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THE SITUATION ROOM

As Florida Cases Surge, Pressure Mounts to Halt Reopening; California Sees Single Day Increase of Nearly 6,000 Cases; Texas Governor Says "In Hindsight" He Reopened Bars Too Soon; Interview with Mayor Steve Adler (D) Austin, Texas; More than Half of U.S. States Seeing Spike in Cases. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 27, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[19:59:50]

BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: These statues stand for hatred. They are a relic of as failed propaganda campaign, the early part of the 20th century that was trying to frankly paint a new picture about what the South was all about.

That movement failed. We dealt with that. You know, they tried to influence children's curriculum and they for a time but we stopped that.

The only thing that's left from that failed movement is these monuments and they've got to come down. Now folks should do it the right way which is to, you know, go to your mayor, go to your city council, go to your governor and demand it. But they've got to come down.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Ben Jealous joining us. Ben -- thank you so much for joining us as usual.

Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

All right.

(AUDIO GAP) our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Despite the focus on reopening economies and trying to return to some semblance of normal life, it's clear the coronavirus pandemic is not abating, not abating at all.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases nears a very grim milestone of 10 million with almost half a million confirmed dead. More than 125,000 of those fatal cases right here in the United States.

In the past week, more than half the country saw cases surge. And more than 45,000 new cases were reported nationwide just on Friday. That's the third consecutive daily high here in the U.S. Florida, perhaps, seeing the worst of it, hitting new peak of 9,585 new cases in just one day and that's just shy of New York's peak from more than two months ago. Out in Texas, the governor admits he reopened bars too quickly and now has reversed course by closing them up once again. Likewise Arizona's governor announced the state is, quote, "on pause".

And California may be next. A 32 percent uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations in the last two weeks alone. And a record ICU rate could cause the hospital system in California to simply buckle.

In total -- get this -- at least 12 states have paused or rolled back reopening measures and we may only be scratching the surface of what's going on.

A new CDC survey actually finds the total number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. could be anywhere from 6 to 24 times higher than the officially reported total.

Despite the skyrocketing numbers, the Vice President offered up a rather sunny version of events at the first Coronavirus Task Force briefing in two months. This is what he said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward. We've all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again.

As we stand here today, all 50 states and territories across this country are opening up. Safely and responsibly. We're at a much stronger place. The truth is, we did slow the spread, we flattened the curve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go to Florida right now where today the state reached a rather troubling milestone. Health officials reporting 9,585 new coronavirus cases in what is now the highest single day reporting since the start of the pandemic.

Here's Natasha Chen who's joining us from Pensacola Beach right now.

Natasha -- cases skyrocket despite what the Vice President said yesterday. There's mounting pressure for Florida simply to halt -- halt its reopening plans. What's the latest? What's happening where you are?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf -- frankly it looks as if people are just enjoying their time like it's any other summer. And that is after, of course, the state shut down bars, standalone bars yesterday. So they can no longer sell alcohol on premises or allow people to consume it on premises. They can however continue to serve to-go orders for people to consume somewhere else.

Restaurants are still operating at 50 percent capacity around the state. Those with bars in them are able to operate those and so we're seeing a lot of people actually in the restaurants around here. There are attempts to social distance in some cases. But the efforts are pretty futile when you consider how many people are waiting in line for a table.

Of course, there is no statewide mask mandate from Governor DeSantis and I did ask a local bartender here how she would feel if there were. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not unreasonable, you know. The cases are definitely multiplying like crazy. It's not the craziest idea out there. At my other job at a restaurant, I'm required to wear so. Maybe (INAUDIBLE) outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do and I don't. I just feel as if everyone should just be safe and keep you know, being sanitary as much as they can. I'm just not really sure how it will affect us more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:04:59]

CHEN: I should note that there are some jurisdictions that are creating mask mandates. In fact, the Pensacola mayor has created a mandate for employees and people who walk into businesses, but that is not applied here on the beach which is a different jurisdiction.

Some businesses have voluntarily scaled back a little bit. Cancelling large events, cancelling live music performances. But so far as we know, the July 4th fireworks here still going on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Natasha Chen in Pensacola Beach for us. Thank you.

