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Arkansas Among States Seeing Highest Number Of New Cases Per Capita; NFL Postpones Hall Of Fame Weekend Until 2021; Supreme Court Rules Rejected Asylum Seekers Cannot Challenge Removal In Court. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 12:30   ET



MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a comment that goes against all of the advice that we have heard from health experts in terms of how to clamp down on COVID-19 and try to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and so this is something that we are expected to hear Joe Biden talk about today.

And second, and more broadly, we expect Joe Biden to talk about protecting and improving upon Obamacare. We know that he's going to meet with the families who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. This is according to the campaign.

And this comes as the Trump administration has continued to push the courts to try to dismantle the ACA. This is something that we heard Joe Biden talk about at a virtual fundraiser with former President Barack Obama earlier in the week.

And of course, I have to mention, as both campaigns start gearing up really for the general election, a battleground state that they are both watching very closely, of course, is Pennsylvania and as Joe Biden heads over here today, the New York Times/Siena College new poll shows that Joe Biden currently has a double digit lead over Donald Trump. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Nice numbers to have today. The question is, can he hold on to them. MJ Lee on the ground for us in Pennsylvania, very much appreciate that.

When we come back, remember yesterday the governors of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey said, residents from some states would have to quarantine if they came their way. Arkansas one of those states, the health director there, joins us next.



KING: You see the current numbers on the right of your screen, the Centers for Disease Control now projecting as many as 150,000 Americans could die from coronavirus by the middle of next month, the middle of July.

It goes on to single out 13 states where thinks the death count will grow. And that includes Arkansas. This week Arkansas hit one of its highest single day increases with nearly 700 new cases. Dr. Nate Smith is the director of the State Health Office in Arkansas. He joins us live.

Dr. Smith, it's good to see you again. Describe where your state is right now. The CDC says its worried Arkansas is going to be one of the states where the death count keeps growing as you talk. I just want to put the 14-day trend up on the screen. I don't know whether to call this an increase or a flat line, but it's certainly not going down. Is that a plateau? Are you on the way up still?

DR. NATE SMITH, DIRECTOR & STATE HEALTH OFFICER, ARKANSAS DEPT. OF HEALTH: It's really hard to tell we have seen a pretty steep increase over the past few weeks. We're starting to see plateauing at least in the northwest part of the state, where we've had our greatest number of cases and where we focused our efforts.

But then we're also seeing increases in other parts of the state as well. So time will tell but we're hoping that we can at least achieve a plateau.

KING: And so if you look at Pulaski County, which is Little Rock, if you look at the trend line there, you mentioned other parts of the state where you see progress. Pulaski County, you see a projected of 66 cases a day by July 18th. This is from a Children's Home Hospital of Philadelphia policy lab model is that what you're seeing on the ground and obviously, that's your largest populated area if you have the trend lines going in the wrong direction that can be a cause for concern.

SMITH: Well, Pulaski County, Central Arkansas is our most densely populated area. We've seen some ups and downs. We've not seen a steady increase, like we did in Northwest Arkansas a few weeks ago. But there's obviously a concern in the central part of the state. So far, we've seen a little bit up, a little bit down, but not a super high increasing trend.

KING: And are you seeing that? Is your problem when you see a problem? Is it we've talked in the past you had a church at one point that had a cluster? You have obviously a number of chicken and meat processing plants in the state of Arkansas. Are you seeing centralized clusters or as your bigger worry that you're starting to see more community spread?

SMITH: We're still seeing clusters here and there. Where we've had the most concerning trend was in the northwest part of the state where we were really seeing community transmission, particularly in our Latino population and our population of immigrants from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and many of them associated with the poultry industry.

But again, we seemed to be making some headway there. But for the other parts of the state, it's a nursing home here, it's a prison there, it's a church or other cluster, you know, somewhere it's not been a generalized increase like we did see in the northwest corner of the state.

KING: Twenty-one states if you go across the country right now require masks, now the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as well, Arkansas is not among those. I know it's a more conservative state and sometimes people rebel, if you will, against government mandates. Do you think a mask requirement would help?

SMITH: Well, the important thing is whether people wear masks or not, not whether you are required or not. There are some parts of our state where it might be perceived as excessive. We were in Baxter County. I was in Baxter County with the governor earlier in the week. They only have one active case in the entire county.

But there are other places where it's very important for people to be wearing masks. And whether they do it because they understand the value or whether they do it because it's a government requirement. I don't think COVID-19 cares. But the important thing is that people do the right thing, wear a mask when they're out in public to limit the spread of COVID-19.

