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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Heading to Mount Rushmore; Interview With Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; Interview With Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Florida Leads U.S. In Average Daily New Cases; Interview with Mayor Dan Gelber (D-FL), Miami Beach; Washington Redskins to Review Team Name. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 3, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

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. And this is a SITUATION ROOM special report.

We are following breaking news. President Trump is on the way to an event for the Fourth of July, a celebration at Mount Rushmore, where more than 7,000 people are expected to gather, with optional mask wearing.

And as you can see for yourself in this picture, zero social distancing, those chairs zip-tied together. The coronavirus pandemic is surging here in the United States, with more than 52,000 new cases in just one day. That is a record high. At least 36 states are struggling with rising case counts, as Americans head into the holiday weekend.

But President Trump is just about silent about all of that, instead planning to focus his Mount Rushmore speech on stoking the culture wars, as he often does. A campaign source tells CNN we can expect to hear the president complain about efforts to -- quote -- "tear down" our history.

CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from Manhattan Beach in California just outside of Los Angeles.

Nick, the virus is looming this holiday weekend. And many local officials have already decided to shut down beaches like the one behind you. What's the latest?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim.

A lot of beaches across California have been closed for the weekend. Also, you're no longer allowed anywhere in this state to sing in church, and three cities around here also just said they will start fining people who don't wear masks when they're out and about.

West Hollywood, first offense, 300 bucks. There are a lot of people now doing whatever they can to make sure that we do not see a spike after Independence Day like the spike we saw after Memorial Day. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Florida now leading the nation in new cases every day, as the U.S. heads into the holiday weekend.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The most important thing I would say to people is, if you do go out to a gathering or in public, please wear a face covering.

WATT: Beaches will be open again in New York City for the Fourth, but closing down and again in parts of Texas, across much of Southern California, the Bay Area and South Florida, off-limits in Miami Beach.

And the mayor's message?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: The hardest thing to deal with are these mixed messages coming from the state and the federal government and from the president. We're telling people that there's nothing more American than making a sacrifice by staying home.

WATT: Wednesday, more than 50,000 new cases across this country for the first time. Yesterday, it happened again.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've implemented an aggressive strategy.

WATT: The president says it's just more testing news. It's not. So, what is it?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, it's very difficult to say that this particular demonstration or that particular rally or that particular holiday at a beach did it, but something happened to make the spike go way up like that.

WATT: And different states, different stories. In Arizona, more people are now being killed by COVID-19 than ever before. Vermont hasn't had a COVID-19 patient in the ICU for nearly six weeks, while, in parts of Texas, we're told there are now waiting lists for ICU beds.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): If people gather on the Fourth of July the same way they did Memorial Day, it is going to lead to a massive increase in the number of people testing positive. And it could lead, once again, to an increase in the number of people who lose their lives.

WATT: He's finally mandated masks for most Texans.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Unfortunately, I think that the cow is out of the barn. I think we are a little too late. I mean, this is a measure that should have been instituted months ago.

WATT: Still, Texas making that move might be a watershed moment.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: I hope that every government every state takes notice and says, in one of the most conservative, freedom-loving states that would be the last place you would expect can do it, then it's really OK to say, let's put public health first.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: So, everybody, of course -- well, most of us hoping that baseball will, indeed, be back later this month.

Today, we just got the test results of the tests everybody involved had to take going in. Among them, 38 people tested positive; 31 of those were players, and those positive tests coming from 19 different clubs -- Jim.

ACOSTA: That is just incredible. All right, Nick Watt, thank you very much for that.

Let's get an update on the situation in Florida, which currently leads the nation in new cases of the coronavirus.

CNN's Randi Kaye joins us.

Randi, what's the concern as we head into the holiday weekend? I suppose it's this spiking caseload.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim. The concern is more spread and more spike. Florida now averages more cases per day than any other state in the country. They certainly don't want to see the spike that they saw after Memorial Day once again now on July 4 holiday.

[18:05:02]

Young people are really the ones who are getting sick. So, you can expect them to be out and about this holiday weekend; 25-to-34-year- olds making up 20 percent of the state's cases, in fact.

