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Diverse, Peaceful Crowds Protest in NYC; Car Rally Joins Peaceful Protests in L.A.; Colin Powell Criticizes President Trump's Leadership; White House Considering a Plan for Trump to Address Nation; 'New York Times' Editor Resigns Over Op-Ed Controversy; Tropical Storm Cristobal Makes Landfall in Louisiana; GOP Senator Mitt Romney Joins Protestors in Washington; Demonstrations Spreading to More Cities Worldwide; New Zealand Says It Has Zero Active Cases of COVID-19; New Documentary Chronicles Rise and Fall of Lance Armstrong. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired June 8, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.
Welcome everyone. As protests against racism and police brutality enter their 13th day across the United States, the focus has shifted to the changes that need to come next.
Demonstrations were largely peaceful over the weekend, and major cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, all lifting curfews. And now, the many protesters, chanting, "Black lives matter," also have a new rallying cry: "Defund the Police."
Meanwhile, President Trump announced he's ordered the National Guard to begin withdrawing from Washington, but warned they could return quickly if needed.
Senator Mitt Romney marching in Washington to support the Black Lives Matter movement. He is believed to be the first Republican senator to do so.
And the protests aren't just in the U.S. Tens of thousands of people, jamming the streets of London on Sunday, and there were protests elsewhere around the globe, as well, including Rome, Madrid, Sydney, Hong Kong.
In cities across the U.S., protests stayed orderly and organized, with unified calls to end racism and to hold police officers accountable. We'll take you to Los Angeles, but first, to an energetic crowd in New York City.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Greetings from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where a massive protest of around 45,000 people is just breaking up in a community known for the strong Hasidic Jewish population here. A very diverse, again, very peaceful crowd. We've been listening to police scanners all throughout the day, where the word "orderly" was repeated again, and again, and again, thankfully.
And as a result of several days of really peaceful, nonviolent protests, Mayor de Blasio lifted the curfew in New York City a day early, 100 days after the first coronavirus case was confirmed. The first phase of reopening America's biggest city is underway.
About 400,000 people are expected to go back to work, and it will be interesting to see what that does to the momentum of these protests, as people slowly get back to work.
The cries for police reform seem to be having some effect. After defending NYPD for a week and a half, both the governor and the mayor now are behind police reform bills, including Bill de Blasio's pledge to, for the first, time, take money away from NYPD, part of the defund the police movement that seems to be sweeping the country. They get about $6 billion a year, which is more than the money that's spent on youth development, health services, homelessness combined. And people argue that, if you take some of the money from NYPD and give it to social programs, it might alleviate all this anger and oppression that's been building up over generations.
It's not that long ago when stop-and-frisk was the rule of the day here in New York City, and when it showed a disproportionate of young black men were being stopped, Michael Bloomberg had to apologize for that policy when he ran for president. And so this is another shift.
But standing in the way of that progress is the police union. Here, and in other cities, hugely powerful. They're to protect their own, the thin blue line, that they see. And what's interesting is a University of Chicago study a few years back found that when a department unionizes, citizens' complaints go up by almost 30 percent.
So that will be a political loggerheads going forward.
But as far as the righteous anger that's fueled so many families, so many different people from all walks of life to take to the streets, after two weeks, another peaceful night, and for that, everyone is thankful.
I'm Bill Weir, CNN, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So in Los Angeles, a car caravan rally. They drove from Compton to Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, and they made their point clear. If you look at this sign right here: "No Justice, No Peace," "We Demand Justice for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, and All Victims of Police Brutality."
Now one of the points that the organizers of this rally made is not only do they want to stop police violence, but they said that by allowing it to be a car rally -- "Black lives matter," this reads -- some older people who otherwise couldn't march 10 miles, were able to participate.
Let's hear from the organizer, Ron Gochez (ph). [00:05:05]
RON GOCHEZ (ph), PROTEST ORGANIZER: We're here to stop police terrorism. You know, we're not here to say that we want the cops to kneel with us. We want to stop police terrorism, because this is not new. We want people to -- that are watching to know that protesting is great, marching is great, but it's not enough. We have to organize every day, year-round.
