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THE SITUATION ROOM

Coronavirus Surges Across U.S. As 30 States See Cases Rise; Trump's Sinking Poll Numbers; Coronavirus Cases Rising in Florida, Texas and California; MLB, NBA, NFL Players Test Positive As Sports Set To Return; Colorado Governor Appoints Special Prosecutor To Investigate Black Man's Death After Police Used A Choke Hold. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The number of new cases hitting record highs in Texas, Florida, and California, the three states with the biggest populations.

As the U.S. surpasses 2.4 million -- million confirmed cases nationwide, the CDC is now warning that the actual number of infections is likely 10 times higher, 25 million.

But President Trump is refusing to acknowledge any of that. He's deeper in denial about the resurgence of the virus, as states reopen, leaving an alarming void in national leadership right now.

Let's get some more from our national correspondent, Erica Hill.

Erica, the CDC director is sounding this alarm. The coronavirus is still here, it's still killing, and social distancing and wearing face masks are essential.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, that's right.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield was very clear earlier today. He said the pandemic is not over. And, to your point, he stressed the need for social distancing, noting that the virus can't travel much more than six or seven feet, so we have to maintain that distance, and, he said, should absolutely have a face covering when you're out in public.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): In the nation's three most populous states, California, Florida, and Texas, things are going from bad to worse.

DR. DAVID PERSSE, HOUSTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT: I don't think history will look back forgivingly upon the United States and Americans who are going down this road.

HILL: Los Angeles County has more confirmed cases than any other county in the country.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're still in the first wave of this pandemic.

HILL: Texas pausing its reopening to -- quote -- "coral the spread of COVID-19," also restricting elective surgeries in four counties.

DR. UMAIR SHAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, PUBLIC HEALTH: We're running out of that time.

HILL: Texas Medical Center now using nearly all its regular capacity ICU beds in the greater Houston area. Hospitals also a concern in Florida, which just added more than 5,000 new cases. Governor DeSantis resisting calls for a statewide mask mandate.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: I think it's incredibly unfortunate that this has become so political.

HILL: While, in hard-hit Miami, where masks are required, the mayor is now considering a fine for anyone who ignores his order.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL): If we don't want to go backwards, the only option that we have right now is to order masks in public.

HILL: The CDC confirming more young people are contracting the virus. In Ohio, where cases have jumped in the last 24 hours, nearly 60 percent of the state's cases are people between the ages of 20 and 49.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): We have increased testing. But no analyst that I have talked to believes that the total increase is due to that at all.

HILL: Hospitalizations and ICU admissions also up, especially in Cincinnati.

Across the country, for every person diagnosed in this country, 10 more were likely infected, as many as 20 million people according, to new findings from the CDC.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: It's about 10 times more people have antibodies.

HILL: There is new concern for pregnant women, the CDC reporting Thursday they may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, especially black and Hispanic women.

Disneyland's reopening now delayed. California says it hasn't met the criteria. Apple closing more stores in Florida because of the virus.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: The data is telling us yes right now.

HILL: While, in New York City, plans are under way for phase three, bringing back indoor dining, sports, and dog runs on July 6.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, Mayor de Blasio said he's going to keep an eye on that data. If things start to go in the wrong direction, he will be conferring with Governor Cuomo in case there needs to be a pullback.

Governor Gavin Newsom was asked about that today too. He said he's very closely monitoring the numbers of hospitalizations and ICU beds in his state, in case they too need a pause, which, of course, we saw in Texas today.

And speaking of Texas, the state reporting its single highest day for cases just a short time ago, Wolf, 5,996.

BLITZER: Yes, that's so disturbing.

All right, Erica, thank you very much.

Now to President Trump. He's trying to act as though the pandemic is behind us, when it's actually on the rise right now.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, you have new information on the president's refusal over these few months to even wear a mask.

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

President Trump is on his way back from the battleground state of Wisconsin, where he was trying to rescue his reelection chances, as the economy is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. And we are learning tonight that the president is walling himself off from bad polling, telling advisers he does not believe the latest polls showing he is trailing Joe Biden.

And the president is pushing off public health experts. Aides are not hopeful the president will ever warm up to wearing masks, we are told, as one official told us -- quote -- "The president will never change on the mask."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With coronavirus cases spiking and his poll numbers tanking, President Trump is chalking up the pandemic surge in the U.S. to increase COVID-19 testing, and nothing more, tweeting: "The number of cases goes up because of great testing, while the number of deaths, mortality rate, goes way down."

