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Some U.S. states Pause or Roll Back Reopening; Miami Mayor Hopes Masks, Beach Closings Will Slow Virus; Trump Administration Downplays Seriousness of Virus; Russian Intel Offered Taliban Cash to Kill U.S. troops; E.U. Member States to Decide on U.S. travel Ban; Mississippi Passes Measure to Change State Flag; Disneyland Workers Push for More Safety Measures; Coronavirus Is Hitting States Trump Needs to Win Reelection; Impact of Positive Player Tests on Sports; Taking Masks to the Next Level. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 28, 2020 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Surging numbers: coronavirus cases reach staggering levels. Dozens of U.S. states pump the brakes on their drive to reopen.

New developments on whether President Trump was told Russian intelligence offered cash rewards to the Taliban to kill American troops.

Also, sports in the time of COVID-19. The NBA just announced its plan to play safely. Will other leagues follow suit?

We'll let you know what to expect.

Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.


HOLMES: The experiment by many U.S. states in reopening amid the coronavirus may have backfired. Now for millions of Americans, life may be going back on hold. New cases in more than half the country. They're starting to pile up.

Several states hit new highs this weekend. It is hard to find a patch of green on that map there, where cases are actually going down. This deals a blow for people hoping to get back on with their lives as now, some of these states are hitting the pause button on reopening or starting to close portions of the economy again entirely.

The U.S. accounts for about a quarter of the nearly 10 million cases worldwide and the almost 500,000 deaths. And the situation could be even worse than we know. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, based on antibodies found in blood samples, the real number of people infected may be at least 6 and up to 24 times higher than what is being counted at the moment. Florida is one of the states where cases continue to go up. The

Sunshine State hit another record on Saturday, almost 10,000 positive results in one single day. Compare the seven-day averages with Italy, which, as you might remember, was at epicenter early on in the pandemic. Italy way down now. Florida, way up.

The governor now is taking action. CNN's Randi Kaye with more from Palm Beach.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Florida, yet another record day, spiking cases, 9,585, that is the highest number of cases in a single day. The governor still saying that that is because of increased testing. Increased testing from about 24,000 tests a day to 45,000 tests a day.

We are seeing higher positivity rates here in the state of Florida, mostly among young people, ages 33 to 35 years old, mostly asymptomatic. But they do hang out a lot in bars and the governor has decided that that was a reason to close all of the state bars which he has done.

But the governor has decided not to issue a mandatory order that everybody in the state of Florida wear masks. So he's leaving that up to the local government and local municipalities, saying he will trust people to make good decisions.

But we see people out and about here in West Palm Beach, not wearing their masks. So it is unclear if everybody really is making good decisions. In Miami, they've decided to close the beaches in Miami- Dade County, despite the spiking cases coming over the very popular, busy July 4th weekend.

The mayor there says he does not want to see a spike on top of a spike -- Randi Kaye, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


HOLMES: The mayor of Miami says he believes a spike in cases in Florida come from people gathering in large groups and refusing to wear masks. His city is taking steps to stop more from spreading.


MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (D-FL), MIAMI: The numbers we've seen, for example, 2 days ago, we hit the high water mark of 1,500 cases. That's 3 times higher than what we had in late March, early April, at 500 cases.

The state of Florida hit 9,600 cases which is 7 times greater than their high water mark of 1,300. So I think Florida, as a state, open bars, we never opened bars in the city of Miami. And the fact that we are closing our beaches now and we are requiring masks and we are now considering stiffer penalties for businesses that do not comply with the rules. These are things we are hoping are going to help us reverse this

horrible trend that we are seeing over the last couple weeks.


HOLMES: That was Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami, Florida.


HOLMES: Joining me now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner.


HOLMES: He is a co-director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at George Washington University Hospital. Also the cardiologist who cares for former U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney.

Doctor, great to have you back on again. Numbers soaring in many states; even the European Union does not want Americans traveling there, despite the vice president speaking of, quote, "remarkable progress."

What needs to be done, like yesterday?

What would it take, in a perfect world with actual leadership, to bring this back under control?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Reaching out to the public and getting everyone in this country to wear a face mask when they go out into public, number one. Testing many more patients then we are testing now.

Number three, probably in select areas, probably shutting some places down, because the health care systems are really at the breaking point, in places like Texas. So I think we have to have the political will to do all that.

