On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Colin Powell, Former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffMayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D-Atlanta)Dr. Richard Besser, Former CDC Acting DirectorDr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA CommissionerDr. Michael Drake, President-Elect, University of California System
Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, in the midst of dealing with the cruelty of the coronavirus, America mourns the loss of a legend. What’s the path forward for the Civil Rights Movement following the death of Georgia Congressman John Lewis. He preached a message of unity and hope during his thirty-three years in Congress. But John Lewis’ fight for justice and equal rights for all lasted eighty years and ended Friday, following a six-month battle with stage four pancreatic cancer.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: When people tell me nothing has changed, I feel like saying, come and walk in my shoes. I will show you change.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll look at the change Lewis fought for and examine his enduring legacy with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Plus, our CBS colleagues who covered Lewis’ career.
Then, as coronavirus continues its deadly summer spread, the mixed messages and dissension over the simplest of prescriptions escalate. A private White House document urges mandating masks in nineteen red zone states. The head of the CDC said publicly that such a move could help drive this epidemic to the ground in four to six weeks. President Trump feels differently.
CHRIS WALLACE (Fox News): Will you consider a national mandate that people need to wear masks?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Fox News): No, I want people to have a certain freedom. And I don’t believe in that. No. And I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask, everything disappears.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Frustration over long lines, testing delays, and shortages of equipment grows. There are reports that the administration plans to cut testing and tracing aid for federal agencies from a new corona aid bill drafted by Republicans on Capitol Hill. We’ll talk with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former acting head of the CDC Doctor Richard Besser, and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Then we’ll continue our look at the challenges of getting the nation’s students back to school with the new head of the University of California system Doctor Michael Drake.
It’s all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. On a daily basis, states in the Sun Belt and parts of the west as well as the U.S. overall are breaking records with the numbers of new cases of COVID-19. Twice last week, the U.S. recorded more than seventy thousand new cases a day, getting closer to Doctor Anthony Fauci’s prediction that we might be headed to one hundred thousand a day. We will bring you the latest on the virus. But, first, Bob Schieffer looks back at Congressman John Lewis’ life and legacy.
BOB SCHIEFFER: John Lewis was a sharecropper’s son born in 1940 in a part of Georgia that was so rigidly segregated that he had seen only two white people when he reached his sixth birthday. He wanted to be a preacher and he practiced his sermons by preaching to the family chickens.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: Some of these chickens would bow their heads, some of these chickens would shake their heads. They never quite said “Amen.” But I’m convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to during the ’40s and the ’50s tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in the Congress.
BOB SCHIEFFER: It was not what John Lewis said but what he did that changed America. An activist from his teen years when he heard Martin Luther King on the radio, he was arrested more than forty times, beaten and severely injured as he took part in sit-ins at segregated southern restaurants and later as one of the Freedom Riders who risked their lives by simply sitting in seats reserved for whites on interstate buses.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Free at last. Free at last.
BOB SCHIEFFER: By the time King made his famous speech in Washington, Lewis had become chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: We do not want our freedom gradually.
BOB SCHIEFFER: At twenty-four he was the youngest speaker that day and delivered a powerful speech even though organizers deleted his most controversial line, a line which they feared would offend President Kennedy. The line was whose side is the government on? Lewis continued to play a leading role in the movement. But it was what happened in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, that would leave John Lewis’ name writ large in American history. It was supposed to be a peaceful march of six hundred people. But it came to be called Bloody Sunday. On the fiftieth anniversary of that awful day, I went to Selma and walked with him across the bridge, where it all happened.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: We were marching in twos in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion on our way to Montgomery to dramatize to the nation that people wanted to register to vote. I– I really thought we will be arrested and jailed that day.
BOB SCHIEFFER: When did you realized, when you got to the high point here, that’s when you saw all of the law enforcement people down there?
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: We– we saw down below the state troopers, and behind the state troopers were the sheriff posse on horseback.
JOHN CLOUD: You have to disperse.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: And we got to the– the bottom of the bridge–
JOHN CLOUD: See that they turn around and disperse.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: –and they came toward us beating us with nightsticks, using tear gas and tramping us with horses.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You were right in the front. And–
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: I was in the very front.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So you were among the first that was hit.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: I– I was the first person to be hit. And I still have the scar on my forehead. And I was knocked down. My legs just went out from under me. I thought I was going to die on this bridge. I said to myself, this is a life’s protest for me.
