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THE SITUATION ROOM

Coronavirus Cases Rising; Interview With Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Chicago Issues Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine For Travelers From 15 States Starting Monday; Local Officials Say, Young People In Alabama Holding Coronavirus Parties To Get Infected, Win Money; How Police Unions Protect Officers Fired for Bad Behavior. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 2, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:21]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, the United States has shattered another record for new coronavirus cases, more than 50,000 in just one day. That's more than the total number of cases many countries have seen since the pandemic began.

And we're following breaking news out of Texas, where the governor just ordered nearly every resident to wear a face mask in public. Hot spots like Florida, which just reported a record 10,000 new cases, are dealing with an unprecedented surge. California and Arizona are also struggling to contain the virus, which is on the rise in at least 37 states.

President Trump remains in denial, claiming the crisis is being handled. But that's not true, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who says the current spike in new cases is way beyond the worst spikes that we have seen.

We begin with CNN's Jason Carroll in New York.

Jason, new cases are on the rise just about everywhere. Give us the latest.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

From Texas to Florida, Jim, the numbers just keep getting more dire. Top health officials are calling for more testing, for more people to start wearing masks, this as doctors across the country are struggling to deal with the influx of new COVID-19 patients.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Across the country, numbers continue to surge, just today, Florida reporting more than 10,000 new cases, a new daily record high for the state.

And, tonight, this message from Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx to all young Floridians:

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So we're asking for everyone under 40 that, if you were in a gathering, please go and got tested. Please wear a mask.

CARROLL: In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order requiring Texans in counties with 20 or more COVID cases to wear face coverings in public.

Doctors there are overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 patients, so many in some parts, there are wait-list for ventilators.

DR. JEFFREY DELLAVOLPE, SAN ANTONIO METHODIST HOSPITAL: I got 10 calls, all of whom young people who otherwise would be excellent candidates to be able to put on ECMO. They -- they're so sick that, if they don't get put on, they don't get that support, they're probably going to die. I had three beds.

CARROLL: At least 23 states have changed or pause reopening plans due to spikes in COVID cases. Today, the nation's top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, telling the BBC some states may have reopened too soon.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: In the United States, even in the most strict lockdown, only about 50 percent of the country locked down. That allowed the perpetuation of the outbreak that we never did get under very good control.

CARROLL: Another top U.S. health official testifying before the House today says, the increase in numbers across the country is due to new cases, not new testing.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: There is no question that, the more testing you get, the more you will uncover. But we do believe this is a real increase in cases, because the percent positivity are going up. So this is real increases in cases.

CARROLL: For now, New Jersey is continuing some of its reopening efforts, casinos opening their doors today.

The pandemic not stopping some in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from what one city council member describes as COVID parties. City officials say tickets were sold where the first person confirmed to have contracted the virus wins cash.

SONYA MCKINSTRY, TUSCALOOSA CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I just think it's senseless. I think it's careless. And it makes me mad as hell that we're constantly trying to do everything we can to slow the spread, while they're just having a damn party, trying to spread it.

CARROLL: Just about an hour outside New York City, health officials in Rockland County investigating a new cluster of COVID cases linked to a party. County officials issuing fines and subpoenas to compel people to speak to contact tracers.

ED DAY (R), ROCKLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK, EXECUTIVE: We are deadly serious. I will not allow to have the health of our county compromised because of ignorance, stupidity or obstinance.

CARROLL: Looking ahead, Dr. Fauci bluntly asked today if the U.S. is winning the war against coronavirus.

QUESTION: You have been losing this battle, haven't you, recently?

FAUCI: Admittedly, yes, we have. We cannot give up because it appears that we're losing the battle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, Jim, Dr. Fauci also talked about the timeline on a vaccine.

He said, if everything lines up, all goes as planned, they should have some idea if they have a safe or effective vaccine sometime by winter or the very least by 2021, early 2021.

[18:05:03]

But that's again, Jim, if everything lines up -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Jason Carroll, that stark warning from Dr. Fauci, the U.S. losing the battle right now. Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

Let's get an update from Texas, where the governor just issued a mandate requiring nearly every resident to wear a mask in public.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is standing by live for us in Houston.

Lucy, tell us more about this new order.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this move is a reversal, and health officials say it couldn't come soon enough.