We did it before, in the earlier part of this first wave, in places like New York and Massachusetts, New Jersey. And we can do it now. We have to have the political will. We have seen some rumblings of that in Texas and I hope that kind of strong leadership continues.

HOLMES: With those case numbers soaring, the hospitalizations, of course, lagged behind diagnosis and deaths lagged behind hospitalizations, are you expecting an uptick in deaths at the moment?

A lot of the new cases are young people but they are the carriers for the more vulnerable, right?

REINER: That is right. And it sort of depends on the case mix going forward. So we've sort of plateaued with the death rate sort of fluctuating between 600 and 800 deaths per day.

Our daily case -- new infection rate is really skyrocketing to over 40,000. So if there is a large proportion of new infections in younger people, the mortality rate may stay where it is now. But as those young people infect older people, the worry is that the

death rate will go up. So it's a little hard to tell now. We'll have a better sense in about a week. It takes about a week after someone becomes infected until they get sick enough to be hospitalized.

Then often about another week after that until you start seeing deaths. So it is a lagging indicator and obviously is concerned about the death rates starting to take off again.

HOLMES: What are your concerns?

What is the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed again?

And what is the state of readiness in terms of PPE, ICU beds and so on?

Is that a big concern for you at the moment?

REINER: It certainly is. Let's look at Texas. So Houston, which is now the new epicenter of this pandemic in the United States.

They have the largest medical center in the world. Texas Medical Center, which has about 60 hospitals. When I checked yesterday, it looked like about 98 percent of their ICU beds were filled.

Now we have the ability in the United States and we learned this over the last few months, to create innovative spaces to treat patients in an ICU setting that is not really an ICU setting, like turning ORs into ICUs and all kinds -- and recovery rooms into ICUs.

But it is an enormous strain on a hospital. It strains the staff, places the staff at great risk. And hospitals can get to a breaking point.

This was the whole point of flattening the curve, spreading out the cases so that our medical system did not get overwhelmed. We barely missed that in places like in New York and New Jersey six weeks ago.

And I'm worried about Texas. The difference is that when New York was at its breaking point, New York shut down. New York was shut down. Texas has not shut down. We did hear from the Harris County executive, a request for nonessential people to stay home but it is not an order yet. But we have to see the political will to do that in places.

HOLMES: I was just going to ask you about that, leadership, national coordination. You would think it's pretty important in times like these. We have seen that coordination in countries that brought their cases down.

In the U.S., testing was lacking from the start. It still is. The shutdown was slow. The restart was fast in many places. There's been pretty much zero federal coordination of anything. It's literally just scrolling through the president's Twitter feed. It's on everything but this.

Are you worried about the lack of a coordinated federal response? [02:10:00]

REINER: Absolutely. When we started talking about opening two months ago, the federal government had a reasonable plan. And it called for states to have 14 consecutive days of downward trend in new cases and declining positivity rates and increasing testing rates and hospital capacity.

But look at Texas. When Texas opened, they only had two consecutive days. They barely had two consecutive days of a downward trend. So many of the places that opened were not ready to open and certainly not ready to move towards phase 3.

We are paying the price for that now. The problem is that there is an essential conflict of interest between treating this pandemic the way it needs to be treated and running for reelection. And the president is facing this now.

In order for him to succeed in reelection, he has to make this go away. He has to pretend that it does not exist. That is why the vice president started his briefing yesterday by saying, oh, everyone has heard now the encouraging news.

I have no idea what he was talking about. He is not living in the same world that I am living in.

But in order for them to succeed in reelection, they really have to try and get the people of this country to believe that the pandemic is gone, that we are moving on, that it's business as usual.

So until we have leadership that is willing to do the difficult things, it's going to be very difficult to put this down.

HOLMES: Yes, that is the funny thing about pandemics. It is hard to pretend they have gone away when hospitals are filled with people who are dying. Doctor, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, co-director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at George Washington University Hospital. As always, a pleasure. Thank you for your expertise, sir.

REINER: My pleasure. Have a great night.


HOLMES: New developments in the growing controversy over claims that Russian intelligence offered cash to Taliban militants as a reward for killing U.S. and U.K. troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence says he has confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the matter. That statement from John Radcliffe contradicting what "The New York Times" originally reported. Our Nick Paton Walsh has been looking into the story.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: A European intelligence official is telling me that Russian military intelligence officers made offers of cash rewards to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan if they would kill or attack U.S. or other coalition soldiers.

