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States Reopen; Barack Obama On Trump Administration; Volunteers To Take In Virus; Grocery Prices Rise By 2.6 Percent In Month Of April; Chef Daniel Boulud Discusses Rising Grocery Prices, Speaking To Trump On Reopening Restaurants, His Food1st Project; Can Sports Leagues Resume Games Without Virus Risk?; Sportscaster, Bob Costas, Discusses The Future Of Sports & Olympics Postponed. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 16, 2020 - 17:00   ET




Across the nation, states are feeling out their reopening strategies. By Monday, all but two will have begun reopening or easing coronavirus restrictions. But guidance vary from place to place.

On California beaches, for example, picnics and sunbathing are not allowed. But all the way across the country, on New Jersey's beaches, plenty of sunbathers relaxing as part of the state's dry run today ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

Activities, like going to the beach or going to a restaurant, may give people a taste of that pre-pandemic life. But one major indicator of a return to normalcy in America is still on the horizon. Sports. NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, announcing teams can reopen facilities starting Tuesday as long as they meet local qualifications. But coaches and players may have to wait until next month to return.

Amid the reopen push, the number of new cases of coronavirus appears to be stabilizing in most states. But CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, warns that the U.S. death toll will likely top 100,000 by June first. President Trump, yesterday, stuck to his reopen refrain, despite the CDC's grim forecast.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to make something clear. It's very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back.


CABRERA: And just in to CNN, former President Barack Obama pulling no punches today, slamming his successor and the current administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The scathing critique comes as we see President Trump making major promises to the American people that many health officials warn he may not be able to keep. Vowing that by the end of this year, millions of COVID-19 vaccines will be administered. CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us now. Jeremy, what are we hearing from President Obama today about how this administration is handling the pandemic?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it was just a week ago that we heard that former President Obama, on a call with alumni of his administration, called this administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic anemic and spotty. Even saying that it has been an absolute chaotic disaster. Those remarks, though, were private and were leaked publicly.

But, now, we are seeing President Obama taking his criticisms of this administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic far more public. Today, making remarks to graduates of historically black colleges and universities, suggesting those in charge of the response don't know what they're doing.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than anything, this pandemic has fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing. A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge.


DIAMOND: And those comments, by the former president, come after a week during which President Trump has been ramping up his attacks on former President Obama, attempting to link him to the charges against the former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and U.S. surveillance of him.

President Trump, in fact, is at Camp David this weekend, huddling with some of his conservative allies to see how he can ramp up many of those baseless charges against former President Obama.

But, Ana, I think this is a sign of what you are going to see more and more of from Obama, who has really not been that public in his criticisms of President Trump for most of President Trump's time in office. But he will, of course, be hitting the campaign trail, perhaps virtually, on behalf of former Vice President Joe Biden.

CABRERA: Yes, it's hard to remember, at times, that the 2020 campaign is well underway. CNN, Jeremy, is reporting that tensions are now escalating between the White House and the CDC and at issue is how quickly the U.S. should reopen. What can you tell us about this?

DIAMOND: That's right, Ana. According to administration officials that we've spoken with at CNN, tensions are rising between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control. Part of it is over those reopening guidelines. Remember the CDC had drafted a 68-page, or sorry, 68-page document, I believe it was, about how to begin reopening the country.

The White House, just a few days ago, released just six pages of a PowerPoint presentation, essentially, showing -- offering some of those guidelines. That has been one of the points of tension between the White House and the CDC.

And there have been -- there has been mounting distrust between the CDC and between the White House, not only over those guidelines but over other points as well. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus Coordinator, she, apparently, has been casting doubt and critical --and quite critical, in fact, of how the CDC has been gathering data about this coronavirus pandemic. That is a criticism that has been echoed by others.

But, again, it is just one of those flashpoints that we are seeing, that is mounting between the White House and the CDC as the U.S. continues to confront this pandemic --Ana.

CABRERA: Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you.

More now on the race for a cure. As researchers around the world work at unprecedented speeds to find a vaccine, thousands of people are stepping forward to volunteer to be exposed to the virus itself.


CNN's Drew Griffin reports.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He donated a kidney last summer. Now, Abie Rohrig is ready to medically volunteer again. This time, as a human guinea pig in a vaccine trial designed to infect volunteers with the virus the world has never known.