Governor Greg Abbott previously barred local governments from penalizing folks who did not wear these masks in public. Now wearing one of these is the law. This order applies to anyone living in a county with at least 20 coronavirus cases. That's roughly 95 percent of all Texans impacted.

He's also added in that executive order granting power to local officials to restrict public gatherings to -- of more than 10 people. Folks also have to practice -- pardon me -- social distancing, so keeping at least six feet apart from one another, all of this coming as Texas continues to break records in terms of new cases, the numbers today a little bit lower than yesterday, but just barely, nearly 8,000 new cases.

We're also seeing more than 7,300 hospitalizations across the state, and that is putting a heavy burden on the hospital resources here. A lot of the doctors that you talk to, they're worried that, even though we have this new mask rule in place, that's not going to be enough to stem the rise, especially as we enter the Fourth of July weekend -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you very much, Lucy Kafanov. We appreciate it.

Let's get expert analysis now from our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. He's the author of "Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World."

And, Sanjay, let's start with you first.

Texas broke its record of new cases in one day yesterday, and came close against, with nearly 8,000 new cases. How much do you think this mask mandate that the governor just issued is going to change things in Texas right now?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's really important that he did this. You wish that people wouldn't have to be kicking and screaming to get there.

I mean, I think it was pretty obvious what was happening in Texas. I think there's a couple points. One is, are people going to abide by it? We saw Lucy, obviously, wearing her mask there.

But going into July 4 weekend, people actually have to abide by this new mandate. I think the other part of it, Jim, is, this was supposed to be part of a strategy, right? You hear now people are more likely to need to get tested because they have been in high-risk situations.

It can take three to four hours, we're hearing, still in Texas to get tested. Many people may not do it as a result. There's still a lot of virus out there. So these are important steps, but they have to be done collectively.

And, frankly, some of this should have been done a while ago. I know we want to look forward, not look in the rear-view mirror, but we'd be much different position if Texas opened according to the gating criteria and all that. We would probably having a different discussion now.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

And, Dr. Murthy, President Trump says this crisis is -- quote -- "being handled." But as 37 states see an increase in cases, do the numbers reflect a pandemic that is under control in this country?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, it really strains credibility to say that this pandemic is under control.

The numbers speak for themselves, and they tell us that the situation is clearly getting worse. The thing to understand about COVID-19 is that this is a virus that preys on political division and poor leadership. And, unfortunately, we have seen that the politicization of wearing masks, of testing, of stay-at-home orders and other measures that we know from a public health perspective are important to take, that that has ultimately poured fuel on the fire.

Three months ago, we went to the American people, and we asked them to make extraordinary sacrifices to buy us time. And we said that we would use that time as a country to prepare, to beef up testing, to make sure we had enough contact tracers in place, to produce the masks and protective equipment that our health care workers needed.

And, sadly, what we see is that we have not gotten the job done. And now, unlike most other countries in the world that initially saw surges and then had declines because they took appropriate action, we are seeing a spike now that is getting to be worse, in fact, than what we had the first time around.

And so I do think we are losing this war, but I don't think it's too late. I think we can still go back to those basic principles that we spoke about earlier this year around people changing behaviors, wearing masks, distancing, around the government actually taking action to increase testing and tracing capacity.

We still have the ability to get our arms around this crisis, but we have got to move in a different trajectory than what we have been doing so far.

ACOSTA: And, Sanjay, you're learning more about a new form of coronavirus that was uncovered by an international study.

[18:10:00]

What could this mutation mean for the global spread of this virus and also the spread of the virus here in the U.S.?

GUPTA: Yes.

I mean, we had some glimpses of the research behind this some time ago, Jim, but, basically, there is a mutation and the virus that makes it different. It makes it more infectious, more likely to replicate within the body.

This was a version of the virus that actually seemed to come from Europe, different from the virus that came from Asia. So, even if you looked at the East Coast and West Coast of the United States, you saw different viruses, slightly different viruses because of this mutation.

I think that what people want to know when you see these mutations, which are typically, even if they're present, are minimal, is -- doesn't mean it's more lethal. And the answer that seems to be no. While it can spread more easily because it creates more virus in the body, replicates easily, it doesn't mean it's more lethal.