Now it's not clear to this European intelligence official quite what the motivation behind this Russian offer was. But they do believe that these cash incentives resulted in coalition casualties. They're not clear on the date of these casualties, the nature of the casualties or the nationality indeed or their location.

But these are startling direct allegations, initially first reported by "The New York Times," citing U.S. officials.

I should point out the Taliban have denied any involvement in this (INAUDIBLE) foreigners tell them how to conduct their insurgency and the Russian embassy in Washington has put up #BlameRussia, saying they had nothing to do this at all.

The White House has responded to "The New York Times" report on this, which claims that president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence were, in fact, briefed on these intelligence reports about Russian intelligence offering rewards Taliban to attack U.S. troops. The White House denies that that briefing in fact occurred.

So there is some dispute there but certainly the allegations by "The New York Times" and by the European intelligence official that I spoke to are not directly denying this stage at the White House.

The European intelligence official I spoke to said he regarded the Russian military intelligence move as, quote, "callous," and was bewildered by their motivation.

A little more detail, too, from this official, who in fact said that the precise part of Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU that was behind this, is a unit called 291 55.

They were accused by European intelligence officials of being behind the attacks on the Skripal father and daughter in Salisbury, a British town, in early 2018. They've also been accused of other prominent attacks around Europe.

Quite why would Russia want to be behind something like this is unclear.

Are they trying to expedite the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Well, President Trump, who initially wanted to win that war, has made it very clear he wants a peace deal if he can with the Taliban and to get out. In fact, there's been advanced planning to withdraw even more troops from Afghanistan by the United States.

So a lot of questions as to why Russia would do this, if, indeed, these repeated allegations by intelligence officials are true.

[02:15:00] WALSH: And also precisely where this leaves U.S. policy in Afghanistan, also too why the president and vice president would not have been briefed as the White House says they weren't, if they received intelligence reports of this nature.

Startling revelations about the U.S.' continued presence in Afghanistan and Russia's meddling therein -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


HOLMES: This just in: one person is dead and another injured after a shooting in Louisville, Kentucky. It happened during a protest in Jefferson Square Park on Saturday evening. Officials say law enforcement performed lifesaving measures on one of the victims but he later died.

A short time later, the police received word of a second shooting victim at the nearby Hall of Justice. He was transported to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Still ahead on CNN, E.U. countries have not decided yet whether to keep U.S. travelers from coming in. COVID-19 infections mostly to blame. But there is another reason why most Americans are likely to be left out.

Plus more outrage over police violence in the U.S. Thousands in Colorado protesting the death of yet another young black man. This one, nearly a year after it happened. We will discuss.





HOLMES: Welcome back. E.U. member states have not decided yet on which international travelers to let in once the bloc reopens. Making it onto the safe country list by July the 1st all boils down to COVID- 19 infection rates.

When it comes to the U.S., well, this is what Brussels is looking at right now. Cases going way up on the bottom line there. E.U. numbers of cases. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins me now live London.

That graph is really telling as well. It shows the difference. E.U. set to meet on Monday.

What is expected?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Michael, they're expected to finalize that list of criteria. Finalize the list of banned countries. The bloc is set to reopen on July 1st, so they only have a matter of days to make these decisions. The expectation is that there will be one more meeting in Brussels and

after that the E.U. ambassadors will go back to their respective countries to finalize these decisions. On the list of banned countries most likely will be Russia, Brazil and of course, the United States.

Not on the list of banned countries, just to give you an example, is most likely China. It really gives you an idea as to how much the tables have turned on this.

This decision will be made based on the science and the data and the numbers. E.U. diplomats have been emphasizing, this is not a political decision. It is a health decision.

Look, this has been a hard won battle for the E.U. to get a grip over the coronavirus. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives across these countries. For months, people have been under lockdown, unable to see their friends, family, unable to live normal lives.

Quite simply put, the E.U. is not willing to put all of these sacrifices at risk, not willing to put the possibility of a second spike of the virus on the table. They have to be cautious, Michael, and that is why they're making these decisions.

HOLMES: Obviously, for the U.S., the reality is the reality. But it is embarrassing for the U.S. and the president.

Is there any possibility or any discussion of an exception for the U.S.?

ABDELAZIZ: Michael, to answer, it's simply, no. There will be no exceptions to these rules once they are finalized.

