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CNN NEWSROOM

CDC Survey: Number Of Cases May Be Six To 24 Times More Than Actually Reported; Florida Sets New Daily Record with 9,500-Plus New Cases Reported; Trump Campaign Postpones Pence's Events In Florida And Arizona; NYT: Russia Offered Afghanistan Militants Bounties To Kill U.S. Troops; Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan Calls Out Trump Administration On Coronavirus Response; NASCAR Releases Photo Of Noose Found In Bubba Wallace's Garage. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 27, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:03]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin with staggering new numbers as coronavirus cases surge in over half the United States, and the findings of a new CDC survey just out today suggest the total number of infections may be actually six to 24 times greater than actually reported. Even as the country hit a record for the third straight day with more than 40,000 new cases reported Friday.

Florida, specifically, which has been eyed as the possible next epicenter of the pandemic, hit another new peak today, reporting more than 9,500 new cases in that state alone.

But the surging numbers haven't changed the governor's mind when it comes to masks. Governor Ron DeSantis doubling down Friday on his decision to not implement a statewide mandatory mask order, saying he trusts people to make good decisions. In California, we learned today the state size single day increase of nearly 6,000 cases as a public health expert in Los Angeles County warns the hospital system could be overwhelmed without immediate action to slow the spread of the virus.

And we've just learned Washington Governor Jay Inslee has put a pause on eight counties that were set to move from phase three to phase four as cases rise across his state. Phase four would have meant a return to normal activity.

First to Florida where the surge in COVID infections broke the record Florida set just yesterday for the number of new cases, and that record yesterday, by the way, dwarfed the record set earlier in the week. And now, Florida's peak number of new cases far surpasses Italy's when that country was considered the epicenter of the pandemic back in March.

Look at that graph.

CNN's Natasha Chen is in Pensacola, Florida, for us.

Natasha, what is being done to turn things around there?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yesterday, the state shut down standalone bars so they can no longer serve, sell alcohol in their establishments on property, and so you can see the bars like this behind us, they're stuck in a difficult position, because they just were able to open on June 1st, and now a couple of weeks later, they have to close back down.

The space that you see where they've set up the tent and people are sitting, that's technically not the property of the bar, so they are able to do that. They got permission to set up there. People can get takeout drinks and then sit there, so that's the best they can do at the moment.

I should mention this bar told us that they got a visit from a regulator reminding them that people inside had to social distance when they were open, so they did put up a sign on the door, being very clear about social distancing. Just a day later, they had to shut down.

Around the corner, there's Paddy O'Leary's. Here's the co-owner of that pub telling us what that experience is like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAMAS HUNT, CO-OWNER OF PADDY O'LEARY'S BAR: It was a shocker. It was not expected. I mean, we expected they were going to be doing a little more enforcing and stuff like that but to actually shut us down and to target just standalone bars just made no sense.

In restaurants are mobbed right now, basically acting as bars. They've got live music. They've got, you know, lots of stuff going on. So that's what's happening, the customers are just going to the restaurants. So it's not -- it's not solving any problems by closing down standalone bars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: There are some restaurants we're seeing that are voluntarily scaling back a little bit, even though they're not being forced to shut down. Some of them have canceled larger events to prevent a big crowd from gathering and we're also learning from the Escambia County now that there are a handful of lifeguards that have tested positive now for coronavirus, so the people who have been around them are quarantining out of precautions, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Natasha Chen, thank you. I really feel for that man, that business owner.

We have this just in. The campaign for the president has postponed the vice president's upcoming campaign events in Florida and Arizona out of the abundance of caution as both of those states are experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. But the vice president will still be traveling to those states.

Let's get right to CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Jeremy, explain.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana.

Vice President Mike Pence, he was scheduled to travel to Texas, Arizona, and Florida. He was going to have campaign events in Florida and Arizona next week, two in Florida, one in Arizona. Those campaign events have now been canceled.