Also, you're -- we're trying to make a vaccine right now based on the virus that is circulating. And the question is, if it mutates more, will the vaccine be effective six, eight months down the road? And the answer that question also seems to be yes, which is good news.

The virus isn't changing enough to make a future vaccine not effective, if this vaccine is going to work.

ACOSTA: And, Dr. Murthy, you are the former U.S. surgeon general. You had this job.

And as we head into the holiday weekend, do you think administration officials should be out there addressing the public, calling on the nation to follow these guidelines? We saw some of the members of the task force down in Florida today. They were essentially talking to a Florida audience.

But, say, for example, Dr. Anthony Fauci, he was on the BBC, talking to the British, but he's not out in public talking to Americans. Does that make any sense to you?

MURTHY: Well, I think this is certainly a time, Jim, when leaders really across government, federal, state and local levels, need to be out there encouraging people to take the right steps, to essentially protect themselves and protect others.

We know, looking back the data, that what happened in Memorial Day weekend was likely one reason, one of several, why we are seeing a surge in infections now. We cannot allow the Fourth of July weekend to be another experience like that.

But that's going to require consistent messaging. It's going to require leading by example, which means our leaders need to be wearing masks and distancing as well.

To date, our response, unfortunately, as a government overall, has been too little, too late. We need to move more toward doing much more much earlier. And we have got to start doing that right now.

ACOSTA: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Vivek Murthy, we're glad the American people are listening to you. And we appreciate your time very much. Thank you.

Just ahead, more on President Trump's deep denial over the virus, as he claims the situation is -- quote -- "being handled," despite dire warnings from experts saying otherwise.

And, later, a stomach-turning trend in Alabama, where some young people are intentionally -- yes, intentionally -- trying to catch COVID for cash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:29]

ACOSTA: President Trump is brushing off the surging coronavirus pandemic, despite dire warnings from top experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Let's get more on all of that from our senior White House correspondent, Pamela brown.

Pamela, the president says everything is under control. It sure doesn't seem like it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.

Today, you saw President Trump try to keep the focus on economic gains, rather than the pandemic, the president touting the jobs numbers, trying to convey that everything is under control, even as the United States saw a record spike in COVID cases and as administration officials, people in his own administration, sound the alarm heading into the holiday weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): President Trump choosing to ignore rising coronavirus numbers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The crisis is being handled.

BROWN: Instead taking a victory lap over rising job numbers today.

TRUMP: This is not just luck, what's happening. This is a lot of talent.

BROWN: As coronavirus cases across the country continue to surge, hitting single-day records in some states, Trump insists the pandemic is -- quote -- "under control."

TRUMP: We're putting out the fires. But other places were long before us. And they're now -- it's a life. It's got a life. And we're putting out that life, because that's a bad life that we're talking about.

BROWN: Sources say there's a divide emerging in Trump's inner circle over whether the president should turn his attention to the virus or continue to message on the economy.

Several top aides, worrying about Trump's reelection chances, think he should stay the course on the economy, something Trump showcased today.

TRUMP: You're going to have a fantastic third quarter. The good thing is, the numbers will be coming out just prior to the election, so people will be able to see those numbers.

BROWN: But Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, slamming Trump over his economic celebration.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Make no mistake. We're still in a deep, deep job hole, because Donald Trump has so badly bungled the response to the coronavirus.

BROWN: The president's handling of coronavirus will be under scrutiny come November, and his delay in calling for mask squaring has helped keep the issue politically charged. Now, with top Republicans embracing masks, sources say it's adding

pressure on the president to change his tone, Trump briefly mentioning wearing a mask today as a best practice.

TRUMP: That includes face coverings, social distancing, testing, and personal hygiene. Wash your hands.

BROWN: The president doesn't wear a mask in public, but, on Wednesday, he claimed he had no problem wearing one.

TRUMP: I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger. But, no, I have no problem with that. I think -- and if people feel good about it, they should do it.

[18:20:01]

BROWN: And while Trump has claimed the increase in coronavirus numbers is due to increased testing...

TRUMP: We test, we're going to have more cases.

BROWN: ... today, top health officials in his administration testified, that's not true.

GIROIR: We do believe this is a real increase in cases, because the percent positivities are going up.