ABIE ROHRIG: Just like the nurses and the doctors on the frontline, you know, I'm willing to take some risk to myself, if it means that we can move through this as a --as a nation and as a world.

GRIFFIN: He's 20 years old, lives in New York, has seen what the pandemic can do, and has signed up online to be a volunteer in a potential COVID-19 human challenge vaccine trial. Unlike other vaccine trials, in a challenge trial, a group of volunteers would first be injected with a potential vaccine and a second control group would be injected with a placebo.

After allowing sufficient time for the volunteers who got the vaccine to hopefully build up immunities, it's all challenged. All the volunteers, those with and those without the vaccine candidate, are intentionally contaminated with coronavirus. Risky, potentially even deadly, yes, all of that, but it also might be a quicker path to an actual vaccine for the rest of us.

GRIFFIN (on camera): This is designed to get some people sick.

MARC LIPSITCH, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: That's right. The intention is to make some people at least infected.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Marc Lipsitch, Harvard epidemiologist, is one of the scientists whose idea of using a challenge vaccine for COVID-19 is now gaining interest from the World Health Organization.

LIPSITCH: This could save months off the time required to evaluate a vaccine. The goal is to do the fastest responsible and scientifically valid way of evaluating the vaccine.

GRIFFIN: Multiple vaccines could be tried at the same time. Controls put in place for proper medical care for all the volunteers. And by selecting only young, healthy adults, Lipsitch says the chances of someone dying is extremely low.

LIPSITCH: But it is not zero. And that's why this is an altruistic act to volunteer for this.

GRIFFIN: It's not just the risk. It is the unknown risk, says Professor Robert Read at the University of Southampton in the U.K. He's in favor of the idea but insists there would need to be full disclosure.

ROBERT CHARLES READ, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON: This case is different. We're not able to quantify the risk to the volunteer. And when we take informed consent from them, we'll -- we will have to say to them that we cannot say exactly what is going to happen to them.

GRIFFIN (on camera?): You're going to be infected with something for which there is no treatment for at this time.

ROHRIG: Right.

GRIFFIN: Does that give you pause?

ROHRIG: It certainly gives me pause, and I don't want to be naive or arrogant, and I don't want to hide myself from the fact that there is a serious not at all trivial risk to me doing this.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Despite the risk, 16,000 people from more than 100 countries have already signed an online form, saying they're interested in becoming volunteers. That includes U.S. Army veteran, businessmen, husband and father of four, John Gentle of Alabama.

JOHN GENTLE: Yes, I am putting more people directly related to me at a greater risk is if something were to go wrong. But I feel like the risk is low.

GRIFFIN: So far, the challenge vaccine trial is hypothetical. But John Gentle, Abie Rohrig, and 16,000 others, say they are ready, if needed, to take the risk, if it means they can be part of ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


CABRERA: Let's bring in Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She is the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. And also with us is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Saju Mathew, a public health specialist. Thank you both for being with us.

Dr. Walensky, to you first. Dr. Rick Bright, the official who was overseeing the vaccine effort, testified this week that it would be catastrophic if every American didn't have access to a potential vaccine. Now, once these vaccines are ready, how is it determined who gets them first?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, M.D., CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Good afternoon, Ana. Right. So, I sure hope we have a vaccine that is ready soon. And I hope we have millions and millions of doses, so that we can distribute it. But, usually, this happens and we need to, sort of, distribute it to frontline workers first. That's usually how it's done.

And then, we start thinking about those who might be at high risk -- highest risk of disease, should they get it. So, that would include the elderly, people with comorbidities. We can think through people in congregate settings, so nursing homes, sub-acute nursing facilities, prisons, dorms, for example. And then, essential workers.

So, I think there are tiers that we would give this to, probably starting with first-line workers and those at highest risk for disease. We would also need to understand and make sure that the vaccine actually works equally in all of these kinds of populations.

So, for example, if you take young, healthy volunteers, in your prior story, who take the vaccine in these vaccine challenges, do we know for sure that it will, then, work in elderly populations?


CABRERA: Dr. Mathew, we have a recent CNN poll that asked Americans whether they would get a vaccine, if it became available and was low cost. And if you can believe that 33 percent said they would not. They would not get the vaccine. What's your reaction to this?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, that's worrisome, Ana. You know, this is a very transmissible disease, highly contagious, and highly lethal. You know, we're almost approaching 90,000 Americans that are dying. So, yes, that is definitely something that I think that all of us should work on. Americans should start talking to their physicians about their concerns about this new potential vaccine.

