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WHO: 136,000 New Cases Globally Sunday, Most In Single Day; Houston Honors George Floyd; Interview With Houston, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo; Fourteenth Night Of Protests Under Way Over George Floyd's Death. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 8, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:45]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following the latest developments, including the newest tribute to George Floyd. You're looking at live pictures coming in from Houston right now.

We're also watching America's reckoning with racism right now. Look at this. Thousands of mourners have been streaming pass Floyd's casket in his childhood hometown of Houston, where he will be buried tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the fire police officer charged with the murder in Floyd's death had his first court appearance today. Derek Chauvin's bail now set at a maximum of $1.25 million.

This comes as the Minneapolis City Council is planning drastic action aimed at reforming local police, nine council members pledging to defund and dismantle the police department.

After more than a dozen days of protests across the United States, we're monitoring new demonstrations against Floyd's death in major cities tonight. You're looking at live pictures coming in once again from New York City.

Let's go first to Houston right now.

Our National Correspondent, Sara Sidner, is joining us.

Sara, another very emotional day for the Floyd family and, indeed, for the nation, as the debate over police reform clearly intensifies.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

We have heard beautiful song out in the streets, people singing "Amazing Grace." We have also seen the family come forward alongside the family of Michael Brown, the family of Botham Jean, the family of Ahmaud Arbery, all of them here standing strong with George Floyd's family, while hundreds of mourners have come, those who knew George Floyd and many who did not. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): A somber homecoming for George Floyd in Houston, where the hearse carrying his casket arrived at the Floyd family church this morning for a public memorial attended by thousands.

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: All the families that are here with me today, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Arbery, it just hurts. Breonna Taylor. Everybody.

Thank you all. We will get justice. We will get it. We will not let this door close.

SIDNER: Presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden met privately today with the Floyd family. The family will have their final private service here tomorrow.

In Minneapolis, the first court appearance for fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is the officer that held his knee on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes until Floyd died. The judge set bail at up to $1.25 million, this as the attorney for one of the other three officers also charged in Floyd's death is speaking out.

EARL GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR THOMAS LANE: He was doing what he thought was right. He did not stand by and watch.

SIDNER: Over the weekend from coast to coast, huge protests continued calling for racial justice and police reforms, including defunding police departments.

In Minneapolis, the City Council approved a plan to start the process of dismantling the police department and rebuild a new model of public safety.

LISA BENDER, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Our commitment is to end our city's toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it.

SIDNER: But the mayor is not on board.

JACOB FREY (D), MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: I am for massive structural and transformational reform to an entire system that has not for generations worked for black and brown people. We have failed them. And we need to entirely reshape the system.

Am I for entirely abolishing the police department? No, I'm not.

SIDNER: Outside today's service in Houston, Texas Governor Greg Abbott says this is the most horrific tragedy he's ever seen and promised police reforms across his state.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I am committed to working with the family of George Floyd to ensure we never have anything like this ever occur in the state of Texas.

SIDNER: Leaders across the country are already looking for new ways to repurpose some funds from law enforcement to other areas, like in New York City.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: We're going to be able to take money out of that police force, put it into youth programs, and still, of course, keep New Yorkers safe. But this is preventative. This is proactive.

[18:05:08]

SIDNER: And, in Washington, D.C., where activists painted "Defund the police" near the Black Lives Matter street mural, the mayor said what's been submitted for police funding in her budget is what's needed. She avoided directly answering whether the addition to the mural would be removed.

MURIEL BOWSER (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: We recognize it as expression. And especially right now, acknowledging and affirming expression is important to this discussion that we have to have as a community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: And we also talked to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas' 18th Congressional District, and we asked her about defunding or dismantling police departments.

She says, it's not dismantling. It's just changing the relationship, and that needs to happen. She said that, basically, in this country, the real issue of dealing with race needs to be addressed in a real way, and Congress has to do that as -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Sidner reporting for us in Houston, thank you.