The vice president, though, will still be traveling to those states, but it is notable that the vice president and the Trump campaign are making the decision to cancel these in-person campaign events that the vice president was slated to hold in two of these key battleground states particularly because it was just yesterday, Ana, that the vice president defended the Trump campaign's decision to continue holding rallies and other in-person events, citing the freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution.

The vice president, of course, as we know, Ana, has really taken pains to try and paint the current situation where we are seeing coronavirus case counts rising across the country in some kind of a positive light, citing testing, for example, really falsely portraying the increases as solely tied to testing.

[16:15:12]

That has been one of the key lines that we have consistently heard from the vice president but at least here, it appears at least somewhat of an acknowledgment, Ana, that these in-person events like the ones we saw in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week really are not right for this time.

We know, of course, Ana, that eight campaign staffers tested positive for coronavirus in the wake of that rally, and we also know that campaign staffers as well as Secret Service agents have been quarantining in the wake of attending that rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us -- thank you.

CNN's Jim Acosta has more on how the vice president tiptoed around this issue of holding rallies during yesterday's task force briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With COVID-19 sweeping across the South and out West, the administration's coronavirus task force finally reemerged, but Vice President Mike Pence appeared to be looking at the soaring number of cases through rose-colored glasses.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All 50 states and territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly. We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We saved lives.

ACOSTA: But that's not quite true, as a surprising spike in coronavirus cases is spreading from Florida to Southern California, forcing some states to pause their reopenings.

Task force Dr. Anthony Fauci tried to add a dose of reality, gently putting his finger on some of the nation's missteps.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Everything from maybe opening a little bit too early on some, to opening at the right time, but not actually following the steps in an orderly fashion, to actually trying to follow the steps in an orderly fashion, but the citizenry did not feel that they wanted to do that, for a number of reasons.

ACOSTA: Fauci tried to make an appeal to individual Americans to do more.

FAUCI: You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a societal responsibility.

ACOSTA: It was the first task force news conference in nearly two months, with a change of scenery, as officials addressed the pandemic at the Department of Health and Human Services instead of at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute.

ACOSTA: Where the briefings came to a screeching halt back in April, when the president suggested that Americans inject themselves with disinfectants to kill the virus.

As for the wisdom of holding crowded campaign events like the president's rally in Tulsa last weekend, Pence tried to dance around the question.

PENCE: We still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process.

REPORTER: So, how can you say that the campaign is not part of the problem?

PENCE: Even in a health crisis, the American people don't forfeit our constitutional rights.

ACOSTA: Pence also declined to give a full-throated endorsement for masks, despite wearing one in public the day before.

PENCE: The first principle is that people ought to listen to their state and local authorities.

ACOSTA: Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would try to mandate masks.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks.

ACOSTA: The administration is considering a new approach to halting community spread with something called pool testing that would have health officials testing batches of samples from people in groups.

If the batch is positive, individuals in that group need to be tested. If a pool is negative, that means the whole group is likely safe.

TRUMP: If we didn't do testing, we would have no cases.

ACOSTA: Even as the president continues to downplay testing, he is struggling to lay out what he would do if he won reelection, never really answering the question on FOX.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What are your top priority items for a second term?

TRUMP: Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I have always said that.

ACOSTA: "The Wall Street Journal" argued, Mr. Trump still has no second term message, beyond his own grievances and may soon need a new nickname for sleepy Joe Biden. How does president-elect sound?

While Mr. Trump attacked Biden's occasional gaffes, he had one of his own, appearing to say the former vice president would win the race.

TRUMP: But, I mean, the man can't speak and he's going to be president because some people don't love me maybe and all I'm doing is doing my job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Jim Acosta with that report.

Let's discuss all this with CNN Medical Analysts, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Jonathan Reiner. The

Dr. Walensky, the vice president as we just reported is postponing his campaign stops in Arizona and Florida just a day after defending the right to hold rallies in the middle of a pandemic.