There are different ways in which you can cut the pie, essentially. They could look at banning certain geographical areas in the United States, based on how states are performing.

But either way you look at this, it does not look good for President Trump and his administration. It will not go over well for them to be told, essentially, we are doing better than you because that is what is happening here.

You are looking at coronavirus rates in the United States that are 6 to 7 times higher than the rates of infection here in the European Union. That will be a very humbling message to receive. And it has massive economic consequences.

Of course, millions of U.S. travelers come to the E.U. every year. But at the end of the day, the E.U. is focused here to make sure there is not a second spike of the virus. There is a reciprocity as well. The E.U. had banned U.S. travelers -- or rather, the U.S. had banned E.U. travelers about 3 months ago.

So this is very much a health decision but there is also an expectation that the United States will respond in turn -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, the facts are sobering. Salma, thank you. Thousands of people in Aurora, Colorado, are demanding justice for

Elijah McClain, a young black man, who died after being put in a chokehold by police nearly a year ago. Crowds of protesters marched up a highway on Saturday, shutting down traffic. The Aurora Police Department tweeted that the protests were peaceful. No injuries, no arrests reported.

This week, Colorado's governor announced an investigation into McClain's death. Last August, the 23 year old was stopped by three white police officers as he walked home from a convenience store, according to the police report.

An officer placed him in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground. Later paramedics administered a sedative. McClain suffered a heart attack and died three days later.

Legislators in Mississippi could be on the verge of removing the Confederate symbol from the state flag. A resolution to begin that process passed both the Mississippi statehouse and Senate on Saturday.

It's only a first step, though. The measure paves the way now for a bill to be proposed and passed that allows for change to the state flag, officially. If it passes, the governor has said he will sign it.

The great-great grandson of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Bertram Hayes-Davis, spoke to CNN on Saturday, saying he supports that move.



BERTRAM HAYES-DAVIS, GREAT-GREAT GRANDSON OF CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS: It does not represent the entire population of Mississippi. It is historic and heritage related, there are a lot of people who look at that that way and God bless them for that heritage.

So put it in a museum and honor it there or put it in your house. But the flag of Mississippi should represent the entire population. And I am thrilled that we are finally going to make that change.


HOLMES: Mississippi lawmakers have been weighing the removal of the emblem amid recent protests for racial justice.

The long-running animated sitcom, "The Simpsons," is also making changes. Producers say the show will no longer use white actors to voice nonwhite characters. It follows January's announcement that the actor Hank Azaria would no longer voice the Indian American character, Apu, who had a thick accent.

Critics say the portrayal was racist and demeaning. Other white actors have also said they would stop voicing characters of color.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, workers at one of America's most popular tourist sites rally for safer conditions when they reopen. We will tell you what they want for Disneyland.

Also, the Trump campaign changes some plans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But is anything substantial really changing?

Stay with us for those stories and more after the break.




HOLMES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.


HOLMES: California is one of those states that is seeing a surge in the coronavirus and that is putting a strain on the hospitals. The governor warning that if that continues, he could roll back some of the reopening measures.

One of the state's main tourist sites, Disneyland, was supposed to reopen next month. That is now on hold. CNN's Paul Vercammen tells us workers want big changes when the doors do open back up.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Anaheim, about 100 cars circling Disneyland. They represented some 3,000 unionized hotel workers, who want Disneyland to put in very strict safeguards when it does reopen. Here is one of the union leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) They need a comprehensive plan. It begins with testing, which they are saying no to. But they have got to tell us the details.

We asked them, what happens if a cook gets sick?

How are going to test and protect the other folks in the department?

They don't know.

How are you going to handle the increased cleaning?

They don't know.

Then, beyond that, we ask them, you need to do comprehensive regular testing, they are not willing to do it.

VERCAMMEN: Now Disneyland says it has forged deals other unions. We talked to at least one union that says it's OK with Disney's current plans to reopen under some safety measures.

Doctor Pam Heimer, the chief medical officer, she outlined some of the things Disneyland plans to do; among them, increase use of disinfectant and cleaning. Having both guests and workers wear masks, taking temperature tests from the guests as they come in and checking the temperatures of those workers when they leave for those shifts.

What remains to be seen is when will Disneyland reopen?

It's an important economic barometer in California, 21 million visitors a year, some 31,000 employees at Disneyland. And that doesn't even count the thousands and thousands of other people, who somehow get paid by their business interactions with Disney -- reporting from Southern California, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.


