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Florida Reports 11,400-Plus New Cases, Setting New Daily State Record; Patients Rapidly Filling Hospitals In South And West; U.S. Hot With 50,000-Plus New COVID-19 Cases For Third Straight Day; CNN Goes Inside Houston Hospital On Front Line Of Battling Virus; July 4th Travel Surges Despite Skyrocketing Infection Rate. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired July 4, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

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FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me on this Independence Day. I'm Fredricka Whitfield and we begin July 4 with another huge spike in the number of coronavirus cases. Today, Florida reported its highest case count to date.

More than 11,000 new infections in a single day. It's case count far surpassing any other state right now and despite that many beaches there remain open this holiday weekend. In 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.

New cases are surging across the country once again, 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 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 and not many people were wearing masks.

Much more on what the President said coming up but right now, we have reporters across the country covering this latest rise in the coronavirus. Let's go first to CNN Polo Sandoval who is in Coney Island, New York. So Polo, this holiday weekend looks very different than what many ever recall seeing in the past.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does, Fred. The sun is out, the families are too. The boardwalk on the beach but as you mentioned here, the presence is certainly much smaller especially when you consider it perhaps to previous years. The families that we have seen, many of them obviously being quite responsible, wearing masks or taking some of the masks from those volunteers who are handing them out and remaining socially distant.

But still the presence is much smaller this year. Health officials not just here but across the country are hoping that families are listening to their advice to celebrate at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDOVAL: A coronavirus perfect storm looming this Independence Day.

Several factors are at play including more people traveling, states reopening and for some, repeated disregard of masking social distancing guidelines as people gather to celebrate this July 4.

DR. JOSHUA BAROCAS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN, BOSTON MEDICAL CENTER: Avoiding places like pools, beaches and even playgrounds especially this weekend, it's going to be high density traffic outside, are very important measures that we can take.

SANDOVAL: U.S. COVID-19 related deaths exceeded 129,000 this week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting that we could see another 20,000 people lose their lives to the virus by the end of the month. Florida surpassed its previous record for new COVID- 19 cases reported in one day.

The pressure now on younger people to help, lower infection rates in that state. You see the vast majority of Florida COVID-19 cases affecting those in their mid-thirties. Some Florida beaches are open today though that won't be the case in Miami Beach. The mayor there implementing a curfew and made masks mandatory.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FL: There's nothing more American than making a sacrifice by staying home and to keep the family members safe, the neighbors safe, for strangers safe.

SANDOVAL: Texas continues buckling under the surge and saw its highest single day increase this week. Hoping to reverse the trend, Governor Greg Abbott is requiring face coverings in most Texas counties though many of Abbott's fellow Republican leaders have resisted similar mask mandates.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R) TEXAS: Anyone who thinks COVID-19 is not dangerous, the numbers are glaring warning signs, this is dangerous but everybody has the capability of making sure they do not get COVID- 19.

SANDOVAL: Out west, Arizona and California continue shattering their own records. Arizona state health data showing hospitals are seeing an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 patient admissions and only 9 percent of ICU beds were available by the end of this week. California reimplementing early restrictions to contain their outbreak. Temporary closure signs are back up at beaches.

[12:05:00]

Singing and chanting at religious gatherings are temporarily banned and some cities are taking an aggressive approach and enforcing mask policies with the threat of hefty fines.

As the nation celebrates together, health officials are hoping they'll do it from home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: And just in last hour, local and health officials in the neighboring city - state of New Jersey, specifically in the city of Hoboken, flagging a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, Fred.

We're talking about well over a dozen younger people who are reported to have traveled out of New Jersey, then returned infected and that even though it is a small but significant uptick, it does speak to that wider concern Fred, that people could bring COVID-19 back in the tri-state region as it tries to continue to basically improve.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much in Coney Island. All right, Florida is fast becoming the epicenter of the pandemic. Just today, the state is reporting more than 11,400 new cases, setting a single day record. That's on top of huge increases seen over the last week but despite the surge many of the state's beaches are open this holiday weekend.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is at Clearwater Beach, Florida this afternoon so Boris, are people there following social distancing guidelines. Are they're talking about you know how their cohorts in Broward and Dade counties, those beaches are closed.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Fred. It's sort of an uneven restriction that we're seeing across the state of Florida. I'll get into that in just a second but just to give you some context on those numbers you gave. More than 11,440 cases reported in the last 24 hours in the state of Florida.

Over the first three days of July, the state has seen more than 30,000 new cases. To put that into perspective, we saw about 100,000 new cases in the entire month of June. Despite that the leadership here, Gov. Ron DeSantis leaving it up to local officials to install restrictions in their municipalities.

