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THE SITUATION ROOM

Now: Juneteenth Rallies as U.S. Confronts Systemic Racism; Florida Reports Nearly 4,000 New Cases Today, Highest Yet; Atlanta Police Call Out Sick to Protest Charges in Shooting; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Approaching 199,000; Florida Reports Nearly 4,000 New Cases Today, Highest Yet; Now: Juneteenth Rallies As U.S. Confronts Systemic Racism; Trump Threatens Protesters, Pushes Ahead With Tulsa Rally As OK Hits One-Day Virus Case Record. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 19, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That the city of Phoenix tells me, unlikely, if you look at recent history, Jake, they're using education, their only ticketing repeat offenders. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Kyung Lah in Arizona. Thanks so much.

Be sure to tune in to CNN's "State of the Union," Sunday. My guests, White House Adviser Peter Navarro, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Congressman Jerry Nadler and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching. See you Sunday.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

Rallies underway across the country marking Juneteenth, the day which commemorates the end of slavery here in the United States.

Also, President Trump pushing forward with his huge indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tomorrow night even as the state sets a one-day record for new coronavirus cases. He's also threatening protesters, warning they may be treated roughly.

And it's not just Oklahoma seeing a spike in coronavirus infections. Florida has set another one-day record for new cases, reporting almost 4,000 today alone.

Let's go straight to the White House right now. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us. Jim, very serious public health concerns around the president's rally in Tulsa tomorrow night.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is moving forward with his plans to hold a rally tomorrow in Tulsa despite the very real risk that some of his supporters will catch the coronavirus. Today the White House press secretary said she will be at the event and will forego wearing a mask even as public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci say that's a very bad idea.

In the meantime, the president is threatening protesters who demonstrate outside his rally in Tulsa, saying they may be roughed up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With Trump supporters lining up for his rally in Tulsa this weekend, the president is issuing a warning to demonstrators who may show up at the event as well. Tweeting, "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene."

An apparent threat the president is ready to unleash the same kinds of brutal tactics used to clear out Lafayette Square earlier this month. White House officials attempted to clarify.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was meaning our violent protesters, anarchists, looters, the kind of lawlessness that we saw play out before President Trump came in with the National Guard and calmed our streets with law and order.

ACOSTA (voice-over): White House officials are also trying to downplay the risks of catching the coronavirus at the rally at a time when cases are spiking in Oklahoma. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany even said she won't be wearing a mask to the event.

ACOSTA (on camera): Will you and other White House officials be wearing masks at the rally?

MCENANY: It's a personal choice. I won't be wearing a mask. I can't speak for my colleagues. I feel that it's safe for me not to be wearing a mask. And I'm in compliance with CDC guidelines which are recommended but not required.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But members of the Trump team aren't on the same page.

KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: If I were at the rally, I would wear a mask.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK.

HASSETT: If I wondered about, I would ask my doctor for advice.

HARLOW: All right.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even campaign manager Brad Parscale says he likely will wear one at the event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to wear a mask?

BRAD PARSCALE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes. Yes, I will probably be wearing a mask.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS radio, people in large crowds should wear a mask if they cannot practice social distancing.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The best way to protect yourself and to prevent acquisition of and spread of infection is to avoid crowds. Avoid crowds. If in fact, for one reason or other you feel compelled to do that which we don't recommend, then wear a mask at all times.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is also defending the president's tweet exploiting video, two young toddlers hugging one another to take shots at press coverage of racism in the U.S.

In a rare rebuke of Mr. Trump, the tweet which included phony news graphics was labeled "manipulated media" by Twitter.

ACOSTA (on camera): When you share fake videos like that, doesn't that make you fake news?

MCENANY: I think the president was making a satirical point that was quite funny if you go and actually watch the video.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House also tried to explain what the president meant when he told the "Wall Street Journal" that he had just learned the history of Juneteenth, the day the end of slavery is celebrated in the U.S. from an African American Secret Service agent.

MCENANY: He did not just learn about Juneteenth this week. That's simply not true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, senior administration officials said doctors, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, have not yet raised any health concerns about the Tulsa rally at the Coronavirus Task Force meetings. We should note, this official said at task force meeting, this happening this afternoon, the official said, if Fauci and Birx have concerns about the rally, they should bring them up at task force meetings, though this official went on to say White House aides know exactly where Dr. Fauci stands.