[18:05:07]

But the president is signaling the number of dead could continue to soar by the tens of thousands.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Could have been stopped in China. But we could have lost anywhere from two to four million people, as opposed to where it is now, which is probably 115, but it could get a little bit higher than that. It could get up to 150. Could go beyond that.

ACOSTA: That's roughly 100,000 more deaths than what Mr. Trump predicted in April. TRUMP: Now, we're going toward 50, I'm hearing, or 60,000 people. One is too many, I always say it. One is too many. But we're going toward 50,000 or 60,000 people.

ACOSTA: The president is still bristling at questions over wearing masks.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Then why aren't you further away and why aren't you wearing a mask?

QUESTION: I can take a step back, if that makes you comfortable, sir.

TRUMP: No, but you're way -- I mean, you're not social distancing, based on that question.

ACOSTA: But hold on. In Ohio, Vice President Mike Pence was wearing a mask. In Texas, where GOP Governor Greg Abbott is pausing his state's reopening, he said in a statement: "I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and socially distancing from others."

In Florida, Republican Senator Marco Rubio is recommending masks to masks too.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Masks work. They reduce infections by up to 50 percent. It's not a big deal.

ACOSTA: Ever since the president's disappointing weekend rally in Tulsa, where thousands of empty seats were on display, dozens of Secret Service agents have now been forced into quarantine, as that agency is now asking its teams on presidential trips to undergo COVID- 19 testing.

That's an addition to the Trump campaign staffers testing positive and now in quarantine as well. With 1.5 million new initial unemployment claims filed last week and more than 47 million since mid-March, the president is now trailing Joe Biden in critical states like Wisconsin, where a new poll finds the former vice president with a strong lead.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's like a child who can't believe this has happened to him, all his whining and self-pity. Well, this pandemic didn't happen to him. It happened to all of us. And his job isn't to whine about it. His job is to do something about it.

ACOSTA: The president is banking on distractions to bail him out, like the protesters threatening to tear down statues across the U.S., as Mr. Trump is deploying U.S. Marshals to protect these historic sites.

TRUMP: They're looking at George Washington. They're looking at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson. Not going to happen. Not going to happen. Not as long as I'm here.

ACOSTA: Ex-aides, like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, say the president simply hasn't focused enough on the virus. JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And he didn't want

to hear about the potential impact of a pandemic on the American economy and its effect on his reelection, turning a blind eye to all these early signs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, as for the Coronavirus Task Force, officials have noted to us that the president has not spoken with Dr. Anthony Fauci in three weeks. And Dr. Deborah Birx has all but vanished from the spotlight.

Advisers and allies have urged the president to moderate his tone on the virus, but we were told he just won't do it. And some advisers worry the president has simply become too stubborn to change course on the virus in time for the election.

As one adviser put it to us, the Tulsa rally prove the president is "mortal" -- Wolf.

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

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with Dr. Christopher Murray. He's the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Sanjay, you just heard Jim Acosta report a White House official is saying the president will never change on the issue of the mask, not because he doubts their importance, but because he simply doesn't want that image.

You have said you can't believe our country is in this position right now. And you thought originally that, by the end of June, we'd have much more to actually celebrate.

Do you think , with more cohesive leadership, a willingness to listen to health officials, much of this devastation could have been avoided?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, no question.

I don't think anyone should look at this situation and say, this was inevitable, this is the way that it had to be. I mean, there were definitely things that we could have done. We could have acted earlier, we could have implemented more testing, we could do the things that Jim Acosta was talking about in his piece.

I mean, the idea that we're picking -- the president's picking style over substance in the middle of a pandemic with regard to masks, it's absolutely ridiculous and preposterous, when you look at what's happening in the country.

There's plenty of evidence, as Dr. Murray will say, about the -- how well masks can work. And we have seen evidence of that around the world, places where they have -- they use masks regularly. Even places where they didn't go into lockdown have had this pandemic significantly under better control.

So, it's -- this was not inevitable, Wolf, to your question.

[18:10:00]

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly wasn't.

And, Dr. Murray, your respected model now projects, what, some 30,000 American lives could be spared by October if nearly all Americans would simply start wearing masks.

