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President Trump Demands State Governors Reopen Religious Houses of Worship; Tybee Island in Georgia Reopens Beach; City of Santa Monica Suffers from Low Tax Revenue Due to Coronavirus Pandemic; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Criticized for Large Number of Deaths in Nursing Homes Due to Coronavirus; New York Beaches Remain Closed; Pier 45 in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf Catches Fire; Businesses Face Confrontation From Customers over Requiring Facemasks for Service; Experts Answer Questions about Coronavirus Pandemic's Effects on Education and Schooling for Young Children. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: JetBlue is restricting the use of middle seats throughout the July 4th holiday, and United has announced that's it's partnering with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to guide its health practices.

Those who do fly will have to put up with new security procedures. The Transportation Security Administration says it's designed to cut down on touch points for passengers and its employees. Almost 600 have tested positive for coronavirus and six have died. A source tells CNN that TSA is considering temperature checks at security, a move that the industry is pushing for.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

This Memorial Day weekend is looking very different than usual as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Right now beaches and parks from coast to coast are allowing people to return for the first time in months. But in many areas this new found freedom comes with restrictions on capacity and social distancing rules. All of this as the number of new cases in the U.S. is holding steady or rising in 42 states. Some experts worry reopening could cause new spikes of the disease. The number of deaths is now over 96,000, and new cases are up over 1.6 million.

Even as states ease some restrictions, President Trump is demanding governors do even more, calling on states to fully reopen houses of worship, even saying he will override any governor who doesn't comply, although it's unclear what authority the president is actually referring to.

CNN has a team of reporters fanned out across the country to cover all of the re-openings this holiday weekend. We begin this hour in Georgia where the beaches on Tybee Island are packed with visitors. The small beach town made national headlines when the mayor went toe-to-toe with Governor Brian Kemp. Back in April, Kemp opened beaches right after Tybee Island's mayor and city council had closed their beaches down.

CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now from Tybee Island. So what is it looking like this afternoon?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, yes, this is the most number of people we've seen all day. And as you were mentioning, the mayor of Tybee Island here going toe-to-toe with the governor. After that, the state sent resources. You see those folks in the neon vests? They are from the Department of Natural Resources. They came down here initially when beaches reopened, and they are some passing us now. They came down here to enforce social distancing. They left after a little bit, but they are back this weekend, and you can see why. There are just plenty of people, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this year's Memorial Day and any other year, frankly, at this point, except for the fact that people are supposed to stay six feet from the next party and not have more than 10 people per group.

We met a couple that was actually supposed to be getting married today, and when they knew that they couldn't have their wedding, one of them actually planned a trip down here knowing that Georgia was the first to reopen places like this. Here's what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought we can go here, go to the beach, and maybe go to a restaurant, a bar, and just have a good time, and escape and not be too upset about not getting married today with all our family and friends, but still come and still have a good time, because everyone loves the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are so many people here on the beach. I did not think that there was going to be that many. But it's kind of cool. There's all these people. The speakers are going. Looks like frat city kind of right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: She says it looks like frat city. And so far, the mayor tells me that DNR patrol folks have not actually cited or arrested anyone for being too close together. They simply offer warning. But it got a bit serious last weekend when Tybee Police were sent to break up a group of 100, 150 kids, and they even got some pushback from those kids' parents according to the mayor, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. OK, Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

In southern California, warm temperatures and a promise of near 90 degrees on Monday are expected to attract very large crowds there to the beaches. CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us now from Santa Monica. Paul, what are you seeing? PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right behind me, Fred, I can

imagine you running, because you are allowed to run, but you can also go on the bike path now, and that's a game changer. Look at this. Once again, they've opened this up for skateboarding or skating, biking, running, all of that. So recreation is OK, but you are not allowed to park in big clusters here. Normally Memorial Day weekend, even at 11:00, which it is now on the west coast, you would see all sorts of umbrellas and blankets there.

