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U.S. Averaging More Cases Per Day Than Any Point During The Pandemic; Pence Says The U.S. Is Opening Safely And Responsibly Even As Cases Surge In Many States; Florida Reports Nearly 9,000 New Cases, A New Single-Day High; Fauci: Avoid Crowds, Wear Masks; E.U. "Unlikely" To Allow U.S. Travelers As Cases Spike; Measures To Protect Trump From Coronavirus Scale Up; States Report Rising Hospitalizations, ICU Rates; Trump Signs Executive Order To Protect Monuments. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 27, 2020 - 08:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So this is good. Thank you, Alison.

Thanks, Alison.

BLACKWELL: Next hour starts now.



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We saved lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, we find ourselves careening toward a catastrophic and unsustainable situation.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we don't extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well, are going to be vulnerable to the spread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only are things bad, they're as bad as they've been right now with regard to daily new infections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of hospital admissions is increasing. The number of people requiring ICU is increasing.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We are advising and counseling them to move forward and reinstitute the stay at home order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anybody thinks this is over. I would just ask them to take a look at the data.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a sad moment. I never - in all the modeling that we did, in all the projecting that we did, never modeled a Federal government that didn't take charge.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hour three of New Day Saturday and we

are happy that you are part of it. Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell. It is June 27th.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: And I'm Bianna Golodryga. Christi Paul is off. I'm happy to be with you this morning.

In the headlines this morning. Our national leaders are pushing an upbeat message where the U.S. stands in the fight against the coronavirus, but the data - well, that shows the U.S. is concerning. There's a big reality that the officials are just not waking up to.

BLACKWELL: The Vice President Mike Pence says that all 50 states and territories are opening up safely and responsibly. But 11 states have now paused or rolled back their reopening plans. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the Vice President also claims that the curve has been flattened. You can see for yourself it has not. Yesterday, the U.S. saw the highest single day of new COVID-19 cases and 125,000 Americans have died.

Well, in a sign of how the world views those numbers, the European Union is reportedly close to finalizing an agreement to block American travelers.

BLACKWELL: And here in the U.S., the debate over public safety versus personal privacy continues. Major airlines have been told to go ahead with devising a plan to contact trace passengers.

Listen, we've got a lot to cover this morning. We're going to start with CNNs Polo Sandoval. He is following the latest for us. Let's just start with the reality of what is happening across the country. We'll get to what we're hearing from the White House. What is actually happening?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's break down some of those numbers here, Victor. At this point, obviously, there's some setup already that's happening for some of that sidewalk dining, which is the background noise that you're hearing here.

Obviously, a sign that things are improving in and around the New York Tristate area. But when you look at other parts of the country, you consider what we've seen just yesterday alone, close to 45,000 new cases in a single day. It certainly would not be surprising if before the end of the weekend we surpassed 2.5 million cases across the country.

It's certainly concerning for some, not all. And as you mentioned, close to dozen states deciding to slow down their reopening.


PENCE: We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve--

SANDOVAL (voice-over): A rosy national picture painted by the Vice President as several regions experienced a new pandemic peak. On Friday, more than 30 states reported seeing increases in new COVID cases, Florida, among them. Sunshine State reported nearly 9,000 more COVID cases on Friday, a new single day record.

That, as well as the rising number of positive COVID tests now fueling fears that Florida may be a new U.S. epicenter of the outbreak. Still, this Trump supporting Florida resident says he's not alarmed.

MARK BUTLER, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Frankly, I think the inconvenience to the general public and the economy is much worse than the disease itself.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott hit the brakes on reopening and shifted into reverse ahead of the weekend, ordering the closure of bars and a reduction in dining capacity at restaurants. In Houston, the mayor shared harrowing data about the infection rates now three times higher than they were three months ago.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TEXAS: The number of hospital admissions is increasing. The number of people requiring ICU is increasing, the number of young people being infected is increasing. And so it is real.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): And while the president is often seen without a mask, more regions are starting to require them, including some counties in Alabama, Utah and Palm Beach, Florida.

Then there's this, from the House's number three Republican Liz Cheney, a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and the hashtag "real men wear masks."

But the nation's current VP remained bare faced. At yesterday's briefing, even as medical experts by his side were covering up, one of them was Dr. Anthony Fauci, with a warning that even states going in the right direction aren't immune to a spike.