VERCAMMEN: And there you have it, a symphony of car horns, right in front of LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles. We counted hundreds and hundreds of cars that made that ten-mile trek from Compton, as part of this protest.
Reporting in Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.
M. HOLMES: Jasmyne Cannick is a political strategist. She joins us now from Los Angeles.
Great to see you. I mean, these protests have been remarkable and global. But I guess the challenge is not allowing that momentum to fade, not allowing, you know, George Floyd to be another name on a list until the next incident.
How do you do that? What is the endgame?
JASMYNE CANNICK, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Right. So the endgame is that, in America, we have only got any real change around human and civil rights through two methods, either a court ruling or legislation.
And so I think the challenge is going to be for all the people who were concerned about police brutality and police killings, but how do you change it up. Right?
How do you get an independent prosecutor so Bonnie isn't investigating Clyde, which means the D.A.'s office, that depends on the police and the sheriff, aren't investigating these situations?
In California, the only way we can get independent prosecutors is to go through state law. And so it will be interesting to see if these groups can work on getting independent prosecutors, as well as getting rid of qualified immunity, which is the law -- well, it's not really a law, but it's a thing that judges go by, that basically, police officers can't be sued.
M. HOLMES: Right. One thing that is interesting, and I didn't know this until the other day, is that there are nearly 18,000 police agencies in the country, which kind of makes uniform reform difficult. You know, I think that, as you said, Bonnie cannot be charged with investigating Clyde. You would like to see an independent prosecutor's office. What would that look like?
CANNICK: Well, we need an independent prosecutor's office in every single state. And what that looks like is that you have an independent prosecutor that's appointed, but not one that's appointed by any elected official who takes police union money, or anyone who is influenced by police unions.
Because that is really who -- who the people who want to see change around law enforcement and criminal justice reform are fighting. They are fighting the police unions who have a stranglehold on elected officials, from coast to coast, with their money at all levels of government.
And so, when we talk about having an independent prosecutor, you have to make sure that that person is not being influenced by the police union, or being influenced by anyone who is influenced by the police union. And that can be accomplished in each and every state in this country, and that is exactly what we need.
M. HOLMES: The officer now charged over George Floyd's death, the former Officer Chauvin, I mean, he had 17 prior complaints against him, received I think, two official reprimands, one verbal. I mean, do you find yourself wondering why was he even on the force? You know, how often does that scenario play out, or an officer just leaves and goes to a different force, which is pretty easy to do?
CANNICK: That is common. That is not surprising. That happens a lot, particularly here in Los Angeles, with the LAPD, and the sheriff's department.
And the reason why they are allowed to have that many instances of misconduct and complaints and keep their jobs is because of the police union. So, we're going back to the police union.
The police union advocates for their members. Out of all of the labor unions in America, they're the only union that have the optics of fighting to keep their members out of prison and jail. And their money successfully does that for them.
And so again, I'm looking at the endgame. You know, we have to strategize on how we get around police unions. And sometimes that means carrying a ballot measure. Sometimes that means working with lawmakers who aren't getting police union money and getting laws passed to create these independent prosecutors in each state.
And I'm also very interested in what Cory Booker is doing in D.C. around getting rid of qualified immunity.
M. HOLMES: Getting -- getting laws passed, as you know, that requires -- that means public pressure. And you know, you seem to have that momentum at the moment.
It was interesting. There was a 2014 poll taken after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. And it said that 43 percent of people said that the killings were the sign of a broader problem. Forty-three percent. Today, 74 percent. A lot of people feel this time is different. Do you agree?
[00:10:05] CANNICK: You know, I've seen this happen before. Everyone, you know, gets upset. And they're in the streets. But I've never really seen that translate into legislation. I haven't seen that translate into sustainable change that affects generations to come.
We do this wash, rinse and repeat cycle thing, right? So next week there will be a new video, a new dead black body, new outrage and new anger.