Also tonight, the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, is railing against demands to defund police, as President Trump is again embracing a law and order message.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president, he's on the defensive over his response to all these nationwide protests, as his poll numbers, they seem to be tumbling right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

White House officials are still defending the administration's actions from one week ago, when authorities violently cleared out Lafayette Park for a photo-op for President Trump. The president is paying a big political price right now for how he's responded to the protests around the U.S., as a new CNN poll shows his approval numbers are plummeting, setting the stage for an uphill reelection battle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still on the defensive over his response to protests against police brutality across the U.S, President Trump met with law enforcement officials to hammer home a simple message. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Less crime. And there is a reason for less crime. That's because we have great law enforcement. I'm very proud of them.

ACOSTA: One week after the Trump administration gassed and pummeled protesters at Lafayette Park minutes before the president's photo-op outside St. John's Episcopal Church, White House officials are still offering no apologies.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, there's no regrets on the part as this White House. And we stand by those actions.

ACOSTA: Aides to the president are already sounding cool to new legislation from House Democrats aimed at reforming police practices, saying some proposed measures are nonstarters, while declining to weigh in on controversial tactics like choke holds on suspects.

MCENANY: The president, again, hasn't reviewed this piece of legislation. The president is looking at what's a state issue, what's a federal issue right now. He's currently reviewing proposals actually on this very topic about police reform, so I will leave it to him and not get ahead of him.

ACOSTA: Democrats say it's high time to end the kind of police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): It was a long time, eight minutes and 46 seconds. That's a long time to be on one knee. But for 244 years, there were plenty of knees on the necks of blacks who came to this country.

ACOSTA: Yet Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had no problem laying out where the president stands on professional athletes taking a knee at football games in protest of unjust policing.

Last week, the National Football League admitted it was wrong not to listen to players' concerns.

MCENANY: The president is very much against kneeling in general. The president has made clear for years that kneeling is tied to our national anthem, that it does not respect our military men and women across this country.

ACOSTA: The president's political advisers are seizing on a proposal from the so-called defund the police movement that would draw resources away from law enforcement agencies.

MCENANY: That means defunding police departments, if not getting rid of them entirely. No, he does not agree with that. And the rest of America does not agree with that.

ACOSTA: A spokesman for Mr. Trump's Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, says the candidate does not believe that police should be defunded.

A new CNN poll finds the president's approval numbers are in freefall, down 7 percentage points in the last month, as high-profile Republicans flock to Biden.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a Constitution, and we have to follow that Constitution. And the president's drifted away from it.

ACOSTA: Utah GOP Senator Mitt Romney actually marched with the demonstrators and uttered the words "black lives matter."

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): And to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.

TRUMP: It's a Bible.

ACOSTA: Contrast that with the president, who has walled himself off from the protesters, dodging questions from reporters for days.

QUESTION: Mr. President, why haven't you laid out a plan to address systemic racism?

ACOSTA: As more top administration officials refuse to say there is systemic racism in law enforcement, despite mounting episodes of violent police behavior.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think there's racism in the United States still, but I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist. I understand the distrust, however, of the African-American community, given the history in this country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:10:02]

ACOSTA: Now, aids to the president are dodging the questions about the steel fencing that is now wrapped around the White House, saying those decisions are made by law enforcement and not inside the West Wing.

The president again refused to take questions from reporters today. It's been more than a week since he's done that.

In the meantime, as for Vice President -- former Vice President Joe Biden, he met with the family of George Floyd today in Houston. An attorney for the Floyd family says Biden -- quote -- "expressed his sympathies and promised to push for changes in policing" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta over at the White House, thanks very much.

Joining us now, the Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo.

Chief, thank you so much for joining us.

Thousands, as you know, have gathered in your city of Houston to pay their respects to George Floyd. They did so today. The funeral is tomorrow.

Give us a sense, Chief, of how your city, both police and civilians, are responding to all of this tonight. ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: Well, I think that we're

responding with great unity and great mutual respect.

