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CNN NEWSROOM

Florida Sees 11,400-Plus Cases Setting New Daily State Record; California Beaches Close For July 4th Weekend; Arizona Hospitals Near Capacity As Cases Surge; Texas Governor Imposes Mask Requirement For High-Case-Count Areas; President Stokes Culture Wars In Speech At Mount Rushmore; U.S. Needs Aggressive Modernization of Contact Tracing. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 4, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:01:11]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and thank you so much for joining me. Happy Independence Day to our nation.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

And we begin this Fourth of July with many places across the U.S. enforcing strict new rules to stop spread of the coronavirus. New cases surging once again on Friday, topping 50,000 for the third straight day. It's a trend that has been growing in recent weeks. And right now, the numbers are down in only one state, Vermont. But in the many hot spots, alarming and concerning the growing rate of hospitalizations.

Florida, by the way, continuing to show signs of being the new epicenter of the disease. The state reporting more than 11,000 new cases today. Those numbers just coming into the NEWSROOM -- its biggest case rise to date.

And then there's Texas, ICU beds in at least two counties are reaching capacity. At least two severely-ill patients were forced to be flown to other cities.

In Georgia 14,000 health care workers signed a letter to the governor asking him to impose more restrictions to slow rising cases.

And in the midst of the climbing case count, President Trump held a campaign-style rally last night in the shadow of Mount Rushmore where there was no social distancing being enforced and not many people were wearing masks. The President saying only this about the ongoing pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let us also send our deepest thanks to our wonderful veterans, law enforcement, first responders and the doctors, nurses and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus. They're working hard. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: President Trump spending most of his speech stoking the fire of culture wars in the U.S. lashing out at what he calls a merciless campaign to erase the country's history and making several unsubstantiated claims along the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms there is a new far left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras and follow its commandments then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished. It's not going to happen to us.

We have a team of reporters covering the coronavirus surge in the states across this country. Let's start in Florida -- a state once again which saw its largest new case count again today.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is in Clearwater Beach, one of the many beaches that does remain open this holiday weekend.

So Boris, these are stunning numbers. But I also see a lot of people behind you. Kind of describe the contrast or how these two are going together right now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it is simply a staggering number. 11,445 new coronavirus cases in the sunshine state setting a record for Florida. Also rivaling some of the biggest single day records that we saw from New York in April back when the pandemic was hitting the high watermark in that state.

To give you some perspective over the last 72 hours, we've seen more than 30,000 cases in Florida. That follows the month of June where more than 100,000 new cases were reported in the Sunshine State.

[11:04:54]

SANCHEZ: Despite all of that the governor, Ron DeSantis effectively leaving it up to local officials to establish restrictions in their areas. He's remained adamant that he does not want to reinstall that stay-at-home order that froze the Sunshine State a few months ago. He has maintained that his administration has done everything that they can within reason to keep the state safe though they have not imposed the sort of widespread mask mandate that we have seen in other states like Texas.

Ultimately, what that approach leads to is some imbalance. For example, in the southeastern part of the state in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami Dade County the beaches are closed this weekend. There are strict curfews in place. There are mask mandates in place.

Here in Clearwater Beach, it's wide open. Families have been coming here all morning. We have seen folks playing volleyball. They've been drinking on the water. Kids playing in the sand. I should point out there are some signs up that make clear that there are ground rules for social distancing. They're asking folks who do not live in the same household to stay at least six feet apart, to not congregate in large groups and they are banning groups that are bigger than ten people.

Of course, the question is how is that being enforced? We have not seen police or health officials out here trying to wrangle folks who may be breaking those rules. And I can assure you -- Fred, I have seen groups of more than 10 people showing up out here.

Obviously the big question is how this holiday weekend is going to impact the numbers moving forward. We saw a huge surge after people were ignoring the social distancing recommendations on Memorial Day Weekend, this another holiday weekend could potentially spell even worse circumstances for Florida -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez keep us posted. Thank you so much.