And as a strategist, I'm always trying to figure out, how do we make the type of change that means future generations do not have to put up with this anymore, do not have to deal with it.
And I think that's going to be the challenge, not for just Black Lives Matter and supporters, their allies, everyone. It's how do we move forward? Because you know, complaining has never been a strategy. It just has never been one. We have to move forward with legislation.
M. HOLMES: Yes. Well, hopefully, the momentum keeps up, as you say, and that George Floyd doesn't become just another one on the list.
M. HOLMES: Jasmyne Cannick in Los Angeles. Really appreciate your time. Thanks so much.
CANNICK: Thanks for having me.
M. HOLMES: OK. Well, Congressional Democrats are set to introduce a sweeping police reform bill on Capitol Hill on Monday, as the U.S. president, Donald Trump, hosts a roundtable, not with African-American leaders but with law enforcement.
CNN has learned that the Democrats' bill would make it easier to sue police for bad behavior, establish a national misconduct registry, so that fired officers -- and we were just discussing this -- cannot just go get a new job elsewhere, and ban chokeholds, and more things like that.
In Minneapolis, nine members of the city council have committed to start defunding, and dismantling, the police department, and rebuilding it. The council president says she's looking to move to -- move funding to community-based strategies, and there is no intent not to have a police department in the short term.
We discussed this very issue here on the program yesterday. In New York, the mayor says funds will be moved from the department to use in social services, a real push on this whole defunding issue.
Monday also marking the first court appearance of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who pinned George Floyd to the pavement with a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes. His charges were upgraded last week from third-degree to second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, in addition to other charges.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden is going to meet privately with the family of George Floyd in Houston on Monday. He'll also record a video message for Floyd's funeral, which is set for Tuesday.
People close to Biden say he won't be there, because he doesn't want to disrupt the service with his Secret Service detail. Well, as the White House continues to defend some of its actions over the last few days, another prominent former military leader is openly criticizing President Trump's handling of the protests after George Floyd's death.
On Sunday, former secretary of state General Colin Powell spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper about the president's leadership. Here's some of what he had to say.
GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a Constitution, and we have to follow that Constitution. And the president has drifted away from it.
I am so proud of what these generals and admirals have done, and others have done, but you know, I didn't write a letter, because I made my point with respect to Trump's performance some four years ago, when he was running for office.
And when I heard some of the things he was saying, it made it clear that I could not possibly vote for this individual. The first thing that troubled me is the whole birthers movement. And birthers movement had to do with the fact that the president of the United States, President Obama, was a black man. And that was part of it.
And then I was deeply troubled by the way in which he was going around, insulting everyone, insulting Gold Star mothers, insulting John McCain, insulting immigrants, and I'm the son of immigrants. Insulting anybody who dared to speak against him. And that is dangerous for a democracy, is dangerous for our country. And I think what we're seeing now, the most massive protests movement I have ever seen in my life, I think, that suggest that the country is getting wise to this, and we're not going to put up with it anymore.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And former Defense Secretary General Mattis said, quote, "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us."
It sounds like you agree with that?
POWELL: You have to agree with it. I mean, look at what he has done to divide us. Forget immigrants. Let's put up a fence to Mexico. Forget this. Let's do this. He is insulting us throughout the world. He is being offensive to our allies. He is not taking into account what our foreign policy is and how it's being affected by his actions.
M. HOLMES: So what is the White House plan going forward? As CNN's Kristen Holmes tells us, this week, Mr. Trump may finally make an attempt at uniting the country with, perhaps, an address to the nation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big question is what is the messaging going to be moving forward? Now, we first got wind of this speech early on Sunday, when Secretary Ben Carson was interviewed by Jake Tapper and was really pressed on President Trump's response to the killing of George Floyd; in particular, to the president's retweeting of a post that attacked Floyd's character.
Listen to what Carson had to say.
BEN CARSON, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: I believe you're going to be hearing from the president this week on this topic in some detail. And I would -- I would ask you, maybe, to reserve judgment until after that time.
What will help the nation heal is if we will engage in dialog together. Let's not make the solution be a Democrat solution, or a Republican solution. Let's make it be an American solution.
