On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Robert O'Brien, National Security Adviser
- Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Arkansas
- Mayor Quinton Lucas, D-Kansas City
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
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, as we begin the last week before Election Day, there is a stark contrast between the candidates on the realities of coronavirus. And breaking overnight, five aides to Vice President Mike Pence test positive for the virus, including his chief of staff. Campaign 2020 has finally entered the home stretch.
MARGARET BRENNAN: With President Trump barn-storming the battleground states. His strategy: Downplay the virus and play up to his crowds of supporters.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, we have ten days and, you know, nothing worries me. But in Florida, we're doing very well. North Carolina, doing very well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the COVID-19 situation across America is definitely not going well. Friday saw a new record of nearly eighty-four thousand new cases, and experts say that will soon get higher.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know why we have cases? Because we test so much. And in many ways it's good, and in many ways it's foolish. Okay? This country and their reporting systems are really not doing it right.
That's all I hear. Turn on television, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. By the way, on November 4th, you won't hear about it anymore.
MARGARET BRENNAN: For former Vice President Joe Biden, it's a much different scene and a much different sense of reality.
(Jon Bon Jovi performing)
MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats now do socially-distanced drive-in campaign rallies with cars honking instead of chants of support.
JOE BIDEN: He's given up. He's quit on you. He's quit on your family. He's quit on America.
It's going to be a dark winter ahead unless we change our ways all because this President cares more about the stock market than he does you, because he refuses to follow the signs.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with national security adviser Robert O'Brien about that new White House coronavirus outbreak, and the revelation from top intelligence officials that Russia and Iran have interfered in the election. We'll take a look at where the race stands with just nine days until Election Day as Americans vote early in record numbers. We'll hear from Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Democratic mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Quinton Lucas. Plus, we'll talk to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. And in our focus group, voters reflect the parallel reality of the coronavirus.
BETH: The virus is a virus. It's so small. It's-- it's going to do what viruses do.
JIM: You can't get on television, no matter who you are, and say take bleach and you were just kidding. That's nothing to kid about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. As we come on the air this morning, more than fifty-eight and a half million Americans have already voted. Meanwhile, there are alarming new records being set when it comes to cases of coronavirus here in the U.S. Experts say we are facing an increasingly bleak outlook for the virus in the next few months. We begin today with CBS national correspondent Mark Strassmann in Atlanta.
MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News National Correspondent): Day by day, lab results bear witness of COVID spread and a deepening American sorrow. On Friday and Saturday, new cases nationwide topped eighty-three thousand, and have spiked two hundred forty-eight percent since the start of September. Americans may be in for a grim winter. Thirty-one states are in the red zone for new cases, that's up from twenty-six last week. Eleven states broke single-day records this week. Wisconsin's in crisis, home to seven of the country's top ten metro areas for new cases. Wisconsin's also a battleground state, nine days before Election Day, as is Florida, where President Trump voted early on Saturday.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I voted for a guy named Trump.
MARK STRASSMANN: Presumably, Vice President Pence did, too. The next day five of his staff tested positive, including his chief of staff, Marc Short. Early voting is now under way in all fifty states, and setting records in many, including Georgia. Nearly three million Georgians have already voted, more than double the record set four years ago. There is a push to the polls here from various groups, one called Black Voters Matter will pass out a quarter million voting flyers, a QR code on each lists nearby polls and real-time wait times. In a state dogged by allegations of voter suppression, targeting communities of color.
WOMAN: If anybody's going to make a decision about you, you need to be a part of that process.
MARK STRASSMANN: And of a separate process called grieving. In Washington, DC, lies a field of white flags hanging sadly. Each honors one of America's two hundred twenty-five thousand COVID dead. That death toll is one of the many drivers in the early vote stampede.
WOMAN #2: I'm coming out to vote. My life depends on it.
MARK STRASSMANN: Even on a Sunday, this Atlanta library is open for early voting. Former Vice President Biden will campaign here on Tuesday because Georgia is considered a tossup. Our new CBS Battleground Tracker poll out this morning shows this race is tied at forty-nine apiece. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark, thank you.
We want to take a closer look now at two other states. President Trump won both in 2016, but now former Vice President Joe Biden is in the lead. In Florida, he is up two points ahead of the President. In North Carolina Mister Biden is at fifty-one percent. And Mister Trump, four points behind him at forty-seven percent. CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto joins us from Westchester County, New York, to tell us more. Good morning to you, Anthony. What is the state of the race?
ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections and Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS): Good morning, Margaret. Well, more toss-up states throughout the South. Those polling leads very narrow; these states could go either way. Let me show you why, starting with some dramatic differences in how voters are evaluating the candidates and the state of the country. First, look at concern about coronavirus. Majority of Joe Biden voters very concerned. Much less so among Trump voters. It's that coronavirus concern that's been driving votes towards Joe Biden throughout the summer and the fall. And then put that in context, Margaret, for Biden voters, it's a major factor in their vote along with personal character where they see Biden with an edge over President Trump. Less so for Trump voters. For them it's much more about the economy and immigration and maybe underscoring why opinions just haven't moved on all of this throughout. Big differences in how people view the threats to the country. Trump voters fearing that the country is becoming too socialist; Biden voters that it's becoming too authoritarian underscoring all the fact that this race seems very locked in at the moment. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what are the key groups of voters you're watching?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: The first group you want to watch throughout election night is women with college degree. So I'm going to show you big margins in all these states, as in many battleground states, for Joe Biden in Florida, in Georgia, in North Carolina. Women with college degrees have been trending towards the Democrats since the mid-terms of 2018, and they are still propelling him right now. Even more specifically, look at white women with college degrees, and I'll show you the movement since 2016 towards the Democrats, in this case, towards Joe Biden, up from what Hillary Clinton got in Florida, up from what Hillary Clinton got in Georgia, and up from what she got in North Carolina. That's a big part of this. And then I would add seniors. This is an important vote. But President with leads in a couple of these states, Biden leading with seniors in North Carolina. Marginally, seniors vote. So, that's an important part of this. They've been concerned about the President's handling of coronavirus. Biden cutting into the President's margins in what's been a reliably Republican bloc is also helping him a lot. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony, this is just such an unusual year. We have fifty-seven million Americans who have already voted at this point. Is there a risk here of misreading these early indications?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, it's a tale of two groups. First, you look at the early vote. And we estimate about half the vote in all of these states is already in. Among those voters, Joe Biden has a lead. These are voters who have told us that they voted for Joe Biden. And, also, if you look at the public voting roles, it seems like Democrats are turning out more than Republicans. But if you look at voters who are still to vote, plan to vote between now and Election Day or on Election Day, that electorate tilts very heavily towards the President. When we get to November 3rd, it's going to be a case of perhaps the Democrats have a lead and then do the President's supporters turn out in large enough numbers to make up the difference. They have done that before. And I would caution anybody: if you read the early vote, or for that matter small polling leads, and think that this race is over, you will be mistaken. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Noted, Anthony. But when you look at these three states, are these required for President Trump to have a path to victory? Does he need to swing this?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: If you look at the map and then you put these states, hypothetically, back into the President's column. So I'll put Florida, I'll put Georgia, and I'll put North Carolina, all back to where they were in 2016, which could happen, then he's got to go up and win Ohio again, and I'll put Iowa, again, back in his column. That on the electoral vote count gets him much closer to Joe Biden, and then we are back to the Upper Midwest, and we're going to watch Pennsylvania, maybe Wisconsin, or a couple of those other states, to see if he can flip them from leaning Democratic as well. So, if that feels a little bit like 2016, or that old Yogi Berra line, "It's déjà vu all over again;" maybe it is. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ain't over until it's over. Anthony, thank you very much.
We go now to the White House and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Good morning to you, Ambassador.
ROBERT O'BRIEN (National Security Adviser/@robertcobrien): Good morning, Margaret. Great to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Once again, the virus has put some of the very top levels of our government at risk. This time, the vice president, we've learned, has had close contact with COVID positive staffers. Yet, the White House says he's still going to travel. He's being classified as an essential worker. How is campaigning essential work?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, free elections are the foundation of our democracy. So I think campaigning and voting are-- are about the most essential thing we can be doing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Couldn't he do it virtually to be safer?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, I think-- I think he's taking all the precautions. And my understanding is he's tested negative as-- as-- has the second lady. I did speak with Marc Short today who tested positive, the vice president's chief of staff. And I know he's been a frequent guest on your show. He's doing well. The symptoms are mild so far. And I wished him, and I know you and everyone else does, a speedy recovery from this virus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We certainly do. But these climbing numbers around the country and the news that, once again, the White House is a hotspot is deeply concerning. The-- the chief of staff, Marc Short-- excuse me, Mark Meadows was on another network, on CNN, this morning and said we are not going to get control of the pandemic. You are on the COVID task force. Is that the Trump administration policy now that it's just out of control?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, what we're seeing is we're seeing the pandemic and I want to make clear to all your viewers and to you again, Margaret, this came to us from China. And-- and China did not behave properly from the outset of this, and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But it's been here for about eight months.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --and it's all over the world as well. Margaret, as you know, it's spiking in Europe. It's-- it's running rampant through Europe. I was just in Brazil, in South America to sign three-- three new trade deals with-- with Brazil to help Brazil and America get out of the-- the COVID recession. It's running rampant through Brazil. This-- this is a terrible virus. At the end of the day, what-- what we need to do is we need to flatten the curve. We need to protect the most vulnerable. We need to protect the elderly and those who are infirm and have preexisting conditions. We need to protect them. But, ultimately, the only thing that's going to stop this virus, there's no magic way. Masks won't do it alone. More ventilators won't do it alone. What will is a vaccine and we're on track to have a vaccine for Americans in less than a year. It's really incredible and it's going to be therapeutic. So that if you come down with the virus--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Less than a year? When is that exactly?