This week on "Face the Nation", the pandemic continues to rage as the race for president shifts into high gear and President Trump ramps up his campaign to discredit mail-in voting.
Here's the big takeaways from Sunday's episode of "Face the Nation"
1. Kushner defends administration's work in Middle East, coronavirus response
- Senior adviser to the President Jared Kushner joined "Face the Nation" after a diplomatic breakthrough that he helped broker in the Middle East this week. He helped get the United Arab Emirates and Israel to formally establish diplomatic relations, which is part of what he calls a "strategic realignment" in the region.
- The Administration hopes to get other Gulf states to follow. Kushner made clear he still wants to negotiate a broader agreement to the persistent conflict between the Palestinians who live on and continue to claim the land on which the state of Israel was constructed. Kushner said the Trump administration is open to negotiate with anyone including Hamas which he criticized as having had the "same business plan for the last ten years."
- What Kushner said: "This flares up every now and then. But what we've done is we've outreached to Palestinians. We've put a big plan on the table. The people of Gaza, you know, are held captive now by their leaders in Hamas, who are basically a terror organization. But we have a plan on the table if they're willing to commit to peace and they're willing to have a real security environment that's verifiable and actually long lasting, not some of the BS things that have been done in the past then we have an economic plan that can go in."
- Kushner has a broad portfolio including a role with the Coronavirus task force. He defended the Administration's work to suppress COVID-19, and said he's confident enough to send his own children back to in person classroom instruction at least a few days a week.
- "So based on the data I've seen, I don't believe that that's a risk. Again, this virus impacts different people in different ways. We know a lot more now than we did. And assuming- our school is not opening up five days a week, I wish they were, but we absolutely will be sending our kids back to school and I have no fear in doing so," Kushner said.
- Why it matters: Kushner went on to say that he wasn't concerned because "children have a six times higher chance to die from the flu than from the coronavirus. So based on the data I've seen, I don't believe that that's a risk." Dr. Scott Gottlieb later disputed that same claim, saying we should be "careful" not to compare the virus to the flu.
2. Reeves spars over mail-in-ballots, says "legally" cast ballots will count
- According to Johns Hopkins University, the state of Mississippi has the highest positivity rate in the country. Their Governor Tate Reeves claims that the state is past the worst of it and that the recent flareups in schools that have led to quarantines of affected students and teachers are under control.
- This Friday, the State health director Dr. Thomas Dobbs publicly raised concerns that despite hospitalization rates starting to stabilize, there is a low number of available ICU beds. He specifically pointed out the fact that there are "11 hospitals with zero ICU beds currently available." Reeves disputed that figure.
- What Reeves said: "Well, the reality is in our state that we've actually cut the total number of cases on a daily basis in half over the last two and a half weeks. We peaked at 1,391 as I mentioned earlier. We're down around 700 right now. Do we have hospital capacity issues? We do. But the reality is, MARGARET, in our state and virtually every other rural state across America, we have ICU bed issues and- and hospital capacity issues even when there's not COVID-19. And so we're certainly working through those. We have 150 ICU beds available throughout the state of Mississippi. We have over 450 ventilators available throughout the state of Mississippi. And so while we've got challenges, we're certainly dealing with it. "
- The Governor also said that the state has decided against allowing constituents to apply for absentee ballots due to fear of contracting COVID-19. He predicted the state will help re-elect President Donald Trump to a second term.
- "We do not allow mail in voting in the state of Mississippi. We think that- that our elections process, which has been in place for many, many years, is a- ensures that we have a fair process in which we have the opportunity to limit fraud. We still have fraudulent claims every single election. We've actually got many--Democrats that have gone to jail because of election fraud and it is just reality. The reality is that- that every legal ballot cast is going to get counted," Reeves claimed.v
- Why it Matters: Gov. Reeve's state faces increasingly concerning COVID-19 surges, with positivity rates hitting 23% statewide. And while the U.S. Postal Service warned this week that mail-in voting could be delayed in Mississippi, Reeves appeared confident that "legally" casted ballots would be counted -- and less-so concerned with voters' fears over transmission at the ballot box.
3. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says "chaos" at federal level hampering COVID response
- The Mayor of Chicago said this week that her city is under attack given the violence that continues to erupt including this weekend on the sidelines of a racial injustice protest. Against the backdrop of a growing murder rate and violence, Lightfoot said there are a number of contributing facts but it is still not clear who is organizing the looting and violence. She drew a distinction between the racial justice protests and the criminal activity.
- What Mayor Lightfoot said: "The vast majority of these have been peaceful. But what we've also seen is people who have embedded themselves in these seemingly peaceful protests and come for a fight. So what happened yesterday was really over very fairly quickly because our police department is resolved to make sure that we protect peaceful protests. But we are absolutely not going to tolerate people who come to these protests looking for a fight and are intending to injure our police officers and injure innocent people who just come to be able to express their First Amendment rights."
- We asked Lightfoot if the mass gatherings including these protests would accelerate the already worrisome COVID-19 infection rate. The White House highlighted the city as a point of concern.