BOB SCHIEFFER: In a matter of weeks President Johnson sent troops, the march was completed peacefully. And in the wake of the violence and hatred that had been laid bare in Selma, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Elected to Congress in 1986, he fought battle after battle when the odds were overwhelmingly against him. Republican colleagues called John Lewis the conscience of the Congress. Even when he was dying with cancer, when the Black Lives Matter demonstrations erupted, there again was Lewis on the front lines.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: I think what the people in DC, and around the nation, have sent out a mighty, powerful and strong message to the rest of the world. And we will get there.
BOB SCHIEFFER: He made America a better place. And I never knew a better man.
This is Bob Schieffer.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s our Bob Schieffer.
We want to go now to McLean, Virginia, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mister Secretary, good morning to you. John Lewis was–
GENERAL COLIN POWELL (Retired; Former Secretary of State): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –was a civil rights icon, one of Martin Luther King’s top lieutenants. What do you see as his legacy?
GENERAL COLIN POWELL: Well, first of all, I think he was a great man and he was tough as nails. I mean, he spent his whole adult life fighting these issues and going after racism. And so a man with that kind of bravery built into him is an incredible individual and he was. And I think we will always be remembering is what he did for our nation, what he did for our people. But he was something else also. He was also a very gentleman in many ways. He loved kids. He loved talking to people. And so we had this gentleman of two really forms: one tough as nails; one gentle. And he will always be remembered as an individual who did all he could for America. And all he could for African-Americans, and not only African-Americans now, but anybody else who is considered somewhat different in our country. It’s all one country. All one people. And he helped pull that all together. But we still got a long way to go. And I’m sure that’s what he would say if he was here today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that was his message when he went as– as we showed our viewers just this June, battling stage four pancreatic cancer. And he risked his own health in the middle of this pandemic, standing in Black Lives Matter Plaza, that area right in front of the White House. I wonder, do you see the moment in the movement now as the modern incarnation of– of his work? Is there another John Lewis-type figure that needs to emerge?
GENERAL COLIN POWELL: I hope one will emerge. And there is a need for more John Lewises, not just one, but many. We got a lot of work to do. And it’s not just a matter of how do we get Black Lives Matter or all lives matter. It’s a matter of teaching young people. It’s a matter of getting young people educated. Most of my life now is spent on education of young people and helping out my fellow citizens who are on the lower economic scale. How do we get them up? We have to now move on to new things and not just slogans. And we have to make sure that we are putting everything we can into the needs of our fellow citizens, whatever they may be, whoever they may be, in order to bring them back into the world, into America and make sure they have the same opportunity that John Lewis wanted all of us to have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But I wonder what you think about the moment that we’re in now. John Lewis, when you spoke to my colleague, Gayle King before his passing, said what he sees in the streets look so different. It’s much more massive, all inclusive. There will be no turning back. He was hopeful. And, yet, the momentum that was there, the calls for police reform, those have since stalled. Are we at a point in this country where we just can’t get out of our own way? We are so divided that we can’t get to the place John Lewis saw?
GENERAL COLIN POWELL: No, I don’t think we’re there. I think we are somewhat divided now, but I think we have to keep moving on. I mean we’ve come so far in the last fifty years. Sixty years ago, when I entered the United States Army, nobody thought I could ever become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but I did. And so a lot has happened. We are a much better nation now. We’re living better than we did then but there’s more to be done. There are more youngsters that have to be educated. There are more adults that have to be educated. We have to fix the economic system so that every American can have a quality, not only education, but quality opportunity to have a good life and to make the money necessary to have that kind of good life. So we’ve got a long way to go. But he put us on the road. He put us on the road. And the last thing we want to do now is say it isn’t going to work. It isn’t going to work. We’re America. We’re Americans. And we know how to deal with these issues. We’ve dealt with them on and off for the last fifty years but we’ve still got a long way to go. And John Lewis will be replaced by others. There’ll be others who are coming up. There are many others now who want to be part of the reformation that’s going to take place in the United States of America to make it the better place we all want it to be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There’s a new consciousness about symbols, as well as systemic racism. And the current chairman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, said this week the U.S. Army is now twenty percent black. And he said young soldiers who serve on bases named after a confederate general, quote, “can be reminded that that general fought for the institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors.” Is this– do we need to rename these bases?