FAUCI: If we don't extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Some us travelers may soon face international travel restrictions. European Union officials plan to ban anyone traveling from country still struggling to control the outbreak among them, the United States.



SANDOVAL: Here in New York, a certain night and day difference when in terms of infection rates and the number of positive tests. In fact, this will be the first weekend that those travel restrictions are in place for New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Again, the preparations continue on the sidewalk for a weekend dining.

But, basically Bianna and Victor you can expect people who are traveling from those high rate states to have to quarantine for about two weeks if they traveled to New Jersey, New York or Connecticut. BLACKWELL: Well sounds like some--


GOLODRYGA: --whiplash compared to where we were just a few months ago, right? It was reversed where New Yorkers weren't allowed into those states. But a sign of life in live television at the same time--


BLACKWELL: Some sturdy chairs they're dragging out there.

SANDOVAL: That's right.

GOLODRYGA: Paula Sandoval. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, now let's turn to the White House. And that's where CNN's Sarah Westwood joins us live. Sarah, the signals from the President, Vice President are clearly at odds with what health professionals like Dr. Fauci have been saying.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that's right Bianna and Victor. We saw those confusing signals on display yesterday at that taskforce briefing where we saw some members of the task force applauding the progress towards return to normalcy and others warning about the dangers that may lay ahead as cases in the U.S. rise.

And all of that, those mixed signals are coming as some Americans are experiencing whiplash with some states hitting the pause button on reopening like Texas, for example, ending in-person service at bars amid a spike in cases in that state. But, nonetheless, we saw Vice President Pence touting the reopening, suggesting that all 50 states are heading towards reopenings, even though, as we know, that is no longer the case. Take a listen.


PENCE: All 50 states and territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly.


WESTWOOD: And now, while, Pence and Health Secretary Alex Azar had something of a celebratory tone when they were defending - Pence in particular, the right to return to the campaign trail despite the pandemic.

You heard public health experts at that very same briefing like Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning people to accept, what he described, as their societal responsibility to wear masks, and also warning that contact tracing is not working as well as experts had hopes to contain the spread of the virus.

I want you to take a listen to the opposing views that we heard yesterday.


PENCE: Well, I want to remind you again that the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the Constitution of United States and even in a health crisis, the American people don't forfeit our constitutional rights.

FAUCI: You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a societal responsibility, because if we want to end this outbreak - really end and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin, we've got to realize that we are part of the process.

PENCE: The U.S. hit its single day record for coronavirus cases, so Bianna and Victor, the curve not nearly as flattened as taskforce briefing, some of them said yesterday - at that briefing.

BLACKWELL: So, Sarah, before we let you go, we understand that there's now another White House staffer who's tested positive for COVID-19.

WESTWOOD: That's right, Victor. CNN has learned that a senior economic official has tested positive for coronavirus. He's someone who has been in the vicinity of President Trump. For example, this person attended a Rose Garden event earlier this month with the President, but for privacy reasons CNN, not naming that individual.

But this case, and along with the more than a half dozen aides - campaign aides who tested positive at the Tulsa rally last weekend, that just underscores the danger that still faces the President, the Vice President, the general public, with the virus continuing to spread and its why health experts like CDC Director Robert Redfield is continuing to warn people about the individual steps that they can take to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I want you to take a listen to what Dr. Redfield had to say.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I want to stress and thank all Americans to embrace the importance of social distancing recommendations, to slow the spread of COVID. It's our collective responsibility to recommit ourselves to put them into routine practice. Again, to stay six feet apart from each other as much as possible, to wear face coverings when we're in public and to practice vigorous hand hygiene.


WESTWOOD: And the White House is still taking steps to protect President Trump from the virus, including testing people who will be around him, Bianna and Victor.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Sarah, I remember former White House advisor Kevin Hassett, saying he was nervous to go to the White House because of that. He was telling Dana Bash that just a few weeks ago and you see more and more staffers testing positive and yet the President still won't wear a mask. BLACKWELL: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: All right, Sarah, thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right.

GOLODRYGA: Taking through the--


BLACKWELL: Go ahead, I'm sorry.

GOLODRYGA: You want to take this one?

BLACKWELL: No, no, no, my apologies.