And what we're seeing here in Houston is thousands of people coming through from all walks of life, all races, all creeds. And you are just seeing a celebration. And I think there's a great hope that the death of George Floyd will not be in vain, that we're finally seeing an awakening that's long overdue., and that will be -- will end up making policing and society a lot better than it is today.

BLITZER: You offered a police escort for the Floyd family today. Did you personally, Chief, have a chance to speak with the family? And if you did, what was your message to them?

ACEVEDO: Well, our message, we have -- we have spoken to them. We have been working with the family for days now. And we actually picked up the family at the airport when they arrived over the weekend, and we have been providing security and escort for them and for Mr. Floyd's body.

And our message to them is that we are lifting them up in prayer, one, first and foremost. Secondly, we extended our condolences and our apologies from all the good men and women of law enforcement, not only here in Houston, but across the country, that were appalled by the death of their son.

But they're a family of faith. And so I told them that the death of their loved one will not be in vain, that there's a great awakening that this death has caused, like I have never seen before. And George Floyd's death will end up leading to systemic change in our country. And it's -- God used him as a vessel. And they need to really believe that.

BLITZER: As you know, Chief, in the wake of George Floyd's death, we're hearing increased calls around the country to defund police departments.

In fact, the attorney general, Bill Barr, says these calls are dangerous, and that pulling back on policing will lead to more harm done to these communities, his words.

What's your response to these calls to dismantle and defund the police across the United States?

ACEVEDO: Well, look, that's a false equivalence, where we have to defund police to actually invest in communities, long overdue investments in communities, and that's just a false choice right now.

The communities that need us most here in Houston and throughout our nation are, sadly, disproportionately communities of color and poor communities, including white communities. And if you try to tell those communities, not the activists that are abolitionists that believe that we just get rid of police, if I try to just close a storefront in my city in my community of color, they will not have any of it.

So, what we need to do is do both. We need to have properly staffed police departments, properly trained police departments. We have to have national standards for police departments, not 18,000 police departments doing their own thing.

And like our mayor here said in Houston and mayor -- the mayor of Chicago, Lori, communities don't want less police. They want good policing. They're demanding good policing. They deserve it. And defunding would be the worst thing that could happen, because the first thing that we will go will be training and all the things we need to make sure that we have the properly trained and professional police that our law -- that our communities deserve.

BLITZER: You make very important points, Chief, but, as you know, the Minneapolis City Council is now taking specific steps to try to dismantle its police department.

What would a community look like without a police force?

ACEVEDO: Well, all you got to do is look at what happens when the police don't have the consent of the community and you start seeing that it can be chaos.

Disbanding the police is -- doesn't make any sense. It's an invitation to chaos. That's not what this nation is about. And -- but I think that, when you peel back the onion, I hope that what the City Council of Minneapolis is saying is that maybe their department needs to reinvent itself.

Maybe they need to do like Camden, New Jersey, did with Scott Thomson, where they actually disbanded in a very methodical and thoughtful way their police department, started a new county police department, and they got to choose the best of the officers that were already there before and get rid of some of the dead weight that actually hurt the good cause of policing and hurt good police officers, because they're really not worthy of wearing the uniform.

[18:15:07]

So there's a way to actually do those things. But do it just from the hip would be disastrous for any city.

BLITZER: The Houston police Chief, Art Acevedo, Chief, thank you so much for joining us. Always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ACEVEDO: Thank you. Be safe.

BLITZER: You too.

Just ahead, we will have more on the fired officer charged with murder in George Floyd's death. Did he get any -- did we get any clues today about his defense as he appeared in court for the first time?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Protests continuing in New York City, various shots emerging right now. We will stay on top of this and check in with the latest tonight, as Americans mourn and protest the death of George Floyd for a 14th night.

[18:20:07]

The Trump administration's response to this crisis is sending the president's poll numbers into freefall right now.