GENERAL COLIN POWELL: True. It’s true. I would rename the bases. We really hadn’t thought about it a few years ago. But now with Black Lives Matter and all the issues that are before us, I think it is a good idea to rename the ten bases in the United States Army that are named after confederates. You know I never really thought about it. I went to Fort Benning, Georgia, named after a Confederate, and I did all my training there but it never really stuck to me that this name should be changed. So I fully support what General Milley is doing. I hope he doesn’t get any difficulty with it with the rest of the administration. But I think this is something we should do and we should do it as quickly as we can.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the Pentagon also decided this week to list flags that can be displayed without actually explicitly banning the confederate flag. Is that kind of compromise unnecessary, truly? I mean should it be more explicit?
GENERAL COLIN POWELL: The confederate flag is now an explicit demonstration of another time, another place, another country that had nothing to do with the United States of America. It was the Confederate States of America. They were not part of us and this is not the time to keep demonstrating who they were and what they were back then. This is time to move on. Let’s get going. We have one flag and only one flag only. And that’s the flag we should all support and all display and all be proud of.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Secretary Powell, always great to have you. Thank you for helping us remember John Lewis.
GENERAL COLIN POWELL: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now– he was, indeed. We want to go now to Atlanta, the city where John Lewis lived. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joins us from her home this morning. Good morning to you.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-Atlanta/@KeishaBottoms): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You knew Congressman Lewis. You were a friend. What do you see as the nexus between him, his legacy and where social justice movement is headed next?
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: You know, growing up in Atlanta, we have the great privilege of having these giants walk amongst us. So for me, personally, John Lewis was more than this historical figure. He’s a person you see in the grocery store, that you see a church, that you see out and about and around town. And his legacy really speaks to so much about where we are with this movement and this moment in America. What he instilled in all of us was just courage and to do the right thing and treat people in a way that would– would then in turn have dignity and respect upon all of us. And so I am so grateful for his leadership and legacy. And I– and I don’t think it happenstance that his last public appearance was on the Black Lives Matter Plaza. Because I think in his own way, he was leaving with us this reminder that the fight continues. And while we have come a long way in this country, we still have so much further to go. And he’s passed on the baton to future generations, and I am just grateful for his life.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You in Atlanta have been facing some battles with the governor. As our viewers know, Georgia was the first state to reopen from the shut down due to the pandemic. But the governor said this week that it was the racial injustice protests that led to the rise of infections that’s happening in the state right now. What role did they play? Why do you think infections are spiking?
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Well, I’ve actually not seen any data or science that points to that. But what I have seen data on is that when the governor reopened our state, people from across the country came to– to our state. We’ve seen that tracked with cell phone data because we were open for business as if we were not in the midst of a pandemic. And the governor has done many things as of late and said many things as of late that, quite frankly, are simply bizarre. He filed a hundred-and-twenty-four-plus-page lawsuit against me this week of– calling for an emergency injunction to stop me from speaking about his orders. If the governor of this state had his way, I would not be allowed to speak with you today. And so this blame game is most unusual. There were other cities in our state who instituted mask mandates, and he did not push back against them. I don’t know if it’s because perhaps they were led by men or if it’s perhaps because of the demographic in the city of Atlanta. I don’t know what the answers are but what I do know is that the science is on our side.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: When you look at the report that– the unpublished report from the White House, we are red zone state and we are in danger.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Another congressman from Georgia accused you of auditioning for vice president as part of the motivation for your decision to order mask-wearing. Why do you think these masks have become such a– a point of division, given that it is CDC guidance to wear them?