All right. Another state seeing a surge in coronavirus cases -- California. Right now there are more than 251,000 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 deaths.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joining us now from Huntington Beach.

So Paul, this Fourth of July weekend is going to look very different for many people in that general vicinity. As well as really across the country. So what are the restrictions? How are people either, you know, that or protesting that?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, funny you say that because there's the very end of the now revamped and totally overhauled Huntington Beach Fourth of July parade. We'll catch up with more of it later.

What they did is this is a big event in Huntington Beach. There's usually a half million people lining the streets watching it. It goes right along the famed Pacific Coast Highway. But this year they decided to make it more of a neighborhood parade. You can see I'm in a neighborhood. They're going to weave through neighborhood streets and basically make it a situation where people are going to wear their mask to watch the parade.

They just announced the parade route this morning. They say it will come within a mile of everybody's house and just about 20 cars or so in two separate caravans. So they made that big adjustment and then up and down the California coast.

These major counties shut down. The beaches shut down. We looked at the beach earlier today we saw nobody on it in Huntington Beach despite the fact it's a big surf day. Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, Orange County -- all of them shutting down their beaches and officials applauding that because that era of cooperation will keep it so there's no pressure on any one community.

So as we said here in Huntington Beach, they decided that they were going to celebrate the Fourth of July anyway. It's a very patriotic city and the mayor explained why we're going to see so many VW buses in this parade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR LYN SEMETA, HUNGTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA: VW vans, that's Huntington Beach, you know. The cowabunga club (ph), they like to call themselves and we do a lot of events around that. They're always here driving people in parades and whatever. So yes, big part of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMENT: And so that's the strategy now. Just to allow them to have a small parade here, keep those beaches closed, socially distant, keep the mask on. A new way of life this Fourth of July weekend here in California.

Back to you -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: That's right. A new way all across the country. Thank you so much, Paul Vercammen. Appreciate that.

All right. In Arizona the number of new reported coronavirus cases continues to climb. Hospitals are also getting dangerously close to capacity as the number of people requiring treatment soars.

CNN Evan McMorris-Santoro joining me now from Scottsdale, Arizona. So Evan, what more can you tell us about the situation there.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Fred.

It's still pretty early in the morning here in Scottsdale. So I'm in this sort of mall area. You can see it's still pretty quiet. But as you mentioned the situation here in the state is getting increasingly dire. There are 91 percent of intensive care unit beds are currently occupied, leaving just 156 beds left.

That kind of number is why the governor last week re-imposed some lockdowns on things like gyms and movie theaters and is calling on smaller gatherings for this holiday weekend.

I just want to show you what he is facing, what the governor and public health officials are facing here in Arizona with a tale of two signs.

[11:09:59]

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So first we're going to walk over here to one of 18 locations of the Mountainside Gym, fitness gym locations which is a gym that the governor ordered shut down last week but has been fighting him.

If you come to this location here, you can see there's a sign on the wall kind of a lot of legalese basically saying look, we understand the governor wants us to shut down, but we don't think we have to and we're going to remain open. They are still open despite the governor's orders.

Just next door here is a coffee place where I grabbed coffee this morning. Editorially -- it's actually pretty good.

You can see the sign here says look, face coverings required. Keep a healthy social distance. It's the law and we support it.

So there is a political fight under way here about these new rules. And that's really governing how this state is trying to approach this rising pandemic here, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Contrast right next door to one another.

All right. Well, we look forward to all those businesses or folks waking up in bigger numbers so that we can hear more from Scottsdale, Arizona. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

All right. Meanwhile in Texas, as the state battles a massive wave of new cases there, hospitals in at least two counties are already at full capacity. That reality has caused county judges to urge residents to stay home and shelter in place this holiday weekend.

CNN Correspondent Lucy Kafanov is in Houston with a closer look now.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Texans are being encouraged to take all possible precautions this Fourth of July weekend as the state continues to battle with a surge in coronavirus cases. Friday saw 7,555 new cases bringing the total now to more than 183,000. Those numbers are quite high. Hospitals feeling the pinch.