GOLODRYGA: First day jitters. Taking through the latest data, you can see why the U.S. handling of the pandemic is so concerning. And take a look at this, the U.S. leads the world in both cases and deaths. The next closest country is Brazil, behind by nearly 1.2 million cases.

Now, compare our case count with the situation right now in the European Union. Their curve, there you see it in light pink, is in sharp contrast with our own, curving down, while ours trends up. And the U.S. is currently averaging more new coronavirus cases per day than at any point in the pandemic. Over 45,000 new cases were reported just yesterday alone.

And consider where we were just about month ago. First, this is a map of coronavirus cases trends from May 27th. Note, the green coloring there on the screen. Well, here is a map of how we are trending today. You see so much more red and orange as cases continued to go up in 32 states.

And the Northeast struggled early on, but now other regions are causing concern. Take a look at the curve of the Northeast, represented here in green, and how that compares with the now rising curve of the West and the South. Florida led the way of new cases reported yesterday and Georgia also reported its highest single day record.

Rising hospitalizations are another concerning sign. South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and California are among the state seeing their numbers trending to new highs.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in now, CNN Contributor Dr. Abdul el Sayed. He's an epidemiologist and a public health expert. Dr. Good morning to you.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST & PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: So with this, and Bianna just detailed it, this exclamation point moment and we got from the Coronavirus Task Force, essentially an ellipsis yesterday. No announcement of anything new to deal with what we're seeing. EL-SAYED: Yes. The major contrast that I hope folks pick up out of Bianna's excellent presentation there is that, in the European Union, we saw a decline that has then remained steady, In United States, we've seen a jagged resurgence of the virus.

And the big difference is that in the EU, each of their specific countries had very strong federal leadership with the commitment to extend their lockdown as long as it needed to knock the virus back, so that when they started to cautiously open back up, that it wasn't a around in such high volume to start spreading again. And then there was a real commitment to doing what we needed to do to be safe and leadership from the top.

What we've been missing in United States is that we had one major surge driven by outbreaks in New York, Connecticut, in New Jersey as well. was a bit in Michigan, and those have been knocked down, and I think those local leaders have recognized the key responsibility to react.

But then now we're having surges in places like Arizona and Oklahoma and Texas. And so that keys into the fact that we just haven't had that federal leadership that has both realized that we needed to lock down long enough to knock this virus back everywhere and emphasize the things that we could do to stay safe after that point.

BLACKWELL: So nothing new on the federal front. But the state leaders, we heard from - in Florida and the Governor of Texas. Now, after these huge increases - record increases in single day, new cases, they're closing bars. Does that meet the moment? Should there be a return to the stay at home borders in these states?

EL-SAYED: Yes, they should close bars and they should do a whole lot more. And here's the problem, Victor, is that what we're seeing - the picture that you see every day is not an accurate picture of the transmission that day. It's an accurate picture of the transmission five to seven days ago.

And at the peak of transmission, we know that this virus can double the number of cases in two and a half to three days. So if you talk about seven and a half days, and you divide that into two and a half, you have three doubling times. That means it's not where we are, it could potentially be two times two times two, which is eight times more than what we're seeing. And so we needed rapid action that - at that point, weeks ago, not now.

And so this slow and potentially cautious closing down - maybe we'll shut down bars, but we won't touch restaurants, we won't do anything else, it's just too little and too late. And if I were a governor in one of these states or I was advising the governor in one of these states, I would be telling them. Listen, you are behind the eight ball at this point. It is already spreading and has been spreading consistently, and you have a real responsibility now to go into lockdown.

Now, if you didn't want to have to go in the lockdown, what you should have been focused on is making sure that people, as they came out of their homes and went into these public spaces, were wearing masks and doing the basic obvious things that they needed to protect themselves and others.

BLACKWELL: What explains the divergence in the number of deaths versus the number of new cases, because as we see that climb of new cases daily, we're not seeing that in the number of people who are succumbing to the virus?


EL-SAYED: Well, what I think is happening is that education about this virus and who has the liability to hurt most has gotten out there. And so, in the states where it's spreading rapidly, it's spreading among people who have a false sense that they're somehow immune.

Now, if you're young, you're not immune, you just have a lower likelihood of having a very serious outcome. So I think what's happening is that young folks are going about and assuming that, "COVID is over." And then seniors recognize that they're at real risk, so they're staying home and being a little bit more socially distance. So we're starting to see a spike in cases among young people.