[14:05:00]

Then behind me you see the Santa Monica Pier. That is a symbol of this small city really suffering because the Ferris wheel is not moving. We do not see that rollercoaster humming. And for the mayor of this city, it's really been tough. Some deficit of $40 million just since the COVID-19 crisis began because they've lost hotel and sales tax revenue. And he described what it's been like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KEVIN MCKEOWN, (D) SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA: It's been about ten weeks since I really had a good night's sleep or had a day off. And I'm not saying that for pity. It's just the reality of trying to run a local government in these unprecedented circumstances. We've had recessions before, but never anything that happened this suddenly or this deeply that took that much money out of the city coffers so quickly. So trying to figure how to run city on roughly 40 percent less money is a real challenge. We have tourism and restaurants provide a great deal of our city budget, and with the restaurants closed and the hotels, the very few hotels that are open have five or 10 percent occupancy, that revenue is not going to come in for some time. We know it's not going to come back overnight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: That revenue, of course, pays for police and fire, and Santa Monica police telling me that the idea this weekend is they want to warn people, educate them, and just make sure that they don't gather in big groups here. Also making it difficult, a lot of the Santa Monica parking lots are closed, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. I've been running and skating on that path. It's always fun. And of course, it is great to see everybody else who is enjoying it as people are doing right behind you now. Paul Vercammen in Santa Monica, thank you so much.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is prepared to lift more restrictions in the coming days if new cases, hospitalizations and intubations, continue to trend downward. This at a time when the state has now reached a milestone on Friday, recording less than 100 deaths.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: In my head, I was always looking to get under 100. And we are under 100. It doesn't do any good for the 84 families that are feeling the pain, but for me, it is just a sign we're making real progress, and I feel good about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now with more on this. Polo, what are you learning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, good afternoon to you. So this goes back to an Associated Press story that reports that roughly 4,300 COVID positive patients were admitted to nursing homes after an executive order that was issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo, so this certainly has begged a closer look. And after that story we've heard from the governor's office addressing specifically this. And we heard that again today, the governor today offering that they saw well over 60,000 patients at hospitals, and that 4,000 or so figure would be a subset of that.

Additionally, the governor also offered an explanation that we've heard in the past, or at least the last several days here, saying that the state of New York was pretty much just following guidance that was issued by the federal government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: New York followed the president's agency's guidance, so that depoliticizes it. What New York did was follow what the Republican administration said to do. That's not my attempt to politicize it. It is my attempt to depoliticize it. So don't criticize the state for following the president's policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: The governor there recognizing this is certainly a politically charged topic but, nonetheless, one that many people are calling for a closer look here.

Now, what do we know from the state's health department? They have told CNN that they are still taking a closer look at the numbers. The key numbers that they're going to have to try to track down here and eventually release will be exactly how many people were admitted after this executive order was issued in March, and before it was rescinded by the governor's office on May 10th. That, of course, would be a telling number, but it has done little to quiet not only criticism but also this growing call for a federal investigation as to some of the deaths we saw in those long term care facilities in the state of New York, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much in New York.

So while many places in New York City are opening, swimming at beaches remains off limits. And on this holiday weekend, that is worrying some neighboring beach communities about an influx potentially of New Yorkers taking advantage of the less restrictive measures. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is at one of those beaches along the Jersey Shore with its own concerns. So what are these communities preparing to do to keep everyone safe?

[14:10:00]

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we've had some information into the CNN Newsroom over the past couple of hours that has really fleshed this thing out. And really, there are two storylines here. One, what people were planning for this weekend, and, two, what's actually happened.

Let's start with the second one. It's been rainy. The weather has not been great. The crowds have not been big. So even though beaches all up and down the Jersey Shore and the New York area all prepared for a massive influx of people who have been sitting at home and have reached this unofficial start to the summer beach season, they haven't really showed up, so we haven't really put a lot of those new rules and limits to the test.

Now, the first part of this is, this is really a story about what happens when you have differing opening rules in differing places. Last week, the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, told the residents of that city, which is still, of course, under a lockdown order, that the beaches would not be really available to them this Memorial Day weekend. He said, look, you can walk on the beach, you can maybe even dip a toe in, some talk about that. But sitting around, gathering, playing sports, all that is closed.

