On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Robert O’Brien, National Security Adviser
- Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker
- Adam Schechter, LabCorp CEO and President
- 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, yet, another bombshell for America to deal with as the government and campaign 2020 are thrown into turmoil, after the President contracts COVID-19. For a President who thrives on creating chaos, his diagnosis has inadvertently shifted the course of the last month of campaign 2020 and created a crisis in government. What’s making matters worse? The administration’s dramatically conflicting reports on the President’s condition. Twenty-four hours after being admitted to Walter Reed Hospital, Mister Trump took to social media to contradict his own chief-of-staff.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I came here, wasn’t feeling so well. I feel much better now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the mystery of where, when, and from whom he contracted the virus is growing, as is the number of those in Mister Trump’s inner circle who have tested positive. The race to contact trace is now potentially a matter of life or death as attendees from all three branches of government attended this Rose Garden event a week ago. Now an additional Republican senator has also contracted the virus, potentially spreading it further on Capitol Hill. It’s a sobering development for a White House that has downplayed the severity of the virus.
JOE BIDEN: This is not a matter of politics. It’s a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll talk with White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. Plus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb will be with us, as well as the head of one of the largest testing labs in the U.S., Adam Schechter of LabCorp. Plus, a FACE THE NATION focus group 2020 style.
Can I see a show of hands from those of you who believe that the news of the President’s illness will affect the presidential campaign?
THOMAS: So when I heard that he had coronavirus, I guess I was– I wasn’t surprised.
JR: Well, I’m a firm believer in karma, I just am. The President just had never taken this seriously.
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, the country is facing yet other unprecedented crisis as President Trump remains hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center. And there are new questions this morning about how the administration is handling his case. We begin today with White House correspondent Weijia Jiang.
WEIJIA JIANG (CBS News White House Correspondent/@weijia): From his suite at Walter Reed Medical Center, President Trump took to Twitter last night to say he’s feeling better, but acknowledged his condition could take a turn.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (Twitter/@realDonaldTrump): You don’t know over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test.
WEIJIA JIANG: The President’s address capped off a day of mixed messaging from the White House. President Trump’s doctors painted an optimistic picture of his health.
DR. SEAN CONLEY (Saturday): This morning, the President is doing very well.
WEIJIA JIANG: CBS News has learned the President did receive oxygen at the White House Friday before leaving for Walter Reed. And just ten minutes after the medical briefing wrapped up on Saturday, a person familiar with the President’s health, identified by the Associated Press as chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, told reporters “his vitals over the last twenty-four hours were very concerning. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.” The President revealed he and the first lady have the coronavirus in an early morning tweet on Friday. They are at the top of a growing list of people who have tested positive after attending last Saturday’s Rose Garden event where President Trump nominated his new Supreme Court Justice, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. President Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway and Chris Christie said they have the virus. Yesterday the former New Jersey governor tweeted that he checked himself into the hospital due to his history of asthma. Utah Senator Mike Lee and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis also tested positive after attending the event. And now Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has contracted the virus. Despite those lawmakers getting sick, GOP Senate leaders are moving forward with Barrett’s nomination as scheduled. They hold a slim three-seat majority, and a final vote only counts if it’s cast in person. So if the virus continues to spread, it could cripple Barrett’s chances.
WEIJIA JIANG: President Trump’s doctors say he is doing better, but he’s not out of the woods yet. He spent his second night at Walter Reed last night, and we are awaiting an update from his medical team this morning. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Weijia Jiang, thank you.