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, I-- I think we're going to have something very, very shortly and I'm hoping by the end of the year. And-- and as you know, there are multiple companies with very promising vaccines that are in the final phases of-- of trials. But what we've done is we put together Operation Warp Speed, we bought all these vaccines ahead of time, so-- so when one proves efficacious--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --the U.S. military is going to distribute those all over the country. And, eventually, we'll do what we did with ventilators. Remember when, Margaret, when I was first on your show and people were concerned that there weren't going to be enough ventilators for Americans. Now we've got over a hundred thousand and we were able to send ventilators all over the world to save people's lives around the world.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. Yeah.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: We're going to do the same thing with the vaccines.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: And we're going to get-- and we're going to get therapeutics as well. That's how we're going to defeat this virus--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --that came from China. And, in the meantime, we've got to do everything we can to protect the-- the infirm and the elderly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So in the meantime-- in the meantime, should masks be mandatory at the White House?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, people do wear masks for the White House, and-- and-- and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they're not mandatory, as we know.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well-- well--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of the staffers to the vice president don't wear them.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, a lot of people do wear them. And at the NSC, they're mandatory. In my shop, they're mandatory. And we've had them-- they've been on the watch floor at the White House Situation Room from the very outset of this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: But even masks, Margaret, I-- I was one of the early proponents, as you know. I-- I called this thing early. I wore a mask early, and I still got COVID and survived it. You know, I want everyone to know our hearts and the President's heart just goes out to the people that have lost their loved ones and-- and the families that have an empty chair.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: We-- we love them. God bless them. We're praying for them. But the way to stop this virus, again, that came to us from China are vaccines and therapeutics. And we're going to have those very soon--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --because of the strong work of this administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. CDC says well into 2021. But I want to ask you about election security. I know you're very focused on that right now. What do Americans need to know about whether their votes are going to be accurately counted, given the foreign interference the administration highlighted this week? And do we think of Iran, China and Russia as the same in terms of posing a threat?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: So-- so it's a great question, Margaret. I think the best thing that-- that I heard this morning was on-- on-- at the outset of your show, where you talked about how many people have voted early and how many people are going to vote. The best way for Americans--I-- I don't care what party you're voting for, what candidate you're voting for. You know, I've got my preference, as you can imagine. But get out and vote. That's how we defeat our foreign adversaries that are seeking to-- to sow discord among Americans. Let's get out. If you vote early, great. If you vote on Election Day, great. If you vote absentee, great. But get out and vote. That's how we--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --stop the-- the plans of our adversaries. And I was-- I was really pleased to see what you're doing. As far as what we're doing, I just held a Principals Committee-- Committee Meeting last week here at the White House with the heads of all of our agencies, the heads of all the intel organizations, and we are doing everything we can. I want to make a distinction between election interference on Election Day and elect-- trying to influence people. So there's lots of efforts to influence people like these Iranian efforts to hurt the President by sending out these-- these e-mails from the "Proud Boys" saying that they know how you voted. Your vote is secret. Every American should understand that their vote is secret. And that was an Iranian effort to hurt the President. The Russians though--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that the U.S. intelligence community's assessment? I know the director of National Intelligence said it but I have been told that was his opinion, not the intelligence community's assessment.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: That's-- that's every assessment I've seen. And-- and-- and I think you're seeing the same thing. Microsoft had a report on election interference. So-- so our election--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --influencing. So you're seeing the Iranians do it. You're seeing the Russians trolling people on-- on Twitter--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the intelligence community's conclusion was that Russia was trying to undermine Joe Biden and thus to boost President Trump, which was not specifically said in that press conference this week.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think what all these countries are trying to do and-- and China, as well as they're trying to sow discord among Americans. They're trying to create chaos--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --and they're doing it whatever way they can. So, but that's--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --election interference. But what I-- influence. I want to talk about election interference on Election Day, and that's something that we've taken a very strong position on. We've-- we've told our foreign adversaries that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --don't try and mess with the ballots or the tampering, and it's very hard for them to do so because we have paper ballot auditing trails for ninety-five percent of the votes that are cast--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --all across the country. And secretary of states are doing a great job.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But there-- there are about seven states that don't have that backup system. When it comes to Russia, specifically on this point, we heard from Homeland Security this week that hackers have been able to access state and local governments. And the concern is that by getting into those networks, they could somehow threaten election infrastructure. California--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --and Indiana, where two states reported by The Washington Post, having had--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: So-- so they-- they--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --those breaches. Can they change votes?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, they can't change votes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Can they make it harder for you to vote when you show up--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: No.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --and you show your I.D.?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, they can't do either of those things. And-- and we got a hold of them early on because we've got great cyber folks and-- and we put a stop to it. But there's nothing they can do to-- to change your vote or to stop you from voting. I was out in Iowa just recently meeting with the Iowa National Guard, and they've got a tremendous cyber unit. That National Guard unit has stood up to-- to help the secretary of state of Iowa make sure that there's no cyber interference. And we've got that going across to all fifty states. So it's--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You told me last time you were with us that you personally said to Vladimir Putin's right-hand man, don't change our vote tallies, that's something we won't countenance. It looks like Russia is trying to test your limits. What are you going to do about it?