K. HOLMES: Now since then, a senior ministration official has confirmed that the speech is being batted around to both my colleague, Sarah Westwood, and I.
But the big caveat here is the same one that we talk about all the time with this administration, which is, it ultimately comes down to President Trump and the message that he wants to send. And it's unclear, still, if that message is one of unity. If he wants to talk about tensions that we saw over the weekend.
A source that is close to the president, close to the White House, told me that the president actually came out of this weekend feeling bullish. He was really lifted up by those job numbers that we saw on Friday, and he was also very happy with how peaceful the protests were.
He believes, according to this source, that that is a direct correlation to his message of law and order, because he was dominating the streets with all of those law enforcement officers. That that's why these protests were peaceful.
So you're going to hear him talking about that, as well as this message we heard from protesters on defunding the police. As we saw, all day on Sunday, President Trump continued to try to link that to Joe Biden. And many officials close to the president believe that this is a good idea. They believe this will help them get moderate voters who might not want to go that far.
Reporting from the White House, Kristen Holmes, CNN.
M. HOLMES: The editor of "The New York Times" editorial page has resigned after publishing a controversial op-ed from a Republican senator, Tom Cotton. In that piece, Cotton argued military troops could be deployed to help police control the protests over George Floyd's death.
It was a controversial piece, both inside and outside the news room. The editor for "The Times," James Bennet, initially defended running the op-ed, but later said his section was wrong to have published it.
Brian Stelter with more on the backlash.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: First, the paper published an op-ed he wrote several days ago that was titled "Send in the Troops." He called for a muscular federal military response to the unrest in major cities.
Staffers of "The New York Times," in the news room and in the opinion section, were outraged. They were horrified. They said it was inappropriate to publish an op-ed like that.
Then, "The New York Times" eventually agreed. They basically said the story -- the op-ed should not have been published at all. An extraordinary change for a newspaper to basically come out and say, Hey, we are sorry. We shouldn't have printed that opinion piece.
Anyway, this caused Cotton to attack "The New York Times."
The point now is that the editorial page editor, James Bennet, a towering figure in one of the most important jobs in journalism, the brother of former presidential candidate Michael Bennet, has now resigned.
The publisher of the paper says it was clear in recent days that, you know, they needed to make a change.
There's been a number of controversies involving Bennet, and now this is the most recent of them. So he is stepping down, clearly under pressure. A woman named Kathleen Kingsbury is taking over in an acting capacity.
But this is after days of, basically, internal revolt at one of the country's biggest newspapers, about what opinions, about what points of view should be given space in the newspaper.
M. HOLMES: Brian Stelter reporting there. James Bennet had been the opinion editor since 2016. He did issue a statement on his resignation. Here's part of it. Quote, "The journalism of Times Opinion has never mattered more than in this time of crisis at home and around the world, and I've been honored to be part of it. I'm so proud of the work of my colleagues and I have done to focus attention on injustice and threats to freedom."
Tropical Storm Cristobal has made landfall in the U.S. Just ahead, the storm lashing the Gulf Coast. A lot of heavy rain. We'll find out where it is headed next. We will have a live report when we come back.
M. HOLMES: Thousands of protesters standing outside the White House on Sunday, chanting, "I can't breathe." The fence surrounding the White House decorated with a "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace" signs. There are growing calls for police reform in the aftermath of George Floyd's tragic death and the violent police response to the protest.
All right. Tropical Storm Cristobal has made landfall in Louisiana, drenching the Gulf Coast with heavy rain, wind gusts up to 60 miles an hour.
CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam in New Orleans with the latest on the storm.
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So far, this has been a manageable tropical storm for the city of New Orleans, a city that is so susceptible to flooding.
Of course, this one has been different, because it is against the backdrop of several national emergencies taking place across the country, namely the COVID-19 pandemic. We'll call this a trial run for what meteorologists believe and are predicting to be an above average, an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season.