Now, here's my fear is that, oftentimes if you ask older folks who they're engaging with, if anyone, it's the younger people in their own family. And if those of you younger folks are out there potentially spreading it, if they go and potentially have even a socially distanced picnic or dinner with their parents or grandparents that they could be spreading it there. So my fear is that we're going to start to see it move into older people over the long-term.

But this is, to hit the point on the head, that young folks have a real responsibility to both protect themselves and protect everyone else, and everyone else they love. And even if you don't think you're going to have a really serious outcome, you have the potential to give it to somebody else who may.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, thanks so much.

EL-SAYED: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, they may be our friends and allies, but don't make any plans to visit Europe just yet. The EU looks set to ban U.S. travelers next week over the surge in the coronavirus cases. We're live in London next.

BLACKWELL: Plus, House Democrats pass a wide ranging police reform bill aimed at cracking down on police brutality, but it is unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate. We'll talk about that next.



GOLODRYGA: Well, Americans may not be allowed to travel to the European Union once it opens its doors next month. Diplomats from the EU say us travelers are "unlikely" to be allowed in due to the spread of coronavirus.

BLACKWELL: Well, the ban would also include Russia and Brazil, countries that have been unable to curb the virus. Let's bring in our CNN International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson. He is in London this morning.

Nic, tell us about - I mean, there - it's a complicated issue when you decide to ban Americans from coming in. But this is in some ways reciprocal.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is. That's part of the picture that the European Union is painting here. I mean, the way that it works for the EU is, they bringing together all the ambassadors of the 27 different nations and putting them in one room. They say they've been working around the clock on this.

We know that they've had meetings several days this past week. They're due to have another meeting on Monday. The deadline for decision really on who makes the list, and who doesn't make the list, that's Monday night into Tuesday.

The real question and the dilemma for the Europeans here is, they say that they want to keep their public - half a billion people healthy and safe. So that's their primary concern. There is this reciprocity issue, that if EU citizens cannot travel to the United States, and currently they can't. Therefore, the EU says, if you - if our citizens can't go to you, then yours can't come to us.

But the real catch on all of this, of course, comes around the disparity in infection rates and Europe has really sort of gotten over that initial spike. It has come down the other side of it. Those infection rates in Europe have flattened off at a relatively low level. Not gone by any stretch of the imagination.

But the concern is that the United States currently is spiking in so many states that if you open the doors to U.S. citizens whose infection rates are higher than those in Europe, then you put the health of Europeans at risk, plus, you of course put the economy here at risk. Everyone completely aware you just can't get into the scenario of a second lockdown. It will be hugely damaging even more for the economies in the EU. So essentially, yes, battening down the hatches and having to say no to some people who they would otherwise like to have visiting.

GOLODRYGA: Right? You mean otherwise visiting, because so many Americans travel to Europe for the summer, so they've taken that into consideration as well. A lot of these countries, their economies depend on tourists. But like you said, they're looking at the spike and they're seeing our numbers go straight up, and their numbers continue to go down and level off. But it's something that they will be revisiting every few weeks. Nic Robertson, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Now as for travel within the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with airline executives yesterday over contact tracing. Up to now, airlines have been opposed to keeping detailed information on passengers who may have come in contact with coronavirus. They said it would overwhelm their computer systems.

GOLODRYGA: But yesterday they came to a call compromise. Instead, they'll use a third party app and website where passengers can put in the information themselves.

BLACKWELL: Up next, the debate over whether Civil War monument should be left in place. The Confederate monument protests in Richmond - we've got the video here, protesters launched fireworks at police.



BLACKWELL: President Trump says he's signed an Executive Order to protect monuments. Now, the President characterized recent attempts to remove monuments deemed racist or problematic as an attack on American heritage. There are already federal laws protecting monuments, but this new Executive Order directs the Justice Department to prioritize investigating and prosecuting anyone charged with vandalism.

GOLODRYGA: Meanwhile, police body cam video from Richmond Virginia shows protesters launching fireworks at a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Police say protesters fired paintballs at officers and through other hard objects at police. One officer's helmet was hit and he was taken to the hospital. Six people were arrested.

BLACKWELL: This week on the House floor Congressman Anthony Brown who represents Maryland's 4th District gave a powerful and pretty personal speech. Watch.


REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D-MD): Mr. Speaker, I'm a black man living in America and that puts me at greater risk while living in America. The fact that I served 30 years in the United States Army, an institution that prides itself on being colorblind, doesn't change the fact that I'm black and at greater risk, that I attended Harvard Law School, practiced law at a blue chip firm in Washington DC, doesn't change the fact that my family is from Africa and we are at greater risk even today in America.


GOLODRYGA: And Representative Anthony Brown joins us now. Congressman, you know, sometimes we put politics ahead of personal stories and your constituents know more about you than the rest of the country.

But can you tell us why it was important for you to relay to those - those that you work with and Americans overall as to what your life experience is like as a black man in America?


BROWN: Sure, I think it's important to share your story when you are whether in Congress, a state legislature, it's what motivates and inspires so many of us to do the things that we do. And today I'm motivated and I have been for quite some time in reestablishing justice when it comes to the treatment of black men, black women, the black community by local law enforcement.

And we've seen certainly in the almost nine-minute video of George Floyd and the just tragic murder, that - his murder, but across this country for decades, if not centuries, of the injustices. And regardless of your wealth, your educational attainment, your best background, if you are black in America, you are at greater risk. Greater risk of mistreatment by police, greater risk of dying earlier, because of some health condition, greater risk of not being able to send your kids to the same high quality schools. So I thought it was important to share that story.

BLACKWELL: So in this legislation, Congressman, that bans chokeholds, ends no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, reforms at least, qualified immunity. And despite the passion with which you speak about this, and many Democrats, this isn't going anywhere in the Senate. The president isn't going to sign it. Is this a squandered moment? We heard the speeches, we saw the Kente cloth sashes, but where's the legislation that's going to come out of this moment?

BROWN: Sure. This is an important moment. A moment that includes a lot of advocacy and hopefully some legislation. You see peaceful protesters and it's important that that we are in the streets, petition our government for redress. It's important that members of Congress do its work, and that's not just giving speeches on the floor, it's passing meaningful legislation.

We passed a very robust bill yesterday or the day before. The Senate is sitting and doing nothing. But we need to engage Mitch McConnell and find that common ground. So many law enforcement or departments across the country, for example, have banned the chokehold. So let's establish a uniform standard so that every police department can do that. It's demonstrated in the law enforcement community. They understand that it's a bad practice. So we could at least meet common ground on that.

Some states have a database to track police officer misconduct as officers move from one department to another. So it demonstrates that law enforcement is willing to embrace that. Let's move forward on that. There is common ground across the aisle with law enforcement and the community. It's our obligation to find that common ground and to pass it into law.

GOLODRYGA: What do you make of the Republican led Senate's police reform bill that was authored by the only black - Republican Black Senator in the country, Tim Scott, when he said that, even if you don't agree with everything, meeting halfway is better than nothing. Meantime, you have some Democrats in Congress suggesting that that was all a sham. What is your take?

BROWN: Sure. Look, meeting halfway is what this is about. And right now, what the Republican led senate and Senator Scott, just like the President, his Executive Order, they're sort of paper tigers. What we sent to them, we believe, is the baseline for discussions, negotiations, compromise to get a bill passed. So we sent over the Justice in Policing Act from the House on Thursday, so let's have the Senate take it up, make whatever changes you think are necessary and then we go to conference and we'll work out the difference.

But we should be addressing things like qualified immunity that has protect protected far too many bad cops from not only criminal prosecution, but even for victims' families to recover in civil courts. We can find common ground on things like that and that's our responsibility. So we sent over a bill, take a look at it, act on it. Let's go to conference.

BLACKWELL: Well, why weren't Republicans included in this House process before now? Republicans did not include Democrats, and we understand that. Leader Schumer asked for there to be a new bill to come together in the Senate, Republicans rejected that. Democrats, you did get three votes in the House for this, but - Republican votes for it, but you did not include Republicans.

My question essentially is, you knew that there would be this kind of stalemate standoff at the start. And if the goal is to get something done, why not put this at the beginning of the process, Congressman?


BROWN: Victor, that's the common refrain that Republicans make. And the truth be told, you often hear from Democrats, when the majority passes legislation. Instead of speaking to the merits of the bill, OK, and whether they support modifying the qualified immunity, whether they support banning the chokehold, the no-knock warrants, which have resulted in the unfortunate and avoidable death of far too many black people, instead of focusing on the merit they go to process.