Let's bring in CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip and our Senior Legal Analyst, former federal prosecutor Laura Coates.

Laura, the attorney general was asked this weekend if he thinks there's systemic racism in law enforcement. He said, specifically -- this was Bill Barr -- "I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist."

What do you say to that?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he seems to be out of touch with his own civil rights department that has a number of consent decrees that predated his tenure, and surely will actually postdate whatever tenure he has, because we do recognize that there has been a systemic issue.

For one reason, we have a color of law claim that's embedded in our criminal code, based on the notion that the officers are in fact abusing their power in some form or fashion. If that was never contemplated or never known as a systemic issue, we wouldn't even have that particular bit of law enforcement and regulations present.

It also is equally tone-deaf on what we know to be non-anomalies and part of a systemic and pervasive issue. It doesn't do anything to disregard the majority of officers who I believe are doing the right thing, but to belittle and dismiss all of the allegations as anecdotes and not systemic is tone-deaf from Attorney General Bill Barr.

BLITZER: Abby, President Trump today said, 99 percent of police are great, great people, his words.

This comes as the Trump administration is now floating the idea of the president perhaps giving a specific speech on race and unity. What's the messaging from the White House in the face of these nationwide calls for change?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very confused right now. I think this is a White House still struggling to figure out what is the balance between this law and order message that the president seems most inclined to gravitate toward and what can he possibly say to the protesters, who are basically contradicting his own officials, like Attorney General Barr, and his White House press secretary today, in basically saying, we do think that there is a systemic problem here?

I don't necessarily think that the White House is going to be able to just make general, broad and vague comments about a desire for unity and equality. I think what the crowds in these streets all over the country are crying out for are actual practical proposals and considerations that address the fundamental problem. And it's not clear to me, Wolf, that the president even thinks that

there is a problem. They're going to continue to struggle with trying to use law and order as a political message against his opponent, Joe Biden, while also trying to appeal to black voters, if they don't also want to address the underlying concerns that the poll numbers show, that the crowds show majority of this country thinks is a very real thing, and that's systemic racism.

BLITZER: Laura, the Floyd family attorney, Benjamin Crump, says Joe Biden met with the family for more than an hour today and heard their pain.

Biden's response, it seems to be in stark contrast with President Trump's response, isn't it?

COATES: It seems to be, in fact, the case, and it would actually under -- the understatement of the year to suggest that the president has spoken out in passionate ways to try to reach this family.

He has not done any of those things. He seems to have spoken about George Floyd at last Monday's press conference before he made the now infamous photo-op trek across to the Episcopalian church, mentioning George Floyd, but really relegating it to an afterthought.

And I think it speaks volumes, as Abby was speaking about, anyone who is intent on trying to advance progressive reforms and the idea of having criminal justice reform in this country need to actually have specificity and also recognize the symbolism of what George Floyd represents, but also look to the individual family, and, at the very least, to reach out in a way that shows the compassion, shows the concern, particularly when we know that, in many respects, George Floyd's killing was what set off an entire chain of events across all 50 states.

For the president not to reach out in at least the same way as somebody who's vying to replace him as the president of the United States is wrong politically, it perhaps is wrong in terms of humanity, and it's wrong in terms of messaging, particularly ahead of any speech about race in America.

PHILLIP: And, Wolf, can I just add there that the president has said positive things about George Floyd when he's reading a speech.

But, over the weekend, he retweeted these attacks on Floyd's character from conservative commentators. The White House invited someone, one of those people who launched those attacks, to a listening session at the White House last week.

So it's going to be hard to undo these attacks on George Floyd by just simply reaching out in a kind of piecemeal sort of way.

[18:25:05]

BLITZER: Important point.

Abby Phillip, thanks to both of you for joining us. Just ahead: As George Floyd is remembered in his childhood home of

Houston, will his death bring real change to this country? Two prominent civil rights activists, they are standing by.