More than 7,600 coronavirus cases -- pardon me -- patients at hospitals. That's something that the medical facilities are dealing with. And here in Houston where the positivity rate is hovering around 25 percent, it's really putting a strain on some facilities. Some hospitals, in fact, so overwhelmed that they have to start

transferring patients out to other facilities.

Now, on Friday, the governor's mask mandate went into effect. What it means is that if you are a Texan, if you live in a county that has 20 or more cases, you have to wear a mask in public. This applies to roughly 95 percent of all Texans.

That's one of the precautions that they're putting into place to try to curb the stem of this virus to try to reduce the rates. And of course, doctors here they're still concerned that despite this mask mandate people might still gather, people might still expose themselves because what doctors at this facility, for example, tell us every time there's been a holiday weekend, whether it's Mother's Day or Memorial Day, they often see a spike in cases.

And so they're sending the important message out, try to stay home. Try to socially distance. Definitely wear your mask. And remember, that this virus is very much out there. It's a different kind of Fourth of July this time around.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN -- Houston, Texas. WHITFIELD: A very common refrain this Fourth of July weekend.

All right. In Georgia now more than 1,400 health care workers have signed a letter to the state's governor imploring him to implement more restrictions to slow the virus's spread. Their request include closing down bars, nightclubs, prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people and mandating residents wear face masks. This comes as the state continues to see a steady climb in cases.

One of the doctors who penned the letter warned that there is a distinct possibility that the state will need to shelter in place again.

All right. Still ahead, President Trump uses Mount Rushmore as the backdrop for a divisive speech, railing against what he called a merciless campaign to wipe out history and launching a staunch defense for confederate monuments.

Plus, multiple people close to the President are now confirmed to have COVID-19 including Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend. Is the President increasingly at risk of exposure?

And a critical shortage of contact tracers could change how the U.S. fights the virus. We're live next.

[11:14:21]

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WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump is back at the White House today after delivering a divisive speech during an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore Friday night instead of delivering an inspirational, uplifting message of unity and patriotism as the nation battles a growing pandemic. The President chose to make an impassioned culture wars speech aimed before a crowd that was packed-in with no social distancing and very few masks to be seen. He railed against the removal of statues and monuments that some believe are symbols of racial oppression.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Our children are taught in school to hate their own country. And to believe that the men and women who built it were not hero's but that were villains.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood is at the White House for us. So Sarah, was this a preview of what we can expect from the President in, you know, in his reelection campaign?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this was certainly a new chapter in the President's fight to preserve statues. And perhaps his strongest entry yet into the culture wars. [11:19:52]

WESTWOOD: In that speech the President argued that monuments to America's founders should never be removed. And he blamed Democrats for the unrest that we've seen in some cities that in some cases have led to statues being vandalized or toppled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our people have a great memory. They will never forget the destruction of statues and monuments to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionists and many others. The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets and cities that are run by liberal Democrats in every case is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias and education, journalism and other cultural institutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now the President's appeal went far beyond statues. He characterized the entire social justice movement as essentially a tool to silence dissent going after cancel (ph) culture in that speech.

And as you could see from some of those images, people were not socially distancing at that event. They were given masks. They were voluntary to wear and people certainly not staying six feet apart throughout the evening, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So that is very similar to his Tulsa rally, where in that case there were people on his advanced team that tested positive and now a positive COVID test for someone who is even closer in the inner circle of the President's sphere.

WESTWOOD: That's right, Fred. Hitting home for the Trumps. Kimberly Guilfoyle the girlfriend of the President's son Donald Trump Jr., tested positive last night for coronavirus. She was at that South Dakota event. And as you know, everyone who's going to be in contact with the President, who is going to be in close proximity with him, they have to get tested.

So as part of that screening process, Kimberly Guilfoyle did learn that she was positive for coronavirus. She is self isolating and asymptomatic. Luckily Donald Trump Jr. has tested negative.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood -- thank you so much at the White House. We'll check back.