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well-- well-- well, look, we're monitoring things very carefully. And I can tell you there's severe consequences to anyone who attempts to interfere with our elections on Election Day. But-- but, Margaret, what I also want to tell you is we're also working on other things while we're doing that. I mean we had a historic peace agreement in Sudan this week--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --with Sudan and Israel with a historic peace agreement under the President's direction. Under the President's direction, we've spent this entire weekend-- in addition to everything we're doing on election security, we spent the entire weekend--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --trying to broker peace in between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will--
ROBERT O'BRIEN: And Armenia-- and Armenia has-- has accepted a cease-fire. Azerbaijan has not yet. We're-- we're pushing them to do so. So there-- there's--
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: --a lot going on with this country in addition to-- to the election security issue in addition to COVID.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood.
ROBERT O'BRIEN: Where also the President's trying to bring peace around the world and-- and that's good for America as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Ambassador, thank you for giving us that news there. We have to leave it there. We'll be back in a minute.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We now go to Kansas City, Missouri, and its Mayor Quinton Lucas. Good morning to you, Mister Mayor.
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS (D-Kansas City, Missouri/@QuintonLucasKC): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Missouri's Health Department said it's-- it unintentionally underreported the number of positive COVID cases in your state and has been since October 17th. Can you give us a reality check of what's happening in your city right now? Because we've seen reports that ICUs at your local hospitals are simply overwhelmed right now. What do you need to do? Are you setting up field hospitals yet?
QUINTON LUCAS: You know we are not setting up field hospitals, we always do have a standby plan in case we need them. But more to the point this is a challenging time where we have trouble trusting data, sometimes data from Washington, data from our own state. We continue to have independent reporting that shows that there is a significant outbreak in Kansas City, but, importantly, in the regions around us. So while our city has a mask mandate, there are counties all around Missouri and Kansas nearby that do not. A lot of those folks get sick. A lot of those folks have to go to hospitals, and there's hospital space in the cities.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: So we're running into real challenges at ICUs and real challenges with the virus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they are not yet overwhelmed?
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: Not yet overwhelmed, although we do have some concerns about what happens in the winter months as more people are inside, as we continue to see this surge in infections and a surge in deaths. We had more deaths in Missouri in September than we had in any month previously. That has been a huge concern for our area.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In your area, the last time you were with us in August, you said you were looking at reducing capacity at bars and restaurants to avoid the spike that we saw in other cities. I know the White House advised you to do that. You're seeing that spike now, but your bars are at fifty percent capacity, same as they were in August. Restaurants can still serve indoors as long as tables are six feet apart. Why haven't you reduced capacity?
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: You know thus far we continue to enforce a lot of our rules. Just yesterday, our health department shut down, I believe, two bars that were violating certain capacity rules. But here's the real challenge. We're catching more people who aren't taking the virus seriously. I listened to the ambassador a moment ago who started out by talking about the China virus rather than a challenge in Kansas City or the Midwest or Missouri or Kansas. Every time that we issue a new rule, we get a huge political pushback. Masks are controversial. Testing is controversial. Doctor Fauci is now controversial in the President's eyes. That undercuts our ability as local leaders in middle America to try to push back the virus's spread.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I appreciate that. But, you know, epidemiologists say the longer you wait, the more drastic those measures will have to be. You'll be-- your hand will be forced. So why not take these measures that the White House is telling you to take now?