In the meantime, Pentagon officials, this is an update on story we've been following, Pentagon officials have decided to fire the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Brett Crozier, who tried to warn his superiors about the coronavirus spreading aboard his ship.

[17:05:05]

The navy's decision is a major reversal after a preliminary investigation recommended that he be reinstated. Crozier as we all recall, Wolf, was hailed as a hero for defending his crew members and warning about the threat of the coronavirus onboard that aircraft carrier. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, that's a surprise. We'll see what happens down the road. All right. Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you.

Let's go to Tulsa right now. CNN's Ryan Nobles is on the scene for us. Ryan, so what's the mood there in Tulsa after president's warning to protesters?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Wolf. A number of developments here in Tulsa today as we get ready for the president's rally. The first thing is that this curfew that was put in place by the city's mayor has been lifted. And that was after a conversation with President Trump.

Right now, we're in the Greenwood District of Tulsa. This of course where the Black Wall Street Massacre took place in 1921. You can see a festive atmosphere here. Folks celebrating the Juneteenth holiday. This is definitely more of a party than it is a protest. But we do expect over the next couple of hours for the protests to begin, particularly tomorrow there are protests planned against the president's rally happening here tomorrow night.

Now, as a result, some of the business in the area have boarded up. There is an intense security presence across the area. But these protesters say that they plan to be peaceful. They just want to make sure that President Trump hears their side of this argument as he comes to Tulsa here in the next 24 hours. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ryan, how does turnout look for tomorrow night? As you know, Trump supporters, they have been waiting in line now for days.

NOBLES: Yes. That's right, Wolf. And, in fact, the rally is going to take place about a mile from where we are right now. And a number of Trump supporters have been forming out in front of the BOK center. They were actually pushed away from the venue when the mayor put that curfew in place. It's not exactly clear as to where they're going to be able to set up now.

Now, we're told that the campaign had gotten more than 1 million reservations or RSVPs for this event. The venue itself only seats 20,000 people. So, we are expecting a huge crowd of supporters outside the arena, maybe as many as 100,000 people. The president himself has expected to come out and address that overflow crowd before he heads inside the arena.

And Wolf, one late development here in Tulsa today. The state's Supreme Court turning down a request from a couple of local business leaders to try and shut this rally down because of COVID concerns. The state Supreme Court saying it is within the guidelines of the governor's re-opening plan and said that it is upon - it is incumbent upon the campaign and the venue to practice responsible social distancing. Wolf, of course, as we know, the campaign has no plans to instruct the rallygoers to have proper social distancing at this event tomorrow.

BLITZER: Yes. Full speed ahead to that huge indoor rally tomorrow night. All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us, our CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash is with us as well.

Sanjay, you've spoken to health experts who fear this rally could become what they call a super spreader event. How great is the cause for concern?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's - it's you know the worst-case scenario as far as gatherings go. And I think you know most people sort of fundamentally understand that. Right now, you've got a very contagious virus out there putting a lot of people, tens of thousands of people into an indoor space with no physical distancing, no mandated masks, lots of people putting virus into the air. I mean, look, it's -- I don't think this is going to surprise anybody. This is a high-risk situation.

You know, I spent the day yesterday. We tried to figure out, like, how do you contextualize the risk. Our CNN contributor Erin Bromage helped put up some of these numbers here.

If you look at the incidents of the virus in that area right now, you'd expect about a hundred people roughly would show up at that event already infected. Maybe they don't know they have the virus but they have it. If you look at certain principles of public health, about 20 of those people are going to be significantly shedding the virus. So, 20 people there out of 20,000.

Here's the problem. Because of the sort of environment there, those 20 people could infect 40 to 50 people each, which means 800 to a thousand people could become infected as a result of this. That's just looking at the modeling, Wolf. Those people then are infected. They may go home, spread it to other people in their community and their family. That's the anatomy of an outbreak. That's what happens and that's why public health officials are so concerned.

BLITZER: Those numbers are so, so stark and worrisome. You know, Dana, the president is, however, boasting about what he calls big crowds gathering for his rally. And the White House says masks are a personal choice. Are they in denial about the ongoing threat to public health there in Tulsa?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, perhaps. But being in denial assumes that this is something that they are -- the information that they are consuming but not really understanding. I think more to the point, this is information that is out there.