Are you surprised by this announcement?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, Ana. Well, you know, I think it's a wise thing to do. I think we should try and limit the number of people gathering. I think we need to go back to the draconian measures that we employed on March 22nd, actually, to, quote, unquote, flatten the curve. Everyone remembers flattening the curve. I think it's a wise move, because in fact, we don't want people to gather.

CABRERA: The vice president has said, follow CDC guidelines. That's what we heard at his task force briefing even as he was trying to paint a rather rosy picture of the situation currently.

[16:10:03]

He wasn't wearing a mask. Of course, that's part of what CDC officials are encouraging people to do.

I want to show a tweet from Congresswoman Liz Cheney who sent out this picture of her father, Dick Cheney, wearing a mask, urging others to do the same and with the hashtag, real men wear masks.

Dr. Reiner, she's a Republican. She's been an ally of this president, but president Trump also refuses to wear a mask. Since you were Dick Cheney's doctor, I'd love to get your reaction to that tweet.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION LABORATORY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I love the photo, and I'm not surprised. The former vice president is showing leadership, and he's showing what we should be seeing from the White House now but sadly, we're not getting.

Look, wearing a mask is common sense, and it is the most effective way for us to suppress this virus, along with social distancing and vigorous testing, and it's a simple and painless thing to do. It doesn't diminish you as a person, and I completely agree with what the vice president says. Real men and real women wear masks.

Wear a mask, and I'm proud of him for modeling that behavior.

CABRERA: Dr. Walensky, there is no mask mandate in Florida, but today, that state surpassed yesterday's shocking record -- 9,500 new coronavirus cases just today. Last week, it was breaking news that they had more than 4,000 in one day.

The governor says this has more to do with more testing than other things. We've heard that from the president as well. But the numbers really don't add up, do they?

WALENSKY: No, and I want to sort of be very clear about the testing. So, it is actually the case that the -- that Florida has doubled the amount of tests that they have done in the last week. That is true.

What has also happened and what is a much better marker of what's happening in Florida is the percent positive cases. So, in the last week, the percent positive has increased from 7 percent to nearly 15 percent, which implies to me that there's rampant community spread of this virus in that -- in that state. I want to remind people that when we in Massachusetts were at our worst in the middle of April, our positive test rates were around 22 percent. That's nearly what they are in Arizona right now.

Today, with all of the measures that we have in place, we're less than 2 percent. You need to be less than 5 percent to control this virus, and Florida's just simply going in the wrong direction and quickly.

CABRERA: Dr. Reiner, the CDC director said this week the virus is moving into younger populations. Some officials have said that's less concerning because the majority of deaths have been in the older populations. Do you agree?

REINER: No, because the virus doesn't stay in young people. Those young people are bringing the virus home to their parents and their grandparents and they go to bars and they spread it through the community. So, while I'm pleased that younger people have a much lower fatality rate than older people in this country, the fact that the virus is spreading through young people is really the vector for it to get all around the country. Young people are very mobile, and this is why the virus is spreading so rapidly through the South -- the South and Southwest right now.

CABRERA: Dr. Walensky, I want to put up this graphic, because our curve in the U.S. has no longer plateaued. The U.S. is trending steeply upward, and that's in stark contrast to the E.U., which has a higher population.

What can the U.S. do right now to turn things around?

WALENSKY: I want to be very clear and look back at March 22nd. So that was the day that, for the most part, the country had stay-at-home orders. Look at the escalation in that graph. It happened until April 24th. It took a month, given all the measures that we took on March 22nd to start to see a flattening of that curve.

And so, what we do today will take a month in order to see any benefit from in our curve, and so I think what we can expect is to watch in horror as we see a soaring of cases for the next month. What can we do?