But, remember, there are a couple of things that you've got to worry about here. Number one, the herd immunity for a transmissible disease, like COVID-19, needs to be way up in the 90th percentile, 95-96 percentile. And what I mean by herd immunity is the way a community develops an immunity against a disease, either by getting the infection and recovering from it or through a vaccine.

And also, Ana, remember that even if we do get an effective vaccine, not everybody can get vaccinated. There will be certain populations that will be excluded because they will not be able to get the vaccine safely.

Also, what, 45 percent of Americans only get the flu vaccine, and we know how deadly Influenza is. So, yes, it is concerning.

CABRERA: Dr. Walensky, we got some new information from the World Health Organization today that said spraying disinfectants is an ineffective way to kill this virus. And let me just read you a quote. It says, "if disinfectants are to be applied, this should be done with a cloth or a wipe that has been soaked in disinfectant." So, does this mean we shouldn't be using those aerosol or spray cleaners anymore?

WALENSKY: Well, I think what it means is that nothing is going to be easy with this virus. We can't, sort of, go to the sports field, spray the disinfectants, and call ourselves done here. I think we too need to be vigilant about the wiping down of surfaces. I think that we have to be careful that we're not spraying bleach or alcohol into the environment. These can be toxic if they're --if they're breathed in. They can be irritating to the skin.

So, I think we really need to contain -- continue with the vigilance that we have been doing in wiping down surfaces, with gloves, if necessary, and doing the hard work that is going to be required to keep this virus at bay.

CABRERA: And I know you, and other doctors, have also advised us that soap and water works very effectively as well.

WALENSKY: That too.

CABRERA: In killing this virus. So, we don't have to rely on those disinfectant sprays or cleaners.

Dr. Mathew, we just heard, moments ago, from President Obama, commenting on this virus and its impact on minority communities. Let's listen.


OBAMA: And let's be honest. A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country. We see it in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities.


CABRERA: Dr. Mathew, what are we learning about the disproportionate impact on minority communities?

MATHEW: Well, that it is really highly disproportionate, Ana. The burden tends to fall mostly on our minority communities, Latino communities and African-American communities. There are lots of different layers to talk about, Ana.

But the two most common issues that actually result in that problem is that, number one, the socioeconomic status. A lot of our African- Americans and Latino workers are essential workers. They have to get on a subway. They have to go to work. They cannot stay at home.

And, remember, the stay-at-home type public health measure is still a privilege that not everybody really can enjoy. So, that's part of it. And there's also a lot of, you know, discriminatory practices. So, for instance, where are these testing? Where are the testing locations? Can our minority communities get to these testing centers?

So, it's really very discouraging. But I think absolutely what we need to do is to talk about it and make sure that that data is included when we report new cases and deaths in this country.

CABRERA: Dr. Saju Mathew, as well as Dr. Rochelle Walensky, good to have both of you with us. We appreciate your experience and your expertise in being able to pass that along to our viewers and all of us. Thank you.

Coming up, does it feel like you're spending more on groceries than you used to? Well, you are. A look next at what items you're now paying more for.

And be sure to tune in tonight for the star-studded event when CNN honors the graduates of 2020. We have LeBron James and Gal Gadot at 7:00.


CABRERA: And as well as at 8:00 with former presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Stay with us. You're watching CNN. You're live in the Newsroom.


CABRERA: Late last night, President Trump fired State Department inspector general, Steve Linick. This has been a pattern for quite some time, the president making a dramatic, often controversial, personnel announcement on a Friday night. And in the case of inspectors general, whose job it is to oversee agencies and departments for wrongdoing, this is now the third time in six weeks this has happened on a Friday night.

But there is an added twist. We've learned that this inspector general, Steve Linick, had launched an investigation into the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. And this afternoon, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his counterpart in the House, announced they are launching a probe of their own to find out why he got the boot.

Here's Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt on this latest shakeup.



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In the Trump administration, it is the watchdogs who are being watched closely, with suspicion and disdain now being dismissed at a growing pace. Friday night, with no warning, the inspector general for the State Department was suddenly fired. President Donald Trump informing the House speaker in a letter, it is

vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.