California continues to be hit with shocking new COVID-19 numbers. As of today California has more than 206,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. That's almost 6,000 more than the previous day and now California is looking to roll back reopenings in at least some areas of the state.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is joining us right now. So Paul, get us up to speed on what's happening in California as it's dealing with this latest surge in cases.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf -- let's pinpoint one of the hotspots. It's Imperial County. It's along the Mexican Border to the Southeast.

They have a 23 percent Positive test rate right now. they also had to ship out 500 COVID-19 patients from hospitals in Imperial County -- a very small county, population-wise, to other counties. And overall in the state though we should note that the positive test rate is about five percent.

Governor Newsom has been stepping out in front and he's urging everyone in California to keep their foot on the gas and not let a dramatic recurrence of COVID-19 rock the Golden State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Please, please practice common sense, common decency, protect yourself but also protect others. In that environment where you're mixing with strangers or you're in crowds where you can't practice physical distancing, where you're close and proximate with other people -- please wear a face covering. Please take this pandemic seriously.

What more evidence do we need? Turn on your nightly news and let us again, recommit ourselves to your health and the health of our community, this state, the nation and the world collectively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: About that recommitting, Disneyland was scheduled to reopen on the 17th of July. The governor praising Disneyland for now backing off that date but members of at least one union with about 3,000 hotel workers protested outside Disneyland today. They want to make sure when the park does reopen that many safety measures are put in place, including routine testing.

But we should note that Disneyland says it has those measures in place. Agreements with other unions and those measures include both guests and workers wearing masks as well as fewer people in the park. Stay tuned we'll hear more from that union rep. That's in the next hour.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Paul -- thank you very much. Paul Vercammen reporting from out in California.

Let's head over to Texas -- another state seeing a stunning spike in numbers. The past four days alone have seen more than 5,000 new cases each day. And that's more than 20,000 new cases in Texas since Tuesday as Texas Governor Greg Abbott issues a new executive order limiting certain businesses and services.

And the governor is now admitting that in hindsight, he may have done things differently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars. Now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting. And, you know, how a bar setting in reality just doesn't work with a pandemic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's Alexandra Field is joining us now from Houston. Alexandra -- so what more can you tell us about how Texas is trying to mitigate the surging numbers?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf -- look, they know that the majority of new cases seem to be largely affecting people in their 20s and 30s. That's why you're seeing Governor Greg Abbott go after the bars, shutting those down in order to try to stop the spread among young people. But still, is this too little too late? That's what some health officials are saying as Texas adds another 5,700 new cases to the total count.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: Major turnaround in Texas as COVID cases soar. Governor Greg Abbott one of the first governors to reopen his state now taking steps to walk it back.

Bars must close but can still serve takeout or delivery. There are new restrictions on restaurant capacity and additional limits on outdoor crowds.

Houston is now a hot spot. Some local officials want the governor to do more.

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE: There is no evidence out there to show that anything short of a stay home order will do. We have (INAUDIBLE) between 10 and 30 days before we hit capacity if this keeps going at this race.

[20:10:05]

FIELD: Here in Harris County, the country's third largest county, the local COVID warning system is being raised to its highest level -- severe, indicating an uncontrolled outbreak, a strain on testing and tracing and a recommendation for people to stay home.

It comes as Texas continues to smash its daily record of new confirmed COVID-19 cases. Hospitalizations have been climbing since the middle of June.

DR. UMAIR SHAH, HARRIS COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH: We're seeing a trend towards a younger population both in our community testing as well as who was being admitted to our hospitals.

FIELD: Some health officials blame the state's early reopening.

SHAH: It's a layering of fact that it layered on top of each other. So first you have restaurants at some percentage. Then you had, you know, gyms and hair salons and then on top that you had bars and then restaurants went a higher percentage. Mother's Day and on top of that you had Memorial Day, then you had, you know, the marches and you turn around and you've had other graduation --

FIELD: A pop-up hospital that opened in a Houston parking lot early in the pandemic could soon reopen inside the NRG center, home to the Houston Texans.