There are still threats going forward for the greater New Orleans metropolitan area and across southeastern Louisiana in the coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama, and into the panhandle of Florida. Namely, storm surge threat potential overnight, and the potential for flash flooding, as well.
In the city of New Orleans, the sewage and drainage system here is well over 100 years old and can quickly be taken over by extremely heavy rain.
I'm CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam from New Orleans.
M. HOLMES: And we are joined now by CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis to bring us the very latest. What are you seeing, Karen?
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, even though it is a weaker system, it is now supporting winds of 45 miles per hour. It is not finished wreaking havoc for the Gulf Coast, especially from all the way around New Orleans and into Florida.
Now, this was never been a typical-looking tropical system. Its characteristics were far off from what we've ever seen. We had a lot of tropical moisture that made its way over into Florida yesterday, but it has absolutely soaked the region all the way from around Morgan City and then towards Mobile, Biloxi, and extending into the Panhandle.
Those areas around Destin, Florida, received just a copious amount of rainfall, between four and eight inches of precipitation. There could be an additional three to five inches of rainfall. But as this treks more towards the north, it looks like areas around Little Rock, also Memphis, and into St. Louis, rivers and streams will fill up here over the next several days, and the flood threat is going to be increasing.
Now, by then, it's going to become a remnant area of low pressure, but still just ringing itself out across the central and lower Mississippi River Valley.
If you can imagine a 300-mile stretch, all the way from Morgan City, Louisiana, towards that Pensacola, Destin Beach area, that is the area that has been hit the hardest. Those coastal roads, those inland roads, they have been impassable in some cases.
You can see on some of the enhanced satellite and rainfall imagery that we did see soaking precipitation right around Panama City, towards Crestview, and into Mobile, Alabama.
Now, as far as power outages go, because we did see some wind gusts as high as 60 miles an hour, Alabama has recorded the most power outages. That's been about 10,000 people, just kind of in the wake of this, as the bands of precipitation moved onshore.
Also, Louisiana and Mississippi, power outages reported there, as well. And Michael, over the last 24 hours, there were two reported fatalities on Grand Isle, Louisiana, associated with rip currents with Tropical Storm Cristobal -- Michael.
M. HOLMES: All right. Thank you, Karen. Keep an eye on it for us. Karen Maginnis there.
We're going to take a break. When we come on CNN NEWSROOM, U.S. Republican Senator Mitt Romney was spotted at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Washington. Why he marched with the protesters, that's still to come.
Also, major demonstrations for racial equality continue outside the U.S. We'll have that, too. Stay with us.
M. HOLMES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.
Nine members of the Minneapolis city council say they plan to defund and dismantle the city's police department following the killing of George Floyd. The council president says there is enough support to make the move veto-proof. The plan is to shift some police funding towards community-based
programs instead. After nearly two weeks of demonstrations, major cities are lifting curfews. Several groups of protesters marching through midtown Manhattan on Sunday.
And New York's mayor announcing he will shift an unspecified amount of police funding to use in social services.
The Republican Senator Mitt Romney marched with protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Sunday.
As CNN's Pete Muntean shows us, people in D.C. are continuing to protest very close to the White House.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This group in front of the White House is thin, but it doesn't make their message any less poignant. These are the protesters left in the newly-coined Black Lives Matter Plaza. At times, this group has been quite loud, and we know from our crew on the White House lawn that their chants could be heard from the White House and that President Trump was home on Sunday.
I just want to show you a bit more of a quiet and somber moment from earlier on Sunday, where protesters marched down from Dupont Circle in the heart of Washington, D.C., about eight-tenths of a mile, laid down in the middle of the street, put their arms behind their backs and chanted softly, "I can't breathe" for eight minutes in honor of George Floyd.
We know this is not the only group that has been marching here today. A group of evangelicals marched down Pennsylvania Avenue with them. Utah Senator Mitt Romney may be the highest-ranking member of the GOP to join this Black Lives Matter movement, and here's what he had to say.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): A way to end violence and brutality and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.