And we will also go live to the streets of New York on this, the 14th light of protests since Floyd's death.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: Check it out, some live pictures coming in from New York. Protesters, you can see them below on the street on this aerial shot, they are marching in New York City once again, the 14th night of these protests continued.

We're following a lot of protests around the country for racial justice in America, as a new tribute to George Floyd is being held in Houston tonight.

We're joined now by Martin Luther King III, the civil rights activist, the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Also with us, Derrick Johnson, he's the president and CEO of the NAACP.

Martin, thousands of people turned up in Houston today to honor George Floyd. We're also seeing protests continuing here in the U.S. and indeed around the world. Do you get the sense, Martin, that we're in a real moment of change in our country?

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, I really think that the prospect for tectonic shift is now. And to see people all over the world demonstrating and many of those crowds are large numbers of white Americans as well as whites in other countries around the world is absolutely phenomenal.

And so I think the energy is changing, if has not changed. I'm don't mean -- I'm not talking about violence or non-violence. These are peaceful demonstrations, of course, but I'm talking about the energy in the nation and in the world that sets up the prospect for positive change.

In addition to Congress, people presenting legislation to mayors, to Governor Cuomo and others. I think it's in the midst.

BLITZER: Derrick, what do you think?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: I think it's an opportunity for change. The real question will be for America, are we ready to change. The congressional black caucus introduced legislation today, excellent leadership by Congresswoman Karen Bass and Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

But we have yet to see any members of the Senate or Congress cross party lines stand up and have the courage to say, it is time for a change. When you look at the nature of policing in this country, we really have to change the culture of what it means to be a police and police relationship with communities.

Growing up in Detroit and going across the bridge to Windsor, Canada, it was a different type of culture. It was a different type of relationship and it was respect. And far too many communities, particularly African-American communities, law enforcements lack respect.

And then the broader question around racism, are we ready to address structural racism, those are the opportunities that are on the table. The question is, is America ready for it? It's not black issue. It's an issue for America to answer at this time.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think Derrick? Is America ready for that?

JOHNSON: You know, we'll see when it comes to this current legislation. What we will really see when we get to November, are we going to continue to feast off the history of the past or are we prepared to move into our future?

The protest, the crowd, the diversity of the crowd, tell me that we're leaning towards the right directions. Now is about execution, moving from protest to power, the power to change the culture that have plague this nation for so many years.

And the international viewing audience are watching. They're going to say, is this going to be the America moving forward or are we looking at the America of Emmett Till and Edmond Pettus Bridge and the Civil Rights Movement, where there are lot of promise, there and opportunities but there was minimal change when you look at the totality of our history.

BLITZER: You know, Martin, now, what do you say to officials, like the Attorney General Bill Barr, for example, who say there is no systemic racism in law enforcement among police. He says, yes, there's racism still in the United States but not among the police. So what do you think?

KING: Well it's crystal clear that the attorney general either does not acknowledge -- he's still part of the problem. Before you can address the situation, you have to acknowledge that it's a problem. And maybe he's lived in such a privilege that he can't see it or maybe he's attempting to defend something that is indefensible.

I think his own justice department has acknowledged that these issues do exist. Systemic racism is all throughout policing. And we -- I mean, we don't even need to dignify that response. We need to -- that's why, as what Brother Johnson said, NAACP and other standpoints, we got to mobilize, we've got to organize, we've got to strategize, we've got to register and make sure vote in overwhelming numbers in the upcoming elections.

[18:35:04] In my state, the election is tomorrow, the initial election primary. But in others, it's taking place all over this nation. And I think we're going to see some change, finally.

BLITZER: Martin Luther King III, Derrick Johnson, let's continue this conversation here in The Situation Room down the road. Thanks to both you for joining us. I appreciate it very much.

JOHNSON: Thank you for the opportunity.

BLITZER: Thank you.