MARVIN ODUM, HOUSTON COVID-19 CZAR: This virus is out of control in Houston. If we don't act to get it under control very bad, extremely bad things will happen. Sickness, death, our economy progressively getting shut in.

FIELD: A city that thought the worst was behind them now facing even greater challenge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD And in the absence of any kind of mandatory stay at home order, officials here in the hot spot of Houston say they're hoping that people will just go ahead and do the right thing, show some social responsibility.

Wolf -- I spoke to one restaurant owner. He is able to keep his restaurant open if he chooses to but he says there isn't the appetite among people that he knows to eat out at this moment. And he says the right thing to do right now is just to close his business and not put his employees at risk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alexandra Field reporting for us. Alexandra -- thanks very much. It's very strong report.

Joining us now, the mayor of Austin, Texas Steve Adler. Mayor Adler -- thanks so much for joining us. I understand you put out a letter to Austin saying this is crunch time -- your words. This is crunch time, urging residents to make what you call drastic changes in their behavior.

So what are you most worried about?

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN: Well, right now, the scientists, the doctors tell us that on our current trajectory, our hospitals are going to be overwhelmed by mid-July. That gives us probably about a week to maybe 10 days to see if we're able to change behaviors enough, so that we don't end up in that place.

You know, there's about a three-week lag on hospitalizations. So a deadline like the one we face, it's mid to the latter part of July. It's a scary thing and it gets set in motion. So right now, we're asking our community to go beyond the things that I'm allowed to order based on the state's position. And stay at home if they don't need to go out.

Our governor is urging people to do that but not mandating it.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Excuse me, you want him to mandate that for the entire state of Texas?

ADLER: Well, not necessarily the stay at home at this point but certainly the masking. You know, I don't think that we're going to be able to open up economies, likely had the economy before unless we're wearing masks probably until we have a vaccine.

We're getting confused messaging on that. I need my community right now to be just real vigilant with respect to wearing masking and social distancing. And those that can, I want them to stay at home.

BLITZER: And I know you're repeatedly expressing concern now, and you just did once again that you could run out of hospital beds in Austin by mid-July.

On June 15th, I understand, you issued a revised stay at home order for the next month in Austin. So tell us what that includes.

ADLER: Well, you know the governor -- we had a mandatory masking order and it worked really well in March and April. The governor took away our ability to do that. He's thankfully just given us back the ability to do it but not to the extent that we did before.

We have to do it just through businesses, not direct to the individuals. It doesn't cover people when they're outside. Our governor tells people it's the most important thing they can do is to wear masking. We just need him to say that it's mandatory because of the message that it sends.

We limited groups over a hundred because the governor opened that door for us. Every door the governor opens for us we're taking advantage of. But right now, it's this messaging that's coming out of Washington. It's confusing people. And we need more help from our state leaders to make very clear that this is very serious.

[20:14:53]

BLITZER: As you know, a number of Republican governors, including your Governor Greg Abbott, have pushed the President's agenda on reopening quickly to try to get the economy open. That's understandable. We all want the economy to be reopen.

Some have avoided issuing statewide orders as you well know. including in your state for people to simply do something so simple as wearing a mask when they're out in public. How do you feel watching these numbers go up and up and up again? Do you feel they will have an impact?

ADLER: Well, I think that our community now is taking a look and will by its behaviors decide what we do in this community regardless of what the orders are because everybody is looking at some pretty scary numbers.

Our hospitalizations yesterday well above our seven-day average. Our cases well above our seven-day moving average and people are seeing it. I go around the city now, and it seems as if the message is beginning to sink in.

But it is frustrating not to have a mandatory you have to wear mask. And I think that whatever happens in two months, three months -- wherever we are and at whatever point states and cities are opening up the economy. It does not work without a mandatory masking policy.

You can't have an open economy right now without that in place. And I think that's what our experience and the experience of other cities in Texas are showing.