The median age right now in this state is 37 years old for those getting the virus. It used to be 65. In fact, there are 7,000 minors in the state of Florida who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

You're probably asking, well, what's the governor doing about it? He is not putting out a statewide mask mandate. He is not closing the beaches statewide. So, counties are taking it upon themselves.

If you look over my shoulder here, that's Palm Beach here in Palm Beach County. That beach would normally be crowded, very crowded on this holiday weekend. Instead, it will be closed. So will the beaches in Broward County just south of here and Miami-Dade further south of here.

But then you have Volusia County that will be tracking with drones. They will remain open. And Jacksonville Beach will be open, where the mayor says that it's the bars, not the beaches, that really spread this virus. And one grim note, Jim, to point out here is, we are getting more information about this 11-year-old boy from Miami-Dade County who passed away from coronavirus. That is the youngest person in this state. He was severely compromised, we have learned. Still unclear -- he wasn't traveling, so it's still unclear how he got that virus, Jim.

ACOSTA: But still very sad news.

OK, Randi Kaye, thank you very much for that.

Let's get some expert medical analysis from Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine and former U.S. Surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy. He is the author of "Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World."

Dr. Murthy, let me start with you first. You have described this as a perfect storm, the U.S. seeing its highest single day of new cases as the holiday weekend approaches. Just how bad do you fear this could get? Could we see things spike even more?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, thank you, Jim.

I'm deeply concerned about where we are in this pandemic. You know, we are certainly seeing more cases than we have ever seen. We are setting records, multiple records this week for new cases.

But I fear that this could, in fact, get worse. We have heard Dr. Fauci tell us that he would not be surprised if we saw more than 100,000 cases a day, which is almost double where we are today. And so things can absolutely get worse.

But here's the good news, is, the ability to stop the spread or at least slow the spread of this virus is actually within our hands. The decisions we make about staying home, avoiding unnecessary contact with others, the decision we make to wear a mask when we go out, to distance from other people, to wash our hands, avoid touching our faces, avoid crowds, these are the kind of decisions that will help us reduce the spread of the virus and that will buy us the time we need to ultimately get a vaccine.

ACOSTA: And, Dr. Hotez, the president is traveling to a larger public event as we speak, with no distancing protocols for tonight.

How dangerous is not only this event, but is the example that the president is setting?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, clearly, this is not a time to be holding gatherings.

We are in a steep acceleration right now in the United States. We were at 40,000 last week, 50,000 now. We will be at 60,000 by next week easily. In fact, if you look at the numbers in Florida, Texas and Arizona, on a per-person basis, we're more or less there at that 100,000 mark.

So, Dr. Fauci proposed it as an apocalyptic prediction. That's already happening right now in multiple Southern states in the U.S. So we cannot be holding big gatherings, especially with people in defiance of wearing masks and that sort of thing.

And here's here's where I think we need to head. I mean, certainly, all of the behavior changes that Dr. Murthy has pointed out, he's absolutely right. The issue is, without that federal road map and guidance pushing on it, I don't think it's going to happen at a substantive enough level.

Just by leaving it to the states or to local health departments, I don't think it's going to work. And the evidence of that is, the numbers are already continuing to accelerate.

So, we will need now national guidance and a road map to say at, OK, at what point do we have to do even more aggressive measures in terms of shutdowns and other big picture initiatives?

And also waiting for the vaccine, that's not a viable strategy. We already know that probably, based on what we're seeing, a lot of the vaccines will only be partially protective, not completely protective. They may reduce disease, but they probably, at least some of the early ones, will not interrupt transmission.

So vaccines are not going to be a magic solution. They will be companion technologies that will help, but they will not be magic replacement technology.

So, we need serious federal leadership to guide us through the next couple of years. Otherwise, we will continue to spiral in terms of cases, and it will affect the economy as well, I'm sorry to say.

[18:10:02]

ACOSTA: And, Dr. Murthy, speaking of that, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams today refused to say people should avoid large Fourth of July celebrations, instead saying people need to make up their own minds.

If you were still serving as the surgeon general, would that be your message?

MURTHY: Well, my message would be to absolutely avoid crowds.

The truth is, we know that this is a virus it spreads very easily. We also know it's far deadlier than the flu. And what we need to do is avoid what we saw on Memorial Day weekend, where we had people gathering in large groups and facilitating the spread of the virus.