That's why you see beaches in Miami Dade County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, all close. Here in Clearwater, they are open and folks that I've been speaking to tell me that they're comfortable coming out to the beach to celebrate Independence Day. I'll let you get a look behind me.

Folks have been coming in since this morning. We see families, friends playing different sports, kids playing in the sand. Notably, I did hear from a local yesterday who told us that the beach is typically far more packed this weekend.

He believed that it's because we're seeing fewer visitors at Clearwater beach today. I did speak with one woman who's actually from Brazil. She came to the United States about eight months ago. She'd been planning to go back to Brazil but unfortunately because of travel restrictions, she's effectively stuck here.

She told me she is taking precautions but she didn't want to spend her first day - first Independence Day on the water. Listen to this.

STEPHANIE IKUNO, VISITING FROM BRAZIL: I'm very afraid of coronavirus so I'm here far from other people. I think that people don't care about coronavirus because they don't use mask, just go outside and go to the clubs, to their bars so it's not good.

SANCHEZ: So you're not going out to the clubs?

IKUNO: No. Just the beach.

SANCHEZ: So some people feel safe out here. They say they're taking precautions. I can tell you Fred, there's a sign back there that says that people should social distance, stay more than six feet apart from people they don't share a household with.

That group should be fewer than ten people. I've seen quite a few people breaking those rules. We'll see ultimately down the road, two weeks from now, what that does to the number of cases in the sunshine state, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Right so many doctors, when we talked to last hour, are worried about what the numbers are going to reflect in the next couple of weeks as a result of this holiday. All right, thanks so much Boris Sanchez. So another member of the President's inner circle has tested positive for coronavirus.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Junior and a top fund raiser for the Trump campaign has tested positive for COVID-19. Guilfoyle tested positive in South Dakota before she was set to attend the President's event at Mount Rushmore last night.

And sources tell CNN, she was not with the President and has not had recent contact with him but she did take to the stage at the President's rally in Tulsa, a couple weeks ago. Guilfoyle is now being isolated to limit any further exposure. Campaign officials say Donald Trump Junior has tested negative.

All right, President Trump back at the White House today after delivering a divisive speech during an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore last night. He railed against the removal of statues and monuments that some believe are symbols of racial oppression and only made a passing mention of the coronavirus pandemic.

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DONALD J. 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: Sarah Westwood joins us now from the White House with more on this. Sarah, what was the main message of the President's speech last night.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Fred, this was the President's most forceful argument in favor of the preservation of monuments. It's something that we've heard from him before but really he leaned into it during that speech last night.

It went far beyond statues though. The President was taking aim at cancel culture and he characterized the entire social justice movement as a tool of his opponents to silence dissidents. The President also took aim at Democrats and blamed them and their stewardship of cities for some of the destruction of statues and monuments that we've seen so far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our people have a great memory. They will never forget the destruction of statues and monuments to George Washington and 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: The President is here at the White House for what is expected to be a much quieter day than yesterday. Tonight he'll be delivering remarks, watching the fireworks from here at the White House. The fireworks are taking place over the National Mall for a public July 4 celebration that city officials did not want because of the risk of spreading the virus of people gathered to watch the fireworks but the president upfront encouraged that celebration to go forward.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood at the White House, thanks so much. All right, let's talk about, joining me right now, Assistant Editor for The Washington Post and CNN Political Commentator David Swerdlick. Also with me Julian Zelizer. He is a CNN political analyst and author of the new book, 'Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of the Speaker and the Rise of the New Republican Party' which comes out on Tuesday.

Congrats on your new book Julian and happy Fourth, the both of you.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks Fred, Happy Fourth.

WHITFIELD: So Julian, let me begin with you know and the President's you know divisive speech at Mount Rushmore invoking culture wars, protecting statues and casting protesters as villains. Is this a re- election strategy to grow support.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's a re-election strategy to solidify the support he had in 2016, from immigration to the protesters, the President relying on the culture wars to keep this coalition intact and to try to shift attention away from the economy, away from the pandemic, toward these kinds of divisive questions.

It's not clear this grows anything but I think what he's more focused on is preserving what he has.

WHITFIELD: And so David, you know, the President, you know is still downplaying the coronavirus spread even after you know, we heard from the country's leading medical professionals this week, stating the exact opposite and then the President tweeting this. "There is a rise in coronavirus cases because our testing is so massive and so good, far bigger and better than any other country."

White House Press Secretary saying this week the coronavirus will disappear. The President echoed that you know same sentiment so you know, is this David, just another page out of the President's presenting alternative facts.