MAYOR BOTTOMS: Well, first of all, I’m not auditioning for anything. I have a job that I get up and do each and every day, and that is the job as mayor of Atlanta. And my responsibility as mayor of Atlanta is to make decisions on behalf of the people of Atlanta that will protect our citizens. When I look at the unpublished report from the White House that says that Georgia is a red zone state, what that report says is that there are very clear guidelines that we should follow, very clear metrics that we should follow. Face coverings are one.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: We– Atlanta sits in two counties in this state, two of the highest counties for infection rates from COVID-19. So this is not about politics. This is about people. It’s about the over thirty-one hundred people who have died in our state, the over hundred and thirty thousand who have tested positive. I, by the way, along with my husband and one of my children, are amongst the number of people who tested positive.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But are–
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: So this has nothing to do with politics.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –are police actually able to enforce this? The governor– the governor says you don’t have the authority to do it. It’s unenforceable. The Atlanta police had no data to say that arrests or ticketing had happened. Why did you have to issue this? And can– can police actually stop someone and fine them? Has that happened?
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: They can stop someone in the same way they can stop someone for not wearing a seatbelt in our state. And, again, I– I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the governor sued me personally, along with our city council personally after I noted that President Trump came to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and did not have on a mask.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: And I pointed out he was violating city law. This is about politics. Our police officers certainly can enforce this ordinance, but at the end of the day, the party that– that speaks of local control–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: –has taken away local control in attempting to silence our voices in this state.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly ask you, speaking of local control, there’s a lot of scrutiny about what’s happening right now in Portland, where federal agents have been deployed and are arresting protesters. The local government doesn’t want them there. When you see what’s happening in Portland, do you have any idea what you would do if this happened in Atlanta?
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: You know, we– as a leader of this city, I– I’ve come to anticipate the unexpected, and there’s nothing that surprises me as it relates to anything that this White House will do. And so it is deeply concerning. It is further inflaming all of the mistrust and distrust that– that people are in our streets protesting–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: –about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: But we will respond accordingly. And– and I am– I feel very safe–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: –that the law is on our side.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Mayor Bottoms. We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There has been an outpouring of tributes honoring Congressman John Lewis since his death Friday. CBS News anchor and national correspondent Michelle Miller is joining us from Atlanta this morning. Michelle, I am so glad to have you with us. I know that you’ve known Lewis for much of your life. What are your memories of him and your reflections?
MICHELLE MILLER (CBS News Anchor and National Correspondent/@CBSMMiller): I knew Congressman Lewis through my father and his dear friends as a child. I remember the social gatherings, the dinner parties. He was a lover of life. He loved laughter, he loved his friends and family. But, most of all, he loved his wife, Lillian, who was such an amazing woman from Los Angeles, an educator, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. And so when she died in 2012, this woman, who had brought so many of these wonderful occasions into the home, they were best friends with Hank Aaron and Andrew Young, and– and their wives. When she died, so many folks were worried about him. Would he be able to continue in the same vein because she was such a support? Perhaps, a blessing in her dying on New Year’s Eve 2012 was that it was on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. So he had to pick up and move forward in order to commemorate that historic occasion. And I recall being there just off stage, as he gave this eloquent speech, and connected the dots between then and now and expressed this grand gesture to the next generation. It was a moment where he did rise to that occasion.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know that you have been out there covering the most recent protests that our country has been experiencing, and I’m wondering what you think Congressman Lewis did to– to impact and to shape that next generation of activists.
MICHELLE MILLER: You know I think it all dates back to the fact that in his desperation to seek change at the age of seventeen, Martin Luther King, Junior after receiving a letter from him reached back and said, “Well, come join me.” It was an empowering experience for him to be asked to join something that he felt he was, one, up to tasked to, but, two, that he had been invited into. And so always he was the man who was seeking to hand the baton to the next generation by placing his hand out and reaching out to them to come on board. And it was beyond the– the scope of– of finding equality and justice for African-Americans. It was– it was on gun control. It was in the immigrant community, the Native American community. It was the gay rights community. So much of Atlanta right now is celebrating the fact that he was such a part of the Jew– the black Jewish coalition here in establishing it and making sure that those ties were strong. So, you know, it stems from the fact that he was included at a young age, and passing that baton is so incredible. It was an incredible legacy for him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Love that. Michelle Miller, thank you for sharing with us.
FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS News has taken a special look at the ongoing impact of the coronavirus on the Latino community. It’s called Pandemia: Latinos in Crisis. It’s online at CBSnews.com and will air tonight at 9:00 PM Eastern on CBSN.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. This morning the number of deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 has officially reached yet another tragic benchmark, a hundred and forty thousand. Doctor Richard Besser is the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the former acting director for the CDC. He joins us from Princeton, New Jersey. Good morning.