So what that caused was neighboring communities around the New York City area that felt a little more comfortable opening beaches worrying they're going to get an influx of people that they wouldn't be able to handle with their new rules.

So Nassau County, counties around the New York City area, they instituted rules saying only their residents could come to those beaches. These were lightly enforced rules. They said they're going to check licenses of one person in a car coming in, signs saying don't come on the beach if you're not a resident of the area. That light enforcement has been kind of a hallmark of this whole thing. This weekend is really about personal responsibility.

Now, here in New Jersey, where I've been the past couple weeks on these weekends covering the reopening plan, they are not worried about people coming to the beach. They are welcoming visitors. Very important to them for the local economy to welcome visitors, but they're limiting the experience those visitors will have. So when you co onto the beach, there is a limited number of people who can be on the beach. And if you're on the beach you're supposed to be socially distant, and if you're not, you'll be told to socially distant.

Boardwalks remain partially open in places, closed in some places. Attractions are still closed. But there is some goal here in New Jersey, at least, of trying to welcome people from all over to come to the beaches like usual and get some of that economy going, but that is not the same story closer to New York where there is more of a concern of New York City residents flooding beaches that not prepared to handle them.

Again, that is all pretty much theoretical because of the weather we've seen. Right now where I'm standing in in Belmar, New Jersey, it's a beautiful moment, but there is rain expected later in the day, and there was rain this morning. So really a test that has not yet happened of what is going to happen when these beaches are fully open and under way. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, well, when the weather cooperates, we'll see how tested that plan will be. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

Coming up, smoke and flames at a tourist hotspot in San Francisco, a fire and wall collapse puts historic ships at risk.

Plus, the debate over wearing a mask reaches a boiling point, triggering outbursts like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in violation of my -- constitutional rights and my civil rights!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And today the governor of North Dakota choking back tears while discussing the issue.

And then later, what will classrooms look like when schools eventually reopen? Our panel is here to answer your top questions about education.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:17:45]

WHITFIELD: A developing story out of California right now. More than 125 firefighters are battling a massive fire at San Francisco's Pier 45. It was first reported early this morning at the iconic Fisherman's Wharf which is home to a pair of World War II era warships.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEUTENANT JONATHAN BAXTER, SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our aggressive and quick, swift actions saved the historic Jeremiah O'Brien, which, if we are looking for one positive to come out of this tragic event, saving an historic World War II vessel at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend is something we should all be proud of as a community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The warehouse fire is now contained to one section of the pier, but officials say a quarter of the pier has been lost to the flames. No injuries have been reported.

The Navajo Nation is currently under a 57-hour lockdown after reporting at least 95 new coronavirus cases and nearly 150 deaths. The lockdown went into effect last night and will go on until Monday. During this time all businesses are closed. The stringent measures come as the total number of positive cases for the Navajo Nation surpasses 4,500.

The debate over whether to wear a facemask to help curb the spread of coronavirus is sparking tensions in some communities. Some see wearing a mask or not wearing a mask as a political statement. But the Republican governor of North Dakota got choked up while pushing back on that notion during a press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DOUG BURGUM, (R) NORTH DAKOTA: Either it's ideological or political or something around mask versus no mask. This is, I would say, senseless dividing line. If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a five-year-old child who's been going through cancer treatments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Still, the issue has led to confrontations across the country as some businesses try to enforce mask usage. In some case the outcome has cost lives. Here is CNN's Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[14:20:01]

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A confrontation over wearing masks gets deadly at a Family Dollar store in Michigan, three people charged with killing a security guard who police say had asked a customer to wear a state mandated facemask. It's unclear if the three defendants have entered pleas. The guard's uncle couldn't make sense of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My nephew lost his life trying to help save lives.

TODD: At this Waffle House in Aurora, Colorado, police say a man threatened a cook who refused to serve him because he wasn't wearing a mask. Police say the man returned later wearing a mask and shot the cook after the cook refused to serve him again. The man is charged with attempted first-degree murder. He has not yet entered a plea.