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 to you, Margaret. Beautiful day in Washington.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Eventful day. Sir, this is the most serious health crisis that a President has faced since Ronald Reagan was shot back in 1981. We are thirty days ahead of an election in the midst of an economic crisis, a health crisis. Every intelligence service in the world wants to know how the Commander-in-Chief is doing. What is his status, and when did you last speak with him?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, on his status, I spoke with the chief of staff this morning, and the good news is the President feels very well. And he actually wants to get back home to the White House and get back to work. But I think he’s going to stay at Walter Reed for at least another period of time. Look, I went through this virus myself, as you know, Margaret, over the summer. And even if you have no symptoms, and I would– I had very, very minor symptoms, day seven and eight, you know, are the critical days. So I think the doctors want to make sure that they– they’re– they’re there for the President and that he’s getting the best treatment. But he’s doing well. I spoke with them to answer your question on Friday. I was in Geneva holding some talks with the Russian team, my– my counterpart, General Patrushev; and I was able to call the President after he was tested positive to– to give him an update on the talks, get his feedback for the afternoon sessions. And he was in good spirits and– and was, you know, firmly in control.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, to that point, as you just say, the worst may be ahead, just knowing the course of the virus. Have you and the team discussed a scenario in which at some point the President might have to transfer power if he can no longer discharge the powers and duties of his office?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: No, that’s not something that’s on the table at this point. Again, the President, you saw him on the video last night–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But it may be, as you just said.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, he– look, he– he’s doing very well. And– and just like it could happen to anybody. But we’re prepared. Look, we have a great vice president. We have a– a government that is steady and is steady at the tiller. And we’ll be briefing the President this afternoon. General Milley, Secretary Pompeo, myself, we’ll be giving him a national security brief this afternoon from– from the White House here. He’ll be at Walter Reed. So we’ll do it by secure video conference or secure phone. So we’re– look, the government’s doing well. The President’s doing well. And I’m not going to address hypotheticals, but– but we– we do have a– we have plans for everything.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, because you do know that Presidents Reagan and Bush at one point temporarily signed over power while undergoing medical treatment. So this is–
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, the– the– yes, I– I think those were– I know they were colonoscopies and– and so they were under anesthesia and weren’t– weren’t available at that time. I think we’re in a different situation here. And– and so far the President’s in great shape. He’s firmly in command of the government of the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Do you know how the President became infected and how widely the virus has spread among the top ranks of our government?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: You know there’s contact tracing going on. I mean the first thing I want to do is I just want to, you know, say–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Who is doing it?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, the White House medical unit and– and others in the White House are working very hard on– on contact tracing and– and doing all the things that you do in these circumstances. And just– just like this has been going on for for some time with this virus. This is a very nasty, resilient virus. But I want to take a moment because I know the President watches your show, Margaret and– and others do to just extend the best wishes to the American people, to him and the first lady, to the senators and– and to my colleagues who have this. You know, again, having went through this myself, you– you’re going to get through it, listen to your doctors, and do all the things they tell them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: And– and, look, we’ve got millions of people around the country fighting the– this COVID infection and the NFL–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: –in the most controlled environments. And so my– my message is not to– to– to the President and the first lady, but to all those who are infected, is a message of– of, A, speedy recovery and, B, you know, you’ll get through this. Just– just fight it and hang in there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I– I think the entire country joins you in that sentiment of– of hoping that the President does well and that our whole government does. But are you saying at this point that contact tracing is still underway and you don’t yet– yet know how much it has spread among the top ranks?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: You know I– I think what’s happening is people are getting tested on a regular basis. I’ve seen a number of my colleagues here this morning who have tested negative for three or four straight days in a row. So, you know, if people test positive, they’ll be quarantined and we’ll follow all the procedures that the CDC has. And what I can tell you, there are– there are– there are many men and women on the watchtower at the Pentagon, at the State Department, here at the White House, making sure that the country is safe. And– and we’re– we’re in very good shape. We’ve got a– a great team in place.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: And the President’s firmly in control.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Given continuity of government concerns, should the vice president can turn– return to the campaign trail and to the debate stage, as he’s scheduled to– to this week?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, listen, I– one– one of the things I also want to mention, I– I– I appreciate the fact that Vice President Biden came out with and said that he and his wife, Doctor Jill Biden, were praying for the President and the first lady. This is a time to come together, and– and– and we’re thrilled, and I think all Americans are very happy that the vice president, his family, Senator Harris, and her family have tested negative. I think they’ll be very strong. The Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, who I’m in regular contact with, has tested negative along with his family. So I– I think there’ll be very strict protocols in place to protect all the participants in debate– the debate, Senator Harris, the vice president.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: And so I think it’s going to be– it’s going to be a very safe environment for them to– to have a conversation that the American people want to hear. It’s an important conversation. We’ve– we’ve got to deal with this virus. It’s here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: It came from China. We can never forget who– who’s to blame for it. But we’ve got to continue to have the conversation so the American people can make a big decision at the end of this month.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you, though, how the President was put at such extraordinary risk. He attended a fund-raiser Friday, the twenty-fifth, with someone who has since tested positive. He was at indoor and outdoor mass gatherings Saturday the twenty-sixth at the White House. Was that the chief of staff’s call? I mean who’s responsible for allowing him to be in such close proximity and ultimately get infected?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Look, I think the President made this very clear, he’s going to continue to run this government. And– and we have to face this virus. We have to open up the country. We’ve got to make sure that America is moving forward. We’re not getting left behind by– by China or other adversaries. And– and in this case, China, which was responsible for the virus. It’s very hard no matter what precautions you take. And as– as you know, Margaret, I was one of the early proponents with the NSC of wearing a mask. I regularly masked up. I– I social distanced, and, yet, I still– I came into contact with it. This is a very resilient, nasty–
MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s highly infectious. It’s highly infectious, but–
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Yeah. Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –that would only seem to indicate that around the President of the United States, you need to be even more careful. So how was he put in these circumstances?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, normally, Margaret, and– and as you know, we had a very, very rigorous testing protocol and still do so that anyone who is going to come within six or eight feet of the President, you know, was– was tested and– and we did our best. But the President made it clear, as he did last night, that he was going to continue to govern. He was going to continue to run the country in the face of this virus. And– and, you know, whether it’s the NFL which has strict–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: –protocols or– or college football or college campuses that have put up bubbles, this is a resilient, nasty virus. We’re going to have to stop it. And– and we’re going to do it with therapeutics. We’re going to do it with a vaccine–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: –that’s going to come out, and we’re going to come out on the other side of this stronger.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. I am understanding you saying you still don’t know the source of the virus at this point, and the source of the President’s infection. I– before though– I don’t want to leave behind something you mentioned. You said you met with Russian officials. Is there any intelligence to suggest that– that Russia and others are using the President’s diagnosis as any kind of campaign against the United States. And given the upcoming election, the interference that we already know that they are conducting, how concerned are you?