RICHARD BESSER, M.D. (Former Acting CDC Director/@DrRichBesser): Morning, Margaret. Good to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Doctor, I’m glad you’re here. I want to first ask you, because I know you worked in Atlanta, you knew Congressman John Lewis, who, as you know, passed away on Friday. In reading up on him, it stood out to me that he had spent a good deal of time on health disparities in the minority community and worked on that issue and I wonder if that’s something you collaborated with him on?
RICHARD BESSER: Well, you know, we didn’t work directly, but I– I lived in his district and his district included the CDC and his entire career focused on civil rights, focused on trying to undo structural racism, it has a direct impact on health. He was active until the– the very end of his life. And in– in preparing to– to come here to speak with you, I found a quote that he– he– he has from– from May in a– in a congressional committee. He said, “In the wake of this deadly virus, we should admit we’ve fallen short. Health inequality is once again costing lives on a scale that no one can ignore. In order to save lives and right this wrong, we must listen, learn, and take action.” And, most importantly, he called on Congress to put ego and ideology aside and– and that’s one of the biggest challenges we’re seeing right now with this pandemic.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, to that point, according to CDC data, Hispanics, Latinos are hospitalized nationwide for COVID-19 at four times the rate of whites. The black community, we know, is disproportionately impacted. You’re a pediatrician by training. Do you expect these patterns that we have seen to be replicated among children when we look at the possibility of them returning to classrooms, at least partially in the fall?
RICHARD BESSER: Well, if we’re not intentional about– about making sure that doesn’t happen, it will happen. The death– the death rate for blacks, Latinos, Native Americans far surpasses their proportion of the population. And if you look at how we fund schools in America, most of it’s done off property taxes. So, wealthy communities are going to be able to make the– the adjustments to their schools that are necessary for them to be safe places for children, for teachers and staff. That’s very expensive. It takes looking at your airflow. It looks– making sure that you have enough classrooms so that you don’t need as many children in each class and they can socially distance. It means hiring staff who can decontaminate classrooms and dis– disinfect them every night and– and staff to– to screen staff and children every morning. And in low-income communities, schools have been under-invested in for– for– for generations. Without additional resources we will see children of color, black and brown children, disproportionately affected as schools start to reopen.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know you warned in an op-ed this week. It got a lot of attention, along with three other former CDC directors, that health data is being politicized in a way that you said is really unprecedented. You said, “The terrible effect of undermining the CDC plays out in our population.” You called it “Willful disregard for public health guidelines, leading to a sharp rise in infections and deaths.” Are people within the D– the CDC telling you that they feel their health data is being undermined and politicized?
RICHARD BESSER: Well, what– what I am hearing and what I am seeing are– are the same thing, and– and that’s that CDC is not out front in their typical traditional leadership role, driving the response to this. And we’re seeing political considerations continually over– over– overtaking those of public health. We have the world’s leading public health agency and they provide direction not just across the– the federal government, but to state and local public health. And without them leading this response, without it being driven by– by science, we’re going to have what’s happening right now, which is an out of control pandemic continue for months and months and months to come.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, respectfully, though, you know, the CDC has admitted having made some mistakes, not just– so, you know, there is a question here about their competence as an agency due to these early admitted problems with testing kits–
RICHARD BESSER: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –slow to warn the public about the idea that there’s asymptomatic transmission and aerosol transmission of this. That mask guidance was very, very late. What’s going on? Are– are they–
RICHARD BESSER: Well, yeah–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –falling short or are you saying they’re being muzzled?