BROWN: Today, Vice President Pence is visiting Florida and meeting with Governor Ron DeSantis, as the state reports 10,000 new cases, a new single-day record.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economic comeback that's under way is a demonstration that we don't have to choose between opening up America and the health of our people. We can do both. And that's the challenge that we face today across the Sunbelt.

BROWN: The president is pressing ahead with plans to travel to Mount Rushmore tomorrow, where thousands are expected to attend. But masks and social distancing will not be required.

TRUMP: It's going to be a fireworks display like few people have seen.

BROWN: But the president is still dealing with fallout from his last trip. A campaign rally in Tulsa resulted in several staffers and Secret Service agents testing positive. Today, we're learning that campaign surrogate Herman Cain, who attended that Tulsa rally, has been hospitalized with coronavirus, although it's not known where he contracted it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And the Trump campaign spokesman told CNN that Cain did not meet with Trump at that rally and that contact tracing was conducted after the rally.

But this latest news raises fresh questions about the rally and how safe it is for the president to return to the campaign trail, as he trails -- finds himself trailing in the polls against Biden -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Absolutely right.

Pamela Brown, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent John Harwood, our political correspondent Abby Phillip for more analysis.

John, President Trump says this crisis is being handled. What's your sense of how he's handling things right now?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's plainly chosen, Jim, not to lead on this issue. And you saw that from the news conference that Pam just reported about. I was there.

The president emphasized the strong jobs numbers today, 4.8 million people added to payrolls in the last month. That is outstanding news. Every American should be happy about it.

But the resurgence of the coronavirus threatens to reverse economic gains. That's a huge problem. That's why states in much of the country are pulling back on their reopenings.

The president made only that cursory reference to face coverings. He didn't emphasize it. He -- neither he nor his Treasury secretary, Mnuchin, nor economic adviser Larry Kudlow wore a mask when they came out.

Contrast that with Greg Abbott, the very conservative Trump-friendly governor of Texas today, who did a 180, reversed course, and mandated masks, which he had previously refused to do it, and, in fact, prevented local officials from mandating them.

That is because Greg Abbott knows his state is in crisis right now. And the president barely alluded to the problem.

ACOSTA: No question. And that's a remarkable turnaround down there in Texas.

Abby, Dr. Fauci says we're seeing the worst spikes yet. But the White House is describing these outbreaks as embers. They really have to retire that term embers right now, don't they?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they really do need to probably spend more time talking to Dr. Fauci about what's going on.

I mean, when you heard the president talking about this, he -- this morning, he seemed to describe the coverage of what's happening around the country as an exaggeration and fake news from the media. He seems disconnected from what is actually happening on the ground in terms of the medical situation, and then the corresponding economic fallout from that.

The situation is not under control, contrary to what President Trump is saying. And Dr. Fauci could not be more clear about the fact that he believes that we have -- we are on the verge, potentially, of losing control of this pandemic, and that, if there isn't a really strong course correction at this point, we may run out of time.

And I think that's what you're seeing many of these Republican governors responding to. Texas is incredibly important, because that was one of the very first places to try to reopen as quickly as possible. Now they are seeing the consequences of that.

And Greg Abbott is making a sharp course correction. That is a signal to President Trump that he should not view what is happening on the ground as some kind of effort to hurt him politically. These are real people who are now being hospitalized, many of them younger and younger, by the day.

And the result of this is going to mean the country will have to close back up again in order to save lives.

ACOSTA: And, John Harwood, another major development today, Herman Cain, who attended the president's rally just a few weeks ago, the former presidential candidate, is now hospitalized with coronavirus.

Is the Trump campaign acknowledging the dangers of these events? We were hearing earlier that they did contact tracing. The Trump campaign is claiming that. But we're hearing from our Jeremy Diamond that Paris Dennard, who is photographed in that picture right there behind Herman Cain, told CNN he has not been informed -- he had not been informed about Cain's positive diagnosis or his hospitalization earlier today.

[18:25:11]

HARWOOD: Jim, they're plainly acknowledging the danger. They did that by requiring people who attended that rally to sign a waiver of liability in case they got sick.

Now, the people of Tulsa acknowledged the danger themselves by in many cases staying away from that rally. The arena was only one-third full. We can tell that Americans in very large numbers are still alarmed by the state of the virus.