HOLMES: The U.S. vice president has defended holding Trump campaign rallies during the coronavirus spike but now the campaign has postponed events Mike Pence had scheduled in Florida and Arizona next week. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on coronavirus policy and politics at the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as coronavirus cases are surging nationwide, President Trump in recent days has continued to downplay the severity of the crisis and insists falsely that testing and increased testing is the reason why we are seeing these spikes in several places around the country.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that while testing is increasing, the percentage of positive cases is also rising. It shows that this is not just about testing. But while the president has downplayed the severity of this crisis publicly, we know that the president has actually been concerned privately about his potential exposure.

And with that we have also seen the protective measures around the president, measures to protect him from getting the virus have actually stepped up, in particular every venue that the president enters is now being inspected for potential areas of contagion by security and medical teams.

The bathroom that he may use during one of those events when he is traveling, scrubbed and sanitized thoroughly. And every individual around the president, who comes into contact with him, is also being tested.

That's despite the fact that the White House has actually scaled back some of its other preventative measures that don't necessarily deal directly with the president.

For example, when I walk into the White House, I've normally gotten a temperature check. That is no longer happening. Now while all of that is happening, we also know the vice president, who has himself made that same claim about testing and really tried to paint a much rosier picture of the situation in the United States than actually exists, he's also scaling back some of his plans to travel and specifically some of his plans to campaign in person.

The vice president was scheduled to travel to Florida and to Arizona for campaign events. The vice president will still be going to those states, we are told, to get an in-person briefing on the situation there.

But he is canceling campaign events that were scheduled to take place in both of those battleground states. Certainly, some changes are happening but, again, protective measures around the president tightening but the president himself, his rhetoric, certainly hasn't changed -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.



HOLMES: Ron Brownstein is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic." He joins me now from Los Angeles.

Good to see you, sir. You've tweeted in recent days regarding the coronavirus and the political impact it could have.

What is President Trump going to say when the virus keeps surging throughout the Sun Belt states, as you point out, ,states that he must win to get reelected?

He's in trouble in Arizona and Florida already.

Where is this heading?


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Today, just today, four key Sun Belt states with Republican governors following Trump's cues, who opened early, who have refused to change course as case loads have mounted and who conspicuously have blocked Democratic local officials from in any way regulating or slowing the pace of the reopening.

Those four states, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Arizona, today alone reported more than 20,000 cases. And in all of those states, the caseload is concentrated most intently in the big metropolitan centers.

That's important, Michael. The urban and suburban areas of the Sun Belt have not moved toward the Democrats nearly as much as the equivalent places in other parts of the country until Trump's election.

I look, you know, at Maricopa County, Arizona. It's the classic example; it was the largest county in America that Trump won in 2016. No Democrat has won it at a presidential level since 1948.

But in all of the polling done this spring, Trump is now trailing there by as much as double digits. And today, Maricopa passed 42,000 cases. The hospital beds are being filled and, you know, I don't think a lot of predictions but if he loses Maricopa County, there's almost no chance that he can win president.

And all of both political and public health trajectories in that county are moving in the wrong direction for him.

HOLMES: You know, there are a lot of those most affected by this virus. Blue collar people, elderly people and they're the ones that call his constituencies as, again, you've been tweeting about today.

I did want to ask you about the administration going to the Supreme Court to have ObamaCare essentially abolished.

What s the potential for that to be a major political blunder in the middle of a pandemic?

You've got 23 million people lose insurance, everyone could lose coverage of preexisting conditions and it's truly staggering, Republicans have no firm replacement, no firm alternative on the table. They never have, really.

HOLMES: I think there are 2 issues about this that are extraordinary. One, he is forcing back by this choice, in the middle of a pandemic, when people are enormously concerned about their health situation, he's forcing this debate back into the center of a political conversation.

It's an issue on which the Democrats consistently have had a 15-, 20- sometimes 25-point advantage over him in polling on who do you trust to handle health care. He has now guaranteed with this filing that this is going to be front and center for the rest of the year.

Now the other problem he's got is what you kind of alluded to when you talked about the coronavirus. To the extent Republicans have an alternative vision to ObamaCare, it's that ObamaCare requires too much sharing of risk between the young and the healthy and the old and the sick.