BLITZER: So right now, the bottom line is, it's an awful situation in Austin Texas -- one of the largest cities in the United States. And it looks like it's getting worse. Is that fair? ADLER: It is getting worse. We're on a scary trajectory and I need my

community really now to rally and show some discipline and it's time.

BLITZER: Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas -- good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in Austin and good luck to all the folks in Texas right now. Thanks so much for joining us.

ADLER: Thank you -- Wolf.

Coming up, the CDC is now saying that the number of individuals that have been infected with coronavirus may actually be up by 24 times what has been officially reported.

I'll ask our medical expert, the former CDC disease detective, Dr. Seema Yasmin (ph), what's going on.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[20:17:17]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The CDC has just released the new survey that shows the true number of positive coronavirus cases here in the United States could be up to 24 times greater than now reported. That reported number already is 2.5 million people.

At the same time, "The Washington Post is now reporting that the Trump campaign directed the removal of thousands of "do not sit here" stickers before the President's Tulsa rally exactly one week ago.

I want to bring in the former CDC disease detective and current CNN medical analyst, Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Dr. Yasmin -- is there a direct line here between rising COVID cases in the U.S. and simply ignoring calls for social distancing?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: There are some really basic measures here -- Wolf, that we know work against this virus as many unknowns as there are that just have been missed or completely ignored.

This idea that the stickers that help people keep physically distanced from one another were removed is alarming. It goes against the science. The fact that there are more and more people choosing not to wear masks is very alarming.

And just earlier this week the CDC director told us that for every one American who tests positive for COVID-19, there are at least 10, if not more, Americans who are also infected that don't know that they are, maybe spreading the disease to others and that means that the scale of this epidemic here in the U.S. is 10 to 20 fold higher. The numbers are already alarming. The numbers are going up.

It means when we think about 40,000 new cases in a day, as we counted yesterday we're really looking at potentially around 400,000 cases. So completely going in the wrong direction and unfortunately, doing so because we're not following the science. We are ignoring some of the evidence-based policies that could save lives.

BLITZER: Listen to what the Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday at that Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: We would just encourage every American to follow the guidelines for all the phases. Continue to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. Disinfect frequently. People who feel sick should stay home. And when it comes to businesses social distancing, protective equipment, temperature checks, testing and isolation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You may have noticed as I did, I was watching that briefing live here on CNN. He didn't mention face mask at all. he had twice an opportunity. Reporters asked him about face mask. He didn't mention the critical importance of wearing face masks when people go out in public.

Dr. Yasmin -- what's your reaction to that?

DR. YASMIN: I actually went back and looked at the transcript -- Wolf, and did a control-f to look for how many times he said the word mask, how many times the Vice President said the words facial coverings. He did say facial coverings twice. He did not talk about masks, even when he was asked that question directly by a reporter.

And here's why I'm worried. For anyone like him who's not wearing a mask in an indoor place next to other people, you are going against the science. It's as simple is that. There was growing evidence, week on week that wearing a mask saves lives. The University of Washington told us this week that if all Americans wore masks for the next few months, we save around 35,000 lives by October 1st just in the U.S. That's what's at stake here.

We've seen Wolf -- in the last two weeks that those states that just recommended but didn't require a mask saw their numbers go up by 84 percent. Compare that to 11 states that did mandate masks. They saw their numbers go down by 25 percent.

[20:25:02]

DR. YASMIN: So if you're not wearing a mask, you're saying the science, the data, the evidence means nothing for you and that might be an individual action on your part that it has dangers if not deathly consequences for those people around you for the rest of the country.

BLITZER: It's certainly true. You make an excellent point.

And I want you to compare the messaging we heard at the briefing yesterday from the Vice President and the messaging we heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You have an individual responsibility to yourself but you have a societal responsibility because if we want to end this outbreak, really end it 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you make of that disconnect -- Dr. Yasmin?

DR. YASMIN: What a contrast. You've got the health expert, Dr. Fauci who counted so many epidemics over the last few decades saying this is not just about your own health, it's about your community's health. It's about population health.

And Wolf -- it's not lost on me as a public health physician, that Dr. Fauci standing next to Mike Pence who for many public health experts is responsible for an HIV outbreak in Indiana under his governorship. It's scary that this is the man that's tasked with giving America guidance about this pandemic.