One of the real challenges that we have had in this country, if you think back three, four, months ago, when before coronavirus had arrived here in the large numbers that we saw in New York City, we were asking the question, are we going to be like South Korea or Italy, with a notion that South Korea had done fairly well and Italy did poorly?

It turns out we ended up being worse than both. And this was a product of poor leadership and mixed messaging. Unfortunately, that's led us to the place that we are now. But we can correct that.

We can -- even though we have lost far more lives than we should have, and we can't get those lives back, we can...

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: Do you think we will correct it, though?

(CROSSTALK)

MURTHY: ... safeguard -- I'm sorry?

ACOSTA: Do you think we will correct that?

MURTHY: Well, I'm hoping that we will. But I'm not 100 percent confident, based on what I'm hearing today from our political leaders, that we're doing it fast enough. We're absolutely not.

But this is where our shortcomings have been. It's -- we have had failed leadership. We have had poor messaging. And that has led to people not taking the precautions they need and unnecessary death.

ACOSTA: All right, Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Vivek Murthy, that's all the time we have for this moment.

But we will get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you so much for all of that. And I hope you stay safe this holiday weekend. We appreciate it.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

MURTHY: Thank you. You too, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right.

Just ahead, we will have a live report from Mount Rushmore, where President Trump is expected to welcome a crowd more than 7,000 people with no social distancing. We're also learning more about the speech he plans to give tonight.

A source tells us we can expect the president to keep stoking the cultural wars.

Stay with us. This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:16:33]

ACOSTA: In the breaking news: President Trump is on his way to Mount Rushmore, where will he will join a crowd of more than 7,000 people for a Fourth of July celebration.

Social distancing will not be possible. And masks are optional tonight. We also expect the president to stoke the cultural wars during his speech, accusing the left-wing, as he calls it, in this country of trying to tear down our history, is how the campaign is describing it.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on that.

And, Jeremy, this doesn't exactly line up with the guidance from his own Coronavirus Task Force.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does not, Jim.

The CDC doesn't say anything about bringing thousands of people together with no social distancing. In fact, they say the opposite. And then, as far as the content of the speech, Jim, if you were expecting something unifying on the Fourth of July, it does not appear that that's the direction that the president is headed.

Instead, a campaign official telling me that the president is going to tell us the truth about America's history, and he will tell the truth about those trying to tear it down and divide our country.

So, clearly there, Jim, very similar comments to what we have heard from the president over the last week as it relates to these Confederate monuments.

But, again, Jim, in the background of all of this, what really matters here is what's happening with this coronavirus pandemic. And, Jim, it is worsening, not getting any better.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is doing the exact opposite of what many health experts advise, drawing a crowd of thousands to celebrate Independence Day at Mount Rushmore, even as coronavirus case hit new records.

Up to 7,500 people are expected, many of them sitting shoulder to shoulder, as Trump speaks in the shadow of four former presidents.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): We will be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one, but we won't be social distancing.

DIAMOND: Just like at the president's recent campaign rally, masks won't be required. After a week spent defending Confederate monuments, Trump will continue stoking the culture wars at Mount Rushmore, warning about efforts to tear down our history and accusing a left- wing mob of trying to divide our country, according to a Trump campaign aide familiar with the speech.

As Trump continues to participate in large gatherings, the surgeon general, Jerome Adams, wavered on whether others should do the same.

QUESTION: Would you advise someone to go to a large gathering, yes or no?

ADAMS: Well, Craig, it's not a yes or no. Every single person has to make up their own mind. They have to look at their individual risk. As you mentioned, CDC says larger gatherings are a higher risk. You have to take that into account.

DIAMOND: But the White House's coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, this week sending a different message: Avoid crowds.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: In addition to the handwashing and the social distancing, wearing masks and not having large gatherings inside, not having large gathering outside, but if you have participated in a large gathering in the last four weeks, we ask all of you to come forward and be tested.

DIAMOND: Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence forced to delay a trip to Arizona this week, after eight members of his Secret Service detail tested positive for coronavirus, just the latest instance of Secret Service personnel testing positive or being forced to quarantine.

And while Dr. Anthony Fauci warns...

FAUCI: So, we're setting records practically every day of new cases in the numbers that are reported. That clearly is not the right direction.