We need to, you know, not freeze where people are in terms of opening up, but I would say we need to scale back. We need to go back to the measures that we took on March 22nd so that we can flatten this curve yet again because I hate to say it, but the thing that happens after these cases soar is fatalities soar.

CABRERA: Dr. Reiner, do you agree? Do we need, in effect, a nationwide lockdown?

REINER: Well, I think we need to lock down places where the virus seems to be out of control. And I think we're already seeing the first steps towards that in places like Harris County, Texas, the second largest county in the United States. I don't think you can do sort of simple, you know, community-based social distancing. I do think that when the virus is this active in that big a community, you really need to shut down again, and we need to see the political will.

[16:15:07]

I don't think we're going to see that from Washington, but I'm encouraged that some of the governors in some of the hardest hit states now are starting to get it. You know, there are only just about 2 percent or 3 percent availability of ICU beds in Houston right now. We're about to really overwhelm the healthcare system, and it's better to shut down now, preserve capacity in hospitals, and put the virus down there.

It will only get worse and more people will die needlessly. It has to happen. And I think we need to do it in selective places. Other parts of the country are doing better.

CABRERA: Yes. Including New York, other country -- or other states in the Northeast part of the country, New Jersey, Connecticut.

Thank you, Dr. Jonathan Reiner and Dr. Walensky, I do appreciate it as always.

There are many reasons why the coronavirus numbers have spiked, but one cause might surprise you. We'll explain when we come back.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:20:10]

CABRERA: Welcome back.

Three new studies are painting a disturbing picture of how misinformation in conservative media may have made the pandemic worse.

CNN's Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter is here with us.

And, Brian, these studies outlined in the "Washington Post" are really troubling, because what they found is that people who relied on conservative media sources were more likely to believe conspiracy theories or rumors about the virus, such as taking vitamin C would prevent infection or that this pandemic was being blown out of proportion, to damage the presidency of Donald Trump. And because of that, they were less likely to take the steps needed to protect themselves.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Researchers from multiple different organizations have started to find the same thing. When they've looked back at what happened in March and April, and I fear now, Ana, we're seeing it happen again.

Looking at Fox News and other right wing media, there is denialism and there's downplaying of the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I don't like any of the head gear situation that people are wearing.

STELTER (voice-over): It should be a simple concept, covering your face for the common good. But on Fox News, that keeps clashing with a misguided notion of individual rights.

INGRAHAM: I'd rather just roll the dice.

STELTER: And Fox's coverage matters because President Trump consumes it night and day, and so do millions of others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a lot of evidence that masks would help.

STELTER: Fox's talk shows feature contrarians who give viewers license to ignore experts and to laugh at the people who do take the dangers seriously.

DAGEN MCDOWELL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Bring on the shame police.

STELTER: Dagen McDowell, ahead of the president's rally in Tulsa last week predicting that the media would criticize Trump fans.

MCDOWELL: They're going to be panning the crowds, the panic posse, pointing people out on TV. They don't have masks on. And you know what? Trump supporters, embrace it and love it.

STELTER: And after the rally?

MCDOWELL: You notice a lot of those people not wearing masks. You also look at it, though, everyone there was having so much fun.

STELTER: So much fun and so little concern in right wing media about the consequences. Mostly, though, they just don't talk about the virus much at all. They have moved on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sleepy Joe campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamagate.

INGRAHAM: Dividing Biden.

STELTER: Granted, some guests do drag the conversation back to reality.

MARIE HARF, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because the president and many Republican governors are not encouraging people to wear masks, this is this paradox where it's actually hurting the economy.

STELTER: Emphasizing common sense steps like face coverings, which, by the way, are a must-wear at Fox News headquarters. A recent memo reminded staffers to don a mask in all shared work spaces.

DR. MEHMET OZ, TV SHOW HOST: Masks are not about a political philosophy, not about people shoving their desires in your face.

STELTER: Dr. Oz with a simple message on Thursday.

OZ: Masks are about being kind.