The State Department's Steve Linick, like all inspectors general, was charged with oversight, keeping watch for any wrongdoing and reporting it. According to the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Linick had launched an investigation into secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and whether, according to a Congressional aide, Pompeo and his wife had misused a political appointee for personal tasks. The State Department has not responded to that accusation.

Linick had a small, but important, role in the impeachment inquiry. And also had issued previous damning reports about the State Department under Pompeo. It was Pompeo, according to a senior State Department official, who recommended that Linick be fired.

The president has repeatedly shown and voiced opposition to his agency's watchdogs, fixated on getting rid of those he sees as Obama loyalists who aren't sufficiently loyal to his administration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did I hear the word, inspector general? Really? It's wrong. And they'll talk to you about it. It's wrong.

MARQUARDT: It was the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, whose actions sparked what became the Ukraine investigation and then impeachment proceedings of the president. Last month, Atkinson, too, was fired.

In addition to Linick and Atkinson, last month the Pentagon's acting inspector general, Glen Fine, who was overseeing spending on coronavirus response, was removed from the top job. And two weeks ago, the official serving as watchdog of Health and Human Services was replaced, after investigators found shortages of testing kits and masks, along with delays in coronavirus test results.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where did he come from, the inspector general? What's his name?

MARQUARDT: Three of the four were dismissed late on Friday nights.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): This is the dismemberment of accountability in the federal government if it continues.

MARQUARDT: The Trump administration has named a new inspector general for the State Department. His name is Steven Akard. He worked closely with Vice President Mike Pence in Indiana, when Pence was the governor there. Akard also served as a career foreign service officer in a number of diplomatic posts around the world.

Most recently, at the State Department, he has been the Director of Foreign Missions. But the anger is growing among Democrats with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees the State Department, calling the firing outrageous. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Coming up, why you're suddenly paying more for groceries, even though you're paying a lot less for other items, like gas.



CABRERA: Chances are you are spending more at the grocery store, even though you're not buying more than usual. The cost of eggs, up double digits. Pork, chicken, fish, even hot dogs are going to cost you more, too. Overall, the prices for groceries has increased by 2.6 percent in April. It doesn't sound like much, but that's the biggest increase in one month since the 1970s.

Back with us now is CNN's Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans. So, Christine, why is this happening and why are the cost of some goods increasing more than others?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's classic supply and demand. I mean, we're all out there going to the grocery store to feed our kids at home more. I mean, I know my grocery bills are up by volume and by price. Quite frankly, we're buying a lot of stuff at the same time that some of these supply chains have been disrupted. And so, that's more demand, less supply, and so you see these prices go up.

When you look at eggs, in particular. I mean, you buy a carton of eggs. You notice a difference. That $2.00 carton of eggs in March is now $2.32. It's real money and it's really noticeable. You know, 2.6 percent is the increase in the price of groceries. That doesn't sound like much from March to April.

But these are numbers that I have been watching for years, and they usually move by a tiny bit, like one or two-tenths of a percent point. Not this much. So, it's something that people are noticing and it means your grocery bills are definitely higher. For meat, for cereal, for bread, for just about everything.

CABRERA: Yes, for produce, as we saw in that last graphic. How long will these increased prices last? What are, maybe, some indicators you're looking at for when this will turn around?

ROMANS: Well, the CEO of Tyson Foods says that he is going to start -- they're going to start lowering, giving you discounts on some of these meat prices for grocery stores and restaurants and the like, because it was really getting noticeable. And the risk is, of course, that people pull back and start eating less meat. So, it behooves the big meat companies to try to lower those prices if they can.

They're going work out some of these supply chain disruptions. But some of this is also, kind of, our interesting pandemic behavior. You know, there's a little bit of panic buying of things going on. It's so fascinating to me that people are buying things, you know, for baking.

You know, how many people do you know who have, you know, sourdough starters and are trying to do some of these other things at home? So, it's interesting, some of that baby food, for example, diapers, these are other things that people are trying to stockpile a little bit. So, you can get some supply disruptions in those items as well.

But I think it will smooth out over time. I mean, remember toilet paper was the leading edge of this, and now that's not so much of a problem. We're moving into other things that seem to be in short supply. Some of the -- Krogers and some of the other chains had limited how much meat you could buy, in particular, because that was such a big deal there.


ROMANS: But, now, that seems to be smoothing out a little bit.