The process in Congress is one in which a bill will pass in this Democratic leg on House. It will go to a Republican Senate. There will be conversations between Democrats and Republicans before whatever we do, is passed into law. So the focus on process and charging Democrats of excluding Republicans, that's simply a way to avoid the more difficult conversation, what will you do to reduce the number of deaths of Black people at the hands of police in America.

BLACKWELL: Process matters and this process is ending without any legislation. Congressman Anthony Brown, thanks so much for being with us.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you, Victor and Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Facebook is changing its policy on hate speech after several companies pulled ads from the social media platform. Coca- Cola, Lululemon, Verizon and Ben & Jerry's are among the companies that stopped advertising on Facebook over concerned that it's not doing enough to curb hate speech. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg says the social media platform will now ban ads that scapegoat minorities, immigrants, racial groups as well. Facebook says that it will also begin labeling user posts that are newsworthy, but violate platform policies. That similar to what Twitter has done by flagging some of the President's tweets for glorifying violence or spreading misinformation.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the pressure and pulling of ads seems to have an impact there on their decision.

Well, still ahead, the toll of the coronavirus pandemic is taking on immigrants, especially those still fighting for legal status. We'll get the unique perspective of a new American citizen who took our oath during this pandemic and also covers her community as a reporter in Texas.



BLACKWELL: A federal judge has ruled that migrant children held in U.S. family detention centers must be released by mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

GOLODRYGA: The order states that they must be released with their parents or to available suitable sponsors or other available COVID free non-congregate settings as of June 8th. There were 124 children in ICE custody. Over 8,800 detainees have been tested, 751 have tested positive.

Well, the coronavirus pandemic is also causing new uncertainty for those working to become American citizens. Our next guest is one of the lucky ones. She was recently able to take that citizenship oath, but COVID-19 did reshape how her ceremony played out.

She described her experience for Texas Monthly writing, "No family and friends were allowed inside nor were We were provided with tiny U.S. flags to wave around or greeted with a video from the President. Standing six feet apart from one another we simply raised right hands as the immigration officer read the oath and asked us if we agreed. We all said I do. Often the ceremonies last more than an hour. Ours lasted less than five minutes.

Maria Mendez joins me now she also covers Business and the U.S. Mexico border for Texas Public Radio. Maria, thank you so much for joining us. You know, when I read your story, from one immigrant to another, it just touched me and I can only imagine what that experience must have felt like in the midst of a pandemic. But you describe yourself as the lucky one. The experience was a bit different. But you're now an American. Congratulations. What were those five minutes like?

MARIA MENDEZ, TOOK U.S. CITIZENSHIP OATH AMID PANDEMIC: Yes, thank you for having me. So those five minutes were kind of surreal. I mean, I had, as I talked about in the essay, I talk - I had been waiting for this moment, what feels like pretty much my whole life. And then, when the pandemic hit, I thought that I just wasn't going to be able to finish the naturalization process until probably next year.

And so it was really a shock to even be there. But then once I was there in the moment, it kind of felt a little anticlimactic. Because like I said, I just went in, and they read the oath and we all basically said, I do. And I remember, the ceremony was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. And I looked at my phone when I got out, and it was 10:04. And so it really was less than five minutes.

And it was really surreal and strange experience. But I'm very grateful that, like I said, I was one of the lucky ones that got to still partake, despite the extreme circumstances that we're living right now.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you spent the majority of your life in America, you came here as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Talk about the weight that that carried on you throughout your life up until those five minutes when you became a U.S. citizen?


MENDEZ: Yes, so I came here when I was three. I came to live in Austin, Texas, and that's where I call home. It's basically the city where I grew up in and the only place that I really know. But, there was always a feeling of uncertainty and a lot of anxiety, because from a very young age, my mom told me and made me aware of our legal status.

And so I grew up with the fear of, you know, if there was a raid in Austin - an ICE raid, you know, what would happen to me and my family - me and my mom, and my little brothers. And then, being an immigrant and I think that my mother really instilled on me was to go to college so I could succeed and, get a better life. But there is also always a question of, can I go to college as an undocumented immigrant or will I be able to afford it?