MUNTEAN: This group also marched two miles from here to the U.S. Capitol. The United States Senate is in session on Monday. The House is meeting remotely, and protesters I've been talking to say meaningful reform also needs to come from lawmakers.
Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.
M. HOLMES: Now, these protests over racial injustice and police brutality are spreading to more cities outside of the U.S. CNN's Max Foster has some of the international reaction, and he reports to us from London.
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tens of thousands again, taken to Europe's streets, bigger and noisier than last weekend.
Protesters gathering around the U.S. embassy in London, peaceful and upbeat as the same chants go global.
Sparked by protests in the United States, demonstrators have come together across the continent to call for change. The killing of George Floyd sparking a global movement against racism.
Here in London, eight minutes of silence as protesters kneel in tribute to Floyd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's the best turnout. It's nice to see. We've seen more peace action. Yesterday, horses were running through. Gas cannisters were thrown. I think it's a lot better atmosphere. And you've got that peace officer there is interacting with everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a trend. This is not a hashtag. We're here for fashion. We're here to change something. Racism cannot be tolerated in our culture, in our society. We need to change this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way that the media is trying to portraying it is that people are being angry, people are fighting. There's stuff going on that the media makes it look like we're the ones doing the wrong. We're not doing the wrong. We're peaceful.
FOSTER: While the British government has urged members of the public not to demonstrate, the U.K. health secretary expressed his concerns over the lack of social distancing and potential spread of coronavirus.
Protesters have come out in full force, but many of them wearing masks to limit the spread of the deadly virus.
(on camera): It's a positive sort of upbeat tone, really, to the protest in London today. And buoyed by the fact that more protests are spreading around the U.K. from here in London.
FOSTER: A striking scene in the city of Bristol, where protesters pulled down a statue of the 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston.
And in the evening in London, the focus shifted to the capital's political district, Westminster, where at times, tensions boiled over as they had done the night before. The sense of fervor which has spread not only across the U.K., but all over the globe.
Max Foster, CNN, London.
M. HOLMES: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, New Zealand now officially coronavirus-free. But Jacinda Ardern says the fight isn't over yet. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:39:32]
M. HOLMES: Now, according to Johns Hopkins University, at least seven million coronavirus infections have now been confirmed all around the world.
A growing number of those cases are coming from Latin American countries now. Most notably Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Chile. On Sunday, all four of them reported a record number of new deaths and infections. But in Europe, the situation continues to improve somewhat. Italy's daily death toll has fallen once again to just 53 people, while Spain has confirmed one new death for the third straight day.
And in the U.K., the government is imposing new travel restrictions to try to keep the infection rate down there. Starting today, visitors will have to self-isolate for at least 14 days upon arrival. British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair are urging officials to get rid of the rule, saying it will further devastate tourism.
New Zealand, reporting zero active coronavirus cases in the whole country for the first time since late February. The country has been praised for its early action and strict measures to battle the virus. In the last hour, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the easing of all domestic restrictions.
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now from Hong Kong to talk more about it. Yes, New Zealand, high marks for how it handled the virus, and those actions seem to have paid off.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is a significant moment, a moment to celebrate for the five million people who called New Zealand a home as it reports zero active coronavirus cases, the first time since COVID-19 first arrived in New Zealand on February the 28th.
This also follows 17 consecutive days of zero local new infections. And as a result, New Zealand and the government has announced it is easing its pandemic restrictions to a level one alert, effective midnight tonight.
We've heard from the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, in a press conference within the last hour. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: New Zealand did something remarkable in our fight to beat COVID-19. We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus.
Our lockdown was in place 26 days after our first case.
Today, there are no active cases in New Zealand. We have tested almost 40,000 people for COVID-19 in the past 17 days, and none have tested positive. We had no one in hospital for COVID-19 for 12 days.
It's been 40 days since the last case of community transmission, 22 days since that person finished the self-isolation.
And so today, I can announce that cabinet has agreed we will now move to level one to get our economy fully open again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: That was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking there, announcing that her country will move to a level one alert system starting at midnight tonight.