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: You know we continue to consider that, and we might actually take these steps. But here's the thing, we don't live on an island. We are surrounded by a lot of states. We're surrounded by a lot of communities. If we have a rule, but then right across the line, somebody isn't wearing a mask. You can eat inside. You can have gigantic events. And, frankly, if the Republican Party itself is having gigantic events right across the line, then that creates real challenges for us. So we're trying to balance what I think is a very aggressive response while recognizing the realities around us. A nationwide mask mandate would be helpful for this country, particularly, where it's spiking in middle America. A state mandate would be helpful and we do not have one, either in Missouri or Kansas. That's the reason that a lot of mayors' hands are tied. We will do everything we can in Kansas City to keep people safe, including evaluating a bar shut down. But if every city around you is still loose and wide open and bars are having full capacity and there are huge parties, that's going to be a concern, particularly in the cold weather months.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know I'm looking at the upcoming election and I know Missouri doesn't have early in-person voting or dropboxes, and absentee ballots sometimes require a voter to get it-- to have their ID and to have it notarized. So there-- there are some barriers here. Are you concerned about turnout on November 3rd?
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: You know I'm always concerned about turnout, particularly voter intimidation, particularly some of the work it's done to misdirect voters. So, in Missouri, we're one of ten states that does not have a pure form of early voting. That said, a lot of people have been voting absentee. Twenty-three percent of Kansas citizens already have. That's registered voters. We're expecting up to forty percent of registered voters to vote-- vote before Election Day. But particularly in communities of color, particularly in communities where you see voter intimidation tactics work, I am concerned about things such as which is totally lawful, something in Missouri called poll challengers. And while they can't challenge the person voting, they can stand there when you're checking in and say this person shouldn't be voting today. As somebody who is turned away from the polls recently because of a snafu, I recognize that that can be a real barrier to somebody who perhaps is going out to vote for the first time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: So we continue to tell people what their rights are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: We continue to have those concerns.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Mister Mayor, thank you. Good luck to you. We will be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS News will air a special this Friday at 9:00PM called The Deciders, exploring the diverse voices of the country's electorate ahead of Election Day.
We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We want to go now to Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a state that this week had its largest spike in hospitalizations since the pandemic began. He joins us from Little Rock. Good morning to you, Governor.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON (R-Arkansas/@AsaHutchinson): Good morning. Good to be with you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. I'm-- I'm sorry to hear about this spike in hospitalizations. That means people are getting quite ill. Your infection rate is also up. I saw that your state was one of fifteen that have added more cases in the past week than any other seven-day stretch. This doesn't sound like rounding the curve.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: No, it's very concerning. And that's a statistic I watch is both deaths and hospitalizations. I do think people who get ill want to go into the hospital quicker because they-- they can start their treatment. They have a better chance of recovery. And so I think that is a little bit of a factor. Right now our hospitalization space is tight. We have adequate space, but we watch it very carefully. And the spike in cases that we've seen is a concern. I think it reflects what we're all looking at nationwide in terms of going into the winter, combination of flu, the combination of more indoor settings. And so it is concerning, and we're making preparations for it. But we have to really pull together to follow the guidelines that are necessary to keep the economy moving. But at the same time, make sure we don't increase that spread.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say preparations are being made, do you need to set up field hospitals as alternates to your current hospitalizations?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, as the mayor indicated, we have contingency plans, but we have more than adequate space right now in our hospitals. The challenge is, of course, that there's a lot of other health care needs that you don't want to reduce or put aside because you're dealing with COVID patients.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: So we have more than adequate ventilators, ICU space. Staffing is a challenge for our hospitals because it's becoming a national competitive environment to recruit staff with contractors, to move them to hotspots and other places. And so that is the most consistent challenge that our hospitals are facing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Preparation wise, we're working very closely with them, but it's-- primarily it's individual responsibility of our citizens to do what is necessary and pull together, increase usage of masks--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: --you see in Arkansas in compliance with the mask mandate that we have in place.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That-- that's interesting. You are a Republican governor; you are calling for more mask wearing. Our CBS polling through our Battleground Tracker shows that in virtually every state, when the question is asked, likely voters tell us the Trump administration's efforts have hurt more than helped states' COVID response. Is the fact that the President doesn't wear a mask and endorse it, even though he says he's okay with it, does that hurt your ability to persuade your constituents to do what you are telling them is best for them?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, it makes it confusing. I mean he's made it very clear that wearing a mask is important. I saw him wear a mask going into the polls yesterday, but obviously with the-- the rallies, there is confusing messages there. The President, leaders in crisis always needs to do two things. One is to be truthful and realistic. And everyone knows that we are going through a very difficult crisis and it's going to likely get worse as we go into the winter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Secondly, you've got to give the American people hope, and that is the vaccine that the administration is working incredibly hard for. I spoke with Secretary Azar this week talking about the partnership with the states in vaccine distribution. And so they are working hard at the White House level. But the communication as to what we need to do is an important--