At a Publix grocery store in Miami Beach earlier this month, this was the scene when a man was not let in because he wasn't wearing a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A violation of my -- constitutional rights and my civil rights!

TODD: Miami Beach police tell CNN this video was captured on a code enforcement officer's body camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no pandemic! I'm filing a -- lawsuit.

TODD: The sign on the store's front door clearly says customers have to cover mouths and noses. CNN reached out to Publix for comment and more information on the incident, like what precipitated it. We didn't hear back from them. Miami Beach police did not have information on what started the confrontation, but told CNN no arrests were made. Tension, confrontation, and violence seem to have escalated in recent

weeks as businesses have opened up and customers have brushed back on the rules requiring face masks.

JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: It's frightening. A lot of these stores are trying to follow the rules and regulations that have been placed out there, but without additional security, it's become very difficult for them. People are angry. People are frustrated with what this means for individual businesses. It puts them and their employees at a greater risk.

TODD: We asked a psychiatrist who has worked with law enforcement, what is it about being asked to wear face masks which might set off confrontations?

DR. LISE VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: The face is a very personal, our most personal space. When we're telling people, you have to cover that up, it really can evoke a very primitive sense about the fact that you are trying to dominate me, you are trying to humiliate me, you are trying to control me. And I'm not going to do it.

TODD: Some who resisted wearing masks have said they have a right not to wear one, and many people have been confused over mask wearing because so many jurisdictions have different ordinances about them. But health experts are unequivocal about why they are important.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: As you go into the workplace or as you're going to into any area where there is significant numbers of people, it's lifesaving. You're actually saving other people's lives by wearing that mask and preventing aerosol release of the COVID-19 virus.

TODD: But law enforcement analysts are worried that as more businesses an public spaces reopen, that the confrontations over wearing face masks will only escalate, stretching the resources not only of law enforcement agencies but also of businesses, which may have to hire extra security now.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And still ahead, how can students social distance? And what about masks and cleaning classrooms? Our experts are here to answer your questions about schools, teachers, and children.

And a reminder, Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning team up against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in Capital One's "The Match, Champions for Charity." "The Match" begins tomorrow at 3:00 on TNT, TBS, TruTV, and HLN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:28:02]

WHITFIELD: This weekend we are approaching 100,000 coronavirus deaths in America. As researchers test possible vaccines, businesses are beginning to reopen, and so are some schools. But what will classrooms look like in this age of coronavirus?

Today we're answering your top questions about education. I'm joined now by Dr. Sally Goza, a pediatrician and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Meria Carstarphen, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, and Michael Gonchar, editor for the "New York Times" Learning Network. Good to see all of you. Glad you could be with us on this really super important topic. It's on top of the minds of all parents out there, anyone who has a child in their life.

Dr. Goza, you first. Parker from Richmond, Texas, asks "How can school districts care and protect their youth from the unknowns of COVID-19 while also supporting their own faculty members who may be vulnerable?

DR. SALLY GOZA, PEDIATRICIAN: I just want to reiterate that we are learning something about this virus every day, and we don't have all of those answers yet. But what we do know is that children need to be ready to start back in school if we are able to open in the fall safely. We need to make sure they call their pediatricians, get those school physicals done. Make sure your child is up to date with immunizations. Make sure that they are getting plenty of sleep so they'll be in a good school routine. And make sure we are monitoring mental health about all the stress that has been in their life from anxiety and depression, and those things.

And if we're able to start, open these schools safely, then they'll be ready to get back in there and start learning. And the school systems, I'm sure, will be very innovative in all the things they will do to make sure children stay safe as they get back into school. We will need to have and do testing and monitoring for that.

WHITFIELD: Michael, Rene in Elk Grove, California, asks "What proactive strategies or processes do you know of toward realistically opening schools and keeping the children, parents, and staff healthy?"