So what does that mean? I mean, that means the end of enforced social distancing in the country. That means workplaces will reopen. Schools will reopen.
Previously, there was a ban on social gatherings of more than 100 people. New Zealand, that ban is no longer in place.
But despite the end of strict social distancing guidelines, there will still be a ban on overseas international travelers from entering the country.
In fact, during the press conference, Jacinda Ardern said that it's because of the strict border controls. That's the reason why the government can even consider relaxing these pandemic restrictions.
However, there are some exemptions. Exemptions for certain overseas international travelers who can demonstrate that they can benefit economy in New Zealand.
And CNN has just confirmed that the Hollywood film director, James Cameron, and his crew, they have been given permission by the New Zealand government to enter the country to work on the sequel to the movie "Avatar" in a bid to help reboot the economy.
Back to you.
M. HOLMES: Yes, fascinating stuff. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. Appreciate it.
Now, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz is a CNN medical analyst. He is a deputy physician in chief for quality and safety at Memorial Sloan Kettering. He joins me now from New York.
Good to see you again, Doctor.
DR. KENT SEPKOWITZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Nice to see you.
M. HOLMES: Yes. New York was, of course, the U.S. epicenter. Now it is starting to reopen. Of course, a lot of other places have will. In a big city like New York, though, are you worried about that? Or what are your concerns?
SEPKOWITZ: I'm always worried. I think it's the right time to start. The leveling off and almost complete reduction of new cases of hospitalizations make this as good a time as any to start to reopen.
My worry is that people will taste the sense of freedom, in a certain sense, and will overdo it and will start to cut corners. You know, we just have to -- (AUDIO GAP)
M. HOLMES: To that point, this is phase one. Are you worried that phase two and three could come on too quickly, that those have to be pretty spaced out? I mean, that could be a problem.
SEPKOWITZ: Yes. I mean, even walking around this weekend, I saw a lot of people without masks, hanging around restaurants that serve drinks.
If you stand on the sidewalk, you're not supposed to drink while you're standing around the sidewalk. That was going on. So I think even without any loosening of restrictions, people have cut some corners, and it was disappointing to see that. But --
M. HOLMES: Yes. Yes, sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. It's funny, in my own life, in my own neighborhood, around people in my neighborhood, I don't know, I detect a real complacency. It's like people are like this is over. I mean, is that a worry?
SEPKOWITZ: Yes. Complacency is always the worry. It's easy to motivate everyone when the fire is blazing near you. When the fire has been put out and you have to say, Hey, it might start up again. And people might intellectually accept the premise, but nobody has that same fear for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones.
M. HOLMES: Yes.
SEPKOWITZ: So I think this is a leap that we're about to make.
M. HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. I mean, people forget, there's still 1,000 people dying a day in the U.S. and 20,000 cases.
M. HOLMES: That hasn't slowed that much. I mean, New York state, talking about them, they're going to conduct, I think, it's 35,000 COVID-19 tests per day, in New York City. All protesters eligible to be tested. Is that enough in a strategic sense going forward?
SEPKOWITZ: No. I -- I am someone who thinks that we need to test exponentially more than that. We've been testing in New York City about 25,000 people a day, and that's a good number when you're trying to get the right measurements of an ongoing, and, now less ongoing, outbreak.
But we're shifting the strategy. Now we're talking about public health surveillance. Not containment, but surveillance. And 25,000 is a drop in the bucket. You need to know what's going on in all the corners of the city with 8.8 million people, and 25,000 is not going to -- not going to get you enough information.
M. HOLMES: You know, we've talked a lot about, you know, the protests, and the CDC director said that these could be a seeding event. And there's already talks about bringing back sports, you know, in the U.S., but also around the world.
There's several colleges that have already reported footballers testing positive. You worried about that?
SEPKOWITZ: Yes. Like I say, you know, my job is to worry, full-time.
I think that, in an odd way, with professional sports, which is closer to starting than amateur sports, professional sports are going to lead the way, whether or not they realize it. They were the ones, I think, in March. All that made this pandemic a reality for Americans.