First of all, tell us, how did you determine that number?

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH METRICS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: So, we have looked at all the published studies on how masks work for individuals. And each individual who's wearing a cloth mask when they're out near somebody else gets about a third or even as high as a half reduction in transmission.

But when you translate that into what it means for American lives at the community level, that reduction in transmission can save 33,000 lives by October 1. And if we go farther, later in the year, when we expect even more coronavirus around, it could save even more.

BLITZER: Yes, you project, if no changes occur, 179,000 Americans will die from coronavirus. If not 95 percent of the American public starts wearing masks when they're out in public, indoor or outdoor, 146,000 Americans will die by October 1.

Right now, more than 122,000 Americans have died.

Sanjay, the CDC is also now saying that the coronavirus infection rate here in the United States is likely 10 times higher than we know. Is this due to a high rate of asymptomatic carriers, a lack of testing, something else -- or something else entirely?

GUPTA: No, I think it's a combination of those things.

I mean, it's been really hard to get tested in this country unless you had some symptoms up until recently. So now we're seeing people who don't have symptoms being able to get tested. That particular study also looked at antibody tests. Those are the types of tests that will tell you if you have been previously infected.

So, I think that that's where they're arriving at this number. And frankly, Wolf, it doesn't surprise me. I mean, the virus has been spreading. It's a very contagious virus. And if you do the math as well, Wolf, if you look at the right side of the screen and do the math, the number of deaths over the number of total cases, that would suggest about a 5 percent mortality rate, 5 percent.

I think that in most places around the world, the estimate is that it's a lot lower than that. So, if, in fact, the number is 10 times higher, the number of infections in this country, the mortality rate would be closer to 0.5 percent, which would make sense, Wolf. But the reason that there's -- this prediction of so many more people infected is because the virus has been spreading unchecked in some places for quite some time.

BLITZER: Well, Dr. Murray, do you accept that estimate from the CDC now that -- right now, the confirmed number, 2.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, but it's really 10 times higher, 25 million Americans may have had it, many of them, of course, totally asymptomatic?

MURRAY: Well, absolutely, there's going to be at least five times as many people who've been infected as the cases we have detected.

And if you look at the numbers, for example, in New York of deaths compared to the antibody testing there, that's sort of where you land. If it's as high as 10, it's possible. And I think it's going to be in that range. Five to 10 is what we think.

BLITZER: Dr. Murray, why is it so important to have accurate data about this infection rate of this very, very deadly virus?

MURRAY: Well, it's super important for two reasons, Wolf, which is, first, are we detecting all the deaths that are out there? And we have had all these issues about deaths that have gone undetected in nursing homes and homeless shelters and elsewhere.

And this might be a marker in some states where that ratio looks different, if there's more infections out there than we expected. And then the other issue is just managing the epidemic, if we don't succeed in getting it under control later in the winter, in which places immunity actually starts to get up to 40 or 50 percent, if we actually get to that space.

BLITZER: Yes.

Sanjay, what, states now, 30 states are seeing an increase in coronavirus cases. And the nation's three most populated states are seeing record high case counts right now. In response, we're seeing a rather piecemeal approach, as state-by-state guidelines fluctuate. There's no national guideline, if you will.

The current response clearly isn't working, is it?

GUPTA: And I think that that's an important point, Wolf.

I mean, so if you take Texas, for example, I know Governor Abbott is saying, look, people should stay at home if they can, but I'm not going to -- there's no indication they're going to slow down the reopening efforts, necessarily.

The numbers are surging with the way things are now, OK, the status quo, and the numbers are surging in Texas. So the idea that you say, well, maybe I won't reopen, I mean, I don't even know how that's a decision matrix at this point, because the numbers are going up.

I think, in some places, Wolf, the intensive care unit beds are almost, if not already at full capacity -- there are places where children's hospitals are starting to take care of adult patients because they don't have enough room. That's their surge capacity.

[18:15:07]

So, in a situation like that, how could you possibly be talking about reopening? That's the status quo, and you're running into this problem. Something's got to be done, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Let's hope it happens.

Dr. Gupta, thank you. Dr. Murray, thanks to you as well.

MURRAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And to our viewers, an important note. Be sure to join Sanjay and Anderson Cooper later tonight for another CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears." That airs tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

The political calculations of the president's refusal to wear a mask, as an official now tells CNN that Mr. Trump doesn't want to admit he's wrong.

And I will speak live with baseball legend Alex Rodriguez about the growing number of pro athletes who are testing positive for the coronavirus. What will that mean for teams and for their fans?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:18]

BLITZER: This hour, we're learning more about President Trump's adamant refusal to be a role model for the nation and wear a mask to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our White House correspondent, John Harwood.

John, a source, as you heard, telling our Jim Acosta the president will never change when it comes to the masks, in part because he doesn't want the image and in part because he doesn't want to admit he was wrong. So what do you make of that stunning admission?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's not altogether surprising, because the president has more or less said as much publicly.

He was on a trip to a manufacturing plant a few weeks ago, and when he was asked about why he didn't wear a mask, he said: I didn't want to give you guys the satisfaction of seeing me in one.

But it's also very sad, for this reason. There are people who are going to live or die still based on the quality of his leadership. Presidents have to be able to admit mistakes and adjust to the proper course when they get evidence in order to lead.

And if he's imprisoned by his ego, he can't do it. And he certainly hasn't done it so far.

BLITZER: The president doesn't admit that he makes any mistakes.

Gloria, the CDC director today proclaimed, this pandemic is not over. But, based on the president's actions, does it seem to you that he disagrees about the threat actually posed by this virus?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, this is not the reality show that the president wants to present to the American public as he faces reelection, but, unfortunately for him, it is the reality.

And he will not face up to it. It wasn't that long ago when he said, we will have 15 cases going to zero, or him talking about, OK, we're going to reopen at Easter, and people can be in church together, on pews together in Easter.

This is a president -- and John Bolton told you this just yesterday, Wolf -- this is a president who believes in politics above all else. And he said to you that he turned a blind eye towards the pandemic.

And his explanation is, as a lot of people are saying, including me, that it's all because of reelection. And he wants to make the economy well, as everybody does. But, in order to do that, he can't have people staying at home.

And so what he wants to do is disrupt. And he wants to say, OK, everything is going to be fine. We don't need to listen to the scientists here. They're deep-sixed. I don't even know where Mike Pence is these days, as head of the Corona Task Force, Wolf.

But the president's narrative is the one, don't worry.

BLITZER: Yes, that's absolutely right.

John, the president is blaming the ever-increasing number of cases here in the United States as a result of an increase in testing.

Listen to what he's said in recent weeks. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have so much testing. I don't think you need that kind of testing or that much tests.

So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.

I have always said testing is somewhat overrated.

This is why the whole concept of tests aren't necessarily great.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Every health expert says, John, exactly the opposite. Testing is critical.

So, why is the president taking this stance?

HARWOOD: I got to tell you, Wolf, it is insanity that the president sticks to that position, for the very reason you have said.

Testing is critical to understanding where the virus is and reacting to it. But the -- what the president signaled in the bite you just played is that his concern is looking bad. He doesn't want people to have revealed the extent of the virus.

We heard today that there are likely 10 infections for every one that's been diagnosed. We need to know that information to respond effectively to the virus.

To the president, he's less concerned about the fact that those 10 people have infections. He's concerned about it being exposed and therefore embarrassing him, and suggesting he's not doing a good job.

He -- the American public agrees that he's not doing a good job, and he doesn't want to make it any worse. It's -- again, if you're going to lead in this situation, you have got to accept reality and act on that reality.

And he does not want to do that.

BLITZER: Yes, that's important as well.

Gloria, our excellent congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, tried today to push the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, on the president's use of a racist term to describe the virus. I want to play the exchange. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As the president has been describing the coronavirus, he's been calling it the kung- flu.

Do you think that's an appropriate way to characterize the coronavirus?

[18:25:02]

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Do you think that's the most pressing issue you have about the coronavirus?

RAJU: (OFF-MIKE) think about that?

MCCARTHY: I know, but what I'm thinking about is why that is your most pressing issue as a question.

RAJU: Well, can you answer the question?

MCCARTHY: When we have just seen a spike in coronavirus, you're concerned about somebody on the way they name it.

RAJU: You're...

MCCARTHY: That's appalling to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's concerned, Mr. Minority Leader, about the fact that the president is playing down the enormity of this life-and-death issue.