[14:30:08]

MICHAEL GONCHAR, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" LEARNING NETWORK: I think that schools and colleges are considering all options right now. So for example, I think many families and teachers definitely want testing to make sure that people know when someone is infected in the community. They want tracing put in so, for example, if someone is infected that authorities can set self-quarantine those who may be at risk. They want to put in guidelines about mask wearing, especially in crowded places such as, for example, in cafeterias, and social distancing measures, which can be really complicated.

So for example, one thing that school districts are considering are hybrid possibilities. So for example, students might go to school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or they might have some sort of split schedule in the mornings and in the afternoons so that they are not putting all of the students who are normally in the building there at the same time.

And I think the districts are even reconsidering things like perfect attendance awards. Maybe we don't want parents sending their children to school if they have a slight fever during a pandemic, things that maybe some parents might have done otherwise.

And my sister told me back in March that she mentioned when the outbreak was just beginning to the principal of her son's school that they need soap in the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. So looking at all different options, and the basics do matter as well.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and on that cafeteria issue, of course a lot of folks are trying to envision, if you are wearing a mask, how are you going to eat? In fact, there is a question upcoming about that.

So Meria, this to you. This is from Barbara, a teacher with 40 years experience in special education and early childhood education. She writes, students, both special needs and four, five-year-olds, "will be challenged with social distancing. How will school districts limit the number of young students and students with special needs in classrooms?"

MERIA CARSTARPHEN, SUPERINTENDENT, ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS: IC Right. So there are a lot of questions like that. The practicality of applying some of these theories are incredibly challenging. And I agree that schools and districts will have to be incredibly innovative.

But what I think every stakeholder needs to understand is that the most important thing we can do, or the umbrella under which we need to live and work has to be about protecting those vulnerable populations and whether that is a child or an adult, that is key to every strategy that you use.

And then what has to undergird any scenario or any strategy is practicing prevention. So I've seen a lot of theories, even in, if you just walk through the typical school day, getting on a bus, entering a school, eating a meal, walking down a hallway, getting in the classroom will require, if you're going to do those kinds of public health recommendations, you're going to have to have the distance and you're going to have to think about how you maximize the facility itself.

So social distancing I think is the bear that we have to wrestle with. But when you're working with little children who have the wiggles, and they're just not used to working under these conditions, I think it is going to be very hard. But there are some theories out there that I know our district is considering in multiple scenarios. So having a cross functional team looking at those scenarios is going to be essential to figuring out the strategies that work in your system.

WHITFIELD: That is going to be really hard, particularly it seems like the smaller the child the more likely they are to want to be close to someone, so to try to impose on them six feet apart, boy, that is going to be really tough getting that message across.

So Dr. Goza, Brian from Clemens, North Carolina, asks "Even if I send my children to school in masks, will they be susceptible to possible cross contamination, like when eating?" That cafeteria scenario, or even in the classroom some kids eat.

GOZA: As we know, masks are going to be one of our things to use to try to help keep children and the faculty and the people in the school safe, but we also need the physical distancing, because the masks by themselves are not going to do the whole thing to keep children safe. And when they do want to eat or drink, they will be taking those masks off. And so it will be probably critical to not have children putting masks on or off, and to have separate masks for them to put on so they go to school with one mask, have lunch maybe, and then have another mask for the afternoon.

And so I think it will have to be some innovation there of how do we have enough masks to make that happen, and how do we help kids, actually the younger kids even keep the mask over their mouth and their nose, which we know is difficult. So it will take some practice.

WHITFIELD: Now you're delving into a whole other issue. Meria, I know you can underscore this. It's going to be costly, and there are going to be a lot of public school districts that are particularly cash- strapped, and the notion of now buying more supplies, that is yet another challenge.

[14:35:12]

CARSTARPHEN: We were just doing some estimates ourselves looking at whether or not we would self-produce the masks. And a practice like that for a district our size is about $300,000 just to get out of the door. But that is coupled with what I think every district is going to be experiencing across the country, which is dramatic budget reductions. We just got a memo today saying that it's a 14 percent reduction in the funding formula for districts coming from the state. And we also have a bricks and mortar program. Most people use bonds, but ours is tied to a one penny sales tax. So no one is out. No one is buying. There are no conventions. So we're going to feel a real hit in our ability to maintain and renovate and protect the buildings themselves and buy buses.