CABRERA: Yes, I've noticed that too, at even our local Stop and Shop, that limit put in place or at least a gentle reminder ask of people who are buying groceries.

Christine Romans, it always good to have you here. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

CABRERA: Now, keep in mind, grocery prices are going up as a record number of Americans lose their jobs, meaning people really need help. And joining us now is Michelin star and multiple James Beard award- winning chef, Daniel Boulud.

Chef, I am so glad to talk to you. And thank you for all the hard work you're putting into helping to feed people right now.

I want to talk about your project, Food1st, in just a moment, which, of course, is providing meals to first responders, elderly people, and others in need.

But let me ask you, real quick, about this spike in food prices and the impact on the restaurant industry.

We have heard from other restaurant owners that the spike in wholesale meat, specifically, is making it difficult for them to reopen their restaurants. No owner wants to raise menu prices right now, right? How big of a concern is this?

DANIEL BOULUD, CHEF & PARTNER, FOOD1ST FOUNDATION: Of course not. Hello, good afternoon, Ana.

It's a big concern for us. I mean, everything starts with food in a restaurant.

And of course, we have been, right now, making a lot of meals since we created Food1st Foundation. The CEO of S.L. Green has offered more than 50,000 meals in New York, and those meals, we make it at a very reasonable cost, but delicious. But you know, in the restaurant, when we're going to reopen, we hope

that the country will also totally reopen and farmers will go back to produce and be able -- we hope then the price will start to level out a little bit better than right now the distribution is a little bit uneven.

CABRERA: Right. In terms of reopening, you're obviously a leader in the industry and you are part of the special counsel of business leaders advising the White House on reopening the economy.

I know you've spoken personally with President Trump. What advice did you give the president from the restaurant industry? And do you feel his eagerness to get businesses open again is at the right level?

BOULUD: We don't -- we didn't want to speak just to the president. We also spoke to the Congress on both sides and made sure that they both got the message as well. Congress and the White House about, of course, the PPP, which was not at all practical for any of the restaurants, and for businesses in general. And we are expecting some positive response with the PPP in order for business to be helped.

And also we were also concerned about the small business, the small restauranteur, the small restaurants all over the country who didn't get their share, also, of the PPP, and that, I think, came into another round after.

But the biggest concern is, of course, the economy. How and how can we reopen? And the safest way, the best way. Customer have trust with us, and we trust our customer, that they want to come back.

We want to bring our staff back, of course. We want to bring our customer of our farmers back in business. But we first need the guidelines who is going to be visible for us to work with, practical, and where the business can sustain itself and try to not raise the price.

And we are starting a -- I am starting by doing food to go and many of my colleagues all over the country are started that with their restaurants, and I think it's a good business. It will stay there.

So we have Daniel Boulud Kitchen. We will be starting in a week in New York first. And we are looking at doing other opportunities of food to go. But we believe, also, restaurants, brick-and-mortar place, has to also reopen. And we hope that could be -- New York is the roughest city to open, I will say.

CABRERA: Well, because of the density --


BOULUD: Let me -- I don't want to run out of time.

Forgive me. I don't mean to interrupt you.

I just want to make sure we talk about Food1st because what you're doing through this nonprofit that you and others started last month and is really incredible, the way you are making a difference in communities all over the place.

Your initial goal, I know, was to provide up to 200,000 meals a day for first responders and other needy New Yorkers.

BOULUD: Yes. And we did that.

CABRERA: How exactly is it working?

BOULUD: It is working because it was the initiative also of my father at a new business we are opening in New York. He wanted to see the foundation in order to be able to give meal to New Yorkers in need.


And we, right away, I reopened two of my kitchens to do that, and we started to make meal for first responders but also for city Meals on Wheel in New York and to also Barry Mission, who have put shelters as well, and many other areas in New York City and the five boroughs where foods were so much needed.

And the generosity of Mark Holiday and, of course, Food1st Foundation still keep raising money because we need to bring more meals to people. And the city of New York was also very interested by our fast and dedicated -- this foundation was to support other foundation in New York City, such as World Central Kitchen or, like I said, city Meals on Wheel as well.


Chef Daniel, I appreciate the time.

BOULUD: So about 4,000 or 5,000 meals a week.

CABRERA: So 4,000 or 5,000 meals a week. That's wonderful to hear.