And in his responses yesterday, he prevaricated. He gave an overly optimistic picture of the scenario to those reporters to the American people. It was a missed opportunity to talk about just how bad a situation this is right now and really what needs to be done to try and save as many American lives as possible in the next few months.

BLITZER: Yes. These are life and death decisions that these leaders have to make right now.

Dr. Seema Yasmin -- as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

DR. YASMIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to get back to our coronavirus coverage and there's lots of news going on. In just a few moments we also have breaking news that Russian intelligence officers offered cash rewards to the Taliban to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

We have new information. We'll share it with you when we come back.

[20:27:30]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:56]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're going to get back to our coronavirus coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM in just a moment. But there's other breaking news unfolding out in California. We're an alleged shooting suspect has been injured at a Walmart distribution center just outside the city of Red Bluff. The city manager tells CNN that a car rammed in to the distribution center causing a fire. The alleged shooter was taken to a nearby hospital right now. It's not clear if anyone else has been injured in the incident. We'll continue to follow this story, update you when we get more information. Thanks for that.

In the meantime, we're following other breaking news. A European intelligence official now telling CNN's Nick Paton Walsh that Russian military intelligence officers recently offered cash payments to Taliban about militants in Afghanistan in a plot to kill U.S. and coalition troops.

I want to bring in CNN's national security analyst, former senior adviser on national security during the Obama administration, Samantha Vinograd. Sam, what's your analysis of this disturbing news? Does this line up with Russia's priorities in the region?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It does. And I want to flag for our viewers that this likely presents an ongoing live threat to American forces overseas. The failure of the administration and other coalition partners to hold Russia to account for trying to kill Americans means, frankly, that Putin has no reason to stop while he's at it, so urgent action is needed.

But the key takeaway here in the United States is that under this President, Putin, frankly feels like he can get away with murder. And, Wolf, I'm not sure that I blame him. Broadly, you look at the president's track record and despots physically harming Americans hasn't been a deal breaker. Look at Kim Jong-un and Otto Warmbier or Mohammed bin Salman and American resident, Jamal Khashoggi.

You look at Russia, and President Trump has not helped put into account on any number of illegal operations whether it's invading Ukraine or election interference. So Putin feels incredibly empowered four years into this presidency.

And, finally, it really exposes an inconvenient truth at the moment. Intelligence is an input to policymaking. Intelligence assessments onto themselves don't make policy, intelligence, even life-saving intelligence can hit a dead end, if you're a policymakers or a president, that don't use it as the basis to say in this case impose costs on the perpetrator of an attack. That's why you really need a president and a national security team that digests intelligence, and again, use it as a basis for policy decisions that protect Americans.

BLITZER: Samantha, the New York Times which originally broke this story is reporting among other things, and I'll read to you from the Time story, the intelligence finding was brief to President Trump and the White House's National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March. But today, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, released the statement which reads in part, "While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA director, national security adviser and the chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence."

[20:35:14]

You've worked at the NSC. Why wouldn't the President of the United States be briefed on something so sensitive, so critically important as this? And if the president wasn't briefed, Samantha, wouldn't even be worse?

VINOGRAD: Well, it's malpractice on any front. But, you know, Kayleigh McEnany is partly my go-to source for honest feedback on the President's intelligence. It is highly implausible to me that the President wasn't briefed, as we just learned European officials have confirmed the intelligence.

In my experience, European officials would not have been briefed on this kind of intelligence if the president hadn't been. And the President typically gets intelligence briefings multiple times a day in the form of the presidential daily briefing, NSE meetings on, for example, the Afghanistan drawdown, our troop drawdown in Germany, which benefits Russia and he gets called memos, for example, before his calls with President Putin. They've spoken several times over the past few weeks.

So if he wasn't briefed on this issue, you have to wonder if he chose not to be. And if on the other hand, members of his national security team did not bring this to his attention, that's just gross malpractice. It's putting American lives at risk. And the President is responsible for choosing officials who provide him with intelligence or who should provide him with intelligence that can save American lives.