It's interesting. The NFL indicated today -- or one of the teams at the NFL indicated that people, fans would have to sign a waiver of liability if they decide to go to an NFL game this fall.

It's going to be a very interesting experiment to see how many people want to go to Trump rallies or NFL games so badly that they're willing to assume the risk of coronavirus and overcome the fears that they plainly have of this mushrooming pandemic.

ACOSTA: And, Abby, obviously, we want to see Herman Cain recover fully from what has happened to him, catching the coronavirus.

But when you look at that picture of Herman Cain in the crowd at that Tulsa rally, and you see these faces around him -- this is from his Twitter feed -- obviously, these folks were not social distancing. They look like they're having a good time there. But they were not social distancing, taking cues from the president, taking cues from the Trump campaign.

This is a visual reminder of how this is just a mess, cramming people into confined spaces like that.

PHILLIP: Yes.

It's almost a visual reminder of the consequences of denialism. I mean, I think, if you don't believe in the science about how wearing a mask reduces your risk, if you don't understand or believe that being indoors is different from being outdoors and being in such close quarters is more dangerous than other alternatives, then you're going to put yourself at greater risk.

And I do think that there is a need for the White House and for the president to convey to the American public that there is -- that people have to make choices about what kinds of risks they want to take on, and that this virus is very dangerous.

It's very unfortunate. Herman Cain is hospitalized right now. That is a very serious thing. And it signals that his degree of illness is more significant. He's not riding this out at home.

I do think that this is an opportunity for the administration, for Republicans at large to send a very clear message to the public, young and old: It is a dangerous virus, they should be careful, and that there are things that are that are very, very risky.

Being indoors in a campaign rally, shoulder to shoulder with people, like you see them in that photo, is not a safe kind of activity to do. But you do not hear that coming from the leaders, particularly in the White House. You're hearing it now more from folks on Capitol Hill, who have to report back to their constituents in their individual states, where they're seeing these rises and they're hearing from their constituents who are concerned.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

OK. Abby Phillip, John Harwood, thank you so much for that.

Just ahead: The governor of Texas just ordered residents to wear a mask in public. Did the mandate come too late for hospitals already on the brink? I will ask a doctor on the front lines of the crisis.

And ahead: Some young people in Alabama -- get this -- are intentionally trying to get sick with the coronavirus. Why? We don't know. We're hoping to find out.

But stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

ACOSTA: We have breaking news coming into The Situation Room from Chicago. The city is going to require travelers from 15 states to quarantine for 14 days. The order in Chicago goes into effect on Monday.

And more breaking news, Texas Governor Greg Abbot now requiring residents in his state to cover their faces in public. Let's bring in an expert on the frontlines of the crisis, Dr. Marc Boom, he's the CEO and President of Houston Methodist Hospital, where you are doing amazing work. Our hats off to your team down there.

Dr. Boom, how far will this new order on masks go in addressing the crisis in your state, do you think?

DR. MARC BOOM, CEO & PRESIDENT, HOUSTON METHODIST: Thanks, Jim. What I am going to say, I am absolutely elated that this order was put out today. We've been looking for something that we can help to bend the curve with. We had had a number of things sequentially happen over the last couple weeks. So I think this is critically important. I applaud Governor Abbot and I'm really grateful to him for doing this.

And it's not just this. He also limited the size of gatherings to ten or fewer. That is something we've really wanted in place as well particularly with the 4th of July coming up. If Memorial Day was when we really put them, you know, essentially logs on the fire that really started the problem, I think in Texas we were worried about fuel being dumped on the fire over the weekend.

We actually had a chance to have it be like a garden hose starting to hit the fire and actually slowing things down because people need to stay home. People need to just celebrate with their immediate family, not -- and when I mean immediate family, I mean, their household only. And this order really helps that happen tremendously. It's something we've been urging and it's something as we urge the public to say stay home this weekend, just stay with your immediate household only.

[18:35:03]

ACOSTA: And just how dire is the situation in Texas right now? We've heard people in the administration describe what is happening in some of the states around the country like Texas as embers. But this seems like it's much more serious than embers. How dire is the situation in Texas right now?