Their answer to bringing down health care costs is to basically unravel that and to lower costs and premium costs on people who are younger and healthier at the price of making it more expensive and more difficult for people who are older and sicker to get coverage.

Their problem, the conundrum they face, is that it is their own voters, older, working age white before they qualify for Medicare. People from 45 to 64, who are the big losers in every alternative Republicans have put forward for almost four years.

I do believe that in 2018, this was a big part of the erosion we saw for the president and his party among those blue collar white women who were so critical for him winning in 2016 and, again, if this is front and center, it is probably the most powerful wedge Democrats have to try to win back some of those culturally conservative voters, who like Trump's messaging on many other issues.

HOLMES: I mean, he spent 3.5 years saying he's going to have the best health care and protect pre-existing conditions and here we are, getting rid of all of that. It really is incredible. A lot of Republicans, meanwhile, they sort of made noises that they

want more conciliatory positions from the president, particularly on race. But then on Friday, he signs an executive order, trying to protect Confederate statues, even though laws already exist that do that. Let's not bother with that.

How worried is the GOP about the path the president is taking with an election a few months out?

BROWNSTEIN: I think they're nervous now but, boy, they have no cause to be questioning him after they essentially have been feeding him rope month after month. The president has faced no real constraint on any front from Republicans but particularly on issues of race.

I think it is unlikely the president would have been using the kind of inflammatory, racially divisive language we heard in Tulsa.


BROWNSTEIN: When he talked about kung flu and bad hombres and attacking Democratic women of color in the House.

If in fact he had faced consistent pushback from the party, over these past 3.5 years. But with very few exceptions, they have been unwilling to call him out.

And you know, they are speaking to the portion of the American electorate that is most uneasy about the way the country is changing demographically.

But as we have seen in the protests this spring, there is now a pretty clear majority of Americans, including a majority of white Americans, who are more -- of a greater consensus than in the past that there is structural racism in this society and there are things that need to change.

The president, today, released a new ad that he is trying to run as if it is 1968. It's a very different country and I think there are Republicans who are justifiably nervous about him trying to channel Richard Nixon 52 years later.

HOLMES: Always fascinating, Ron. Good to see, my friend. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

HOLMES: Ron Brownstein.


HOLMES: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, empty stadiums, plunging revenue. I'll talk to one of the nation's top sports reporters about the devastating effect coronavirus is having on your favorite team.




HOLMES: It might not be easy to get Major League Baseball back up and running. A number of Texas Rangers employees, for example, say they fear for their health and feel pressure to return to the office.

Some of the team's employees, it's not clear who, have tested positive for the virus. The club says it will adhere to medical protocols, including temperature checks and face masks.


HOLMES: Joining me now is Christine Brennan, CNN sports analyst and columnist with "USA Today" and she has twice been named one of the top 10 sports columnists in the U.S. by the Associated Press sports editors.

Had to throw that in there. Number one to all of us here at CNN.


HOLMES: Now listen, the return of sport was always going to be, you know, polarizing in regard to safety. The should they or shouldn't they.

What do you think is going to be the impact?

What has been a pretty high volume of positive tests throughout many different sports?

How is that going to impact things?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I think it's going to impact these a lot, Michael. There are a lot of uncertainties now, especially as United States is seeing this incredible spike again in cases. Especially in the South, where, for example, a lot of baseball players have been.

Especially in Florida, where the NBA is going to set up its quote- unquote "bubble" in a place where cases are skyrocketing. We have seen so much uncertainty. These leagues want and sport gives us kind of black and white, gives us decisions, gives us an answer. That's what we look for in sports.

These leagues are all up in the air. It's the (INAUDIBLE) of that. We can say they're going to start playing, they have got schedules, there's going to be some great NBA games starting out when they play, then they have playouts over a 3 month period.

But we have to say, we have to caution, if that happens, I think there is a chance right now for the NBA, for Major League Baseball, for the women's soccer league, for the WNBA, you name it.

I think there is a chance that it could become overwhelming and that an individual team might have to step aside, as we saw with the women's soccer league, with the Orlando team. Or that maybe even a league that would have to shut down again. We have no idea.

HOLMES: The thing you mentioned, the bubble with the NBA, how can you truly keep a bubble?

They are going to be down, I think, at the Disney ESPN campus in Orlando, no fans, all of that, a bubble. You can't keep everyone out of the bubble. We've already seen so many positive tests.

What is the financial impact?