There's more breaking news we're following. We're about to go live to a new protest under way right now. You're looking at live pictures coming in from New York City. We'll update you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: All right. Let's go live update right now. A large protest happening in New York City exactly two weeks after the death of George Floyd.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on the street of New York for us. So, Shimon, tell our viewers where you are and what you're seeing.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We're now at east 42nd Street and Third Avenue here in Manhattan. We've marched from Washington Square Park. And what you're seeing here is the marchers. There're probably close to 2,000 marchers here. They've sat here. They did a moment of silence and then they listed some of the names of the people who have died at the hands of police.

And we've been seeing this now for the more than 30 blocks that we have been marching where they will come to an intersection, they will stop, they will do a moment of silence.

Their intention right now is to march to what they call the mayor's house, of course, Gracie Mansion. This march started at Washington Square Park, Wolf, where some of the organizers spoke for more than an hour, and telling the protesters that were gathered there that they need to keep the momentum going, that the world's attention is now here and that they need to keep this going.

Of course, Wolf, here, there's no curfew now,.sSo this could go on for as long as the marchers keep going here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it looks like a lot of young people, a pretty diverse crowd as well. Shimon we'll get back to you.

I want to go to CNN's Bill Weir. He's also in New York City at a different location. Bill, where are you?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm in Brooklyn. We're making a loop towards the Barclays Center where the Nets play. This smaller crowd that we saw over the weekend, maybe 500, 700 people here. But judging by the reactions you see from neighborhoods around us, it's having an impact today, which is interesting the news of the day in New York, we have a bicycle advance team here (INAUDIBLE). We've got protesters on bike running advanced work to stop traffic.

But the news of the day is that the New York State Assembly passed the Eric Garner anti-chokehold bill. Eric Garner, you might recall, the Staten Island man who was stopped for selling loose cigarettes, who was choked out by an officer, killed. That officer fired but not indicted. The city paid almost $6 million in settlement. But his legacy today is a new law.

If it passes in the Senate, which would make it aggravated strangulation, a 15-year prison sentence for any officer who closes off a throat in the course of an arrest right now.

But as far as the momentum goes, today is the 14th day of protests since George Floyd died. But it is also the 100th day since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York City. And having flattened the curve enough to reopen the city about 400,000 New Yorkers went back to work today in retail, manufacturing. But there're still millions out of work in this city, out of school with nothing better than to do than to remind people and authority that they want change. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, they do.

All right. Bill Weir in Brooklyn for us, Bill, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we'll get the latest on the coronavirus pandemic as New York City, the U.S. epicenter for the virus, begins phase one of its reopening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:28]

BLITZER: We'll have much more on the protests taking place around the world over the death of George Floyd, but let's turn to the coronavirus pandemic which clearly continues as the number of confirmed cases here in the United States is now approaching 2 million.

The World Health Organization is saying that yesterday was the largest single day rise in coronavirus cases ever.

CNN national correspondent Erica Hill has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY, NY: This is a triumphant moment for New Yorkers who fought back against this disease. This was the epicenter.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, New York City marks a major milestone, phase one of reopening. Construction can resume in more than 30,000 sites. There's curb side pick up for retail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's fantastic.

HILL: Some 400,000 people expected to be back on the job. Many commuting by train or bus. Subway riders reminded to wear a mask and try to keep their distance.

The city also says it will conduct 35,000 tests a day. Overall, New York state and much of the Northeast trending down when it comes to new cases over the past week.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): New Yorkers bent the curb by being smart.

HILL: The death toll is slowing across the country.

Yet in a dozen states, deep red on the map, there's a sharp increase. Overall, new cases are up in 22 states, including Florida which added more than 1,000 cases a day for five straight days last week.

[18:50:00]

Arizona, California, Texas, and Michigan also on the rise.

While testing eased up, so is the number of people who are out. The TSA screened more than 400,000 people on Friday and Saturday, the most in nearly three months.

DR. RYAN STANTON, LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY: Where we've seen areas that are significantly increased either areas that are very popular for a lot of people to flock to or areas that opened up very early.