RICHARD BESSER: Well, I– I think there’s a little of both going on here. You know, I– I ran emergency preparedness and response at CDC for four– for four years and led the agency during the start of the swine flu pandemic in 2009 and every response to– to a new public health emergency, you’ll try things and some of them won’t work. But when you’re in a daily conversation with the public, you develop trust. You explain what you know, what you don’t know and what studies you’re doing to try and– and learn. And so when you try something and it doesn’t work, you have the opportunity to explain what you’ve learned and what you want to do going forward. The– the mask issue is– is a great example. Early on, the CDC was not recommending masks in public. They were recommending masks for health care providers. But increasing studies and data showed that because so many people can spread this before they have any symptoms, there was value in the general public wearing masks. But without CDC meeting every day with the media, hearing what the public and– and the press were concerned about, there was no way to bring the public along on that journey. So, it looked like a flip flop and it didn’t lead to people making those changes. I found the questions that I got from the press every day led us to do a much better job at CDC.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, obviously, we’re talking to our own book here, but we would love to have the CDC director on the program. And we thank you for your time today.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He joins us from Washington. Good morning.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So we are now just under a thousand deaths a day from this virus, roughly seventy thousand infections per day. Last Sunday you said the apex would be two to three weeks. Do you stand by that now?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think the apex in the epidemic states right now, the center of the epidemic, which is California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida, could be two to three weeks away. You are seeing some slowing in the new cases. It’s not clear whether or not the new cases are actually slowing or these states are just hitting the upper limit of their testing capacity. Arizona certainly seems to be hitting the upper limit of its testing capacity. The challenge, though, is that as these states start to peak, and I think they are going to have an extended plateau. I don’t think this is a sharp up and a sharp down. But as they start to peak, we’re seeing other epicenters of epidemic spread start to emerge. So you have to be very worried right now about Georgia, about Tennessee, about Missouri, about Kentucky. We’re seeing record numbers of cases, rising hospitalizations, and really a shifting of the center of the epidemic potentially in the United States. And this just portends more trouble for the fall and the winter that we’re going to be taking a lot of infection into the fall–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: –that we’re never going to really be able to come down.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the CDC director said this week if everyone wore a mask, you could get this under control within a matter of weeks. He said four to eight weeks. Is that wishful thinking?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think it might be wishful thinking that everyone is going to wear a mask. There’s a hardened percentage of the population that just feel that the masks are some infringement on their liberty. We’ve been unable to find some kind of acceptable medium in this country between hapless spread and strict lockdowns. So if we can come to a consensus about some reasonable measures that we all agree to take, we could potentially get this under control and keep it under control. Masks are an important first step but I just don’t see enough of the population agreeing to wear masks. If thirty percent of the population won’t wear masks any– anytime, and then– then you only have maybe seventy-five percent compliance among the other portion of the population because nobody is going to do everything all the time, that might not be enough mask-wearing to really get this fully under control.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Testing delays, we’re still hearing about them. In a first-world country, should you accept testing delays of a week or more?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: No. Look, we’ve had plenty of time to get this right. We’ve had now five months since we first identified a shortcoming in the testing in the United States. What we don’t have is excess capacity that we could surge into these epidemic cities. And so when you have epidemics in Texas and California and Florida and the testing companies of big commercial labs like LabCorp and Quest try to prioritize tests in those regions, not only do they fall behind in those regions but now they’re pulling testing out of other regions and you’re seeing delays there. So once a test is delayed more than forty-eight hours, it becomes not very useful for clinical decision making. We’re seeing delays of up to six or seven days right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that has consequences, obviously, for bringing anyone back into an office, into a school. What do you think is about to happen given what we’re seeing with the trend of infection rates among children? Do we know, yet, how this virus affects young people?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, we know that children are less likely to get infected, and when they do get infected, they’re less likely to be symptomatic. That seems to be accepted based on the literature. What we aren’t sure about is what their propensity is to spread the virus once they do get infected, and particularly when they’re symptomatic. They do appear as likely to spread the virus when they develop symptomatic illness. And that might be because they shed as much or because of their behaviors, that a child’s more likely introducing it into the home because you’re going to hug your child even– even when they’re sick. Now, the literature on outcomes in kids is scant. And there was one study, one reliable study out of China that looked at twenty-one hundred kids who developed symptomatic illness and about five percent developed severe disease requiring oxygenation. And about point six percent developed very severe disease, requiring admission to an ICU, so multi-organ failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and shock. That’s the one reliable study. Now, that said, children are far less likely to develop symptomatic illness and this just looked at the percentage of children who did develop symptomatic disease. But what it suggests is that when kids do get sick, they have a propensity to get very sick, albeit in a small proportion relative to adults.