DIAMOND: ... President Trump insists the virus is getting under control.

TRUMP: And the crisis is being handled.

[18:20:03]

DIAMOND: Falsely claiming there is a rise in coronavirus cases because our testing is so massive and so good.

The reality? Infections rising in 36 states with 52,000 new cases on Thursday alone, a new record expert say is not caused by increased testing.

And despite criticizing his predecessor for golfing amid a crisis, the president today did just that, hitting the links for his 365th day at a Trump property since becoming president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND: And, Jim, we are now learning that eight Secret Service agents who traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this week for a trip by the vice president, today, we learned that they had tested positive.

Now we are learning that they are also holed up, quarantined in a hotel in Phoenix. And, Jim, that is leading to concern among agents in the Secret Service, according to CNN sources, about these unnecessary trips that the vice president and the president are taking, according to some of those sources.

And I asked the vice president's office whether or not they plan on scaling back the vice president's travel, in light of these positive tests. So far, they have not responded to our request for comment -- Jim. ACOSTA: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much for that.

Our senior correspondent, Joe Johns, is standing by at the site of President Trump's Mount Rushmore event.

Joe, what do we expect to hear from the president tonight? And what do we expect to see?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with the see part first, Jim.

Take a look down on the lower level. You can see a lot of people here. The president is still about two-and-a-half-hours out, and it's very possible the Park Service is going to reach that 7,500 ceiling that they said they might reach here.

So, the first observation about this crowd, number one, there aren't a lot of people wearing face coverings. And even though face coverings are optional, we were told, if people wanted face coverings, they could certainly get them from the government.

It doesn't even appear that people are asking for them. And the second thing is about social distancing. We knew that the governor of South Dakota had said there would not be social distancing at the site.

What we did not know is that there would be situations where people could not social distance. And that's because, if you look at some of the seating, especially up here on the upper level in the amphitheater for Rushmore, there are black folding seats that are connected, rows and rows of them, with essentially twists that tie them together into rows.

And why in the world would you do that in the age of coronavirus? It turns out there's state fire code that says you have to have loose seats like this together in big gatherings, because, if there's a fire, if there's a storm, the problem is, people get up and run for the exits. Those seats could get in the way.

The other thing I have to point out, fire is a real concern here, because there are going to be fireworks. This is the first fireworks show scheduled to happen at the mountain in 11 years. Many concerns that something could happen.

Authorities want to keep everybody safe here -- Jim, back to you.

ACOSTA: And we hope they do.

All right, Joe Johns, thank you very much for that.

Let's get reaction from our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and the former Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.

Secretary Shulkin, thanks for being with us. Nia, thanks for being with us. Secretary Shulkin, you were responsible for the health of America's

veterans under President Trump. What goes through your mind when you see the president go ahead with another huge event with no social distancing? And do you believe him when he says that the virus is under control?

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Well, Jim, even when I worked for President Trump, I never took my medical advice from him.

And I advise people not to take their medical advice from politicians in general. That's pretty safe to say. So, as a physician, I just can't advise anybody to be in large gatherings without physical distancing, without wearing masks.

I'm extremely concerned about that. And I'm hoping that maybe we're going to hear a new message, a surprise message, which says, for Independence Day, it's time for this country to regain its independence from this virus by starting to act with unity and understanding that this virus needs to be respected, with wearing face masks and with physical distancing.

ACOSTA: And, Nia-Malika Henderson, this event is supposed to be celebrating the country's independence, but the president is expected to blame what they describe as the left for tearing down the country's history and dividing us, is how the campaign is describing it.

What does that say about his priorities right now?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think we know what the president's priorities are going into trying to get a second term.

[18:25:02]

I mean, he's essentially focused on race-baiting, right? People like to call it a culture war euphemistically, but he's really just wrapping himself in the Confederate flag, even as Southern states look to distance themselves from these Confederate monuments, Confederate figures, taking down the Confederate flag from the Mississippi flag, for instance, as well as taking some of these statues down in states, in cities all across the South.

So this is the president's goal here really to be a divisive figure, really to stoke our racial animus among Americans, really to paint black and brown Americans as somehow a danger to other Americans, white Americans.