ROBERT O’BRIEN: No, look, I think our adversaries know that– that the United States government is steady at the– at the tiller and that we’re– we’re protecting the American people. With respect to Russia in the elections, one of the reasons I went to meet with General Patrushev is to let him know that there would be absolutely no tolerance for any interference with our Election Day, with our voting– with the vote tallies, and– and demanded that– that Russia not engage in that sort of thing. The Russians have committed to doing so. And so, you know, look, it’s Russia. So as President Reagan said, and as President Trump often says, it’s trust but verify. So we’ll keep an eye on it, but the Russians did commit to not interfere in the elections. We’ll– we’ll see what happens. And– but that was a message that the President thought it was important that I go deliver in-person to–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: –to General Patrushev, who’s– who, as you know, is President Putin’s right-hand person.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador O’Brien, let’s– let’s hope they stop doing what they are doing. Thank you very much for your time. I do appreciate you coming on this morning to share an update.
ROBERT O’BRIEN: It’s always great to be with you, Margaret, thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She is just after Vice President Pence in the line of succession. That is the order that elected officials would take over the duties of the presidency if needed. Speaker Pelosi, thank you for joining us.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (Speaker of the House/@SpeakerPelosi): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Given your important role in leadership, how regularly are you being briefed on the President’s status? And are you satisfied with the level of communication?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, we’re getting our information the way everyone else is, in the media. But on terms of the succession, that’s an ongoing process. Sadly, at this time, it comes to the forefront. But let me just say on this Sunday morning, our prayers are with the President and the first lady and all those who surround him. Hopefully, the extent– the tracing, the contact tracing will give us an idea who needs to be treated so that the toll of this terrible virus isn’t even worse than it is. The President has the best of care. That’s what we want for him and the family. I have always prayed for the family–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –for their safety throughout the presidency, as I have done for all Presidents. But it’s very– it’s the– he’s the President of the United States. We pray for his good health, his speedy recovery. But I hope it will be a signal that we really have to do better in preventing the spread of this virus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: People always ask, what impact will this have on the election? I say, I’m not interested in that. What I’m interested in is what impact will it be on coming to the table with us and doing what we have to crush the virus, listen to science, have the public-private role that needs to be done to crush the virus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: And so, hopefully and prayerfully. We wouldn’t pray if we didn’t believe there was a chance that there could be an answer. And so I pray that in addition to his health, that the President’s heart will be open to the millions of people who have been affected. Hundreds of thousands of families have suffered a death. And also to recognize that a preponderance of this– of the impact of the viruses in communities of color–
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I want to–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –they really don’t have the kind of access to care that the President or the rest of us have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the possibility of providing more aid. But, first, can you just clarify how frequently are you personally being tested and should you be quarantining?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: No, I was tested. I follow the guidance of our House-attending physician and I was tested on Friday, negative. But I also intend to be regularly tested. I’m pleased with the reliability of the testing in the Capitol. I think it’s better than what is at the White House or else the President might not have been exposed on the basis of a false negative that put him at risk– that may have put him at risk. We don’t know where he got it, but we do know that there was a negative test for somebody with close proximity to the President. So–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there any reason to believe that the source of the infection was Capitol Hill?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Excuse me?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there any reason to believe that the source of the infection came from Capitol Hill?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: I have no– I’ve never heard anything like that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: I think that the optics of it are that those who were at the White House were the ones who brought the– the virus back to Capitol Hill. But, again, let’s look at this in a larger sense of what it means to the American people. We need to have trust. We need to have trust that what they’re telling us about the President’s condition is real. We have to have confidence in the judgment of the doctors who are treating him, that not only do they give a presentation notice–when they give a presentation to the press–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –it has to be approved by the President. That’s not very scientific. That’s not very scientific. So I think this can be a unifying moment for our country. We all pray for the President and his family. We all know that we have to do more to prevent this–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –to crush this virus. And one way not to do it is to crush the Affordable Care Act, which the Senate is in the process of trying to do–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has there–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –with moving quickly on this judicial appointment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President– the President tweeted yesterday that the country needs stimulus. Does that mean–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: It does. Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –that you have come to an agreement or are close to a deal on a COVID relief bill?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: No, it means that we want to see that they will agree on what we need to do to crush the virus so that we can open the economy and open our schools safely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re no closer than on Friday when– when that airline deal fell apart?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well– well, we are making progress. Well, we were trying to get that done in the House, but the Republicans object– objected. But what I said to the airline executives in a public statement is don’t fire people. You know that relief is on the way. So, and it will be retroactive. So let’s keep them employed because, separate from other industries, when you’re fired– when you’re let go in the airline industry, it takes months or years to be recertified–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –reclassified all of that, security clearances and the rest. Not like if somebody has another kind of a job, they leave, they come back. So that’s– that makes a difference. But also–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Could that come this week?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: That just depends on if they understand what we have to do to crush the virus. You can’t just say we need– we need to do something, but we’re going to let the virus run free. Now, it’s even run free in the White House. Think of how it is in a poor neighborhood where the President is insisting that children actually go back to school in order to get the funding that he is recommending. These poor kids are–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is– is–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –largely minority children. People exposed to the virus are largely minority. Everybody’s affected. But the death toll and the lack of– of testing and tracing in the minority community has had a very negative impact. So we have to be serious about this. One of the– let me just back up for a second and say this: For a long time, the Republicans in Congress and this President have been antiscience. They don’t– they don’t trust science and they don’t believe in governance. So if science says you should be test– testing–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –tracing, treating, mask wearing, sanitation, separation and the rest and you don’t believe in science and you don’t want to govern to say–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well to that point–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –this is what you have to do, then you have more deaths, more spread of the virus. And– and you can see this even with denial on climate change, that we’re suffering these fires now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, so–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: They don’t believe in science and they don’t want to do anything about it, because they don’t believe in governance.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Madam Speaker, what about on– what about on Capitol Hill, since a number of lawmakers on the Senate side that– in just the past few days have tested positive.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your Democratic colleague, Chuck Schumer said this demonstrates the need for testing and contact tracing for everyone who works on Capitol Hill. Do you agree with Senator Schumaker– Schumer, and are you working on that for lawmakers?
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, he has a smaller body than we do on the House side. My confidence is in our– and I– I appreciate what he’s saying and others on the House side– Mister Hoyer is saying something similar. But my confidence in this– respectful of those views is with the House attending physician who will determine when it is necessary for us to have testing that helps confidence.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Their suggestions about that– we have twenty thousand employees on Capitol Hill.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SPEAKER PELOSI: It’s not just about the–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –members of Congress.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood.
SPEAKER PELOSI: We want to be safe for the press who covers us, and their– and the custodians and the workers in the Capitol and the staff. So it is–
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s right. That’s why– that’s why I was asking the question.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Perhaps there could be some sampling.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Let’s depend on science–
MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to–
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: –on how to deal with it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Madam Speaker, I’m sorry– I’m sorry to cut you off. We have to take a break here. I really appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Yes, thank you so much. Stay safe.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You, too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Coronavirus cases remain persistently high across much of the country, with new infections surging in the Upper Midwest and parts of the West. CBS national correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.
MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News National Correspondent): Wisconsin is one state in a state of alarm, America’s hottest spot for COVID.
GOVERNOR TONY EVERS (D-Wisconsin): It’s not slowing down. It’s picking up speed. We have got to put the brakes on this pandemic.
MARK STRASSMANN: For COVID cases per capita, three Wisconsin metro areas rank among America’s top five. Wisconsin’s seven-day positivity rate is sky-high, roughly twenty-two percent. South Dakota, Mississippi, and Idaho also report positivity rates above twenty percent, fourteen states report above ten percent. In Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wanted to extend her COVID-19 state of emergency. The state’s Supreme Court ruled she had gone too far. Here we are nine months into the worldwide pandemic and the virus still kills roughly seven hundred fifty Americans a day.
DR. CLARK BISHOP: They’re in the ICU, all alone, no visitors nowadays, writing good-bye notes to their children. That’s not something that’s easy to watch.