And so, those questions really weighed on me. And even when I was able to become a permanent resident, I had a lot more protections than other than, for example, Dreamers. But there's always still a fear that comes from just growing up with that uncertainty. And then also experiences like, for example, I studied abroad in Mexico City, and I lost my Green Card, and I thought I wouldn't be able to come back to the U.S. But, thankfully, I was able to, but there's always that fear.

And so that was part of why, I really wanted to be a US citizen. So one I could vote in the country that I've lived my whole life basically, and to feel that weight kind of be lifted off.

GOLODRYGA: Well, you say so eloquently that you're now thinking about those 600,000 Dreamers that you just referenced, and your fight for them. Obviously, they got some welcome news for them Supreme Court last week, but their journey is not over through that's just one roadblock that was lifted.

Maria I suggest everybody please read your essay in Texas Monthly. It's so personal. It's so beautiful and I can only tell you, welcome to the best club in the world. Congratulations once again on your citizenship. Thank you. We appreciate it.

MENDEZ: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: President Trump's longtime friend and advisor Roger Stone just posted a message on Instagram thanking his supporters for standing by him. Hard to miss this when he writes, "In parts I am in great spirits and continue to be confident that God will deliver me from my demonic persecutors."

GOLODRYGA: Victor, you're right. Hard to miss that one. Stone was supposed to report to jail this Tuesday, but a federal judge delayed his original sentence until July 14th and ordered him to spend time at home. The judge rejected stones legal team requests to hold off until late August due to the pandemic.

BLACKWELL: Yes. For the folks who were listening on radio and not watching On television, it's Roger Stone under a huge banner that says "Pardon." Stone was sentenced to three years for lying to Congress about his role as a back channel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks during the 2016 election. He was also convicted of witness tampering after obstructing Congress's inquiry into Russian meddling.

GOLODRYGA: Officials are warning that more young people are testing positive for COVID-19. We'll hear from some of those infected after a quick break.



GOLODRYGA: Officials are warning that younger people now account for a growing number of coronavirus cases in places where the virus is surging.

BLACKWELL: Here's CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the last place Jerry Ward thought he'd end up - in the hospital with Covid-19 at age 29.

JERRY WARD, COVID-19 PATIENT: I went to a house party for a cousin's birthday and three days later everyone started texting and saying that we all wasn't feeling well.

COHEN: Jerry says 10 people from that party in south Florida, all in their late 20s and early 30s, have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

COHEN (on camera): What message do you want to get out to people your age?

WARD: They should take it serious. Only go to places that are as needed, such as doctor's appointments, work, stuff of that nature.

COHEN (voice-over): But some young people in Florida are gathering in groups and not wearing masks. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis noting that in March the median age of confirmed cases in his state was 65. Now it's 35.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): What we've seen, particularly over the last week, is a real explosion in new cases amongst our younger demographics.

COHEN (voice-over): Some people, like Jerry, have underlying medical conditions and need to be hospitalized. But most young people recover at home or have no symptoms, but they can still spread the virus.

DR. LILIAN ABBO, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: The message for the young population is, yes, you can get hospitalized and you can get others infected and sick as well. You need to protect yourself and others.

COHEN (voice-over): That's the message Taisia Graham is trying to get out. She's 23 and recovering from COVID-19. She made this YouTube video.

TAISIA GRAHAM, COVID-19 PATIENT: This is like the worst feeling I've ever felt in my whole entire life.

COHEN (voice-over): Taisia I now isolating and missing her 2-year-old daughter.

COHEN (on camera): When you look out and see young people your age in Florida out there partying in large groups without masks, what do you think?

GRAHAM: Honestly, I was one of the people that went out in the very beginning. Now that I have COVID now I think it's really important that people really take this serious.

COHEN (voice-over): Taisia and Jerry are hoping if they tell their stories--


WARD: The process has not been easy and it's still probably not going to be the easiest to finish this off.

COHEN (voice-over): --then maybe others won't have to suffer like they have.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.


GOLODRYGA: Important reminder that people of all ages need to take this seriously. And for more on this and other COVID-19 related stories visit our website at

BLACKWELL: Well, thanks so much for watching. We're back here at 10:00 Eastern, and we'll talk with Arne Duncan, former Education Secretary during the Obama administration. He says the pandemic has given the country a unique opportunity to overhaul the education system. GOLODRYGA: In the meantime, "SMERCONISH" is coming up right after a quick a break.