KING: We're all affected by our neighbors. We have 50 state experiments going on right now. One of your neighbors is Texas, which is seeing a pretty dangerous surge right now. So much so that the Republican Governor there, Greg Abbott, you know, pulling back a little bit on the reopening. Does that worry you that your neighbors having a problem?

SMITH: Well, certainly does. Actually, if you look at all of our surrounding states, they have increasing numbers of cases. So we are concerned. But, you know, there's not anything I can do about surrounding states. We got to focus on what we, as Arkansans can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.


KING: Dr. Nate Smith, again, as always, appreciate your time and your candor on the program. We'll check back in with you as we go through this. Thanks very much.

SMITH: Thank you.

KING: A look now at some of the global coronavirus developments from our correspondents around the world.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Here in France, the Eiffel Tower has just reopened to visitors after its longest shutdown since the Second World War.

We're on the first level right now with already a sweeping view of the city and its landmarks. And tourists are starting to come back although not in their usual numbers. The tower is hoping to attract 4 to 5,000 visitors today but compare that to 23,000 normally this time of year.

And those who come are getting a slightly different Eiffel Tower experience, face masks are mandatory of course, distancing isn't so much of a problem out here in the open. But it does mean that the lifts aren't open yet to avoid crowds and confined spaces.

So if you want the view, you have to earn it and take the stairs, that's about a 15 minute climb to the second level. And then you'll have to settle for that because the very top of the tower isn't open yet.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was almost one month to the day at this point that the Pan American Health Organization first declared Latin America and the Caribbean to be the new epicenter of this global pandemic. And in the several weeks since, we know that cases in this part of the world have about tripled going from just under 700,000 about a month ago to now more than 2 million cases.

And for the first time, this region is now reporting more than 100,000 total confirmed deaths. And health officials told reporters on Wednesday that they expect this to be around for some time to come. In fact, the director of the Pan American Health Organization said that she expects there could be outbreaks in this region for the next two years, absent a widely available vaccine.

The director went on to say in part quote, we must be realistic about the future. The question is no longer, how do we go back to the way things were before but rather, how do we move forward and build a sustainable outbreak response?

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN BRAZIL BUREAU CHIEF: Here in Brazil, the health ministry reported more than 42,000 new infections on Wednesday, the second highest daily increase on record also, more than 1,100 additional deaths.

While the President Jair Bolsonaro has been ordered by a judge to wear a mask in public or face a fine worth about $380 a day, Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the virus insisting the economic fallout from the socialist isolation measures would be worse than COVID-19. He rarely puts on a mask at public events.

Meanwhile, throughout Latin America, COVID-19 cases have tripled in the last month, surpassing 2 million infections. That's according to the Pan American Health Organization. The group's director warned that governments are now under pressure to ease social isolation measures due to economic and political crises even though transmission is still increasing.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: here in China, Beijing, city officials now consider this most recent cluster outbreak to be basically contained in their words, believed to have originated in a popular wholesale food market right here in the capital.

Now two weeks in and several neighborhoods are still on strict lockdown. But outside of those controlled communities, officials have allowed life to continue mostly uninterrupted. There are however still restrictions on those looking to travel out of Beijing. And the mass testing sites like this one that CNN toured this past week, continue to require screening for what's amounted to hundreds of thousands of residents.

Of that, they have only reported about 250 confirmed cases from this most recent outbreak. And even though it's officially under control, new cases have been reported each day. In all since the start of the pandemic, Chinese health officials say they have conducted more than 90 million coronavirus tests.

Now we should point out that is not 90 million people tested as in many cases such as for me and my team her, individuals are tested multiple times.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.



KING: Up next for us, major league sports teams trying to make a comeback. Will an increase in positive tests among athletes get in the way?


KING: The NFL now postponing its Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio for one year because of the coronavirus. That includes the induction ceremony and their traditional preseason opening game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers that will have to wait. That move comes to several NFL players who have tested positive for coronavirus.

We're also hearing about more and more major league baseball and NBA players testing positive as well. Let's bring in CNN sports Coy Wire. Coy, that is a problem all these positive tests as the league try to get up and running.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: No doubt about it, John. The NFL preseason now not starting on time, the Pro Football Hall of Fame making it official just this hour, there will now be two Hall of Fame classes inducted next year in this year's game between the Steelers and Cowboys that was slated for six weeks from today will move to next August as well.


Both teams have had players testing positive for coronavirus in the past two weeks. This marks the first major NFL event, John, to be postponed to the pandemic. Remember, the league was still able to conduct the draft. They had free agency virtually and with most teams scheduled to report to training camp July 28th.