MARK STRASSMANN: And, yet, in Florida and South Carolina, these boozy crowds gather in restaurants operating again at one hundred percent capacity. Hear that crowd noise? It’s real. When the University of Georgia played Auburn yesterday, more than twenty thousand fans watched, about twenty-five percent of stadium capacity. But in the NFL, Cam Newton, the New England Patriots quarterback tested positive for the virus. Today’s marquee matchup, the Patriots against the Kansas City Chiefs, has been postponed until at least tomorrow or Tuesday.
MARK STRASSMANN: Today’s scheduled game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers has also been postponed. At least eight Titans’ players have tested positive. With the virus, the NFL is now playing defense all the time. More positive tests and the rest of its season could be in jeopardy. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Mark. We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: With all the news that we have today, our Battleground Tracker results are going to be available to you on CBSNews.com/polls.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump is now one of the almost thirty-five million reported COVID cases worldwide. CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports from London on how other world leaders are handling the crisis.
ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent): Good morning. When the news broke that President Trump had COVID, European leaders sent their good wishes, of course. And then almost immediately doubled down on their own precautions.
ELIZABETH PALMER: At a summit in Brussels, Germany’s Angela Merkel ended up doing some anti-COVID kabuki with Italy’s prime minister when he got too close. No one has forgotten what happened to the U.K.’s Boris Johnson. Famously casual at the start of the pandemic–
BORIS JOHNSON: I shook hands with everybody. You’ll be pleased to know. And I continue to shake hands.
ELIZABETH PALMER: –he caught COVID in March and almost died. Johnson’s back at work now, but colleagues say he still suffers fatigue and shortness of breath. Another famous COVID scoffer was Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. He refused to wear a mask and called people self-isolating cowards. Bolsonaro caught the virus in July. It was a mild case, though, and he was soon back at work with higher approval ratings, in spite of COVID tipping Brazil into recession. It’s also one of the three countries worst hit by the pandemic after the U.S. And, India, which now leads the way, both in new infections and the number of dead. There has been a dramatic rise in cases in Russia, too, even though, scientists there claim their Sputnik V vaccine works. Volunteers may be getting it, but not Vladimir Putin. He is taking no chances. He barely goes out. And though recent military drills were a rare exception, anyone who wants to meet him has to quarantine for two weeks and then go through a special disinfection booth.
ELIZABETH PALMER: Here in London, we’ve just heard from Prime Minister Boris Johnson who warned Britons that things were going to be what he called bumpy right through Christmas. And from one who’s been there he also said that he thought President Trump was going to be just fine. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz Palmer in London. Thank you.
We turn now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, MD (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Last night the President released a video of himself at Walter Reed, he spoke for about four minutes. He was able to get through it without being winded. He did sound a little bit hoarse. Given what’s been disclosed publicly at this point, what do you think his status is?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It’s hard to know. I– I– I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from that video. He did look good in the video. This is early on in the course of his illness. So he’s not out of the woods. Typically, what we see is in the first week, you have sort of the viral response phase of the infection, and it’s that second week when patients sometimes get into trouble. Now, there is some correlation with patients doing well that first week and being less likely to get into trouble that second week, when you have that inflammatory response– the post-viral inflammatory response. But there are exceptions, and– and I have talked to physicians who have seen patients who did well the first week and still got into trouble. So I think we need to continue to be cautious here with the President and wish him the best.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, indicated that, you know, the days ahead could be tough. Day seven, that– that is the course of the virus itself. What do we know about exactly where the President is in the course of his treatment and the disease?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: So, again, it’s hard to know based on the information that they’ve disclosed. It sounds like he might have become symptomatic on Wednesday. And so the President probably became infected sometime on Friday or Saturday at one of– one of the events that he was at. And people are focusing on this Supreme Court event on Saturday. It could have been two introductions here. So the first generation of spread could have been either on Friday, or Saturday, or both. And then now we’re seeing these– these are second-generation cases, the President, Hope Hicks, the first lady. We’re going to start to see third-generation cases probably appear maybe Sunday, maybe today and maybe early this week, people who are– who were infected by the people who are currently diagnosed. So the President does appear to be, you know, about three to four days into sort of a symptomatic phase right now, if you believe he became symptomatic on Wednesday. So he still has time to go until I think he’s out of the woods.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The CDC is not conducting the contact tracing. Washington, DC, is not. The national security adviser said the White House was doing it, but that he was unable to pin point the source of the infection. How important is it to pin that down?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, I think they have an ob– this is the President of the United States. This was a gathering of high-level officials. I think they have an obligation to understand how the infection was introduced into that environment. They might not be able to pin point it, but they should be very aggressive in a forensic analysis right now to try to find what the source of the infection was and see who brought it into that environment. And that’s going to be important also to understand who else could be at risk. Are there any people who came out of that event who could be asymptomatic right now and should go get tested to make sure they’re not continuing to spread it to other officials? There doesn’t seem to be a very concerted effort underway. I’ve talked to a number of officials who are at that event on Saturday, and a lot of focus is around that event as one of the potential places where the introduction was made, and they haven’t been called, yet, by contact tracers. So that’s concerning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That is concerning because that suggests potential further spread. Speaker Pelosi mentioned she had concerns about the type of testing that had been used at the White House. You warned on this program back on May 10th, that the Abbott Labs test that the White House was relying on was not sufficient to detect asymptomatic spread of COVID-19. Is it a matter of technology? Why did the procedures fail?