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But then we’ve also seen these syn– syndromes that happen after the virus, the Kawasaki effect I’m thinking of there. Given the infection rates going up among kids, does that mean we will soon see Kawasaki to be more prevalent?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: That’s right. So, multi-system inflammatory syndrome is currently being investigated. It does appear to be a post-viral syndrome, some kind of immune-related phenomena in children similar to Kawasaki disease. The one good study that came out of the CDC estimated that it occurred about twenty-five days after the onset of symptoms for kids who were symptomatic. But it also occurred in a lot of kids who had asymptomatic illness, and the median age was about eight years old. And so given the fact that we’ve seen a spike in infections among kids, we would expect in about two or three weeks we might see a surge in these kinds of cases getting reported. That will be right about the time that we’re looking at sending kids back to school. So, that could cause a lot of districts to become wary. Remember when these symptoms first emerged, when the syndrome first emerged over the summer, we were– we were just ready to start opening camps and sleepaway camps. And when these cases started to emerge, that caused a lot of camps to make the decision to shut down. So, we do have to try to get kids back into school. We need to be mindful that we may see a wave of these post-viral syndromes happening right when we’re trying to do that. Finally, we still don’t know what the denominator is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: So, we don’t know how many kids have been infected. But this does appear to be a rare consequence.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Just quickly, you heard the former CDC director say the CDC is being undermined. Given what’s happening now and the controversy over data collection, do you believe that’s what’s happening?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think what’s happening is there’s been long-standing frustration by the administration with CDC. Some of it founded and some of it unfounded. The final straw this week I am told by people in administration, was when the CDC told officials that they wouldn’t be able to provide age breakdowns on the people who are hospitalized until the end of August or September. So there’s frustrations with the CDC’s ability to collect and propagate data. Now that said, I think they should have worked to try to reform the CDC rather than pull these functions away from CDC. But I think that’s primarily what’s going on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will continue to watch what happens there and listen to our health officials. Thank you very much Doctor Scott Gottlieb for joining us.
We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to the president-elect of the University of California school system, that’s Doctor Michael Drake. He joins us from San Francisco. Good morning to you, Doctor.
MICHAEL DRAKE, M.D. (University of California President-Elect/@UofCalifornia): Good morning, Margaret. Nice to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Glad to have you. I know you’re in a transition having been at Ohio State previously. And I read that while you were there as an administrator, you also taught a course on civil rights. And given the passing of John Lewis, I’m curious what you as a professor taught your students about his legacy.
MICHAEL DRAKE: Well, thank you. Yes, I taught the course that began when I was the chancellor at the University of California Irvine, and then moved that course with me to the Ohio State University. And– and, of course, that– that I taught with my co-teacher was the dean of the law school in both cases. And the course was on civil rights, the Supreme Court, and the music of the civil rights era. And we went through from 1954 to 1968, the milestones in the civil rights movement. And one of the places that we focused was the Freedom Riders in the early 1960s. Very interesting to our students because those people were very young, like our students were, and John Lewis was a leader of that movement so we focused, specifically, on him. I had the opportunity to meet him. He was a courageous and inspiring figure. General Powell was on earlier today and he mentioned his– Congressman Lewis’ humanity, his generosity, his kindness of spirit, and how wonderful it was to have a person who was so kind and thoughtful as an individual and, at the same time, so courageous and committed to making this country a better place. So this is a great loss. He– he did a great deal to help make this country better.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I’ll ask you put your administrator hat back on.
MICHAEL DRAKE: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now that you’re at UC they have taken some high-profile steps to attempt to increase diversity within the school system. One of the more controversial ones was this decision to do away with the requirement of SATs or ACT tests in the future, despite some arguments within the university that– that doing so would result in lower grade averages or lower graduation rates. And I wonder how you think about addressing these concerns that– that eliminating the standard somehow lowers them?
MICHAEL DRAKE: Well, we are in no way attempting to lower standards at all. We have a variety of things that we consider in admissions. I was admissions– in charge of admissions for the UCSF Medical School for many years and in the past. And we used a variety of things to determine the qualifications for students who are going to be admitted to our universities. We’re very proud that we have so many students interested in attending and we have to judge between them. And what we found is that standardized tests provide marginal information. They– they can help, but they don’t tell the whole picture. And particularly in this time of COVID, when the– the opportunity to study and prepare for a test is quite uneven between those students who might be applying for us, we wanted to remove any potential barriers for students who might not have access to all the support that they need during this time to prepare for taking the test and, therefore, artificially score lower than they might. So the– the plan is to retreat from those standardized tests now and to think about other ways that we might gather that information as we look forward in the future. It’s an ongoing discussion for us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As we mentioned, you’re also a medical doctor.