So, it's unfortunate that is the president's goal here. It's something we obviously saw in 2016 and throughout his presidency, and it's something that he thinks now is his best ticket to get reelected, to rally particularly white voters to his side.

And he's doing that by really wrapping himself in a terrible history that this country is obviously trying to move past and right some of those past wrongs. ACOSTA: And, Secretary Shulkin, today, the surgeon general would not

even say whether Americans should attend events like the president's event tonight in South Dakota.

As a former member of the administration, do you think current members of the Cabinet are scared to contradict the president? I mean, if you were there, would he even listen to your advice?

SHULKIN: Well, Jim, the job of the surgeon general should be to tell the American people the facts.

And this is really clear that the facts are that being in large gatherings and not distancing and not wearing masks is certainly not a good idea.

And I do think it is important for everybody who serves in government and has responsibility to speak out to say what they believe. Whether the president chooses to listen to that is something that is very hard to control. But it's your obligation to give that advice to the American people. There's no question about that.

ACOSTA: And, Nia-Malika Henderson, we were hearing earlier today, we have been reporting today that experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci are just being blocked by the White House. They're not granting interview requests for Dr. Fauci and some of the others on the Coronavirus Task Force.

What does that do, when the public can't hear from experts like Dr. Fauci in this country?

HENDERSON: Well, ideally, Americans are listening to their doctors. Ideally, they're listening to some of their state officials, who oftentimes do have different messages, different from this White House, where they are encouraging people to stay home or encouraging people to wear masks.

There is the mandate now in Texas. So, ideally, that's what's going on, because we know this president doesn't want any of the real science and the real scientists to be front and center in terms of talking about this COVID disaster.

This president has been derelict in his duty in terms of really informing the public in a healthy way. And so that's why we see, in many ways, particularly his followers following his lead, not social distancing, gathering in these large crowds, not wearing masks, seen mask wearing as weak or a political issue or being politically correct.

So that's really been a disaster for the country. And we can see that in the rates of going up of positive testing. And so we hope, I mean, Americans themselves really start to listen to their doctors and the scientists and experts in their own states and counties and cities that are offering messages about social distancing and mask wearing, particularly going into this busy holiday weekend.

ACOSTA: All right, but it's hard for people at home to listen to Dr. Fauci if the White House won't let him be on television.

Secretary Shulkin and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you very much for that.

Just ahead, the mayor of Miami Beach will join me. We will talk about the surging pandemic in Florida and what he's doing to keep residents safe.

And, later, I'll speak with an expert about ways you can celebrate safely during this Independence Day weekend coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

ACOSTA: Florida leads the nation in new coronavirus cases, a disturbing trend that prompting local officials across the state to shutdown beaches ahead of the holiday weekend. Let's discuss with the mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber. Mayor, thanks for being with us. Beautiful community you have down there in Miami Beach.

Your beaches are closed right now. A curfew is in place. How are you advising your community members to celebrate this Independence Day with these cases skyrocketing the way they are?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: Well, first of all, we're telling them to follow all the healthy guidelines that they're not going to go to friends' homes and have big events. They should celebrate it at home with their household family and no one else. Frankly, it's not safe to -- it does feel like we are on the way back to where we were, and we're trying to stop that trajectory by asking people to follow all the guidelines that are -- that they know about right now.

ACOSTA: And masks are mandatory in Miami Beach. And you've urged Governor DeSantis to required them statewide. We saw the governor of Texas do that earlier this week. If you could make your case to the governor, what would you say?

GELBER: Well, first of all, the mere fact of making them mandatory -- and I was in the legislature for many years.

[18:35:03]

The moment we made seat belts mandatory, everybody started to comply. It's very little enforcement needed to be done. So the worry about enforcement isn't there. Just send that message out.

And, secondly, because this virus takes -- basically bakes itself into the community for two weeks before it rears its head in hospitalizations and deaths, you have to act before that point. You can't wait to see this thing in its full bloom right in front of you and say, okay, we're going to have everybody wear masks now, because by then it's already lapped you twice and that makes no sense. So --

ACOSTA: Do you worry it's too late now? GELBER: Well, I think it's getting close and I -- honestly, we're taking some pretty drastic action. You know, telling everybody they have to be off the streets by 10:00 P.M., telling them closing restaurants at that time. Sending everybody off of the beaches, no liquor stores are open after 8:00. We're serious because we don't want a shelter-in-place. But we realize that people are listening right now.