Again, Chef, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. And I'd like to stay in touch to find out how things go as the restaurant businesses begin to reopen more and more around the country.

Thanks again.

BOULUD: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Did you know we would be in the seventh week of baseball right now if this outbreak couldn't happen? We'll have a look at what sporting events could look like this summer, next.



CABRERA: Professional sports definitely won't look or sound the same whenever games are allowed to be played again.

We would be in the seventh week of Major League Baseball right now if the pandemic had not hit. Baseball will probably start in the summer and how strange will it be without the fans in the stands?

The NFL also announcing yesterday that teams could reopen facilities as early as next week, provided protocols are met and local regulations allow it.

Here's CNN Brian Todd with more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crack of the bat may soon return, the roar of the crowd won't. Major League Baseball has a plan that could allow regular season games to start around the 4th of July weekend, according to multiple news outlets, including the New York Times and ESPN.

They reported the season would be cut roughly in half to 82 games. The games will be held without fans and played in team's home stadiums. But only in jurisdiction where the local governments and health officials would allow it.

BARRY SVRLUGA, SPORTS COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They might have to move some teams away from home stadiums in places like California, where the restrictions are likely to be more stringent to someplace like Arizona, were already, the governor has said that they are open for business for major league sports.

TODD: Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, is also courting major sports teams from hard-hit areas of the country, where local officials may not want to resume sports yet.

RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We will find a place for you here in the state of Florida, because we think it is important, and we know that it can be done, safely.

TODD: Baseball's plan still hasn't been agreed to by the players union. The challenges for baseball to return this summer are enormous, starting with ensuring the health of everyone involved.

BOB COSTAS, SPORTS BROADCASTER & HOST, MLB NETWORK: The safety of the players is going to be a concern for the Major League Baseball Players Association, not just the players, but all the insular people, even without, fans you have got a large contingents of people who are not in uniform as players.

TODD: Other major sports leagues are struggling to navigate a return. ESPN reports top NBA executives are discussing ways to resume this season but weighing the health risks. The NFL plans to hold its 2020 season as scheduled, with fans in the stands. Germany's top soccer league is returning. England is considering it.

Top doctors warn those contact sports carry significant risks.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: You know, leaning against each other, they are breathing within each other space, they are less than six feet apart. That is certainly fair game for a virus to transmit from one person to another.

TODD: Experts say players would have to be tested almost every day.

Doctor Anthony Fauci told NBC sports, those who test positive would likely have to be segregated from the others.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES (voice-over): Those who are positive, you know, are taken out of commission for 14 days until they become negative. Then, there is a possibility.

TODD: And there is a huge debate over when to let fans back. When our major sports return in earnest, could it look like South Korea, Where the only fans at their baseball games are painted on seat coverings?

WALENSKY: I think, until we have real control over this epidemic, and perhaps even a vaccine, I'd hate to say it, it's going to be hard to fathom how we can safely have thousands and thousands of people gathered in one space.

TODD (on camera): And sports analyst say, in order to return safely, the major sports teams are going to have to navigate the dynamics between their players. Maybe one player on a team will be eager to get out there on a given night, but another player might say they've got a pregnant spouse at home or small children and they don't want to play to risk infecting them.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Let's discuss with award-winning sportscaster and host of the MLB Network, Bob Costas.

Bob, we just heard some of the plans for baseball. Right now, the plan involves a shorter season and players taking a pay cut. Blake Snell, star pitcher from the Tampa Bay Rays, reacted this way, and I quote, "For me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof."

Of course, that's just one player, but do you think players will agree to start the season?

COSTAS (via telephone): Well, Ana, part of the dispute is that when spring training was suspended, the players agreed that they would take prorated salaries. So in this case, they'd be taking half of their regular contract since you're playing half a season.

But now the owners have come back and said these circumstances are unique. Ballpark revenues make up roughly 40 percent of Major League Baseball's total revenues. Those revenues are going to be substantially down, and so they've asked the players to take a 50/50 revenue sharing cut. The players for the time being say, absolutely not. We're not going to do that.

[17:44:59] But regarding what Blake Snell said, I don't think he will be alone. Some players might say, if you're not going to pay me my full contract, I'm not coming back. But I think other players, especially star players, whose careers beyond this year would not be in jeopardy, many of those players might say, even if you paid me in full, I'm not coming back. It's not worth it to me under these circumstances.