So the news that a top Trump campaign official has tested positive for COVID-19 comes as several Secret Service agents have also tested positive. At least eight Secret Service agents are now stuck in Phoenix after coming down with the virus while preparing for the trip to the area by the Vice President.

Jonathan Wackrow is a former Secret Service agent under President Obama and a CNN law enforcement analyst. Good to see you, Jonathan. And happy Fourth weekend. JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Happy Fourth to you,

Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. So talk to me about, you know, the surprise that Secret Service agents would test positive and what many of them are customarily risking when traveling with the President or in this case it was the Vice President.

WACKROW: Well, Fred, you know, when it comes down to it, this should be no surprise. This virus does not discriminate. So, if you put yourself in a position of exposure, this virus is going to exploit vulnerabilities.

The U.S. -- the Secret Service does not direct the actions of our protectees -- whether it's the Vice President or the President. We have to look at the vulnerabilities that are around them and then mitigate those physical security vulnerabilities.

So what you're seeing here is that the Secret Service is in a very tough position where they're putting forth their agents in harm's way to protect the President and Vice President from physical threats. But we have this overarching, you know, health security threat that is severely impacting the agency.

WHITFIELD: I mentioned how there were many with the President's advanced team who tested positive just ahead of the Tulsa rally. But then now we understand there are, what, 15 Secret Service agents that also tested positive?

So you mentioned that yes, it comes with the territory. There are certain level of risks. But what, if anything, are you understanding that Secret Service agents are doing to perhaps protect themselves in this growing pandemic?

WACKROW: Listen, it comes down to awareness of how this virus is transmitted and, you know, following the guidelines. You know, whether it's social distancing, the proper utilization of, you know, protective equipment, personal protective equipment, engineering controls, administrative controls.

So there's a lot that can be done to mitigate the health security issues that COVID-19 presents. The problem is that there's a governance issue. Who is mandating this? What's the overarching control of the agency to say all agents must wear masks at all times?

That's what I'm not hearing. And I think that's where the growing frustration is mounting with agents. I'm talking to a lot of them. They're, you know, feeling frustrated that these trips are going on, that they're not getting the right level of guidance from their supervisors in terms of how to best protect themselves.

So again, it's awareness and understanding of how this pandemic is spreading and this virus is spreading and how they can best protect themselves.

[11:25:02] WHITFIELD: Yes. Already a risky job made that much more during this

growing pandemic.

Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much. Have a great Independence Day weekend.

WACKRWO: Great. Thanks, Fred. You too.

WHITFIELD: All right.

All right. Next the CDC director warned the U.S. needs to be more aggressive at tracking down people with coronavirus to contain the spread, but is it already too little too late?

And a quick programming note this Fourth of July. Tonight an evening of fireworks and an all-star musical lineup with Jewel, Barry Manilow, Cece Winans, Don McLean and more. Don Lemon and Dana Bash host CNN's "FOURTH OF JULY IN AMERICA" live tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

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[11:30:07]

WHITFIELD: CDC director Robert Redfield told lawmakers this week that the U.S. needs to aggressively modernize contact tracing to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

And as CNN's Brian Todd found out, there's also a critical shortage of contact tracers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: an army desperately needed in the war against coronavirus is undermanned and losing on the battlefield in states recently hit the hardest. They're contact tracers -- people who track down those who A coronavirus-infected person has had contact with to monitor them for infection. Public health officials say they're a crucial component to being able to reopen the economy so NEW cases can be contained. But they say tracers are working in an outdated system.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: They really are in need of aggressive modernization.

The contact tracing in this case, I'll be very quick, really doesn't have any value unless you can do it in real-time.

TODD: And America doesn't have nearly enough tracers.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to do more, including hiring at least 100,000 federally-funded workers to perform contact tracing and other public health tasks.

TODD: one estimate says America needs about 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people in a community. But a firm called Nephron Research now says in eight states the ranks of contact tracers are dangerously low.

Texas only has about 11 contact tracers per 100,000 people. Florida has about seven, Arizona five, and five other states also fall well short.