The National Basketball Association canceled the league. They just canceled all their games. And then the rest of the professional sports did, as well.
Now, at the other side of it, they're the first ones to try to jump back in.
I know that in Korea, different country, obviously, in terms of the response they've made, but they're testing their baseball league players every day, I've read. They've had baseball up for weeks now, with no particular untoward events. But they are testing left, right, and center.
I do not know what the American professional sports leagues are planning, I have read that they will be testing everyone, everyone, in their microcosm, once a week. I don't think we can test eight million Americans -- New Yorkers once a week, but we need to move way more than 25,000 if we're going to get away with opening.
M. HOLMES: Yes. Exactly, exactly. South Koreans have been way ahead on this from the start.
Dr. Kent Sepkowitz in New York, doctor and professional worrier, appreciate it. Glad you're there, doing the worrying for us.
SEPKOWITZ: Yes. Be well.
M. HOLMES: All right. Lance Armstrong was a hero to millions before his cheating was exposed. A new documentary has been looking at whether he's a changed man, eight years after that fall from grace. We'll have a look when we come back.
M. HOLMES: Welcome back. Lance Armstrong was once on top of the cycling world, if not the entire sporting world. His admission that he took performance enhancing drugs brought all of that to a crashing halt. Now, an ESPN documentary, entitled "Lance," charts his rise and fall.
CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Christina Macfarlane spoke to the director of the documentary.
LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST STRIPPED OF 7 TOUR DE FRANCE TITLES: If I was competing today, I could tell you my peers would be. All right. My peers would be Michael Phelps, LeBron James, and so I can see where they are. And so only now do I realize that's where you were. That's where I was. I really don't miss that.
CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN WORLD SPORT (voice-over): He was untouchable. A force of nature whose fight back from cancer to win seven Tour de France titles captured the imagination of the world.
But it was a legacy built on lies. Lance Armstrong was the ringleader of the biggest doping conspiracy in cycling history. Stripped of his titles, his reputation in tatters, it's been years since the disgraced U.S. cyclist has spoken publicly.
But in ESPN's new four-hour documentary titled "Lance," the 48-year- old is given a platform to try and redeem himself.
MARINA ZENOVICH, DIRECTOR, "LANCE": Lance is a complex character who did a lot of good and bad. What I love about the film is that he's just there, warts and all.
Did he give me, like, the gory details of what a lot of people want to know? No. But I think you see him in a way that you haven't before.
MACFARLANE: But not everyone is buying his version of the truth. Betsy Andreu, who helped expose Armstrong's doping offences 15 years ago, and suffered as a result, says this is not a changed man.
BETSY ANDREU, HUSBAND FRANKIE WAS FORMER ARMSTRONG TEAMMATE: You cannot believe everything that he says. If a man gains the world, but loses his soul, is that OK? He's lost his soul. It's pretty sad.
MACFARLANE: He remains a polarizing figure. But many have questioned whether that alone is enough to justify a four-hour documentary on the man who devastated his sport and destroyed the lives of those around him.
ZENOVICH: What do people want to watch? They want to watch drama. They want to see people fall. They want to see people suffer. They want to see people rise up.
ANDREU: I don't think he, to this day, realizes the damage he's done to people. I don't really think he cares. I think he missed the adulation, and the fawning of the public, and the media, and he wanted to get back in the good graces.
ZENOVICH: You're not going to please everyone, but some people do want to hear. Others, no. I mean, it's -- it's controversial. He's controversial.
ANDREU: You have a guy who's on top of the world, and all of a sudden, you've got to wonder, does he get it? Does he really realize what he's done? And I don't -- I don't think he gets it at all. And I think that aspect of it is fascinating to people.
ZENOVICH: It's such a big story, and I think so many people felt so taken by him, and his rise, and the cancer survival, and then to find out that he -- that he lied, I mean, it's a once in the lifetime character for me.
M. HOLMES: Christina Macfarlane reporting there.
Thanks for watching this past hour. I'm Michael Holmes. I'll have another hour, though, of NEWSROOM coming up next.