HILL: The CDC warning large gatherings including protests could put people at risk.

PHILOMENA WANKENGE, FREEDOM FIGTERS DC: For me, the moment I chose to protest, I was willing to die for this.

HILL: Officials are urging protesters to get tested. One-third of the new cases in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, announced on Saturday were traced to one person who attended several beach house gatherings on the New Jersey shore.

And at least six colleges including Texas Tech and Auburn reporting athletes who returned to campus have tested positive. Many were asymptomatic.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA TODAY SPORTS COLUMNIST: How many COVID cases will we accept to have our college football this fall?

HILL: Tough questions as Americans decide what they are willing to risk for a return to normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: It has been 100 days here in New York City since the first confirmed case and an interesting modeling study published today in the journal "Nature" found that large scale shutdown measures likely helped to avert 60 million additional infections here in the United States.

The lead author from UC-Berkeley saying, and I'm quoting it here, I don't think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time, acknowledging the individual sacrifices, going on to say by using science and cooperating we changed the course of history, Wolf.

BLITZER: Erica Hill, thanks so much for that report.

Let's get some more now on the pandemic.

I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, there are things that people can do now. They can gather, they can eat at restaurants, they can go out and about. But even if they can, should they?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think everyone has to evaluate this based, you know, on their own level of risk. I mean, I think that you can reduce the risk to low but not to zero. So I think it's going to depend.

I'd say a couple things. One is obviously if you have symptoms or if you consider yourself someone who is vulnerable going out and being in a place where the virus is spreading is probably not a good idea. Second is, where are you going?

If it's a restaurant, for example, is this a restaurant where you could sit outside? Is it not going to be that crowded? Are they taking this seriously? I think that would be another consideration.

If you're going to go eat with people, have they been taking it seriously? Because are they going to be a potential risk?

So, you know, we're going to get through this, Wolf, but I think for now you have to think about these things a little more strategically even for what would have been simple ventures outside.

BLITZER: What kind of advice, Sanjay, do you have for those who feel clearly uneasy about doing things they essentially haven't been doing now for the past three months?

GUPTA: I think, you know, the basics, you know, still apply here. I always preface by saying, we're going to get through this. This isn't going to be forever. But for now, you know, the virus is still circulating. I'd get a good idea if it's circulating pretty aggressively in your community. If it is, I'd have a higher threshold for going out and doing things that aren't essential.

If you have any kind of symptoms or if you're vulnerable again, you should probably stay home for the time being, or at least be very judicious when you go out. But then really be cognizant of your environment. I mean, we know that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets. You know, people around you are wearing a mask. That's obviously going to make it safer.

If you go out to eat, Wolf, I think sitting outside, finding a table that's out of the way, not in the high traffic area, making sure it is a restaurant that takes this seriously is going to be important.

Again, everyone is going to have their own risk/reward sort of relationship here. For me, I -- you know, I haven't been going out to eat at restaurants right now. I still think the risk is a little too high. I think we will get through this but I think the numbers still have to trend downward a little bit longer for me.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm with you at least for now. Let's hope it gets better in the not too distant future.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as usual, excellent advice. Thanks very much for joining us.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're going to take a closer look at worldwide demonstrations taking place in response to the killing of George Floyd.

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BLITZER: Finally tonight, as the United States confronts racial inequality and injustice, protests have spread not only across the country but around the world. We've seen demonstrations on nearly every continent with thousands of people telling their governments that black lives matter in London, Rome, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Montreal, and so many other cities over the weekend.

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PROTESTERS: Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter!

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BLITZER: It's a remarkable show of solidarity in a world still reeling from the coronavirus and often racked by global tensions. People of all colors and so many nationalities taking to the streets and in some cases taking a knee to demand change. They are sending a powerful message of unity to all of us in the United States, indeed around the world. And these demonstrations no doubt will continue.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. And you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.