[17:10:00]

They know it. They not only see Sanjay on television. They have their own task force giving them the daily information. But what the strategy is, which is about as transparent as we've seen ever in politics is for the president and his team to want the country to move on. Because what that means just a few months before his reelection day, or the day that he wants to be reelected, is for things to get back to normal, for the economy to be doing better, for everything to return to the space where it was before the pandemic hit.

It's wishful thinking. In a lot of ways he is trying to wish that and will that to be the case, which, you know what, it's kind of hard to see how that's going to happen because he can't do that with a virus. But that is kind of the world in which he is approaching and his team is approaching this rally.

They also argue that what you're seeing on the streets now, even though, and Sanjay will tell you, it is very different to have a crowd outside rather than inside when it comes to the transmission of this virus. They argue that people look at the protests and say give me a break. Why are people allowed to protest and be out and gathering in crowds and hugging for black lives matter and other issues and not for Donald Trump? And, you know what, in many corners, that is probably a salient argument.

BLITZER: But as you point out, Dana and Sanjay, there's a huge difference between huge gatherings outdoors as opposed to indoors. And this indoor rally, Sanjay, isn't happening in a state that's past the worse of this virus. Oklahoma just set a record for new daily cases.

GUPTA: Yes, that's right. And let me just say as well, both these situations, what you're seeing on your television screen, people gathering not physically distancing, hopefully a lot of them are wearing masks. I can't tell from here. They're both public health concerns.

I mean, make no mistake, we -- the world is in the middle of a pandemic. That's the truth. Nobody likes it. Nobody in the world likes what's happening right now. It's happening. But these are both concerns. But indoors, if you just want to give some context to the increase in risk, they say it's about 18 times more likely, the virus to spread indoors versus outdoors.

So, they're both risky. But life right now is about risk and benefits and trying to contextualize that as individuals and our behavior. So, they're both risky. But as you point out, Wolf, the rates are going up in Oklahoma. So, what does that mean? That means that the virus is circulating more robustly. There may be areas of the country where it's not circulating as quickly. Now you're putting a big event indoors in an area where you know the virus is in the process of community spread. So, it adds another level of risk to this whole thing. I mean, that's just the stark truth of the whole thing.

BASH: And, Wolf, if I may, you know so many times we have a very clear window into what the president wants us to think and what his strategy is by his Twitter feed. And just today a short while ago, he tweeted out a photo of his presumptive Democratic opponent Joe Biden, which I believe that we have of him doing his own campaign event in a socially distanced way.

Joe Biden did that very, very intentionally because he is trying to send a message of somebody who's being responsible, of somebody who is taking safety into account. The president tweeted it by showing, from his perspective, there is zero enthusiasm for Joe Biden's campaign. And that gives you a very strong sense of where the president is coming from as he is desperate to get that enthusiasm, the pictures of it, the feel of it, as he is going to get in this rally tomorrow night.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you. Sanjay, thanks to you as well.

Up next, police in Atlanta calling out sick in large numbers and protests of the charges against those two officers in the death of Rayshard Brooks.

And we're following the breaking news. Juneteenth rallies taking place across the United States right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:18:23]

BLITZER: Looking at live pictures coming in here in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the country. Juneteenth rallies as the U.S. Confronts systemic racism throughout the country right now. Pictures from New York and elsewhere as well. At the same time there's disturbing fallout right now in Atlanta from the charges filed against those two police officers in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. Our national correspondent Ryan Young is on the scene for us. Ryan, what's the latest? What are you learning?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a big conversation in this city. In fact, city leaders want to know what's going on. Officers calling out. In fact, in a couple areas of the city, the majority of officers have decided not to show up today. We're told so far they have been able to surge resources into those areas to make sure that calls for service don't stand for too long. But you can think about a city of this size.

They've been very busy as police officers. Even today you think about a large Juneteenth protest that took to the streets where people were celebrating the holiday. There was also a man who was caught for murder. And all these while officers have been calling out sick.

We're told dozens and dozens of officers have been calling out. They've even been asking for more leadership from the top. In fact, we do have a statement from the new interim police chief.

In part, it reads, I know many of you are angry, frustrated and tired right now. I also understand that you are fearful that doing your job may get you fired or even convicted of a crime.