And again, you're trying to do smaller class sizes, smaller numbers of children in bus routes, which means you're going to need more supports, more buses themselves. And so it is been a real -- to look at those things and to try to piece it together in a way that says, for us, it's a $60 million general fund hit, you're doing things like eliminating textbook adoptions or cutting the reserves from schools or reducing our ability to do some of the flexible work we do in the school year for schools that were already struggling. So the challenge is real and the resources will be tight.

WHITFIELD: Huge challenges. Huge challenges. Thank you so much, everyone. Stick around. We have got more questions coming your way.

But first, a surprise message from Dr. Anthony Fauci to the class of 2020 at John Hopkins University.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Warm greetings to you all. My name is Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

I am really delighted to address the outstanding graduates in the John Hopkins University class of 2020. We are currently confronting an unprecedented global pandemic, and I am profoundly aware that celebrating your graduation virtually is extremely disappointing at best. However, we must adapt to this extraordinary situation, as you have done so well, and unite in overcoming the challenges we face because of COVID-19.

We need your talent, your energy, your resolve, and your character to get through this difficult time. In the next phase of your lives, whatever professional path you choose, all of you directly or indirectly will be doing your part, together with the rest of us, to come out from under the shadow of this pandemic. Hopkins has a rich tradition of nurturing scholars who excel in their fields of study, and by extension enhance the global society in which we live. I have no doubt you'll become leaders in your respective fields and help respond to the many public health and other challenges to come.

So congratulations on your graduation, keep well, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:42:46]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to this special edition of the CNN Newsroom where we answer your questions about the coronavirus pandemic. And specifically, this week we're focusing on the impact on our students, teachers, and education system. And you all have sent amazing questions.

My panel is back with me. Michael, Dr. Julian (ph) Engert (ph) in Atlanta asks, "If the fed cuts money for education as has been reported, how can schools ensure smaller classes?"

GONCHAR: I think people are worried about budget issues like was mentioned earlier with people not shopping in stores and taxes, fewer taxes coming in. I think that is a real issue, and I know that New York City mentioned that there's going to be budget cuts in the school system. I certainly hope that if cuts need to be made, that teachers and those who are working with students directly are protected. Those are the people in the front lines at the schools. Those are the people reaching our students. And so I think that is most important.

And with this issue of small class sizes, that's important for educational reasons. But also like was mentioned earlier, it is important in terms of social distancing. If students are going back to school and we're packing more students into the classroom, that feels like a recipe for disaster. WHITFIELD: It would be nice if the education system were exempt from

any kind of cuts, but we just heard you, Meria, explained what may potentially happen when the Georgia education leaders are saying the governor's request to cut the budget for schools by 14 percent could cost jobs, salaries in school districts across the state. So a viewer in Atlanta asks "How is the Atlanta public school system going to hand the billions in budget cuts?" And I know you touched on it earlier, but help paint the picture.

CARSTARPHEN: Yes. So for our district, we, again, we're looking mostly at non-personnel cuts. It's a rough economy. If the last numbers I saw for the motion, about 38 million people were filing for unemployment. And so our area isn't immune from the economy either. So we're actually trying to keep people in their jobs, make sure they have their benefits, make sure they have health insurance, retirement.

[14:45:06]

We are trying not to completely undermine the economy of our community, and that means people have to be kept employed. So the last thing we're going to do is try to touch people in their positions. But like I said earlier, we're going to be looking at pushing off textbook adoptions. We're going to push off any kind of raise or compensation. We are looking at shifting those sources of where we pay, or from where we pay, which means that maybe push some things off of our general fund into the CARES Act resources as an example. And we're asking everyone to just tighten the belt.

