down here in the south. Those are the ones that could make the difference in addition to the big population centers.

Finally, Pennsylvania. This is the one that could take some -- a long time. But pay attention to these pivot counties. Erie, down here, which includes Chester and North Hampton, because these flipped last time around. Interestingly enough, Hillary Clinton was able to pick up Chester, PA, which had historically been Republican, down in the most populous region, down in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

So we all begin here. It is going to be an extraordinary night as we count this vote and an historic election with unprecedented early turnout.

BERMAN: All right, John Avlon, thanks very much. And particularly in Florida, even if those counties don't tell us who wins Florida early, they may give us a guide into the whole night.

AVLON: That's right.

BERMAN: So you've got to watch them very closely.

As we sit here this morning, cities across the country are preparing for all kinds of eventualities, including the potential for unrest. Up next, we'll speak with the head of the Federal Election Commission, who is urging patience.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the Supreme Court gave you an extension, they made a very dangerous situation. And I mean dangerous, physically dangerous. And they made it a very, very bad -- they did a very bad thing for this state.


CAMEROTA: That's President Trump railing against the U.S. Supreme Court over its decision to allow an extended count of Pennsylvania mail-in ballots, and he's stoking fears of violence.

Joining us now is Ellen Weintraub. She's the head of the Federal Election Commission.

Commissioner Weintraub, thank you very much for being here.

Do you understand why President Trump would inject the specter of violence, or physical danger, I guess, into vote counting?

ELLEN WEINTRAUB, COMMISSIONER, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: I never try and get into the head of the president. But I think what's important for the American people to know is that everyone should get out and vote if they haven't already voted and all of those votes should count. There are some states where they don't even start processing the mail-in ballots until today. So, of course, they're not going to know by end of the day today what was in all of those ballots. And this is how we run our elections. It doesn't matter -- in some countries they have elections where they don't count the votes. We count the votes. That's what a democracy is all about.

CAMEROTA: President Trump seems very afraid or nervous about counting beyond today. He has even gone so far as to suggest that he's not sure but maybe it's not legal. And you felt the need to put out a tweet basically saying, this is not a reality show.

What do you mean by that?


WEINTRAUB: Well, we don't -- we're not waiting for the big reveal that has to happen at the set time at the end of the hour. The important thing is that we count all the votes. We never have official results at the end of Election Day. That happens weeks later. And that is the way it works every single election. So there's nothing unusual about not knowing on election night. We would like to know on election night. Sometimes we can tell on election night. But there have been many elections in our history where we haven't known on election night who the winner was.

And, as I said, the most important thing is that we count all the votes so that the will of the American people prevails.

CAMEROTA: What's your message to voters as they head to the polls today?

WEINTRAUB: Be safe. Wear your mask. But by all means, if you haven't voted yet, please do vote, because we've seen enormous enthusiasm so far, 97 million early votes. I mean that's an astronomical number of people who have already turned out and voted. And we want to have a really strong and vibrant democracy where every citizen's voice and vote matters. So, please, if you haven't voted yet, stay safe, but please vote.

CAMEROTA: I also read that you are telling people to beware of disinformation. How? How can voters know when they're stumbling upon disinformation?

WEINTRAUB: Well, you have to consider the source. There's a lot of stuff floating around on the Internet. Some of it is very inflammatory. The most inflammatory stuff is the stuff that we ought to be most concerned about. Make sure you check where the information is coming from. Just because some guy on the Internet said something doesn't make it true. Make sure it's coming from a reputable source before you believe it and certainly before you share it because you don't want to contribute to the problem.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, just to put a finer point on that, are you saying that there -- people might be suggesting that some polling places are closed, or that you have to do it a certain way and, I mean, how are people supposed to sift through all of that?

WEINTRAUB: Well, as I said, don't get your information about how to vote from some guy that you're reading about on the Internet. Go to trusted sources. Go to the board of elections. Go to the secretary of state's office. Go to and that will give you links to your local election officials where you can get reliable information about where to vote, how to vote, what the hours are. Make sure you check your polling station. A lot of polling stations have moved this year. I know I've been voting in the same place for 30 years, but this year my polling station moved. So just be careful. You don't want to stand on a long line in the wrong place, and make sure that you have your information from the horse's mouth, from the election officials.

CAMEROTA: FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, thank you very much.

So, are you better off than you were four years ago? Christine Romans tells us how the U.S. economy would be different under Joe Biden. That's next.



BERMAN: Americans clearly voting for president today and over the last several weeks, but they're also voting on the economy.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now to explain.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? That's the question we always ask, right? The president says he built the best economy in history through deregulation and huge tax cuts for business.

Best in history? No. But there were some notable records. In 2019, median household income reached $68,700. That's the highest since records began in 1967. African-American unemployment fell to a record low 5.8 percent in February. These are ten-year-long trends.

But the Trump re-election argument only he can get us back to where we were before the pandemic hit. But even before COVID, job growth in Trump's first 36 months trailed the job creation in Obama's last three years. And, today, this president is in a jobs hole, 3.9 million lost jobs in his presidency. The next jobs report is Friday.

That net job loss underscores the main street pain from the pandemic. But the president prefers his stock market as a personal score card. The S&P 500 that rose 44 percent from Trump's inauguration day to Friday. How does he stack up to predecessors? Stocks were up 75 percent at this point in Barack Obama's presidency amid the recovery from the Great Recession. A weaker performance under George W. Bush, September 11th attacks, of course, the dot com boom and bust. A 62 percent gain under President Bill Clinton and 46 percent under George H.W. Bush.

So how would a Joe Biden economy look? What -- how would it look? He wants to raise taxes on people making more than $400,000 a year. He wants to reverse some of those 2017 tax cuts for business and invest instead in infrastructure and clean energy. His tax plan would reward companies that bring jobs and production back to the U.S. And, guys, central to his argument, the Biden argument for growing the economy, you've got to have a strong plan to beat the virus first, John.

BERMAN: Yes, obviously the economy always on the ballot. This year the pandemic very much at the forefront of people's minds.


BERMAN: No question about that.

Christine Romans, great to see you. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So polls now opening across half of the United States. CNN's special election coverage continues right now.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: My message to you is simple, the power to change this country is in your hands.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was elected to fight for you and I fight harder than any president has ever fought.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Biden campaign says that their easiest path to the nomination is through that blue wall that President Trump broke through back in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to show America that Michigan --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Trump country.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: After four years of failure and division, we have the power to change America.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.