STELTER: Hopefully, the president was watching.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: And he probably was, given the president's support for Fox News.

But when I searched all of the shows on Fox this month, all of the shows, I saw about -- a number of mentions of masks. Then I compared it to CNN and MSNBC. CNN and MSNBC have been talking about masks and face coverings twice as much as Fox News.

When Sean Hannity interviewed the president the other day, well, interviewed, you can call it an interview, it was a chat, when he chatted with the president for an hour a few days ago, the idea -- the topic of the coronavirus was only three minutes of the hour. That, in a nutshell, is the problem in right-wing media, not taking this danger seriously enough.

CABRERA: Right. It's such an uphill climb to get the facts to break through so that people can stay safe.

Let's talk more about misinformation right now, because Facebook has been under fire, and they came out yesterday saying they will flag posts from notable people that break its rules, including those from President Trump. Tell us more about this.

STELTER: That's right. Facebook belatedly taking this action which Twitter has already been taking on content that is hate speech or could incite violence or is otherwise controversial.

Facebook in the past has said it would not take this kind of step but Twitter has been doing it for a while and Twitter's won support for doing that. Facebook employees have been pressuring Mark Zuckerberg to take similar action and now Zuckerberg is.

But, you know, it feels to me, oftentimes, the social networking companies are three or four steps behind where they should be, only belatedly taking action. It's a bit like how the U.S. federal government is with the coronavirus, three or four steps behind. We need to be thinking three weeks ahead of what's happening but oftentimes, we're stuck three or four weeks behind.

So Facebook is making this change. It will probably improve the site because it will make this kind of hateful speech a little bit less visible.

[16:25:00]

But it does feel like it's a belated, delayed decision, like a game of whack-a-mole that these sites keep losing at, and by the way, we just booked a Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg for my program "RELIABLE SOURCES" tomorrow. It's pretty rare to see a Facebook spokesman out there giving interviews so I'm hopeful we will learn more from him tomorrow.

CABRERA: And I did happen to notice after they made this announcement, the Facebook ad boycott did not stop and more prominent companies came out saying they were going to withhold ads.

STELTER: More companies, yes.

CABRERA: Yes. OK, Brian Stelter, I look forward to hearing your interview with that Facebook spokesman tomorrow. Thank you.

Be sure to catch Brian on his show, "RELIABLE SOURCES" at 11:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning, right here on CNN.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, a new report about Russia and an alleged plot to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Details just ahead, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:13]

CABRERA: Explosive new reporting from the "New York Times," that Russia offered Afghanistan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops. The "Times" reports the White House has been debating how to respond to these Russian bounties on Americans since at least March.

The Russian government is calling this report both baseless and fake. The Taliban also denying it.

I'm going to bring in CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne.

Ryan, take us deeper into what this report claims.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Ana, according to the report, Russian intelligence services offered, as you said, bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. and British servicemembers serving in Afghanistan.

Now, this is an escalation, of course. In the past, U.S. military officials have said that Russia may have been supplying and even funding Taliban fighters, but this takes it much further.

Now, we heard from the Russian embassy here in Washington. They immediately denied the report, calling it fake -- new fake stories and baseless and anonymous accusations.

Now, we've heard nothing from the Trump administration. The Pentagon, the State Department, or the Intelligence Community about the veracity of this report. They have declined to comment on it.

But we are beginning to hear from some members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat.

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCall, issuing a statement, saying that, "If the stories are true, they are incredibly concerning," and asking the Trump administration for a meeting to brief him on what is going on and whether additional steps may be taken to punish Russia for these actions.

Now, as you said, according to the report, the Trump administration was aware of this at least since March. The White House was briefed on a series of response options but had opted not to take any of them.

And, in fact, President Trump made it clear that he was hoping to, perhaps, even invite Russia to a meeting of the G-7 after those meetings took place.