BOOM: Yes, dire is not a word that I would use for that. And let me tell you the situation in Houston, and you probably learned (ph) that with the most infections. The virus is spreading uncontrollably right now. That's, I think, you know, clear-cut. We're seeing this spread throughout every community. We are seeing it spread through vulnerable communities. And we are seeing the result of that right now with lots of hospitalizations.

So to give you an idea on our hospital on Memorial Day, we had 104 people in house. Now, we have over 500 or so in-house, and that's a pretty substantial change. But we have 2,400 beds and we've got heroic men and women working hard to make sure that those beds are available and can be converted to COVID patients, all the different things we can to accommodate that.

We can bend this curve now. And now is the time. And that's why I am so thrilled about this order today. And I'm thrilled about the opportunity to have everybody staying home over the 4th of July weekend.

If we don't though, you know two, three, four weeks, things are going to be really extraordinarily challenging in Houston. So the time is now to act and that's what we've been urging the citizens. Our hospital system, Houston Methodist, we've taken out for wraps on the newspaper all weekend, billboards up all over town, massive social media campaign to say, stay home with your immediate home unit, and really just your household for the 4th of July. Let's end this together now and stop this now.

ACOSTA: That's a very good message, Dr. Marc Boom. We hope we can do it down in Texas and all over this country. Thanks very much for joining us, we appreciate that.

And just ahead, I'll speak with an expert about so-called coronavirus parties. Yes, you heard that right, coronavirus parties, where young people are trying to catch the disease for a chance to win money. It's an awful idea. We'll talk about it more after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

ACOSTA: And local officials in Alabama are warning of a disturbing new trend, parties where young people intentionally expose themselves to the coronavirus for a chance to win money. Let's discuss with Erin Bromage, a Biology Professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a CNN contributor.

Erin, help us figure this one out. People are having parties in Alabama. It's a competition where people try to catch the coronavirus in order to win money. It sounds like something out of a movie like you wouldn't believe it but it is taking place. What is your reaction to this and just how dangerous it is?

ERIN BROMAGE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is just a level of recklessness that I've never experienced or never heard of before in my life. I really -- I don't understand the logic behind doing this.

ACOSTA: And based on what we know about how this virus spreads, how likely is it that someone will contract the virus after attending a party like this? Is it likely? Is it pretty likely? It sounds like it's very likely.

BROMAGE: Well, if they have a known infected person at the party and they are having a competition to see who is the first one infected from them. I assume that social distancing is broken down. I assume that they are drinking out of the same glasses and this -- it is highly likely if this person is infectious, that there will be multiple other people infected at that party.

ACOSTA: And let's say someone did contract the virus at one of these parties, if they then return home, do their families go to the grocery store, meet up with friends, how far could the tentacles of this virus reach? I mean, this is what we've been trying to hammer home for weeks now, that young people are going to bars and congregating in crowded places, can go home to their grandparents, for example, somebody with a preexisting condition and get them sick. What are the dangers here? Can you lay them out for us?

BROMAGE: Well, what to say is let's ignore that part for now. This is not a free pass for someone under the age of 40. We know that roughly 1 in 25 people that is under the age of 40 that becomes infected will end up in a hospital. So they're in the hospital because they can't breathe, they're not getting enough oxygen into their blood, many of the other symptoms that go with it. And then of those people that end up in the hospital, 5 percent of them die.

So it's not a free pass doing this. This is a level of risk to them that I don't understand. But, yes, they go home and they go to work. They go and visit their two-year-old niece, they go and visit their grandfather and the tentacles go out. But it hits that vulnerable population that can't defend themselves as efficiently as younger person can and we end up with these horrible situations of where people are becoming sick and dying. This can lead to something quite hurtful to not only themselves but to family members in the rest of the community.

ACOSTA: And if someone isn't concerned about their own health they should, the very least, be concerned about the health of others. I mean, that goes without saying. But do scientists, people like yourself who were studying this, is there a way to account for people who are just acting out of pure recklessness and how that affects the data, how that affects tracking this disease and tracing it when people contract the virus?

[18:45:18]

ERIN BROMAGE, BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH: So, when you start talking about tentacles, we know from a case in South Korea, a single case in South Korea spread out to 4,800 people. So, we know those tentacles can go really far. It can have these reverberations right through the community and it is impossible to predict how bad that it can become if it is being engaged in by younger people.