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to--
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: --part of it as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about that distribution because Pfizer CEO, when he was on our program recently, he said he thinks it's going to be really difficult for the government to handle distribution. And he thought it'd be better if they collaborate with private industry. Are you confident that even when a vaccine becomes available, you'll have full access and ability to get it to your constituents?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, actually, there will be a utilization of the private sector in the vaccine distribution. It will go directly from the federal warehouse or to them-- from the manufacturer straight to the point of distribution in the state, with the state acting more like a traffic cop as to make sure it gets to the right place. But the private sector will be absolutely utilized in this. These plans are still being developed--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: --but we've submitted our plan. We'll be getting a response from that from the White House probably next week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. I want to ask you about another thing that our Battleground Tracker has shown in three different southern states, and that is when likely voters are polled, they say it's inappropriate for the President to lead the chant "lock her up," as he recently did in regard to Michigan's governor-- governor at a rally. You know there's been an FBI plot to kidnap and kill her, that-- FBI revealed that they had foiled this plot. You're the top Republican on the National Governors Association. There are now threats that have been reported against multiple governors. Do you think it is appropriate to lead these kind of chants given the level of tension and threat?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, that's not a chant I would ever participate in. You know, we need to have a more civil discourse. Even though it's a hotly contested presidential race, we need to lead by example, whether it's a President, whether it's his staff or whether it is a governor or any public official has threats made against them. And we have to take that security seriously. I'm del-- I'm very delighted that she's safe, but also that the law enforcement did such a great job on that case.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Governor, thank you very much. Good luck to you.
We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now for our weekly check in with Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You warned us last Sunday that we are entering what could be the hardest part of this pandemic as we get into these colder months. We're seeing these infections and hospital-- hospitalization rates really jump. What-- where are we on the trajectory as you see it?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: We're at a dangerous tipping point right now, we're entering what's going to be the steep slope of the curve of the epidemic curve. We know what that looks like from the spring. We know what it looks like from this summer. These cases are going to continue to build. There's really no backstop here. I don't see forceful policy intervention happening any time soon. We have a moment of opportunity right now to take some forceful steps to try to abate the spread that's underway. But if we don't do that, if we miss this window, this is going to continue to accelerate and it's going to be more difficult to get it under-- under control. Now in-- in a lot of parts of the country, it doesn't feel really, really bad right now because it's a little bad everywhere. You don't have regions where it's extremely dense in any one region like we did when it was epidemic in New York or epidemic in the South, outside of states like Wisconsin or Iowa. Most states just have a lot of spread, but most states aren't at the point where they're extremely pressed right now. That's going to change over the next two to three weeks. I think things are going to look much more difficult. And so we need to take some steps right now. There is no public support for shutdowns--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --nationally like we did in the spring. That's not going to happen. So we need to reach for other measures.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you heard the national security adviser to the President say the focus is on just protecting the vulnerable. The chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said on CNN, we're not going to get control of the pandemic. So, is the point here just buckle up?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think that's what they're saying but I don't think that's what we should be doing. There's things that we can do to slow the spread. I mean a national mask mandate can be put into place. It doesn't need to be backed up with fines or-- or stringent enforcement. We have other requirements that we expect of a civil society that we enforce with, you know, political jawboning, leadership. We give people warnings at first. So, I think masks are one thing that we could be doing. We need to look at targeted mitigation, starting to close congregate settings where we know spread is happening. Remember, even if we get a vaccine this year and I'm on the board of Pfizer, one of the companies that's pretty far along in developing a vaccine, even that-- if that becomes available this year and we get shots into the arms of the first tranche of patients, which is likely to be the elderly and health care workers, they're not going to have protective immunity until 2021 at some point in 2021--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --because it takes time for that vaccine to kick in and you need two doses. So this vaccine is not going to affect the contours of what we're going to go through, which is going to play out in the next two or three months right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the CDC has said that masks are sort of the best plan for the moment. On that point, last week you told us that if someone's going to vote in person, for example, they should have a high-quality mask. You said that meant not a cloth mask. Walk us through what the safest masks are.