ACOSTA: Are you fighting a losing battle to some extent when you have a president going to Mt. Rushmore and inviting thousands of people to a speech where they're not going to be doing social distancing?

GELBER: It's very difficult. We're asking people to not gather, to wear masks, to be distanced. We're asking them to forego traditional fireworks celebrations. We're asking people to make sacrifices, in which Americans have always done and are willing to do. But the president does exactly the opposite and sort of tells them that they don't have to worry about it.

And, of course, I don't mind telling people that they have to swallow tough medicine, I think. That's why you get into public service to do things like that. But it's just hard to tell when the president says you don't have to worry about the medicine at all. It's become very hard to get compliance.

And the shame is my community, you know, we faced hurricanes together. We know how to act as a group. We know how to care about neighbors and strangers. But this is bringing out the worst in us because the messaging is just all about not doing what you need to do.

ACOSTA: Okay. Mayor Dan Gelber, we hope you stay safe down there, we hope people abide by this restrictions, wear those masks and try to bend that curve a little bit, because we know it's just getting out of control down there. Thank you, Mayor, so much. I hope you stay safe and Happy 4th. We appreciate it.

GELBER: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Just ahead, how risky are 4th of July celebrations? I'll speak with an expert about ways to stay safe over this holiday weekend.

And later the Washington Redskins are seriously considering a name change and we'll have details on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

ACOSTA: The coronavirus is surging across the United States right now. Many Americans want to know if it's safe to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

Erin Bromage is joining us with helpful tips. He's a Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a CNN Contributor. Thank you so much for doing this.

We know you're an infectious disease expert. If you were to give one piece of advice to Americans this weekend, what would it be?

ERIN BROMAGE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Don't mix households. We've got to stop doing that. We have to remember that this virus, this outbreak started from a single introduction into the human species, and then has gone out from there. All it takes is one party where you get this wrong and it starts accelerating right throughout the population again.

ACOSTA: And let's breakdown a few popular 4th of July weekend activities, swimming. We hear this a lot. People want to know can they go swimming in a small pool or a backyard pool with a group of people? What about going to the public pool in your neighborhood or to the ocean?

BROMAGE: Yes, I would be avoiding any public pools. Public pools are just too much of a risk. You can't control other people's behavior in those type of places. It doesn't make sense right now to be in a public pool. A pool in a backyard, if it's your own pool, that's where you want to be. But if you're going and you are going to mix households and get them together, then you really need to have those ground rules of keeping that six feet distance even when you're in the pool to make sure that it doesn't jump from one family to the other.

ACOSTA: And what about a barbecue? Are there ways you can mitigate that risk? I suppose you can have a barbecue where everybody stays in their respective corners of the backyard, I suppose.

BROMAGE: Yes, again, if we mix households, we increase risk. We know people are going to do it anyway, even against the best advice. I just heard the mayor talking about hearing the public health officials talking about. It really comes down to good planning, invite as few households as possible. The more households the bigger the risk. And then plan out seating and space.

We know we're not going to have masks on when we're eating, when we're drinking. So if you put seats out that are more than six feet apart between households, then you know you can sit, you know you can eat comfortably, you know that you can enjoy the social activities with your friends and still keep the risk really low. It takes planning to do it to lower the risks.

ACOSTA: And, Erin, I don't know if you saw the footage earlier this evening on The Situation Room, but we were showing this earlier, the seating arrangement at Mt. Rushmore for the president's speech. We're looking at live pictures right now at Mt. Rushmore where the president will be there to deliver the speech later on this evening.

[18:45:01]

But we were showing pictures earlier of seating where the seats are actually zip tied together so people can't social distance if they want to. Here's some of that video now.

Erin, what do you make of that? How big of a risk is this? Is this a potential super spreader event?

BROMAGE: See, this is the insanity of what is going on at the moment. We are having so much mixed messaging. We've got mayors, we've got governors trying to say don't mix households, try to stop this happening, and then we have the president coming along and having an event like this sending exactly the opposite message.