So Kayleigh McEnany may be trying to scapegoat someone else to try to shift the blame. But either way, this reflects incredibly poorly on the President himself.

BLITZER: Yes, if the president wasn't briefed on this, I think that's even worse. Because clearly in a sensitive issue like this, the president United States, the commander-in-chief should be fully briefed.

All right. Samantha Vinograd, thank you very much for joining us.

An important quick programming note for our viewers. Join CNN's Jake Tapper for a new "CNN Special Report: Trump and the Law After Impeachment," it airs tomorrow night 10:00 p.m., Eastern. It will air right after our special SITUATION ROOM tomorrow night. Our special SITUATION ROOM from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, it's been a double punch for minority communities from the coronavirus, medically and economically. We're going to discuss that and its impact when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:30]

BLITZER: The past few months have been catastrophic for minorities in America on multiple fronts. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting people of color at a disproportionate rate and the economic downturn caused by major shutdowns has resulted in the highest rate of black unemployment in a decade.

Joining us now Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League. He's also the author of a brand-new book entitled, "The Gumbo Coalition." Ten leadership lessons that help you inspire, unite, and achieve. Marc, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for writing this important data.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Good evening, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to start with this, the disturbing fact that minorities in the U.S. are four or even five times more likely to need hospitalization. If they get coronavirus. In light of those numbers, how upsetting is it to see people refuse to take this crisis seriously?

MORIAL: It's especially upsetting to see governors and elected officials, who rushed to reopen their economies, offered no guidance or instruction on physical distancing, wearing of masks or any if you will, guidance to prevent the spread, now seeing a backlash, if you will.

A double spike in coronavirus cases. Look at Florida, look at Texas, look at Georgia, these governors, in my view, were irresponsible. In effect reopening with no conditions and no concerns. Here we are less -- Wolf, less than a month later, and the cases have spiked, the hospitals are full. And we face a state of emergency in many places that was greater than it was two months ago, but the irresponsibility, Wolf, this is what we have to focus on.

Elected officials and leaders, in a crisis situation, have to be responsible and not try to play feel-good politics. They've got to be responsible and saying to people, here's how you should conduct yourself. We may -- we'll reopen gradually, but here are the steps you need to take.

BLITZER: And you speak as the former mayor of New Orleans. What message does it send, Marc, that the Trump administration is pushing at this sensitive moment to invalidate the Affordable Care Act even as COVID cases are spiking in so many areas?

MORIAL: It's cold hearted, Wolf, that you would take any step. In a crisis of this -- of this -- of these dimensions, to take away health care, I mean, you could put your actions on pause, you could reverse course, a wise person changes a fool never. And in this instance, I think the reaction of the American public is being seen in the public opinion polls. Well, I think our sending a vote of no-confidence to the administration with respect to how they've handled COVID, it's been wobbly, it's been weak, it's been herky-jerky, it's been one message one day, another message another day. And ignoring one's own experts is, to me, grossly, grossly inept and incompetent to ignore the recommendations of your own experts who study this, who know this who was saying to us, leading to us, wear mask, physically distance, do not reopen too quickly.

[20:45:01]

Anthony Fauci predicted this. And now we have, if you will, spikes that are going to be felt in the economy. Brace yourself, Wolf, for greater unemployment levels, because what we're now facing is cities and states across the nation with budgetary pressures are going to now have no alternative but to lay off.

BLITZER: And you make an important point, because since mid-March, more than 45 million Americans have lost their jobs and have officially formally applied for unemployment benefits, 45 million plus, and disproportionately, once again, minorities, disproportionately, impacted by that.

There's another crisis that's looming, as a result. We're talking about eviction, federal eviction protections put in place at the start of the pandemic, are due to expire at the end of August. Some states and local protections are already expiring. Eviction proceedings are starting in some places.

Since minorities are more likely to rent than own their homes, how concerned are you that potentially we could see a lot of homeless people out there, a lot more homeless people that already are out on the streets?