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB Well, look, the Abbott test is a very good test when used appropriately. You have to fit the right test to the right purpose. The White House was relying almost solely on testing as a way to protect the President. They needed a zero-fail testing protocol because they weren’t taking any precautions beyond testing people who are going to be in contact with the President. And that requires multiple layers of testing. If you want a– something close to a zero-fail testing protocol, and you’re never going to be able to achieve a hundred percent, you would probably be needing to use a PCR-based test at the point of entry at the White House. So the Cepheid GeneXpert probably would be more fit to purpose. But, frankly, you’d need double layers of testing. You’d probably want to test people before they depart for the White House and then test them again when they arrive. And even that wouldn’t be a hundred percent, but it would get you closer. Using these kinds of tests and they’re now using the Binax as well–the antigen-based tests and– and the Abbott ID NOW, using that to screen an asymptomatic population to try to detect virus, you might only have fifty percent sensitivity, perhaps, a little bit better than that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And who makes that call?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: But you’re going to let through some people who are infected.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Who makes that call?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think it– I think it was the White House physician. I know that concerns about the testing machines that were being used were raised to the White House at various points. I think the White House physician weighed in on that. I don’t know who else weighed in on that, but I think they need to reassess those protocols. Frankly, you shouldn’t just be relying on testing alone. You should be use– taking other steps on the compound. And the other thing to remember is the only people who are getting routinely tested were people who were going to be around the President.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: So staff was not getting routinely tested. So it’s possible to get the virus onto the compound. And then from there, you could have an outbreak within the White House compound.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Some members of the President’s inner circle, as you said, may still be at risk. The vice president, is he in the clear yet?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Anyone who is with the President on Tuesday, Wednesday is not in the clear. I mean anyone who is with any of the people who are currently infected earlier this week, they were probably at their peak contagion at that point. So, typically, you’re most contagious about twenty-four hours before the onset of symptoms. So the debate prep on Tuesday is a source of potential third-generation spread. The meeting of the GOP– the Senate GOP on Wednesday is a source of third-generation spread. We’ll likely see more cases emerge, unfortunately, early this week from the people who are currently infected who went on to infect other people. So this is still very much an evolving situation. Now, look, we hope not. And there are situations where there is no further propagation, but it’s more than likely that you will see additional cases of third-generation spread.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will continue to update the public. Doctor Gottlieb, thanks as always, for your insight.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: LabCorp was the first commercial lab to offer COVID-19 diagnostic testing in March. C– CEO Adam Shechter joins us this morning from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Good morning to you.
ADAM H. SCHECHTER (LabCorp Chairman, President and CEO/@AdamHSchechter): Good morning, Margaret. Thanks for having me here today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. You know we heard that the President reportedly did take a PCR test, that kind of gold standard test to confirm his in– initial diagnosis. How reliable are the test– the different testing platforms that we’re talking about?
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: Sure. There’s really three types of tests. There’s the PCR test, as you mentioned. That test, it searches for the genetic material of the virus. It’s seen as the gold standard, but it does take time to get the results for that test. When we receive a test, it takes us about twenty-four hours on average to return the results. The second test is an antigen test. That test you can do typically without machinery. And that test looks for a protein on the surface of the virus. It’s less accurate than the PCR test, but it’s certainly a good test for surveillance and trying to understand where the disease is. And the third type of test is an antibody test, which is a blood test. The first two are nasal swabs typically.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: The blood test searches for antibodies in your blood that tells you if you’ve had the virus in the past.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the kind of tool that the White House was using, these rapid tests, is that sufficient to detect the virus in asymptomatic people in your view?
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: Yeah. So the type of test that the White House was using, the Abbott test, is a PCR test, but it’s not running as many iterations as the PCR test that we run. I think it’s a acceptable test to try to screen for people, but it is certainly not sufficient. There’s no doubt that people should continue to wear masks, socially distance, practice good hygiene, even if they have–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: –a negative result from that test.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So for LabCorp, you said that you can turn around a test within twenty-four hours. But as the country well knows, you know, this summer during that uptick, in particular, in July, there were backlogs for far longer than that. What do you need to do to avoid those backlogs as we get into the fall and winter?