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, remember, the masks serve two purposes. One is to protect other people from you. So if you're asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, if you have a mask on, you're less likely to expel respiratory droplets that can infect other people. The other purpose is to provide you some measure of protection if, in fact, you're around people who are infected. So if you want a mask to afford you some protection from other people, quality matters. A cloth mask, may be ten percent to thirty percent protective, a surgical mask, a level two or level-three surgical mask, procedure mask, maybe about sixty percent effective. An N95 mask or an equivalent like a KN95 mask, which is the Chinese equivalent or what we call an FFP2 mask, which is a European equivalent to an N95 that could be 90-95 percent protective. So if you want a mask to afford you a level of protection, wear a higher-quality mask. If you only can get a cloth mask, thickness matters and cloth masks with polyester in them and a combination of polyester and cotton do better.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. At the White House, masks are not mandatory, as we discussed with the national security adviser. And we know the vice president had close contact with staffers who have tested positive. The CDC advises everyday people to isolate, to quarantine if they have that kind of contact. The vice president is not doing it. Is he putting others at risk by campaigning?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, he could be closely monitored, so the short answer is yes. But you can closely monitor the vice president. I would understand why they wouldn't want to quarantine the vice president, but they need to be very explicit about what they're-- about what they're doing, and the risks that they're taking. He should be wearing a high-quality mask an N95 mask at all times. He should be distancing wherever possible. They should be serially testing him. And there's ways to try to provide a measure of protection around the vice president or protect other people from the risk that the vice president does contract the infection, but they need to be very explicit about the risk that they are taking. I think everyone right now in the White House should be wearing a mask. They have an obligation to protect the vice president, the President, and not introduce a virus into that setting. They certainly have access to proper protective equipment, unlike a lot of other essential workers that don't have that kind of access. They have access to serial testing as well. Finally, one-- one last point, one thing they might consider for the vice president is using one of these antibody drugs as a prophylaxis. There's a belief that these drugs would work well in that setting. There's some risks associated with it. But you, obviously, do not want the vice president to contract this infection.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And he would have access to something like that, whereas you and I would not have access at this point. On the vaccine, I-- I do want to quickly get you on this because Operation Warp Speed, the administration's effort, announced this week their timeline. They say by the end of 2020, all vulnerable people will be vaccinated. By the end of January, all seniors will be vaccinated. By March or April 2021, they should be able to vaccinate any American. And the head of this Doctor Moncef Slaoui said he's confident by June everyone in the U.S. should be immunized. Is that realistic?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think it's aggressive. Look, this is first based on a presumption that these pivotal trials that are underway by Moderna and Pfizer actually read out and demonstrate that these vaccines are safe and effective. We all hope for that. We believe that's going to be the case based on the early data. But you don't know until you turn over the card on those trials. Assuming things go well there is a chance that they could roll out this vaccine in time to get the elderly population in the United States vaccinated, the first dose of the vaccine. But, remember, they need to now wait a month to get the second dose. And there's a period of time of a week or two until they have protective immunity from the vaccine. So you're looking really at 2021 until the vaccine really kicks in. In terms of the entire population I think it's unrealistic to think that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --we're going to have a vaccine widely available for general distribution and authorized by the FDA for mass distribution until--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --probably the second quarter of 2021 later on in the second quarter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. Thank you, Doctor Gottlieb.
We'll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As part of our continuing efforts to hear from voters in the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday night we Zoomed with six voters evenly divided on their voting preference. They were also divided on their thoughts about the impact of the virus on this campaign.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're looking at numbers across the country. And I know, Chelsea, you are in Indiana, I believe. So you're right in the middle of the Midwest, where there is a tremendous spike right now. What do you think the impact will be on the election from COVID?
CHELSEA (Biden Supporter): Generally, I think the lack of response is energizing people to vote. I'm pretty positive that just how chaotic this has all been and that there hasn't been, like, a very clear this is what we should be doing has really frustrated a lot of people. And because of that they want to see someone else who might actually have a plan or might try and take charge.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And what is it that you see in Joe Biden's plan that makes you think it would respond to the crisis?
CHELSEA: Well, actually, like, listening to scientists. You've heard Trump called Fauci an idiot, which I think is really dangerous. He has gone back and forth-- well, hasn't really actually even taken a position on mask wearing. Joe Biden is at least, you know, for mask wearing.
JIM (Biden Supporter): My concern with the coronavirus is quite simply there's not been any transparency about it. I'm very concerned about that. When it come-- first come up, it didn't seem-- and maybe I was missing something-- but it didn't seem as important as it should have been taken from the very beginning. When you make a mistake and say you can take bleach and cure the coronavirus and then you get on national TV and say you were just kidding, well, people are dying. Families are impacted. Loved ones are impacted. Seniors, every-- you can't get on television, no matter who you are, and say take bleach and you were just kidding. That's nothing to kid about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will all of you, show of hands, take a vaccine when one becomes available? Mildred, I-- I was re-- reading that you-- you miss hugging your grandkids. And the social isolation you're in, you still don't want to take a vaccine?
MILDRED (Biden Supporter): I do want to be around for my grandkids. And I think being, you know, a guinea pig, first out, I won't be here for my grandkids and I won't get that hug. So, therefore, I won't be the first one taking a vaccine.