You talk about the NFL, multibillion dollar league. They are currently are going to play, at least with some fans.

What do you think it's going to look like?

What should we expect for, let's say, pro football?

BRENNAN: For pro football they are talking about -- they have a few more months before games would start. They're lucky. They have a chance to watch other leagues go through some of this.

And of course, they were not interrupted back in March, as the NBA and NHL and Major League Baseball with its retraining were interrupted. They are talking about having 6-8 rows, Michael, that would be empty. The first rows in every stadium and then they would have a tarp put up and sponsors could put their logos there.

Bottom line, right now, for all sports, it's basically a TV show. For most fans, that's what it is, anyway. You turn on the TV, you watch your favorite college, pro team, whatever might be in Major League Baseball, it's a television show.

And so everything that the leagues can do to double down on that and just try to recoup some of the money and sponsors, of course, love the idea in the NFL stadium of having their name and their logo, whatever, right there, front and center.

And that's also social distancing because you can't have fans that close to the players. But the NFL wants to have fans; the NFL's also not going to be in a bubble. Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week he thought the NFL should try to be in a bubble. I'm not sure exactly what that would look like.

But you know, the NFL, as you mentioned, to me, it's kind of the ultimate irony because the NFL and social distancing are polar opposites. Football is the antithesis of social distancing and even the coach of the L.A. Rams said that last week.

We are going to have football and social distance?

How does that work?

HOLMES: Even if you try to social distance with some fans, I mean, what are going to do without the beer line and the hot dog line?

On an economic level, it seems -- but will some of these sports be crippled or will they come back?

BRENNAN: Some will be crippled. I hope women's sports are OK, but I think this could be a tough time and if they can't play this year, if by chance they have to shut down again, then I think it's going to be a devastating -- I don't think it will go away entirely.

But we can see all kinds of changes, especially in salary structure and what cities they play, to get teams with new arenas and things like that, I think we -- as I said in every way about our lives and our love of sports may change.

HOLMES: Sad times all around. Christine Brennan, fabulous to see you. Thanks so much.

BRENNAN: Michael, thank you very much.


HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back here on CNN NEWSROOM, getting creative at fighting coronavirus at the same time, masks getting more sophisticated.


HOLMES: We'll show you some of the best ones.




HOLMES: Well, we know by now that health experts say wearing a mask is critical for stopping the spread of the coronavirus and we have seen people get pretty creative and some pretty fashionable masks out there. Now innovators are taking them to the next level.

They figure if you have to wear one, it should come with benefits.


HOLMES (voice-over): Thought your mask was just there to protect you from the coronavirus?

Well, not anymore. Some creative minds have been working to make the mask do far more than just that.

Like the smart mask in Japan that can translate from Japanese into eight different languages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Japanese).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is hot today, too.

HOLMES (voice-over): This innovative idea is the brain child of Japanese startup Donut Robotics. TAISUKE ONO, DONUT ROBOTICS (through translator): It is hard to hear

what customers at the cash register of supermarkets and convenience stores are saying, because there are partitions to prevent droplets.


ONO: By wearing this mask it can improve these communications by transcribing the conversations on smartphones or delivering the sound of the voices.

HOLMES (voice-over): So how does it work?

The C mask, as it is called, fits over a regular mask and links via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet application that transcribes speech into text messages. It also makes calls and will boost the mask where it's voiced.

Donut Robotics says the mask should be available by September in Japan.

In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, some creative designers have come up with a way to identify the face behind the mask. At this print shop, Nicholas Septiemsugandhi (ph) and his employees are printing customers' faces on reusable masks, giving people an opportunity to look like themselves.

Some go as far as printing smiling faces on their masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Thanks to the face mask, we no longer look like we are sick.

HOLMES (voice-over): Here in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Chef Omar Sartawi is using eggplants to make biodegradable masks. Sartawi he uses the peels from the vegetable; it is a somewhat tedious process. A single peel could take up to two weeks to be turned into a mask.

Sartawi says the whole idea was to put a positive spin on mask wearing. He is working with Jordanian designers Princess Nejla Asem and Salam Dajani, who are using their skills to add what they call character to the masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it's basically going to be something like this.

HOLMES (voice-over): So mask wearing might be here to stay, at least for a while longer. But some innovators seem determined to make it worth our while.


HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes, thanks for your company this past hour. I will have more CNN NEWSROOM after a quick break.