So many questions being raised about what the Trump administration's response will be to this alleged plot by Russian intelligence services to try to get the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- Ana? CABRERA: And, Ryan, the timing of this report is interesting, given

there's new reporting, developments regarding bringing troops home from Afghanistan. Do you see this having an impact?

BROWNE: Well, that's correct, Ana. Officials telling my colleague, Kylie Atwood, and myself that the U.S. military may substantially reduce its footprint in Afghanistan soon. The Trump administration is finalizing plans to cut the U.S. troop presence there by nearly half.

That will have real impact on the U.S. military mission there, reducing the U.S. troops' ability to train local forces who continue to battle the Taliban there, despite the Trump administration's deal, which has seen a decrease in attacks on U.S. forces but violence there very much remains an ongoing concern -- Ana?

CABRERA: Ryan Browne, thank you for that reporting.

It is a concern for any parent across the U.S. right now. Will schools be open come fall? A closer look at the options, next.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:26]

CABRERA: A former Obama administration cabinet member is calling out the Trump administration for a, quote, "absence of leadership" in guiding the nation's public schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here's former education secretary, Arne Duncan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: We have to go beyond that and really think about individualizing instruction, thinking about competency rather than seat time, making sure children have afterschool supports when they need that.

And as we go back to school, whatever that might mean, I think we're going to be in a high risk situation where some children will begin school some of the time, all children will be learning virtually some of the time as well between very, very thoughtful and careful and flexible and balance the student needs with family needs --

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Right.

DUNCAN: -- all the needs of teachers and staff at the physical school building.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins us from New York.

And, Evan, I notice a number of states announcing this week they are planning to have kids back in the classroom this fall with changes, of course. What are you learning?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the short answer to your question, which is a great question for every parent and everyone else who's watching, is that it's really unclear as to what exactly the next school year will look like.

And what that means is that even as students in places like New York and all across the country are going on their summer vacations, administrators aren't getting a break as they're trying to plan for the next year.

I went to a school district right outside New York City on the last week of classes there to talk about what this looks like and what this summer looks like this year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY MEKEEL, ENGLISH TEACHER: So, go sign into classes.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The last week of school is usually a time for fun and celebration. But this year, at the Greenburgh Central School District just outside New York City, the end of the school year just brings big questions about the next one.

MEKEEL: We left in March, thinking we would be back in two weeks. And here it's June, and we're packing up. And do I set up for fall, clean- up and set-up? I don't know.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Teachers like Mary Mekeel were allowed back inside their classrooms for the first time since the pandemic started.

MEKEEL: When I first came in this morning, I had winter stuff out still because it was cold. So, I put snowmen away.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Cleaning out a time capsule of the day students left back in March.

(on camera): To sort of leave things the way they were was a little bit out of a science fiction movie.

(voice-over): These days, going into a school building means temperature checks and frequent disinfecting. Where people go and what rooms they enter is closely monitored, and it's still not enough.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in early June allowing schools to open for in-person instruction of special education students on July 6th. After scrambling to make it work, Greenburgh had to take a pass.

[16:40:14]

DR. TAHIRA DUPREE CHASE, GREENBURGH CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: One reason is I don't have enough staff. The next reason, I don't have the therapists to provide is the services that these children need. MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Superintendent Tahira DuPree Chase is now focused on

planning for the fall, but that's also a challenge when nothing is certain.

DUPREE CHASE: We're in the phase of making sure that we have multiple plans in preparation for whatever's going to happen in September. But planning is key.

What I believe it's going to look like in September, if it does reopen, is that we're going to have to have a hybrid model.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Under consideration are plans for students to be in class half the day and online at home half the day. But that's not finalized yet. In fact, nothing is. New York schools are still waiting for guidance from the state. The next school year is getting closer by the day.

(on camera): How long do you have to make the decision about September? When do you have to make to call?

DUPREE CHASE: Like now.