WALTER (Trump Supporter): No vaccine is a hundred percent affective, you know, especially with the-- the viruses because they so-- they mutate so much. So I-- I just think that Trump has put his foot up the-- the collective butt of the-- of the FDA to get them to do their job in a timely manner and not just push paper like they-- bureaucrats typically do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would take one tomorrow if it became available?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Dave, you, too? You're saying, yes.
DAVE: Oh, absolutely. And it's not up to him to release the drug. It's the FDA.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
DAVE: Listen to Trump all you want, but until the FDA releases it, you're not going to get it anyway.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I wonder who all of you think bears the most responsibility for the spread of this virus in the United States? Do all of you believe in wearing masks? Can you raise your hand if you wear a mask? Beth, you don't wear a mask?
BETH (Trump Supporter): I do when I'm in public spaces where they-- they insist that you do, but otherwise, no.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And so when you hear the statistics that are rattled off by the CDC director or you hear Doctor Fauci saying wearing a mask could really stop the spread, why do you doubt that?
BETH: Because a virus is a virus. The particle is so teeny-tiny that it can't even be seen without a microscope. So, I mean, while-- prophylactically and, yes, you know, out in public, it may help, and certainly if I was around someone who was older and was ill, you know, I would-- I would do it. But the virus is a virus. It's so small. It's-- it's going to do what viruses do. So I think that your best offense is a really good, strong defense. Be healthy, you know, eat well, exercise well, sleep well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that the United States could have done better in its response to the virus? Show of hands. Beth, Dave, and Walter, you all think that the response was adequate. Walter, you've lost friends.
WALTER: How do you respond to an unknown when you have absolutely no idea what it is. They acted to take care of people as best they could. But you're shooting from the hip. Nobody knows. I think they do-- the job that was done was magnificent compared to the circumstances.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you look at the population in the United States and the access that is here, why don't you think that America should be leading the way?
WALTER: I think we are leading the way. I think the reason-- I think the biggest--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Even though we have about twenty percent of the world's fatalities and four percent of the population.
WALTER: And-- and all of the traffic that had come into the country with the-- with the disease, whether they knew it or they didn't know it. And then in-- in many of the instances, the way the states handled there or didn't, like, New York completely screwed up the-- their response, inflated the death rate.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So take President Trump out of it, are you telling me that fault really lies with local governments?
WALTER: On the state level it-- it's gotten to a point, and it-- it was obvious from the outcomes in-- in New York and New Jersey, that what they did was completely wrong.
JIM: Somewhere along the line, the responsibility for taking on ownership of the virus and what needs to happen and should go forward it was communicated. It's the governors who run the state's responsibility to do the things. The governors didn't know what to do. I know the governor of Georgia--
WALTER: Oh, nobody did?
JIM: --(INDISTINCT). Nobody did.
WALTER: Nobody did.
JIM: But nobody-- but the buck stops in my household, what happens here, I am responsible for.
JIM: I'm responsible. So I can't do everything that needs to be done, but I'm going to try to exemplify and take responsibility, acknowledge and take responsibility and go forward with it.
CHELSEA: I think it's just kind of wrong to say that Trump couldn't do anything because that interview came out where-- I don't remember if it was in January, February-- he knew how deadly it was, he knew how it was spread, yet, he still didn't do anything. He said he didn't want to create a panic. People panicked anyway. I mean you couldn't go to the grocery store, buy any toilet paper, getting your groceries.
WALTER: He didn't say anything. It's not that he didn't do anything. He didn't say anything.
CHELSEA: Well, I think, in this case, like, he absolutely needed to say something, because people were going around blindly not knowing what to do. If there was, you know, some kind of response from him, maybe governors, local governments might have had an idea.
WALTER: He did act. He shut down-- he shut down flights into the country. For which he was vilified for. Now the same people who vilified him for shutting down the flights are saying he didn't do enough. You can't have it both ways.
CHELSEA: The CDC even said that, you know, even if he didn't shut it down, it wouldn't have mattered because the-- the virus was already here. And, yeah, he did say something. But he waited months to say something.
CHELSEA: I mean, it's just-- it's unforgivable.
WALTER: January 31st.
CHELSEA: But there was no response nationally to what they should do until March.
WALTER: You don't know what-- but you don't know what you're dealing with. It's just like a fireman going to a fire. They assess the situation and they move in. This is a lot different. You can see the fire. This you can't see. I don't think anybody could have anything better.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to give Mildred the final word here.
MILDRED: I don't think they knew what to do. This, when they started to think about it, you've got politicians and money that became involved. And so the waters got mudder-- muddy, very muddy. And I just think a lot more could have been done to save lives at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. Next Sunday, we will join you from our CBS News election headquarters in New York. Until then for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.