And Major League Baseball has already recognized that that is a possibility. And they're prepared to go ahead because they'll have enough players to play, they think, even if there are some defectors.

CABRERA: I mean, we heard from MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, right here on CNN on Thursday night that a season without baseball could be devastating economically to teams. Do you have faith that safety is the top priority?

COSTAS: Well, they put out a 67-page document this week, and it's very, very comprehensive. It seems to take into account every eventuality, lockers, more than six feet apart, players not showering until they get back to the hotel or back home. All kinds of meticulous plans about travel and about distancing and all the rest.

If this is a test where 95 percent is ordinarily a great grade, it's not an acceptable grade. It's very difficult to see how, even with the best planning and the best intentions, that some of the hurdles won't be cleared. I'm sure they're going to start sometime in July. I just hope they can finish without interruption sometime in November.

CABRERA: Bob, so many people hear your voice and they see you and they think of the Olympics and are sad that the Olympics are not going to be happening this summer. They've been postponed for at least a year or so. What kind of effect do you think that delay has on athletes who are training?

COSTAS: Well, they trained to peak this summer, so now they've got to gear it back up on a timetable that makes sense for the summer of 2021. The IOC has already said that, even if they're able to hold them in full next year, it's going to take a hit of some $800 million. That's just the IOC itself.

The Tokyo organizers, that's another question. Even if the games are held, you have to believe the attendance will be less because people will still be wary. It will be a while before things return to 100 percent normal if they ever do. So there's an economic shock wave that's going to go through all of this.

But of all the sports, sports are in peril. But of all sports, the one that would have made the least sense to proceed as usual would have been the Olympics, to bring athletes from virtually every country on the globe, then to return home to nations that have varying degrees of health care.

And, in the meantime, they'll compete with each other, they'll sweat on each other, they'll lift together in the Olympic Village. That's a petri dish for causing COVID-19 to further explode.

So they were the first ones that should have stepped aside and eventually they did.

CABRERA: A little fun story I want to end on because this week the Eagles are opening up their stadium for frontline workers to get married at no charge. Do you think we'll see more teams opening up their facilities to couples?

COSTAS: Well, that's the first I heard of that. It's a goodwill gesture. You know, I think some of these leagues are looking for all the good P.R. that they can get. And that's certainly a nice gesture. So, yes, I imagine some will follow suit.

CABRERA: All right, Bob Costas, good to have you here. Thank you so much for taking the time.

COSTAS: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: We'll be right back.



CABRERA: The class of 2020 is facing a graduation that is very different than imagined. Canceled commencement ceremonies and a historic unemployment crisis.

But older folks want to remind us this is not the toughest graduation year. And 93-year-old Billie Shelley has been through a lot and she has some words of encouragement for today's graduates from senior to senior.


BILLIE SHELLEY, A SENIOR TALKING TO 2020 SENIORS: Well, these are scary times for everybody. But you will get through it. Just have faith. Do what you are told to do, behave yourselves. That is what we had to do.

My grammar school graduation was canceled because of the polio epidemic. We thought polio us very contagious. And everybody was afraid -- for the people that needed them.

And by the time we got to high school, we had the other epidemic. The war. That was even worse. Didn't have a graduation because of the black out. They had told us that the bombers were going to come over. They had to cut owl the lights out. It was just as black as it could get. Graduated in very scary times.

But I turned out OK and I'm proud to be here. I have a wonderful husband and wonderful bunch of children and grandchildren.

My advice to the graduates now think you don't know what the future is going to hold or what it is going to bring but off to a prayer a vision in your mind what you want to achieve and go for it. Keep trying.


CABRERA: Never give up.


Be sure to tune in tonight when CNN honors the graduates of 2020 with a two-hour event. First, at 7:00 Eastern, it is "THE CLASS OF 2020: IN THIS TOGETHER," featuring former President Bill Clinton and Gal Godot. And at 8:00, joining Lebron James and former President Barack Obama for "GRADUATE TOGETHER, AMERICA HONORS THE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2020."


CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining me. I'm Ana, Cabrera in New York.

And for the second time, former President Barack Obama slams President Trump's coronavirus response. It's been more than a week since he characterized the Trump administration's efforts as an absolute chaotic disaster.


Well, here is what President Obama told graduates today in a virtual commencement address for historically black colleges and universities.