And, Gloria, what does McCarthy's reaction to what is clearly a very fair and important question signal to you?

BORGER: Sure. It is a fair question. It is an important question.

The president used a racist term. And, clearly, the minority leader didn't want to answer the question. So he does what politicians do, which is he deflected it, and he tried to turn it back on Manu Raju.

And the point is that this is one of many questions one can ask to the president about coronavirus that lots of Republicans do not want to answer, not only about the president's racist comment, but also about why the president isn't paying attention to the coronavirus. Why isn't he wearing a mask? Why isn't he modeling for the American public?

Where is the task force? Why aren't we hearing from the task force every day? Why isn't testing better? We know he wants to limit testing, but how else are you going to contact trace in this country and know where the infection has spread?

These are all questions that need to be asked to Republicans. What the president was clearly trying to do is rally his base. And what McCarthy was clearly trying to do is deflect and turn it around on the press.

HARWOOD: Wolf, let me just add one quick postscript there.

Kevin McCarthy lacked the guts to answer that question. That's why he turned it back on Manu. He -- and he's not alone in that.

BORGER: Yes.

HARWOOD: Many Republican politicians lack the guts to call out the president.

And that's one of the reasons why the president's in bad shape, and it's a reason why Republican politicians are in bad shape, Senate and House, in this election.

BLITZER: They're all clearly afraid, afraid to do anything that might upset the president.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Just ahead: A special prosecutor is now being appointed in Colorado to

investigate yet another death of a black man put in a choke hold by police. We will have new information on that. Stand by.

Also, I will speak live with baseball great Alex Rodriguez about the future of pro sports.

There you see him.

More and more players, unfortunately, sadly, are testing positive for the coronavirus. We will discuss what's happening as far as baseball is concerned during a time of a pandemic.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: As sports leagues are preparing to resume playing games, more and more professional athletes, unfortunately, are testing positive for coronavirus, putting the future of a lot of these sports in doubt.

Let's discuss with Major League Baseball legend Alex Rodriguez. Alex, thank you so much for joining us. Let's talk about baseball, a subject you know well.

When baseball returns, and we assume it will, it will be with a series of a whole bunch of new rules, according to a manual, a 160-page manual actually obtained by The New York Times. The MLB will require masks for non-players in dugouts and bullpens. For example, there will be no spitting, and that includes no smokeless tobacco or sunflower seeds, no public transportation to the stadiums, no communal food spreads, and no fighting, to name just a few. In many respects, America's pastime, Alex, is going to look quite different when it returns. What do you think about all of this?

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, FORMER MLB 15-TIME ALL-STAR: Well, 2020 is a year of adjustments, and it's no different with baseball. I mean, if you think about a world, Wolf, where -- if I was still playing for the Yankees, I would be driving to Yankee stadium through Washington Heights to the Bronx in my pinstripes. I would get-off, there's a world where there is no bat boys, there's no bat girls, there's nothing going on, you can't spit, like you mentioned, you can even chewed no tobacco, which I don't do, but even sunflower seeds. I mean, think about a world of a -- you going into the office, it's like you not even able to used your computer or even email someone. It's going to be a very strange season.

BLITZER: Unlike some of the other professional sports league, Alex, major league baseball is planning to have teams travel to various stadiums for games around the country rather than playing in one centralized location. Are you confident the league can actually keep players safe and staff safe when they're spread out all over the country? RODRIGUEZ: I know, I do. I feel they can do this. Look, it's such a fluid time, Wolf. Nobody really knows what the future holds. I know the Rob Manfred and Tony Clark are Major League Baseball essential, they have done incredible work. They've gone from 67 pages to 113 pages just on a manifest that explains all the healthy -- health conscious. And it's going to be very interesting.

But I think they're doing everything they can. And we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. We just have to be very fluid and very flexible.

BLITZER: Is it your understanding that Major League Baseball games will not have fans in attendance?

RODRIGUEZ: That's correct. And we're still getting information. You know, my work with Sunday Night Baseball, ESPN, I'm not sure if I'm going to be on location, Yankee stadium or CITI Field, or I'm going to be in my home with my kids doing this, and I baseball with (INAUDIBLE) only.

[18:35:06]

BLITZER: So you might be broadcasting from your home, you'll watch it on T.V., and you'll just be -- you'll have a live feed come in and you'll just be broadcasting it from home, is that a possibility? Is that what you're saying?