It is so hard to be clear with the public about what we're trying to do and how we're trying to keep people safe. This just is not right. It sets it up for transmission amongst people that are meant to be enjoying time with family.

ACOSTA: OK, Erin Bromage, we hope folks out there are listening to this advice. It's great advice for staying safe this 4th of July weekend. And thanks for coming on. We appreciate. Happy 4th.

BROMAGE: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And celebrate the 4th of July tomorrow night with CNN. Don Lemon and Dana Bash host a night of fireworks and performances by all star musical guests. You can stay home, stay safe, watch us. It's tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And just ahead, the Washington Redskins might finally change their name after years of pressure.

Stay with us. This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:09]

ACOSTA: Under growing pressure, the NFL's Washington Redskins will review the team name which many have criticized for its racial connotation.

Let's get more with CNN sports analyst, Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for "USA Today", and has been covering Washington sports for so many years.

And it's so great to talk to you, Christine. Did you ever think the day would come that we would be talking about the Redskins changing their name, especially because the team owner, Dan Schneider, has been insisting for years that this would never happen?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: That's right, Jim, did I ever think we would see this day, maybe. But I don't know I thought it would be this soon, although it's been a long, long time. But I mean this soon, because this conversation heated up in 2013, and that was when my colleague, Eric Brady, of "USA Today" asked Dan Schneider, the owner of the team, would he ever change the name? And he told Eric, never, all caps.

ACOSTA: Yes.

BRENNAN: Well, I guess today is the 12th of never because all of a sudden, here we are. I think we all understand why, obviously, the tragic death, the murder of George Floyd triggering this national conversation -- international conversation. Black Lives Matter and so many other things.

This is a racist name. It has always been a racist name. It's a terrible name. I try not to say it for the last seven years, I have vowed not to say it the Washington (AUDIO GAP), even though I covered them and said the names tens of thousands of times in the '80s and '90s when I was around the team.

But it looks like the day is finally here, and looks like not only public pressure, Jim, but also corporate pressure, FedEx, Bank of America, PepsiCo, Nike, all of them coming down, and really looking at Dan Schneider, the owner, and saying basically, enough is enough.

ACOSTA: And it sounds like the NFL is finally open to this too. For decades there have been calls to change the name. In fact, as you were just saying, you have already taken a stand.

But one of the things I keep coming back to, Christine, is that there are so many alternatives to the team name. I mean, it shouldn't be that difficult.

BRENNAN: That's right, Jim. And whether it be the Washington Americans. We already, of course, have the Nationals with the baseball team. That's the World Series champs.

The Washington Warriors and you can play right into the military. Wounded Warriors, et cetera, or any one of a number of other names.

It frankly, I think, would be a good business decision for Dan Schneider because not only would you, of course, sell all of the retro, all of the old stuff, the skins stuff, you would then have entirely new merchandise to sell and as you know, this team in this city has always been so huge and so important to fans. They have been lousy basically over the last couple of decades.

But fans would be craving all the new t-shirts and hats and what have you, especially young people.

ACOSTA: They may like a revenue generating idea at the headquarters of this team right now, I suppose.

BRENNAN: Well, exactly. And the young fan base. I mean, we have seen this with Colin Kaepernick, how Nike sold out its 2018 campaign with Colin Kaepernick, based on young people.

And those young fans, as you know, you have a few in your household, are going to be around for the next 50, 60 years, hopefully, and that's your future fan base. And so, why not play to them, especially those same people, a lot of them were the ones in the streets for Black Lives Matter, and all other racial issues.

So you're playing right to people who are not only good citizens but they're also going to be your fan base for many years to come.

ACOSTA: Absolutely, Christine. And I grew up with this team, and I would love to see them change the name. It's time. I have so many great memories of the team as a kid, and I want to see many more in the years to come.

[18:55:05]

Christine Brennan, thank you so much for that.

More news just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: Finally tonight, we profile more people who died from the coronavirus.

Rolando "Sonny" Aravena of New York was 44 years old, a father of two sons and three daughters. His wife melody tells us he was a selfless man who volunteered as a mentor with the Boys & Girls Club.

Ruben Burks of Michigan was 86, a leader in the labor movement for over 60 years. He was the first African-American to serve as secretary treasurer of the United Auto Workers.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.