Prof. CRYSTAL WATSON, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEATH SECURITY: Now as we see a lot more transmission it's going to be a lot harder to do contact tracing because we just can't get our arms around the epidemics. They're out of control.

TODD: Crystal Watson, who co-authored a report on contact tracing, says many states did not come up with the resources to hire enough contact tracers. As for the type of person needed --

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: It's a detective, investigator in the public health space.

TODD: Experts say contact tracers have to interview an infected person to get them to help identify anyone they've been in close contact with.

WATSON: You ask them about close contacts, that's within six feet for more than 15 minutes. Anyone who fits that description would be considered a close contact.

TODD: And contact tracers have to race against the clock. Experts we spoke to say they have on average less than three days to find someone who an infected person has been in contact with and get that person to isolate.

At this contact tracing center in Arizona, working virtually, a team leader tells us it's time-intensive, emotionally taxing work.

KRISTEN POGREBA BROWN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: Our biggest challenge honestly is just getting people on the phone initially and talking to them. And then getting them to open up once you get ahold of them.

TODD: And there are more challenges. Experts say contact tracing is now more complicated than ever because of the decisions by some governors to reopen their states so quickly.

WATSON: So as these cases grow and spike because of reopening and because people have come together in large numbers, it's going to get harder and harder to do that.

TODD: It's getting so difficult that America's top voice on coronavirus says the armies of contact tracers should start acting like real armies.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You can get community people to get boots on the ground and to go out there and look for the people instead of getting on a phone and doing so-called contact tracing by phone.

TODD: But experts say contact tracers going out in neighborhoods should be from those neighborhoods so they understand the community and the culture. But they also add, another huge challenge with contact tracing is that it's like a police officer trying to get a witness account of a crime. People's memories of their encounters are often shady and unreliable.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: OK. A lot to discuss there.

Let's bring in Dr. Esther Choo, associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

All right. Good to see you, Dr. Choo. So is the problem the method of contact tracing?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Well, it's again a problem of sheer resource. You know, from the beginning we've always been chasing this problem of trying to test enough and track enough.

And so the virus has just kind of galloped out of control beyond our capacity to identify people who have been in contact with each and every case. And as the numbers grow, the sheer work force for this effort, the magnitude of this problem is kind of, you know, it's kind of marching beyond our ability to recruit enough people and to do enough of this that we can get on top of it.

[11:34:47]

WHITFIELD: So when you say it's now galloped out of control, do you feel like it is so out of control now -- I'm talking about the whole issue of the coronavirus, you know, positive tests now -- that it's just too far, you know, flung to even try to contain? Is the U.S. in big trouble?

DR. CHOO: Well, I think -- I don't want to say something as, you know, despairing as it's too out of control to contain. But I do think we need to start getting really creative. Certainly using people in communities, taking advantage of areas where we do still have the opportunity to control it. And then bringing in methods like pooled testing where we can test large groups of people at a time and build in efficiencies and really go to scale on this.

WHITFIELD: Ok. You say get really creative. You know, Oregon was doing fairly well but then this week for two days the state broke records for new daily cases. That's where you are.

What would be a creative approach if not for your state, then any other to try to get a handle of things?

DR. CHOO: Yes. Oregon, we were so proud of doing so well and then now, you know, we doubled our cases over the past month. This week we had two consecutive record-breaking days. I think there were a number of factors. People really, you know, I think it was really a problem of the big urban places. And then the disease headed out into more rural and distant areas as we knew that it would.

But I think in those places the disease just seemed very far away and not realistic. And people weren't taking social distancing measures and masks as seriously.

And I think, too, we were kind of proud of our ability to flatten the curve. And we got comfortable and started going out a little bit too quickly.

And so I mean I think again we need to be very strong with our public messaging. We need to really emphasize that we need to be nimble and what is true one week will not be true the next week.