RODRIGUEZ: That's exactly right, Wolf. And we maybe home, and, again, I may be doing it right from my living room, watching the game just like the people at home, and calling -- you know, being the color man, obviously, play by play.

BLITZER: What would you prefer? Alex, as a broadcaster, this is a whole new venture, would you rather do it from home or take the risk and go to a stadium and do it from stadium?

RODRIGUEZ: I would say safety first. I mean, look, I have a family, I have four kids. I want to make sure that we always live with safety. COVID-19 will tell us what to do. We won't tell COVID what to do. I think we plan accordingly. And if it's safe, I would love nothing more than to be in a Major League Baseball park. But if not, I'm always going to take the safest route.

BLITZER: Let's go through some of these other precautions in this new manual The New York Times obtained about some of the safety precautions they're now using for Major League Baseball. Players should keep at least six feet away from one another in the clubhouse. Do you think that's good idea, right?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BLITZER: Is that reasonable, though? Is it realistic, to think they can stay in the clubhouse six feet apart?

RODRIGUEZ: I mean, it's -- I think these Major League Baseball clubhouses are so big, Wolf. I think you can do it. I think it's important to note that there's 30-man roster, not 25. Eventually, they'll come down to 26. And then they have another 30 players, kind of Team B, waiting nearby, for example, the Red Sox have 30 player at Fenway and they have 30 players down the street of University of Boston. So that's, I think, is doable.

BLITZER: That's important. Players are discouraged but not prohibited from showering in the clubhouse. What do you think about that?

RODRIGUEZ: Again, I think it's going to be challenging. It's back to American Legion Ball. You get to drive to the stadium and drive back your uniform. It's actually a pretty -- I wish I could drive in my pinstripes.

BLITZER: Yes, that's another thing. Players or managers who leave their positions to argue with umpires or come within six feet of them or an opposing player or manager face ejection and discipline.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, that will be challenging. Thank God Errol Weaver, Lou Panetta, I don't know if they could manage in this environment. But that will save manager some time and speed up the game a little bit.

BLITZER: Yes, I mean, it's a -- any ball in play or touched by multiple players will be replaced. That's -- you know, they're going to have to have a lot more baseballs, as I take it. And also pitchers will have like a wet like little rag in their pocket so they can't use their fingers to wet their hands at all, they'll have a little wet rag. Is that realistic? What do you think about that?

RODRIGUEZ: I think so. So, usually, if you're in the mound, you can go to your mouth to get a better grip on the baseball. What's interesting to note is a Major League Baseball game, you usually have nine to eleven dozens of baseball. So think about ten dozen of baseballs for each game. We live in a world today where we could go through 30 or 40 dozens of baseball because any time a ball touches anyone, you throw it out of play.

BLITZER: You're a 15-time All-Star, Major League All-Star. Do you think if you were still playing, you would be able to follow all these new rules?

RODRIGUEZ: I would. And that's an important thing, Wolf. I mean, this is a year -- look, first of all, congrats on the nationals, you're still celebrating. And now, you have an opportunity to defend that title. But I think the team that has the best discipline this year and, I mean, on the field and off the field, could be the world champion. And to think that you have a 30-man roster but one person that is cavalier or not disciplined can take the entire roster down. So it's imperative that every player follows the rules.

BLITZER: At least you know that I'm a Washington Nationals baseball fan, Great Washington National fan. You're going to be broadcasting one of our early games. Is that right?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I believe so. I can't wait, and hopefully I'm there in person. I love that stadium. I love the fact that your team won a championship after so many seasons. And I was there for the World Series. It was electric.

BLITZER: It was amazing. And let's hope that the NATS do it again. All right, Alex, good luck to you, good luck with this new venture. We appreciate you joining us very much.

RODRIGUEZ: Any time.

BLITZER: All right, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we're going to switch gears. We're about to get a live report about the Colorado governor now appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the death of another black man put in a chokehold by police.

[18:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have more breaking news coming into The Situation Room right now. Officials in Colorado are reopening the investigation into the death of an African American man who died in police custody after he was put in a chokehold.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is joining us right now. Omar, what are you learning?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Colorado Governor Jared Polis has now appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.

This all goes back to what happened on August 24, 2019.