And you know, basically, he is telling people to stand pat. I've also talked to several officers who are from the city of Atlanta. And they are actually employing other officers to show up because they are worried about this weekend.

[17:20:00]

When you think about this, Wolf, they've been working three weeks straight. They've been having to deal with protesters, and at the same time not getting their normal time off. But they are definitely reacting to the fact that these officers have been charged, they believe, without their due process.

BLITZER: You know, Ryan, the police officer Garrett Rolfe who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, I understand he was moved to a new jail. We have some new video of that. Tell us why that happened.

YOUNG: Yes, sir. And on top of all this, look, one of our sources also gave us a tip last night. This was done out of abundance of caution. He was in the Fulton County Jail. We were there when he arrived. But what they wanted to do is obviously they did not want to have that officer in the Fulton County Jail because some of the inmates there obviously have been arrested by this officer. So, you wouldn't want to put him in there as a security risk.

He was moved to another jail about 20 miles outside the city. It took us about an hour to find that out. And they in fact didn't want that out for quite some time. We do know he was moved to that new location. You can see in this video.

Also, today, he waived his first court appearance. He could be in jail for quite some time, Wolf, as we try to figure this out. We have to watch this and see whether or not more officers call out sick, especially with more protests planned.

BLITZER: Yes. It's really a disturbing development in Atlanta right now. All right, Ryan, thank you very much. Ryan Young reporting. Let's get some more on all of this. The president and CEO of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson is with us, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers is with us. His new and very important book is entitled by the way, "My Vanishing Country: A Memoir" There you see the book cover.

Derrick, at the same time these Atlanta police officers are calling out, we're seeing marches, celebrations of Juneteenth across the country. What does that show you about where the country stands nearly a month into these protests?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: You know, it's a feeling of liberation, liberation from freedom from bondage of slavery. But also, liberation that America has finally woken up to understand how racism has impact our community. That this nation have finally woken up to go that our lives matter. And that this country is waking up to know that police should be held accountable.

I think that is the feeling of this country. But it's also a cautiousness about what's taking place. Many African Americans want to see that this thing is actually followed through on, that we can move from protests to power in terms of voting and from power to policy. Those are the tangible steps that we must move towards. So, we can see substantial changes in how we relate to one another under our Constitution.

BLITZER: You see the crowd's gathering in Washington, D.C. once again.

You know, Bakari, in a tweet earlier today, the former President Barack Obama wrote this. "Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It's a celebration of progress. It's an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible, and there is still so much work to do. Do you see that kind of progress continuing right now?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, change is possible, Wolf. I mean when you think about how far we've come just two weeks ago, Juneteenth was only celebrated in Texas and certain parts of the country. And now you have Juneteenth on the verge of being a national holiday where major corporations are allowing people time off. But the progress we still have to go is you have law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect and serve in Atlanta, Georgia.

And I want to be cautious and diligent and thoughtful in my words because no one is saying all law enforcement are bad. But what I am saying is that in Atlanta, Georgia, right now, you have officers calling out because what they are deeming to be the blue flu. But let's juxtapose that against the nurses and medical professionals who did not have enough PPE but still showed up to work during a pandemic. Juxtapose that against the teachers who have to pay for school supplies out of their pockets but still make sure that their students have enough to make ends meet.

And so, it's amazing to me. Yes, we've made so much progress in this country, but all of a sudden when you've never been held accountable before, accountability feels like oppression. So there are officers right now in Atlanta, Georgia, who are calling out to work, who are not standing up to their duty, who are not serving. And they're doing so because we're holding them accountable because one of your other officers shot a black man in the back twice?

So, Wolf, yes, I get Barack Obama's sentiment. And on this day of Juneteenth, you know I feel so much pride because my people have so much perseverance. But when we have actions like this against the type of injustice that were rooting out. It echoes what Barack Obama was saying. Yes, we've made progress, but we still have so far to go.

BLITZER: You know, Derrick, President Trump boasted about making Juneteenth in, his words, very famous. As you know, he's heading to Tulsa for that huge rally indoor tomorrow night.

[17:25:01]

He's threatened protesters who may come out there. How do you think history based on what's going on right now will judge his handling of this very, very important moment?