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: Yeah, we’ve been building capacity since March of last year. We started from scratch. We were able to do two to three thousand tests per day. We can now do over two hundred thousand tests per day. On average we receive about a hundred thousand samples per day so we have additional capacity, but we’re not stopping there. We’re building more and more capacity. At the same time, we need people to do their part as we go into flu season. Get flu vaccinations, social distance, wear a mask, practice good hygiene. I believe that we are all preparing for that season. We also launched a combined test where you can test with one nasal swab–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: –a combination of flu, RSV, and also COVID.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But– but, as you say, you’re hoping to stay ahead of the curve this time. The testing companies like yours receive about a hundred dollars per test from the current government program. If your company can’t turn around results in two days, which is what Doctor Fauci says is necessary to actually be useful, why should your company be paid?
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: So we are doing everything we can to turn around those results as fast as possible. Every one of our sixty-five thousand LabCorp employees around the world are working day and night. Our labs are open seven days a week, running twenty-four hours a day. There’s no reimbursement that’s going to cause us to move faster than we can. We want to move as fast as we possibly can. These are our friends, our families, our neighbors. So we’re doing everything to have the best turnaround as possible. But I would say that as the turnaround time is longer the usefulness of the test, particularly, for tracking and tracing is less. There’s no doubt about it. But I disagree that it’s useless after two days because if you find out in three days that you don’t–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: –have the virus and you’re feeling better and can go back to work, that’s better than having to quarantine for ten days.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, as– as we’ve learned, some people, including lawmakers, are not quarantining, even though, they are taking tests at the same time. So are you saying clearly, that LabCorp does not anticipate a backlog if we see infections continue to rise in the U.S.? Can you avoid what happened this summer?
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: Right now– so we are building capacity every single day. We’re at two hundred thousand tests a day right now and we will not stop. We are buying every machine we can, getting as much reagent as we can, doing everything we can to prepare for the fall flu season. But I really do encourage people to help us by getting the flu shot, by practicing social distancing. Masks work. We know they work.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
ADAM H. SCHECHTER: So if we do all those things, I think we’re going to be in a good position going into the flu season.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Mister Schechter, thank you very much.
We’ll be back in a moment with some thoughts from voters across the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: One of our favorite ways to talk to voters in an election year is through a focus group. And this year, like millions of other Americans, we’re talking on Zoom. Friday night we spoke with three Biden supporters and three Trump supporters about the President’s diagnosis.
LORRAINE (Trump Supporter): It’s probably an eye-opener for him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean an eye-opener for him?
LORRAINE: Sometimes I wonder whether, you know, enough people take the virus seriously, I guess.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you think he hasn’t?
LORRAINE: I’m a mask believer, I really believe in masks, and I guess I wish masks were, from the get-go, we were all suggested to use it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thomas, you’re out in Ohio, I know you are also a supporter of the President.
THOMAS (Trump Supporter): When I heard that he had coronavirus, I guess I was– I wasn’t surprised. I’ve always thought from the beginning of this pandemic that we’d all end up being exposed to it at some point.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jill, you live in Houston, Texas. And in that area masks did become a big political battle.
JILL (Biden Supporter): I wasn’t surprised because I’m in the health care field. I know the importance of being protected. And I was really surprised that he ever thought it was okay to not wear a mask, or that he ever even encouraged people not to. It was concerning to me, so I can’t say that I was surprised when I found out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: JR, you’re in Georgia, where this– this also became heavily politicized.
JR (Biden Supporter): Well, I’m a firm believer in karma, I just am. The President just had never taken this seriously. He said that he has the best genes. He’s going to be the healthiest President. There is no evidence of that– I mean just by his physical appearance. And I’m sad– saddened that he’s in the hospital right now. I really am. But I mean this is of his own doing. And he should have taken every precaution because he knew about it before we did and he didn’t tell us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You were a Trump supporter.
JR: Oh, no. I’m– no longer. I tried to give him a chance. I mean but our country is in peril (INDISTINCT) this. We’re at our knees and people are not taking this seriously. I mean it sounds like a whole different country. It not only sound like the United States it sounds like some other country. And we’re going through all of this. It’s just– it’s so sad.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It is sobering news today. Lorie, you live outside Nashville, Tennessee. When it comes to the President’s health, are you trusting the news you’re receiving?