(CROSSTALK)

DUPREE CHASE: Really, like now. Actually, we don't have much time because there has to be a point of planning. There has to be a point of then communicating that plan because we do have parents who are apprehensive.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): With that apprehension in mind, Greenburgh is developing a plan to let parents, who don't want their kids at school before there's a vaccine, to continue to send them to class completely online.

JOLAOKAWA HUSSEY (ph), PARENT OF GREENBURGH STUDENT: I feel that we would have to wait until possibly February.

MONIFA TIPPITT, PARENT OF GREENBURGH STUDENT: I think we should stay home until February when all of this virus is away so that everyone can be safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, Ana, the big headline out of this is that we don't really know what school will look like for most students in America this fall. But we do know that whatever it is will be a very different experience for students, parents, and educators than we're used to.

CABRERA: We are just having to get used to being flexible, which is so hard.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you.

From schools to sports. As teams figure out how to keep players healthy, they are also grappling with a broader issue, race. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:46:49]

CABRERA: As the nation faces a surging pandemic and a growing movement for racial equality, professional sports remain at the forefront of both issues.

Take the NBA. On Friday, the league and its players finalized a plan to restart the season on July 30th from Disney World outside Orlando.

But they didn't just lay out new safety protocols like daily coronavirus testing. They also laid out a plan to, quote, "combat systemic racism and promote social justice."

Joining us now, ESPN host and sports and culture columnist for the "L.A. Times," L.Z. Granderson.

L.A., first, on coronavirus, Florida is now shaping up to be the new epicenter of the pandemic here in the U.S. Are NBA players concerned about this bubble season being there?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Yes, they are. And you heard the concern early on in this entire conversation.

But it stems from two different directions. One was obviously the health risk. And we've seen players, like Avery Bradley, from the Lakers, say that because of my child is at risk, I cannot go to this bubble because I'm afraid that I may infect my child. That's one string, the health factor.

But then the other factor is just simply, what you talked about earlier, which is we're in the midst of social justice reform sweeping across this country. And people -- some players don't feel as if now is the time to, quote, unquote, "not be focused in on that and playing basketball."

So you have two reasons why players are concerned about the retirement.

CABRERA: So there were some players threatening to sit out because they didn't want to distract from the fight for racial equality. What is in the league's plan to address that and is it enough?

GRANDERSON: Well, listen, it's never going to be enough from anyone because this is going to be an ongoing thing.

What we continue to try to do for the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, all sports leagues, is to continually be involved in this moment, in this movement, and continue to ask the questions about, what more can I do.

Because you're never going to have a checklist of things and then be able to say, we've done our share because it's an ongoing problem. And there's no cap. There's no ceiling to it. As far as the NBA players are concerned and what the league has done,

you know, it's important to mention that this league, and particularly NBA, has been the forefront of this conversation for the better part of a decade now. And they're just going to continue to lend resources as well as use that platform to draw attention to the issues at hand.

And shoutout to LeBron James and Maverik Carter for their announcement earlier this week about the $100 million being utilized to help bolster their media companies so that it can continue to use their platform in a variety of ways to deal with these issues.

That is exactly some of the things that needs to be done in order to make sure the NBA and the other leagues have a sustained effort and not be caught up in the moment.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about the developments in NASCAR this week. NASCAR released a photo of the noose that was found in Bubba Wallace's garage, saying the real concern here -- the concern was real, I should say, even though the FBI, ultimately, found he was not a target of a hate crime.

Here's what Wallace had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:00]

BUBBA WALLACE, NASCAR RACE CARE DRIVER: The -- the image that I have and I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull. I've been racing all of my life. We've raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that.

It was a noose. It was a noose that was -- whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So, it wasn't directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That's what I am saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: L.Z., what's your reaction to the fact that he's having to defend himself instead of the conversation being, why was there a noose hanging at Talladega for months.