MORIAL: Let me offer this observation. Evictions, foreclosures for African-Americans, but across the board are on the way. This is why the House passed Heroes Act, that's emphasizes, and we haven't discussed this much in the public sphere for last few weeks.

The House passed Heroes Act. It would extend the enhanced unemployment benefits. It would extend the moratorium of federal evictions. It would provide a lifeline to cities and states so that they can avoid the massive layoffs that are coming. That Heroes Act is being held up in the Senate, held up in the Senate by Mitch McConnell, and Senator McConnell I'm calling on you now to unleash that hole, to decouple that hole and vote on the Heroes Act.

It's irresponsible once again, in a crisis, to play politics with the lives of people, people's homes, people's jobs, people's savings are on the line. This great and mighty nation, if it is a great and mighty nation, must step in to protect people. We're in an unprecedented set of crisis in America. And what I -- what I hope is that the additional layoffs can be averted, reduced, and that people will not have to face evictions and foreclosures at least -- at least anytime soon.

BLITZER: Marc Morial, as usual, thanks very much for joining us. MORIAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Much more news right after this.

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[20:50:24]

BLITZER: In Mexico right now, the coronavirus pandemic has reached that country's leadership. The finance minister announced Thursday he had tested positive for the virus. Just three days prior, the President of Mexico tweeted a video where he and the finance minister are seen together, neither wearing a mask that comes as the country is seeing a dramatic surge of new cases and currently ranks seventh in the world in its coronavirus death toll.

CNN's Matt Rivers is joining us now from Mexico City. Matt, Mexico is continuing its reopening plans despite these rather alarming numbers. So what's going on? What's is it looking like?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean right now, Wolf, we are in unquestionably the worst days of this outbreak in Mexico so far. And yet this week, starting on Monday, Mexico City is going to be reopening restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, and we spoke to some people who are really fighting the front line -- on the front lines of this outbreak who say it is just too soon to do so.

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RIVERS: Once he gears up, Juan Carlos Cruz Gonzalez doesn't take off his equipment at the crematorium where he works housed in a public cemetery. There's no downtime between bodies.

Honestly, this epidemic hasn't ended, he says, it's still going on every day.

The furnaces didn't stop firing in the hours we were there, but they couldn't keep up. Some families who brought loved ones had to wait hours for them to be cremated. It's a morbid illustration that Mexico's epidemic is far from over and the numbers back it up. This chart shows the daily trend of new cases of the coronavirus in Mexico. It's not hard to see that things are only getting worse.

So is reopening the economy dangerous? We asked, yes, Juan Carlos says, it is still too early to go back to normal.

But Mexico's president disagrees. He says, we have to go back out little by little carefully to exercise our freedom.

Mexico's economy is in dire straits and Lopez Obrador knows it. So he has backed a phased reopening plan that for most of the country started June 1st, sending hundreds of thousands back to work across different industries, and he has plenty of support.

And Mexico City's massive Central de Abasto's wholesale market vendor, Rodolfo Machorro's sales have dropped 70 percent since the outbreak began.

We want everyone to go back to normal, he says, months of quarantine, it's too much. It's a very common sentiment here and amongst the millions of Mexicans who've lost their jobs recently. If I don't go out to work, who will feed my family? That's why we have to come here.

But the market itself reinforces the high cost of reopening. Officials say more than 600 people that work here have tested positive for the coronavirus since April.

[20:55:06]

Thirty percent of me wants to reopen and 70 percent doesn't, says this vendor, it's necessary, but people aren't being safe enough.

Mexico's death toll has more than doubled in just the last three weeks, a model from MIT predicts it could pass 50,000 by early August. And back inside the crematorium, that death toll becomes real. Of the five bodies we saw brought in four were likely COVID-19 related deaths.

Those that work here see it, he says, we know this is not over.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: And so, Wolf, basically what's happening here is the government's decision is quite straightforward, but it's also painful, reopen the economy, allow people to go back out, earn a living with the knowledge that by doing so, there is every chance that cemeteries like the one we just showed you will become more full. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Matt Rivers in Mexico, thank you very much.

The next hour of our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM starts right after a quick break.

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