Listen to this. This morning Saints safety and CNN contributor Malcolm Jenkins told CNN's New Day that we don't need the NFL. And he won't feel comfortable about going back until there is no risk at all.


MALCOLM JENKINS, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS SAFETY: The NBA is a lot different than the NFL because they can actually quarantine all of their players or whoever is going to participate where we have over 2,000 players, even more coaches and staff. We can't do that. Until we get to the point where we have protocols in place and until we get to the place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a non-essential business.

And so we don't need to do it. And so the risk, you know, has to be really eliminated before we -- before I would feel comfortable we're going back.


WIRE: All right, at least five teams, John, have had players test positive for COVID-19. And it's adding to a growing list of cases across all sports. The Pacers Malcolm Brogdon, the Kings Jabari Parker, and Alex Len all confirming positive test yesterday as the NBA moves closer to resuming its season in Orlando at the end of July.

And three more MLB teams say they have players who've tested positive, the Red Sox, Tigers, and Mariners, making a total of nine teams reporting cases since last week. All of this with just one week until spring training starts.

Finally, John, the Kentucky Derby is planning to allow a limited number of fans for the race that's been set for the Saturday before Labor Day. Major Events like New York City Marathon continue to be cancelled. Pro athletes are pulling out of competitions as more athletes test positive, John, how our teams, how our leagues, how our players going to respond is something to keep an eye on.

KING: It's something to keep very much a close eye on and we appreciate your help doing so. Coy Wire, appreciate the reporting there. We'll continue to track this one.

Still ahead for us, major opinions still left in the docket as Supreme Court nears the end of its big term.



KING: The Supreme Court today handing the Trump administration a big win ruling that rejected asylum seekers claiming fear of persecution abroad do not have to be given a federal court hearing before quick removal from the United States.

With me now to discuss that and the case is still on the docket CNN contributor, Steve Vladek. He's also a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Steve, thanks for being with us. Significant this asylum case or predicted?

STEVE VLADECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: John, I think a little bit of both. I think it's a big deal, not just because it applies to those folks stopped while trying to enter the United States. But because the Trump administration is in the middle of trying to expand the category of immigrants who are subject to this program called expedited removal.

Before the Trump administration, this was just undocumented immigrants are arrested within 14-days of crossing the border, and within 100 miles of the border. Now it's any undocumented immigrant anywhere in the country picked up within two years of entering. So this could have enormous ramifications, even for those individuals who have valid legitimate asylum claims not being able to have a day in court to vindicate their rights.

KING: It is a big deal. So, 13 cases left on the docket unless they pump these out pretty quickly, the courts going to stay in session into July for the first time since Bill Clinton was president of the United States. So it's been a long time.

Let's go through, we can put up some of these pending cases, because some of them are very big deal public funding for religious schools, the Constitutionality of the Consumer Protection Board, Louisiana abortion restrictions, whether or not to get access to the President's taxes, so called faithless electors, can they go against the will of the voters of their states, the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate. Which of these to you is law changing?

VLADECK: Well, I mean, I think actually, John, probably the biggest of these from a law changing perspective is probably the President's tax returns because there's just no law there. I think actually, the headline a lot of folks expect with the abortion case is that the court will stay the course.

The Chief Justice, of course, had already voted with the more progressive justices to stay the lower court decision in that case to keep the Louisiana law on hold. So I think we're going to see some pretty big new law, whatever the court does with the President's financial records, whatever the court does with the Consumer Finance Protection Board, probably also with public funding for religious schools.

You know, we've got 13 decisions, John, probably seven or eight of them are going to be pretty momentous, not just from the perspective of headlines, but also their impact on American law going forward.

KING: Right. Questions of what I'll call church and state. Tell me if you disagree, both in the public funding of religious schools, but also the contraceptive mandate, which was brought by a religious institution saying you shouldn't -- you can't tell us to do this. We have objections.

VLADECK: That's exactly right. And we're going to see big decisions, I think, in both of those cases. But John, this is really just I think, the appetizer, because what's really set him up after these cases is a couple of huge cases already on the courts docket for this fall, that are much more fundamentally about revisiting the cornerstone of the courts modern religious liberty jurisprudence, a 1998 case called Employment Division versus Smith.

So, you know, I think those cases are going to generate big headlines when they come down in the next two weeks. But the real headlines, at least on the religious liberty side, are probably up for next term. Of course, we're also all waiting to see what the court does with the President's financial records. That's going have a huge impact on the elections, faithless electors. I mean, it's rare, John, that we've had this many big cases still outstanding this late in June.