The following is a transcript of an interview with Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Missouri, that aired Sunday, August 9, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We now go to Kansas City, Missouri, one of 10 areas in the US that the White House coronavirus task force is concerned about. Mayor Quinton Lucas is in Kansas City. Good morning to you.
KANSAS CITY MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand Dr. Deborah Birx spoke to you on Monday and said Kansas City is a potential hotspot for rising infections, really looking at young people 20 to 29 as rising in the infection rate. What is fueling the spread?
MAYOR LUCAS: Well, we’re seeing a lot of activity that has been against public health advice, not just people who have congregated in bars and restaurants, but also informal spread, as we’ve called it, in Kansas City, house parties of up to hundreds of people, a lot of backyard parties and a lot of folks in families and other informal settings that aren’t following social distancing rules, aren’t wearing masks. And that has helped fuel the spread both here and in the states around us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, I know the White House has recommended that you bring things like capacity in bars down to 25% from where you already have it. Why haven’t you done that?
MAYOR LUCAS: Well, we’re at 50% in our restaurants and we have limited bars. One of the reasons that we have not limited it entirely yet is because we don’t just want people going back out into the streets to celebrate. And this is really kind of our summertime challenge that we have folks that are congregating in large groups already, in some ways informal spread presenting greater threats, because none of these places are following rules. All of them have a large amount of spread. But we are evaluating limiting both restaurants and bar capacity to avoid some of the spikes you saw in places like Houston and Phoenix and in the state of Florida.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you may be doing this even though there may be an economic hit that comes with it?
MAYOR LUCAS: Well, we absolutely are. I mean, one of the challenges that a lot of Midwestern and Southwestern cities are having is that we are surrounded by states that don’t have things like mask orders, that don’t have some of the same social distancing and restaurant rules we have. So every rule that we impose, we’re surrounded in the state of Missouri and Kansas by a number of jurisdictions that lack it. So we would like consistency largely from the White House to help make it clearer what we need to do to stop the spread here in the central United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the White House is saying wear a mask. The White House is also saying, as we said there, bring those capacities down. On the letter you sent, I want to ask you about, to the president this week, you were one of a number of mayors who asked specifically for more funding. Two hundred and fifty billion dollars to be given to cities of all sizes. This was not in the executive orders that the president signed. And we know deals in Congress appear to be on hold. So how is your city going to get the money it needs? And- and at what cost do these cuts come?
MAYOR LUCAS: Well, right now we’re just not getting it. So you’re seeing a lot of deficit spending from cities. Mine has already put out millions of dollars in COVID-19 response. And the impact is actually going to be to American workers. Those who work for state, local, county governments are going to deal with the brunt of it. We’re talking about furloughs. There have been layoffs and a number of American cities,–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are going to continue to have layoffs?
MAYOR LUCAS: –and we continue to have increased- I- I believe we will. And lots of other cities have, and this is hitting lots of employees, so this isn’t just theoretical for us and these are issues that are significant and in the now. And so we’re looking for a deal. When you talk about things like real unemployment benefit extensions, that’s something that lots of Kansas Cityians are dealing with. So we feel like we are trying to answer a crisis moment where in some situations we haven’t seen that response from Washington that is sorely needed here in the Midwest.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So your city has delayed the start of the school year until after Labor Day from what I understand. And you cited more funding being needed for schools. It doesn’t sound like there will necessarily be a deal to give you that money. So what does this mean for your school children? Do you need to push back the school year even farther?
MAYOR LUCAS: Well, when I was talking about White House direction before, that was a question I asked directly of Dr. Birx, of should we have in-person schooling or not? She deferred from answering that question and so in many ways, our school districts are- are trying to use the best advice possible. But you’ve seen lots go to a mixed virtual in-person learning environment. There are some that are going right back to in-person. And you’ve seen in other parts of the country some trouble and COVID outbreaks from that. But our advice is- was to buy time to make sure we could have funding for things like PPE, masks, separation, social distancing, and to better understand what school reopening can mean from an epidemiological perspective. We are not there yet, so I think we all have some grave concerns about reopening, particularly at a time you’re seeing spikes in this community.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But what were you looking for, Dr. Birx, to tell you that she didn’t? Like literally give you a green light, it’s safe, or to give you a benchmark at which you could make a decision to open or close?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, I think a mix of both. First of all, benchmarks are always helpful. We had asked for additional information, some written documentary information that we could share with the public in places like Kansas City. We did not receive that, although I did appreciate the call. And then I do think that, frankly, every parent, every teacher, everyone in America is saying, is it safe? You know, I’m a lawyer by training. I talk to doctors and health care professionals here, but these are calls necessarily that sometimes mayors may not be equipped to make or some governors. So I do think that looking at the most medical evidence and information we have nationally to see what a direction broadly on schools is should be the guide for reopening schools, not just the different politics state to state and city to city, which is what we’re seeing in my part of the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And very quickly, there’s a 14 day backlog in testing in your city. How do you fix that?
MAYOR LUCAS: Money. Money. We need more resources to get more testing, to get faster testing through. That’s the biggest challenge and we’re going to continue to see this spread unless we get more testing efficiently for people. So I think money. A solution out of Washington is key for not just mine, but all American cities.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Mayor, thank you for your time this morning. We’ll be right back with a look at new numbers from our CBS News Battleground Tracker.