MICHAEL DRAKE: Yeah.
MICHAEL DRAKE: And when you look at California and the case count seeming to increase there, would it be helpful to you as an administrator to have a national benchmark setting an infection rate that would help determine whether it’s safe for students to go back into the classroom or not? Or is it more important to you to have the ability to decide that at the state level or on your own?
MICHAEL DRAKE: Well, there are several things. It’s important at the local level, but we are– although we’re a state university, we’re an international university. So we have students and– and– and faculty coming from all over the world, particularly, students coming from all over the country and all over the world. So the– what happens in the world, happens at the University of California and– and vice versa. You know we have nearly three hundred thousand students. Most important thing for all of us, I think, in this phase is to wear masks. I think there’s nothing more– that’s the most important thing we could do today to try to get back to something that looks like normal as quickly as possible. Our scientists and scientists around the world are working on developing better treatments, working on developing a vaccine. But those things are months or many months away, at least. Today, to help stem the spread of this virus the most important thing for us to do is to wear masks–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MICHAEL DRAKE: –to protect others and protect ourselves. And we see that when mask wearing is done by a large fraction of the population, the infection rate is held down. And–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need–
MICHAEL DRAKE: –and when that’s not done, the infection rate goes up. And I– I think that you get to choose. And I think we need to choose to make ourselves safe and to do all the things. Wear masks, socially physically distant, use handwashing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MICHAEL DRAKE: But those are the most important things for us to do in– in the short run, most important things to do today to help us have the future get back to normal as soon as it can.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Doctor, for your insight and your advice today.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Since we began this broadcast with a report from Bob Schieffer, we thought it would be fitting to end with some thoughts from the other resident, former FACE THE NATION moderator, John Dickerson.
JOHN DICKERSON: On Bloody Sunday John Lewis wore a backpack. It contained fruit, a toothbrush, and two books. He expected to spend the night reading in jail. And, instead, he spent it in the hospital, his skull fractured from a police beating. He would carry the scars of that beating for the rest of his life, and carry out the rest of his life between those two books that he carried. One book was The American Political Tradition, a reappraisal of the country’s history. The other was The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton’s journey into a life in Christ as a Catholic monk. It was Christ’s instruction to love thy neighbor that drew Lewis to Martin Luther King’s non-violent message, which they would use to challenge the American tradition. How does a young man find the courage to sit before open hatred at lunch counters and stand before police lines protected only by an idea? Hope. That monk, Thomas Merton wrote “By hope, the abstract and impersonal become intimate conviction. What I believe in faith, I possess and make my own by hope.” That was John Lewis’ hope. Not happy talk hope, but a durable, tempered, saving conviction that a belief in love, common humanity, and the pursuit of equality will win in the end. In the face of a billy club, hope is a walking stick. I asked Lewis about loving thy neighbor a few years ago sitting at a replica of one of the lunch counters where he started his protesting career.
Where is that message now?
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: The message is still embedded in many of us. I think we have to teach all of our children, and those of us not so young, that the way of love is a better way. Just respect the dignity and the worth of every human being. We need to continue to get it out there. And if we get it right, I really believe, if we get it right in America, maybe it can serve as a model for the rest of the world.
JOHN DICKERSON: It’s hard to hold on to hope in the face of cynicism, bad-faith, and deceit, but doing so is what makes hope so durable. It has value because people like John Lewis purchased it through suffering and sacrifice. He believed America was worth the hope and the pain. Lewis’ hope also filled him with irrepressible happiness despite all that he’d been through. He was still living by a hope in equality at the end of his life. A life that is a monument to hope–belief in it and the power of it. John Lewis stood up by sitting down. They tried to deny his march, but he reached his destination. Now that his journey is over, his history is testimony to the power of hope that speaks to all of us. The political book in that backpack starts with a quote from the writer John Dos Passos: “In times of change and danger when there is a quicksand of fear under men’s reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present.” John Lewis was that lifeline. He still is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s going to be it for us today. Thank you all for watching. And we want to apologize for a report earlier that said John Lewis was born in Georgia. He was actually born in Alabama. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.