- "Well, interestingly, we didn't see that rise when we saw a lot of mass gatherings in late May, early June, but yes, of course we're concerned. If you look across the country, virtually every state has been blowing up with new COVID cases. And while a number of those states we're seeing a slight decline in the cases, there's still at such a high level that, that's a problem. And as people travel from one jurisdiction to the next, then that presents challenges for other jurisdictions. Chicago has seen a steady increase in cases. That's being driven by our 18 to 29 year old cohort. We've just got to break through to young people that they are not immune to this virus. And we're continuing to see an increase in the Latinx community, which we are actively engaged with our partners on the ground there to do more work, more intervention to bring those rates down."
- Why it matters: With the White House warning that Chicago is at risk of becoming another COVID-19 hotspot, local leaders are in need of more direction from federal officials in responding and reopening amid a pandemic.
4. Gottlieb says U.S. likely "a long way" from herd immunity to virus
- Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that the United States is likely a "long way" from achieving herd immunity from the coronavirus, even as the number of confirmed cases continues to climb.
- What Gottlieb said: "Probably a long way from herd immunity. If you look at the seroprevalence studies overall, maybe 8% of the population as a whole has been exposed to this. In outbreak states like Arizona it might be higher, closer to 25% based on some modeling, maybe as high as 20% in Florida based on certain modeling and 15% in Texas. We know the seroprevalence in New York City is 20%. So that's getting closer to a level of immunity where the rate of transmission will start to decline. It's not quite herd immunity, but you're going to see declines in the rate of transmission because of that- that level of infection."
- Gottlieb also cautioned against accepting Jared Kushner's claim that the flu is more of a danger to children than COVID-19.
- What Gottlieb said: "We need to be careful, I think, about making comparisons to flu. This infection hasn't been as prevalent in children as flu is each year, there's been about 330,000 diagnosed infections. If you believe we're diagnosing one in five to one in 10 infections in children, maybe there have been about three million kids who've been infected with this. Flu is estimated to cause symptomatic illness in upwards of 11 million kids every season. This was a 2018-2019 season. And it causes a fair degree of asymptomatic infection in kids as well. So the prevalence is much higher. With flu we see upwards of about 400 tragic deaths a year. We've already seen 90 deaths about- from COVID in children. And it just hasn't- probably hasn't been as prevalent in kids. And we also see concerning indications of post viral syndromes, this multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which has affected 570 children, that's been recorded so far. So there's a lot we don't understand about COVID in kids. I think we need to be careful about making comparisons to flu and the death and disease we see in flu relative to COVID."
- Why it matters: There have been more than 5.3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and the death toll is nearing 170,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. While public health officials believed at the start of the epidemic in the spring that the number of deaths would decline heading into the fall, many states continue to report high positivity rates
5. CrowdStrike co-founder says "more needs to be done" to secure election infrastructure
- With election security a growing concern, we spoke with Dmitri Alperovitch, Executive Chairman at Silverado Policy Accelerator and a founder and chief technology officer at Crowdstrike. That's the cybersecurity firm that discovered Russia had hacked the DNC server in 2016. It was also hired by the GOP in 2018.
- First, the good news: "There are different ways to interfere in our elections and what we have seen in the past is, of course, the Russians in 2016 hacking into campaigns, hacking into political organizations, and then leaking that information to the public through WikiLeaks and other channels. We have not seen that obviously this year. And that's a good sign but of course, we still have a few months to go."
- A word of caution: "But then there is the influence operations that they're conducting and a number of countries are doing that now, China, Iran, as well as Russia, and not just around elections, really continuous on social media through official media channels and even government statements. But the third thing that concerns me personally is really attacks on the infrastructure itself, voter databases, vote tallying systems, vote reporting systems. Those are very, very vulnerable to hacking. And we need to be doing more to protect them. I know CISA, the federal Cyber Security Agency, is doing a lot to scan those systems right now, but more needs to be done. "
- What it matters: Dmitri's advice on protecting the vote in 2020: "…paper cannot be hacked, however, there is a legitimate concerns about logistics. I'm not so much concerned about foreign entities interfering in the paper process, but we do need to make sure that states are prepared to take in the huge number of mail-in ballots that will come in. They'll be able to do the signature verification that is necessary to make sure that there is no fraud. It can be done. Five states have been doing it for years now, like Oregon, Colorado and others, but others have not. And we need to make sure they're ready and they're preparing now versus the day before the election. "
An important milestone: Women's vote at 100
- Imagine being just 11 weeks out from an election and having more than 20 million voters suddenly become eligible! That was the political earthquake that was the 19th amendment ratified on August 18, 1920. That constitutional amendment guaranteed women the right to vote though women of color were not fully about to exercise it until Jim Crow era barriers were struck down in 1965. Thanks to the ambitious, strong, activist women who staged the fight to get men to share power.
- Find more of our reflections on the momentous occasion from Sunday's broadcast here