JOHNSON: I think history records him as being the worst president that we've seen in this country. I think by far not only the tone he has set, of the love of incompetence that we've displayed. His unwillingness to see images outside - what he - knew in the mirror.

History would not be kind. But I'm working, Sir, will our democracy be able to survive. We have to endure another four years of this. That's why the narrative have to shift from protests to the holding place in November. It is not only about this administration, it's up and down to dig (ph) the ticket.

In order for us to truly have the accountable system that Barack - Bakari was just talking about. We need system issue, structural change that come from public policy. And in order to get there, we have policy makers to walk in the office. What they value for the change that we want to see. We are at a juncture where there is corporate acknowledgement, cultural interests and policy opportunity. Now it is up for us as citizens across this country, the seize upon this moment, not allowed this to be a temporary reality but a permanent fix.

BLITZER: Derrick Johnson of the NAACP thanks for joining us. Bakari Sellers, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, A new one-day record of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida, and almost two dozen states are seeing cases spiking.

Plus, a troubling new CDC projection of how many more Americans will die in the pandemic in the coming weeks. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:48]

BLITZER: We have live pictures coming in from Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis, other places as well. We're monitoring the Juneteenth rallies underway around the country. Much more than that coming up.

But there's other breaking news this hour that we're watching on the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. death toll is now approaching 119,000 people as cases are spiking in almost two dozen states. CNN's Erica Hill has the latest from New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. ALI KHAN, DEAN, COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: We're in the midst of the greatest public health failure in American history. And if we're going to continue to open up and not open up safely, we're going to continue to see increased cases.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight states now seeing their highest seven-day averages of new cases since the virus first hit. Arizona and Florida reporting single-day highs for new cases again.

CAITLIN RIVERS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Florida is headed in the wrong direction but we don't. What we don't want is to recreate the conditions of March and April when health systems were under threat.

HILL (voice-over): On Thursday, just 25 percent of Florida's ICU beds were available. But on Friday, the governor said there's nothing to worry about.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The total number of COVID patients statewide has always been a small fraction of the total hospital beds. There's plenty, plenty of capacity here in the state of Florida.

HILL (voice-over): Nationwide, 80 percent of deaths are people over 65. Of states that reported a breakdown, 40 percent have been in nursing homes. Though young people are getting infected and they can spread it. In Mississippi, a cluster has been linked to fraternity parties.

DR. THOMAS DOBBS, MISSISSIPPI STATE HEALTH OFFICER: I do implore the young folks in Oxford, you know, to please demonstrate a modicum of restraint, because we're all going to pay for it if you don't.

HILL (voice-over): One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread, wearing a mask is optional at this weekend's Trump campaign rally in Oklahoma, where cases are steadily climbing. North Carolina considering a statewide mandate.

MICHAEL ILODIGWE, OWNER, DOC'S PHARMACY: The number of people wear a mask has decreased.

HILL (voice-over): In Dallas County, Texas, they're now required for businesses. Ignore it and risk a $500 fine.

MELISSA MCKINLAY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA, COMMISSIONER: I don't think we can scale back how we both (ph) been but we can simply slow down how we move forward and put these precautions in place like wearing a mask.

HILL (voice-over): And yet there are signs of hope. For nearly three months, Governor Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus briefings grabbed headlines.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Please come help us in New York now. We need relief.

HILL (voice-over): Friday, as New York City, an early epicenter prepare to enter phase 2, the governor gave his last daily update.

CUOMO: It's clear that over the past three months, we have done the impossible. We have done a full 180 from worst to first.

HILL (voice-over): The goal now, to keep it that way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: The WHO noting today that the single highest day for cases reported to the WHO 150,000 came yesterday. So keep in mind, this is still spreading the WHO saying the virus is still spreading. It is deadly and people are susceptible. And just a note on who's susceptible. In Florida, the median age of those ages impacted testing positive 37, but the governor says that number is actually trending down, trending younger, Wolf.

[17:35:07]

BLITZER: All right, Erica, thank you very much. Let's get some more analysis now from the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha. Dr. Jha, thanks so much for joining us. Earlier this month, you projected that the U.S. would cross 200,000 deaths by September. Has that assessment changed at all based on what we're seeing right now?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: You know, Wolf, it has not. What we're seeing is, obviously, we're seeing an uptick of cases across about 20 states. But the good news is that the number of deaths in cases in big states like New York and New Jersey and Connecticut continue to come down.