I think we need to make testing much more accessible, particularly outside of urban areas where there are very few testing centers. That may mean really mobilizing efforts in communities, putting more testing out there, mail-in testing -- things that people can do at home will increase our reach for testing and then a lot of really good on-the-ground boot strap epidemiologic efforts so that we understand where disease is surging and which communities and really mobilize on our containment measures there.

WHITFIELD: So let's go to the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. now. Just moments ago CNN received new numbers out of Florida. More than 11,000 cases reported today. That's the biggest case rise to date there.

So what, if anything, you know, can Florida do to get those numbers down? And then are you particularly concerned? You know, only two of the counties, Dade and Broward have closed the beaches. So the rest of Florida, people are at the beaches at perhaps even large gatherings. That could be a recipe for more cases. Is that your fear?

DR. CHOO: Absolutely. I mean beaches are open and I'm seeing very little mask wearing. And of course Florida, in addition to having the population that will go out to those beaches also has a very large vulnerable population of older people.

These numbers are scary. And those are record-breaking numbers going into a holiday weekend. So, I am concerned that Florida will exceed all expectations in a negative way. We're also seeing, you know, more concerning end points increased hospitalizations and deaths.

And so I think for, you know, for Floridians who are really thinking about how can I best care for my neighbor? You know, it's not about caring for yourself. It's how can I best be a good community citizen and really love my neighbor?

The decisions they make this weekend will determine what happens over the next four to six weeks in Florida. And this is their opportunity to celebrate the holiday in a slightly different way. To watch fireworks from a distance. To do that little thing of mask wearing and keeping their distance if they do go out and really try to change the trajectory.

This weekend could be make or break for Florida. They can double down on what's happening in their trends or they can really start to turn it around by being a little restrained on this holiday weekend. I hope that is the case for them.

WHITFIELD: Yes. That really is a great lasting impression, you know, and lesson for everyone, you know, in and really kind of song to sing in their head, you know. Even if you feel you're invincible just love thy neighbor, do the right thing if anything for your neighbor even if you, yourself, feel so invincible and don't want to wear a mask. Do it for your neighbor.

All right. Dr. Esther Choo. Thank you so much.

All right. straight ahead the coronavirus pandemic taking its toll overseas and leading other countries to ban Americans. The latest next.

[11:39:46]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: As coronavirus cases surge in the U.S. officials in Cuba say they have been successful in reducing new cases and flattening the curve there.

CNN correspondents have that and other top international coronavirus stories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Patrick Oppmann in Havana where for the first time in over three months businesses like restaurants, public transportation, even the beach have all begun to reopen. You can feel life slowly returning to the city even though people are still required to wear face masks, are still required to maintain social distancing.

Cuban officials say that Cubans have managed to flatten the curve of new cases. One problem, though, remains the economy. Most of this island, including Havana remains off limits to international tourists. There are no flights coming in and out of Havana at least for the moment and probably for the immediate future.

So while the city is reopening, it remains cutoff from the outside world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:44:57]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Anna Stewart in London.

Today is being called Super Saturday here in England. It marks the biggest stage in the lifting of lockdown restrictions since the pandemic began. From today -- pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hair salons can all reopen if they have COVID-19 safety measures in place like this pub behind me which embraced new measures, socially- distanced tables. They're also taking the contact details of any customers which they'll keep on record for 21 days. And that is to allow for contact tracing should an outbreak occur.

The prime minister has noted some caution, though. He says we are not out of the woods yet. He wants the public to get spending. He wants them to save the British economy but he says they must act responsibly.

The government is ready to slam on the brakes should there be any outbreak locally as we saw in the city of Leicester or nationally should a second wave of coronavirus look imminent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Five American tourists were denied entry into Italy this week when they tried to fly by private jet unto the Italian island of Sardinia. Now, they were trying to skirt the regulations that the European Union has put forth when they opened their external borders on July 1.

The United States is not on the safe list; therefore it is not legal for Americans to come here for anything but essential travel. Tourism, of course, is not considered essential travel.

Now, they were traveling with people from the United Kingdom, from New Zealand, from Germany and from Italy and they worked for 14 hours to try to find a solution.