LORIE (Biden Supporter): Yeah. I don’t have any reason to believe that we’re not being told the truth about that. I also think, at least in my own circles, people I know and care about, I know some people who this didn’t start to hit home for them until someone they know and loved contracted it themselves. And so that may be the case here that just seeing someone prominent who has it may change the way he feel about the public health recommendations. I hope that it will.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Can I see a show of hands from those of you who believe that the news of the President’s illness will affect the presidential campaign? Will it affect votes? Jill, why do you think this will affect votes?
JILL: Knowing that he now has the virus, and all the people that maybe went out and supported him, that maybe went to rallies and did things and didn’t wear masks, maybe they feel a little betrayed. So it may– it may– it may affect a few people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Juan, do you feel you’ve been misled?
JUAN (Trump Supporter): Not in the least bit. He told us from the beginning. He tried to be positive, but he never lied to us. He said people are dying. China lied; people died. Bad things happen. It’s– it’s a horrible, horrible virus. My wife’s uncle’s wife died way at the very beginning, in– in March. So we knew it was serious. And– and I don’t think he ever lied to us. He was trying to pump us up and try to keep us positive while the experts were giving you the nuts and bolts of what was going on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS has been doing a lot of research and– and polling, and one of our recent polls showed that a majority of Republicans, fifty-seven percent told us that the death count from COVID-19 is an acceptable number. Tom, are you one of the Republicans who thinks that the– the current death count is acceptable?
THOMAS: I do think it’s acceptable, when we were faced with the initial estimates of anywhere from two to four million people dying in this pandemic. Obviously–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Where did you hear those estimates?
THOMAS: That was at the start. When we– when– all right, so when everything started percolating when it came to the virus, I mean the news was very dire out of China, when they started. But I think that we had very little information to go on. And so was it a desperate situation? Well, it wasn’t presented to us that way. The worst-case scenario was anywhere from two to four million people dying with this pandemic. You’re talking a country of– of almost three hundred and fifty million people here, okay? And so two hundred thousand, it’s too many– yes, it’s too many. But when you start thinking about what could have been and what the initial estimates for the percentage of people that would die with this virus, I think our health care workers did an incredible job helping people here. And so, you know, hats off to them because they really stepped up and took care of people. And the therapeutics have helped–
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I should have mentioned that you are in Ohio, where you say you’re seeing a lower number right now. Will all of you get a vaccine? How many of you will get a vaccine when it is approved by the FDA? Jill, you’re a health care worker, you’re not going to get a vaccine?
JILL: Absolutely not. Because until it is done properly and tested properly, and all the proper research is done, I am not going to be a guinea pig. Because, basically, that’s what they’re going to be doing because by rushing it and by trying to, you know, say, okay, we’ve got the vaccine, everything’s back to normal, all they’re doing is they’re going to be testing it on humans, and I will not be a human test dummy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: JR, I– I understand that you lost a number of family members to COVID-19.
JR: Oh, yeah. I actually have someone who’s in the hospital now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, gi– given that, and– and what you know, why wouldn’t you go for a vaccine?
JR: Well, you all heard of the Tuskegee experiment, right? And I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist person, but I’m reluctant to put anything in my body that I don’t know what it is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What would change your mind? What would make you believe it’s safe?
JR: Two hundred and ninety million people took it and they were fine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jill, you were shaking your head yes when JR said he was skeptical and he, specifically, mentioned the Tuskegee experiments?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why?
JILL: I mean, you have to– you have to admit that I mean we have a right to kind of feel that way after what was done during that experiment and who’s to say anybody would be fair to us now, you know? Or– I mean– and– and I’m–
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say “us,” you mean– when you say “us”–
JILL: To– to African-Americans–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –you mean, specifically, African-Americans.
JILL: Yeah. And I’m not a person that normally thinks that way, but, I mean, when I look at everything going on in the world now, and all the racial divide and everything, it just makes me a little bit less trusting.
JR: I agree with Jill, exactly the same. I just feel like, you know, African-Americans, people of color, at first thought, hey, we weren’t going to get this disease. And now we’re finding that, hey, we are one of the central targets of this disease, and we’re bearing the brunt of this disease. I, literally, have people who have died from this disease that I know, and– and someone is in intensive care right now, and my heart is breaking. So for me to take this vaccine that they’re going to push out faster than anything that I’ve ever heard of– they still haven’t found a vaccine for AIDS.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
JR: I’m– and how you going to put out a vaccine in less than a year? That– it really just– I cannot understand that. It doesn’t compute in my mind. I’m sorry.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you can see a lot more of our conversation with the focus group on our website at FaceTheNation.com.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: A new CBS News documentary looks at the effect of the virus on Asian-Americans in the U.S. It is called Asian-Americans: Battling Bias. And it will air this Friday at 8:00 PM Eastern Time on CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 streaming service. To watch it download the free CBS News app.
That’s it for us today. Thank you all for watching. For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.