[18:45:13]

McClain was leaving a convenience store when he was approached by three white police officers, following up on a 911 call detailing a suspicious person who was wearing a ski mask. And this is what happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLICE OFFICER: Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. I have a right to stop you because you're being suspicious. Turn around. Turn around. Turn around. Stop. Stop tensing up, dude. Stop tensing up, bro. Stop tensing up.

ELIJAH MCCLAIN: No, let go of me. I am an introvert. You need to respect the boundaries that I am speaking. Stop, stop, I'm going home.

POLICE OFFICER: Relax or I'm going to have to change this situation. Stop.

MCCLAIN: Leave me alone.

POLICE OFFICER: Can you please cooperate, sir?

MCCLAIN: First off, you guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen. Let go of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: And from there, McClain was eventually placed into a chokehold where he briefly lost consciousness. There was a struggle after he regained it, according to the initial report given by police. When paramedics got to the scene, they gave McClain a sedative, at which point he had a heart attack in the ambulance and was declared dead three days later.

As part of the statement that the governor put out, he says, McClain very much should be alive today and it is the motivation for why they are trying to look back into this case, to make sure that everything that's been looked at has been looked at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So disturbing indeed.

All right. Omar, thank you very much.

Just ahead, is the risk of catching coronavirus from a contaminated surface low or not? We're getting new information from an expert.

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[18:51:26]

BLITZER: As new coronavirus cases surge across the country, what steps can you take to reduce the risk of transmission?

Joining us now, Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, he's a CNN contributor.

Professor, there are still so many questions about the various risks of transmission. Help us break down what the reality actually is. We've heard before that the risk of catching the virus from a contaminated surface is low. Is that true?

ERIN BROMAGE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARMOUTH: Yeah. It's still low. It's definitely a possibility. But biggest risk is face-to-face conversations and being indoors with lots of people and in close space.

BLITZER: So, as far as being indoors or outdoors, Professor, how much of a difference does that really make?

BROMAGE: It's a huge difference. At least 20 times higher chance of being infected indoors than outdoors.

BLITZER: We know that staying six feet apart can help reduce transmission, but does it matter how much time we spend with somebody?

BROMAGE: Yes, time definitely is an issue with this. So, the longer you spend talking to somebody, the longer that you share a space with, the higher the risk that you will get enough virus to become infected.

BLITZER: I've heard this question a lot lately. Should you actually hold your breath when you're walking by someone on the street who is not wearing a mask?

BROMAGE: No. I mean, I understand people think that that's a risk, but it's exposure to the virus and enough of the virus over enough of the time. When you're walking past somebody, holding your breath is really not going to reduce the risk for you very much at all, nor does that person present a huge risk to you in the first place.

BLITZER: We heard the CDC's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, say today that something so critical is simple, just wear a mask and that will reduce the number of deaths here in the United States.

Walk us through why it's so critical right now to wear a mask and if 95 percent of American public were to wear a mask, we're told that would reduce the death count by about 30,000 between now and October.

BROMAGE: Right. So, masks stop emissions at the source. They stop from coming out of your mouth and moving into the environment. So, if we stop them where they start, they can never pose a risk to another person.

So, if we put masks on people, we lower the amount of respiratory droplets, the amount of virus that goes into the air substantially. Even a poor-fitting mask will do something. A better-fitting mask does a lot more. And it just reduces the amount of virus in the air and the chance of other people catching and getting the infection.

BLITZER: And it will be critical. Lives will be saved if we socially distance, right?

BROMAGE: Add those two things together, add that physical distance, add the mask, wash your hands often. That will have a big effect on lowering the incidence of infection.

BLITZER: These are so simple, yet unfortunately, they're not being done enough. Professor Bromage, thanks as usual for joining us.

BROMAGE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll have more news just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Finally, tonight, two more wonderful people behind the pandemic who lost their lives to the coronavirus.

John Richardson of Illinois was 84 years old. He was a math teacher and a special education coordinator who loved music and who loved his family. His daughter says he found joy being silly with his grandchildren and making up special nicknames for them.

Nancy McKeown of Kentucky was 80 years old, a mother of four. She spent three decades as a line worker making washing machines.

After double knee replacements, she was often seen on her power scooter delivering handmade wreaths to fellow nursing home residents.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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