And the best projections, I still think are that at some point during the month of September, we will cross 200,000. Again, there's a lot we can do to reduce that. There's also a lot we can do to make that number go higher. It's really up to us.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget hundreds of Americans are dying every day from the coronavirus now approaching 119,000 since March alone. Florida's reporting more than 3,800 new coronavirus cases just today. That's roughly, by the way, Dr. Jha, as many new cases as the entire European Union. How concerning are these numbers coming out of just one state?

JHA: Yes, they're really pretty concerning. We have there four or five states where I'm very concerned about what's happening. For a little while, we heard from the administration and from others that this was just about increased testing. I think we now have very strong evidence that that's not the case. It's actually from increase infection. So Florida is very concerning. Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, the Carolinas, a lot of places where the number of infections seem to be really going up.

BLITZER: The governor of Nebraska, listened to this, he's threatening to withhold coronavirus relief funding if local governments in Nebraska start requiring people to wear masks. You saw that, you responded on Twitter. Let me read a sentence of what you said. "From the point of view of the health of people in Nebraska, I think this is not a good idea. The evidence on wearing masks has been getting stronger". Explain how strong that evidence really is.

JHA: Yes, this is one where the science has really changed quite a bit. And I would say that study after study, and even in that Twitter thread, I mentioned several specific studies. There's one that came out just this week that showed that states that did mandating of mask wearing saw decreases in their cases. It's pretty clear at this point that if everybody wore masks across the U.S. when we were out and about, it would have a big impact on the number of coronavirus cases across the country.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a disturbing development, indeed. I was surprised to hear what the governor of Nebraska had to say. And let's not forget right now, once again, approaching 119,000 deaths here in the United States basically over the last three months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projecting now that it would be at least 130,000 deaths by July 11th. That's only in a few weeks from now. So these numbers are really, really disturbing.

Dr. Ashish Jha, as usual, thank you so much. Thanks for everything you're doing as well.

JHA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Breaking news next. Juneteenth rallies happening right now across the United States as the country clearly struggles to come to terms with racial injustice. Plus, much more on the very serious public health concerns surrounding President Trump's huge indoor rally tomorrow night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'll speak to one official who calls it, and I'm quoting now, a recipe for disaster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:09]

BLITZER: We have live pictures coming in from New York City, in Minneapolis. We're following the breaking news rallies across the United States right now marking Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in this country.

CNN's Brian Todd is at one of the rallies here in Washington, D.C. Brian, the Juneteenth rallies, they're coming amid a deep reckoning race, not only here in the United States, but indeed around the world.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, Wolf. And Juneteenth this year has gotten infused with a lot more energy obviously after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and that's what these marchers and event organizers wanted to get across here today. They want to call attention to that, they want Juneteenth to be a national holiday. It's not yet but this is a huge movement at this point to get it established as a national holiday.

I want to call your attention to all these marches. This was kind of impromptu. These people moved into Black Lives Matter Plaza, several blocks away, a short time ago, led by people in these two trucks. These two -- they're two trucks. There were two. There's one now.

There were two trucks that moved into Black Lives Matter Plaza, passed barricades very gently, very slowly. These trucks full of march leaders, people with musical groups music, they're chanting, they're leading people in prayers. And Jonathan, we'll keep moving along here.

And they moved into Black Lives Matter Plaza, but then they've kind of taken people with them. We went all the way up Mass Avenue, which is a major artery here in town, passed some embassies. Now we've gone pass the DuPont Circle area and are heading kind of North East.

But a lot of energy here, Wolf. No fewer than 20 events here in Washington, D.C. today, surrounding Juneteenth. There are marches, there are walkout strikes, the Black Lives Matter has called for intersections to be blocked, for highways to be blocked, and we have seen them block several intersections. We've not seen the block highways yet but that could be coming because these markers tend to go a long way, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens together with you, Brian. Thank you.

[17:45:02]

Alexandra Field is covering the marches in New York City for us right now. Alexandra, tell our viewers where you are and what's going on. ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in downtown Manhattan, Wolf, where the streets have echoed for hours now as demonstrators have walked miles chanting "Black Lives Matter". They are continuing to march on with incredible passion, with incredible energy. They have celebrated the incremental change that we've seen in New York this week like Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying that Juneteenth will be a city holiday next year, like the city council passing a police reform package.