The family which includes three children, were just not able to enter the country and went on their way to England.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Patrick Oppmann, Anna Stewart, Barbie Nadeau -- thank you so much.

We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.

[11:46:37]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Happening right now, demonstrators are filling the new Black Lives Matter plaza in D.C., rallying against racism and police brutality. The march began at the nearby African-American History Museum, and this is one of several protests happening around the country on this Independence Day.

We'll take you there live as they all happen.

President Trump's celebration at Mount Rushmore is shining a light on the culture war happening right now in the U.S. The President touted the event as a way to honor America, but for many Native American tribes in South Dakota, the Black Hills are a sacred place that was systematically taken despite a treaty signed by the U.S. government. Some have called on the monument to be removed.

It's a similar situation unfolding across the country as cities and states grapple with what to do with many civil war monuments.

Joining me right now to talk about all of this, archaeologist and host of "Expedition Unknown" on the Discovery Channel -- Josh Gates. Josh -- good to see you, and happy Fourth.

JOSH GATES, HOST, DISCOVERY CHANNEL: Happy Fourth. Good to see you, too.

WHITFIELD: All right. so we like to think of monuments, many do in America, as being a permanent reminder of a person or an important event. You have traveled the world. Are these monuments really as permanent as many would like to think?

GATES: Well, clearly no, you know. and that's the short answer, you know. I mean, archaeology tells us that destruction of monuments is actually more the norm than preservation, you know.

We are a young nation, but if you look back through history, toppling of monuments and statues is something that, you know, has been going on for a very long time.

WHITFIELD: And this kind of underscores the whole dispute and the way of looking at it. Is it about preserving history? Is it about honoring, you know, particular leaders of movements, whether it be honorable or shameful?

GATES: It's a difficult question, and I think each case is different. I think the first thing that we have to really grapple with when we talk about monuments like this is this really simple question of what is a monument, you know.

These are objects that are more than just art, right? They're not just out in a park to look pretty. They have a purpose. Monuments historically are designed to commemorate a person or an event as you say but also there's an ideology associated with them, right?

We are putting them up on a pedestal quite literally and we are trying to reinforce that something from our past is so important that we want to bring it into our present. We want to preserve it for our future. So we've got to be really careful what are those things that are worthy of our honor and our admiration especially in public places. So it's a thorny question.

WW: Yes. And of course, you're hearing at the core of this as it pertains to the confederate, you know, statues and monuments. Some argue they are symbols of heritage and many others will remind the time in which they were placed or erected really as symbols of white supremacy.

GATES: Yes. And look, I mean as I said, each case is different. It's hard for me to make an argument to preserve these confederate monuments, you know. I think that, for me, one of the basic litmus tests here that these statues and our country should pass is are they honoring people who worked to strengthen our union? Are they honoring people that worked to make us a stronger nation?

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GATES: And when you look at Jefferson Davis and you look at Robert E. Lee, I mean these are not guys who were fighting to strengthen our union. They were insurrectionists, you know. The constitution defines treason as levying war against the United States.

I mean these are guys that we are putting up on pedestals who tried to tear our nation apart. So I have a hard time making the argument for keeping them there in these public places. I think context matters.

Now, you know, there may be an argument to preserve some of these statues in an educational context somewhere else. But I think that it's important to remember that there have been decades in some cases of protests and people really pleading about removing these statues. They've caused a lot of pain, and they did, as you say, a lot of them went up in the Jim Crow era and went up in the early 20th century and are very, very problematic.

But as we look back through history, you know, as I said, this is nothing new. And I think one of the things that's important is we have to grapple with the idea that not everything is permanent just because it's big and heavy and goes up on a pedestal.

We have to continuously I think re-evaluate what are the things we want to honor and what are the things that are worthy of admiration.

WHITFIELD: Yes. You're essentially saying there's room for rethinking its purpose.

All right. Thank you so much --

GATES: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- Josh Gates. Appreciate it. Have a great Fourth weekend. Thanks for being with us today.

GATES: Cheers.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

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