GRANDERSON: Brother Bubba needs to stop defending himself because he's only defending himself against people, at this point, who don't want to listen. They simply want to confirm their own beliefs about the way that the world is. No rational person, who's not a racist, is looking at that tie and not thinking that's a noose.

It's in Alabama. The NASCAR did a sweep of more than 1,600 garages across all of their racetracks and they only found one such noose in the garage. That was Bubba Wallace's.

So, at this point, Bubba, just concentrate on winning, first and foremost. And then also continue to work with those who are being rational and who aren't racist and those who continue to suggest that it didn't have enough loops around it to be a noose, it wasn't directed at you, it's just a garage tie.

At this point, you're just a racist. And you know, really, we don't need to be spending too much time trying to placate you or entertain your arguments, because that's not what this moment is about.

This moment's about significant social change. It's not about entertaining you and trying to convince you why you shouldn't be a racist.

CABRERA: Duke's legendary Coach K. just released this powerful statement. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, HEAD COACH, DUKE UNIVERSITY MEN'S BASKETBALL: Black Lives Matter. Say it. Can't you say it? Black Lives Matter. We should be saying it every day.

It's not political. This is not a political statement. It's a human rights statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: As much as people, like Donald Trump, would like this issue to leave the sports arena, it's clearly not going away.

L.Z., what do you say to people who don't understand why politics and sports are intertwined?

GRANDERSON: Well, politics and sports aren't just intertwined, they are one. Can you point to any area in life that they haven't been one?

I mean, whether you're talking about countries that have boycotted the Olympics or other world games because of geopolitical views. You can talk about segregation and Jackie Robinson. You talk about we're still waiting for the first openly gay player, male player, in the big four sports to be out there consistently.

There's so many conversations -- the funding for women's sports. There's so many conversations in which these two worlds are one. The notion that they're separate are only the notions that people use when they're trying to not actually deal with the real problems.

Because let me tell you, no one talks about sticking to sports when it's time to wear pink in honor of trying to raise funds for breast cancer awareness month.

No one says, stick to sports, when you're trying to raise funds for hurricane relief.

They only say stick to sports when they hit a topic that makes them uncomfortable or may force them to actually change some behaviors. That's when you hear, stick to sports.

So I would say to those individuals, President Trump on down, or up, depending upon your point of view, these two worlds are one. And instead of trying to look for ways to separate the two, why don't

you look for ways to try to resolve the issues that sports and sports figures have been pointing out for decades and decades and decades.

CABRERA: The NFL's Roger Goodell says he's now encouraging teams to sign Colin Kaepernick. Do you think it will happen this time?

GRANDERSON: I sure hope so. I hope so because I would like to believe at this point the NFL owners and Roger Goodell, realize their error. And instead of giving him a job, they'll at least present him an opportunity to earn a job. I believe that's the only thing anyone that's been advocating for Colin Kaepernick wanted.

We've seen other players, I'm thinking of Craig Hodges, in particular, who took a strong stance on social justice and paid a terrible price and never got his career back.

I would hate for that to happen to a 32-year-old quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl and, by all accounts, has not been playing, so he's not injured, completely healthy. And is certainly better than some of the trash we've seen rolled out there over these last four seasons.

And, yes, I said trash because I've seen some awful play at the quarterback position over these last four seasons. And Colin Kaepernick was certainly better than some of those men I saw on the field.

CABRERA: L.Z. Granderson, thank you so much for the thoughtful discussion. I really enjoyed it.

GRANDERSON: Thank you.

A reminder. CNN's Don Lemon is tackling hard conversations about being black in America with his new CNN podcast, "SILENCE IS NOT AN OPTION." Find it on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast app.

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We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks so much for staying with me. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

[16:59:53]

We begin with troubling new numbers as coronavirus cases spike in over half the United States. And the findings of a CDC survey just out today suggest the total number of infections may be six to 24 times greater than actually reported, even as the country hit a record for the third straight day with more than 45,000 new cases reported Friday.