But these are people who want the entire country to keep their eye on bigger systemic change. Change that reaches all aspects of the culture, from jobs to housing, to justice, to the economy. These are people who say they will continue to march, they will continue to keep the country's focus on what is happening in the streets across this nation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, these rallies and marches are continuing. Alexandra Field in New York for us. We'll stay in close touch.

Coming up, thousands of President Trump supporters expected to fill an indoor arena for a rally tomorrow night in Tulsa, Oklahoma as coronavirus cases in that state spike. I'll talk to a Tulsa official about how the city is bracing for a potential, a potential, let's hope it doesn't happen, public Health disaster.

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[17:51:14]

BLITZER: All right, Juneteenth rallies across the country. You're looking at live pictures coming in from New York, Minneapolis, elsewhere as well. We're watching that. We're also watching the President of the United States. He's pushing ahead with his rally scheduled for tomorrow night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, despite Oklahoma hitting a one-day record high in new coronavirus cases.

Let's bring in the Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith. Commissioner, thanks so much for joining us. So we're seeing people across the country out now marking this Juneteenth. And in Tulsa, you're bracing for a huge indoor crowd around the President's rally tomorrow night. You say, and I'm quoting you now, this is a recipe for disaster. What are your biggest fears?

KAREN KEITH, COMMISSIONER, TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA: Well, nobody's wearing masks and, you know, people are coming in, Wolf, from all over the country. And so, they could be coming in from hotspots. And we love to welcome people to our city. But right now, since we're in a spike, and I'm talking a spike like this, it's just the timing is very difficult, but people are here.

And it's not just the 19,000 in the street, there are in the arena, we're expecting, you know, another 40,000 to 60,000 people to be outside the arena massed together, and it's just not a good situation. And, of course, we have all of our Juneteenth activities going on. So I'm worried on all fronts. BLITZER: The President is already touting the large crowds that will come to his rally in Tulsa tomorrow night. He says that if anyone in attendance actually catches coronavirus, in his words, it will be a very small percentage. How do you respond to that?

KEITH: Well, I think we've heard that line before and we know that the percentages are extraordinarily high. And, you know, in Tulsa, we've been -- we've done really, really well. We've had a spike we think from the Memorial Day weekend. So our hospital capacity is very, very good at this point.

But I don't want to see the hospitals filled up. It's never good when anybody goes into the hospital with COVID. Most of them don't walk out. And so that's our reality.

And then our frontline workers in the hospital, they are just now recovering from that first fight. And, you know, this just makes it very hard on them to have to gear up again and deal with it in the next two weeks.

BLITZER: The White House says mass at the rally tomorrow night are optional. And the Press Secretary of the White House Kayleigh McEnany says she won't wear one. Does that put your community at risk?

KEITH: Absolutely. Yes, it puts it at risk. But I'm, you know, I'm personally hoping that they're branded masks and maybe people will get excited about wearing them, although. I don't know. I just -- I mean, I don't know.

Of course, everybody's already, you know, they're milling around, they're in the community now and they're not wearing masks in our restaurants and our restaurant workers are wearing their masks. And they're having to put up with comments by folks who think it's silly for being sissies or something. But, you know, our population has done such a good job of really trying to keep our numbers down. But, you know, this is going to impact us, but, Wolf, it's also going to impact all these other states from people who come here and then they go back home, so.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a serious issue. And the President earlier, he said any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma, please understand you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene. Very quickly, Commissioner, is that a threat from your perspective?

[17:55:05]

KEITH: Well, you know, I think we're stretched really thin on our ability to handle all of this. I mean, it is all hands on deck with our, you know, our chief of police, he's reached out to all of the suburban police departments. We've got the highway patrol, our sheriff's department, and of course, secret services here and we have -- we've got the National Guard on to stand by.

BLITZER: All right. KEITH: But let's hope we don't need, you know, that everybody stays calm. And I just asked everybody, please treat our city like it's your home.

BLITZER: All right.

KEITH: That, I mean, we have a beautiful city and I just don't want to see it destroyed and I want to see, you know, I just -- please be kind to our city.

BLITZER: Commissioner Karen Keith, good luck tomorrow. We'll be watching more breaking news right after this.

KEITH: Thank you.

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