And we're doing it in an autonomous way. So trying not to be draconian about the approach, allowing each principal and governing team for a school made up of parents and community stakeholders and teachers to laser cut where they think they could help us with some of the relief. But all in, we do think we can make it to the $60 million.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Goza, this question is from Jeff, a P.E. teacher in Sacramento. He writes "Do I need to wipe down every piece of equipment after each class? Am I endangering students if they share a ball for a drill?"

GOZA: He does. We do need that we need to wipe down everything that we use. We're doing it in our offices. If a patient comes in we wipe down the table. We wipe down the chairs. We wipe down any touchable surfaces. So yes, he would need to wipe those things down.

And I would encourage P.E. teachers to be very innovative about trying to find physical activities where they can have social distancing or physical distancing at least, and use as little equipment as possible so that that doesn't become an issue.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that is going to be a huge challenge.

Thank you so much, everyone. Stick around. We have so much more to discuss.

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[14:51:30]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to this special edition of the CNN Newsroom where we answer your questions about the coronavirus pandemic, and the focus this weekend is all education. My panel is back with me now. Meria, Nick from Connecticut asks, "What do you envision classroom learning to look like in the fall? What will school buses, cafeterias, gym class, and extracurricular activities look like?"

CARSTARPHEN: Well, I would tell him, consider the worst, but expect the models to be the best people can do under the conditions. So I think you will see some smaller class sizes, a rethink of buildings, even the use of best practice research around gatherings, we'll have to dismantle and put back together in different ways.

I think people can also expect that the schedules will be different, and that's from transportation to how a master schedule actually works in the school. And I think that if you are in high school or secondary, you can also expect changes in athletics and after school activities as well as early childhood education. So it's going to be a lot of changes. I think people should prepare to be flexible.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Michael, Ross from Rome, New York, asks "Do you think there will be a major regression with most children's education and what they learned the first half of the school year?"

GONCHAR: People are worried about what has happened over the past two months. Traditionally educators talk about a summer slide, and people worry that even despite schools and educators' best efforts that maybe there will be a spring and summer slide because of these months of remote learning. We know that some students are being left out, that there are thousands of students who don't have wi-fi that is reliable, that don't have technology that's reliable. They may be taking school on their phones because they don't have a laptop or computer.

On top of that, to think about students who have special needs or who are learning English as a second language, these are all challenging situations. I think schools have to be prepared during the summer and for the fall that there will be some students who have fallen behind and will need to have additional supports ready.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Goza, Jess from Minnesota asks "If you have multiple kids and one is immune compromised, is the safe thing to keep them all home from school? Or can you send some and still protect the one who needs it?" And the same could be said for a family that has, perhaps, an elderly person at home.

GOZA: Absolutely. I think that is going to really rely on what is going on in your community with the virus, with testing, and tracking and all of those things. And I encourage anyone who is in that situation where they have a child or an adult member in the family that may be immuno-suppressed or special needs, to call their pediatrician and set out a plan of what they should do, and talk it through with their pediatrician.

WHITFIELD: Meria, how do you suppose your school district and other school districts will be able to, I guess, reach a consensus on what is going to be the best plan since schools in one district may be very different, and the needs and the supplies, resources, and the audience of people, can be very different?

CARSTARPHEN: Well, I don't think that consensus is going to be achievable. What I think people will do is, if they are smart, I think you do have to look at unique challenges and community structures within not only your city or your state, but within your district, itself.

[14:55:04]

The inequities of what has existed in public school systems, especially urban systems, are real. And having to press hard to get resources where people need it the most I think will be the biggest challenges we'll have to face as a public school entity within our nation. So I think it'll be different across the board. I don't think consensus is going to be the norm.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. That will have to do it for now, not because there aren't more questions, because, boy, are there, but simply the hour is now up. But thank you so much. We'll have you back, Sally Goza, Meria Carstarphen, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, and Michael Gonchar of the "New York Times." Thanks to all of you. Really appreciate it. Amazing answers and, of course, great questions to get us started with. Thank you so much to our viewers at home.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thank you so much for being with me today. The CNN Newsroom continues right after this with Ana Cabrera.

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