It's just -- I have a hard time getting my head around what they've actually done.

ACOSTA: Yeah. It's time to ground these kids I think. That might be one of the answers to it.

All right. Erin Bromage, thanks very much for joining us and giving us that perspective. We appreciate it.

Just ahead, a CNN investigation into police unions. Are the powerful organizations in some cases thwarting accountability for officers and preventing real reform in the communities they serve?

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[18:50:57]

ACOSTA: Nationwide protests against police brutality are putting pressure on local law enforcement leaders to reform their departments, but it's the police unions that ultimately shield many misbehaving officers from accountability.

Our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has been digging into this.

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DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The words coming out of this San Antonio police officer's mouth are awful.

A young black man in a San Antonio, Texas mall, in 2018 is being arrested for trespassing. When he asks why, the officer says this.

POLICE OFFICER: For being a (AUDIO DELETED)

GRIFFIN: As shocking as it sounds, the bigger shock is the officer is still on the job.

So is an officer who uncuffed a man and challenged him to a fistfight.

An officer who tried to give a homeless man a sandwich made of feces had his firing overturned. It took a second poop incident to get rid of him.

POLICE OFFICER: You react, I react.

GRIFFIN: These officers and many others were fired and all got their jobs back thanks to a police union contract and state law that leaves final punishment of law officers in the hands of an arbitrator, who is often chosen in a way that favors the police.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has had enough.

MAYOR RON NIRENBERG, SAN ANTONIO: These are crimes of morale turpitude and you would expect in any profession that bears the weight of public accountability that this would be a one and done type of offense. Yet the cases in which the chief's discipline has been clear, has been overturned in this arbitration hearings. And people are rightly outraged by it.

GRIFFIN: Fired San Antonio police officers were able to get their jobs back in 42 percent of the cases that went through arbitration. That includes one cop who is reportedly fired six times.

NIRENBERG: It's egregious.

STEPHEN RUSHIN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO: San Antonio is one of the most deferential to law enforcement interests.

GRIFFIN: Loyola University professor Stephen Rushin analyzed more than 650 police union contracts. RUSHIN: We have many bad deals with police unions, bad deals that make

it difficult for us to investigate police misconduct.

GRIFFIN: The bad deals, according to Rushin, include giving the officer 48 hours or longer before being questioned, allowing officers to see all of the evidence before being questioned, ignoring an officer's past disciplinary actions and in some cases banning any discipline where complaints aren't filed in a timely fashion.

L. SONG RICHARDSON, DEAN AND CHANCELLOR'S PROFESSOR OF LAW, UC IRVINE SCHOOL OF LAW: And, frankly, police unions have much more protection than other governments or other public unions.

GRIFFIN: Case in point, Minneapolis. The officer charged with murdering George Floyd had a long history of complaints but was still on the force. A CNN analysis found just 1.5 percent of the thousands of complaints filed against Minneapolis police in recent years resulted in any serious discipline.

R.T. RYBAK, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR: I have seen too much.

GRIFFIN: Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak fought his city's police union for years.

RYBAK: It is a time right now for elected officials to stop treating them like a traditional union.

GRIFFIN: The unions, of course, tell a different story.

Detective Mike Helle is president of San Antonio's police officer's association.

MIKE HELLE, SAN ANTONIO POLICE OFFICER'S ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: Is police reform necessary? Sure it is. Do we need to have transparency? You bet we do.

We should always have transparency in our police department. But the only thing that we are and have negotiated for and we continue to hope for, is that we just have a fair process, right?

GRIFFIN: Helle believes the current contract is fair, the state protections for police are balanced and told us there is currently not a single bad cop on the San Antonio police force.

HELLE: There's nobody that wants bad cops in our department.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Do you believe him that the union does not want these bad cops on the force?

NIRENBERG: I want to believe him. But until these provisions change, then we are left in a situation where it looks like the union politics is against the general public's best interests.

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[18:55:11] GRIFFIN: Jim, state and federal laws are being changed around the country. That is easier to do, experts say, than changing these union contracts. Right now, Minneapolis police union contract under negotiations. San Antonio's begins next year -- Jim.

ACOSTA: An important story, Drew Griffin, thank you very much.

And more news just ahead.

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