SWERDLICK: So Fred good afternoon. Look, I saw this speech last night as the President retreating on two fronts. As you say on coronavirus and on the public health response to it. This was an opportunity for the president, although he's passed up many opportunities before this, to have an event where they had chairs in the grandstand, socially distanced, people on the desk could've been wearing masks and it would have sent a message that we are all in this together as a country fighting the virus.

He hasn't done that in months. He continued not to do it last night and I think last night was a signal that it's not going to happen anytime soon and he was retreating from the issue. You played that clip where he said we're going to kill the virus. That was his only coronavirus reference in the speech. He also retreated on the front of trying to even pretend to be a uniter.

In his last July 4 speech, the President you know, his speech wasn't convincing but there were a few homages to some of our diverse history, a reference to the 1960 Woolworth's Lunch counter sit-in and things like that. This time there was one quick paragraph where he named off a diverse set of American heroes and that was tacked on at the end and it was also a signal I think that he's retreating from the idea that he could ever be a divider, whether this is the midpoint or near the end of his presidency.

[12:15:00]

WHITFIELD: And you know, Julian, a message of unifying would be you know, the President and the Vice President on the same page. The Vice President last weekend was talking about wear the masks. So many other lieutenants so to speak we're saying wear the mask but the President you know, still refrains from doing that even though in a Fox interview he said, you know, I've worn a mask.

I look like lone ranger. I kind of like it. I mean it's very difficult to understand his technique of he's a unifier but then he's not at all unified with some of the experts who are now trying to send a message to the rest of the nation. Why is this working or will this work for the President?

ZELIZER: It's - it's not working. We have a resurging pandemic right now in the middle of the summer and we didn't need to have that and that's a failure of policy. You need a President whose very forceful and working with his own experts rather than working against them and had we been reopening the economy in safe ways with masks, with social distancing like we're seeing in other countries, our economy might be in a better place right now.

So this is a President who's not only hurting our efforts to recover from the pandemic, I think he's hurting his own efforts to eliminate the biggest problem right now we face which will probably sink his presidential re-election bid if this doesn't get better.

WHITFIELD: And David, you know, the President's been able to rely on Republican leadership and - and what seemed to be undying support but now when you've got Mitch McConnell and others who are saying no, you need to wear the mask, it would be silly not to, you know it would be you know unconscionable not to, but is that an indicator that perhaps they're using this as a way to break from the President with just four months from election day?

SWERDLICK: Well Fred, Republican leaders in Congress have been pretty cowardly in general when it comes to trying to push back to the White House but in this case they realize that if there's a public health crisis that just continues to spiral, they will be stuck with that as members of Congress again, whether President Trump leaves in January or he leaves four years after that.

And they don't want that to be their responsibility but right now as long as they acquiesce to bad public health messaging at a minimum and bad policy potentially, they are doing that as well. Can I just make one more quick note about that speech Fred, was that in terms of Republicans you know, you listen to that speech last night it was neither the sort of Bull Moose conservatism of Teddy Roosevelt who's on Mount Rushmore.

And it was also not be sort of minimalist conservatism of President Calvin Coolidge who dedicated Mount Rushmore. This you know, conservatives will call what President Trump was saying a kind of conservatism but this is not traditional American conservatism or Republicanism at that speech you heard last night.

It was a lot of grievance and a lot of division and I think President Trump as Julian said is doubling down on this as he goes towards the general election and a lot of photo op too, I mean which is what comes to mind when you think about him marching you know across the street from the White House to the church for a photo op.

All right, David Swerdlick, Julian Zelizer, we'll leave it there for now. Right. Coronavirus is breaking records in Texas and right now hospitals in at least two counties are at full capacity coming up. Well, there's a Medical Center where nurses are turning into patients and workers are going through multiple sets of PPE.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last three weeks I have seen more admissions and sicker patients than on the previous ten weeks.

WHITFIELD: Also ahead, pubs and restaurants back in business in England as the Prime Minister issues an important warning.

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[12:20:00]

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WHITFIELD: In Texas, coronavirus numbers are trending in the wrong direction on two fronts. On Friday, the state reported more than 7000 new cases for a third consecutive day, bringing the statewide total to more than 185,000.

Hospitalizations are also reaching record highs. Joining me right now Dr. Umair Shah. He is the Executive Director for Harris County Public Health in Texas. Dr. Shah, good to see you.

DR. UMAIR SHAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HARRIS COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH: Thanks for having me, Frederica.

WHITFIELD: So how worried are you that hospitals in crisis mode extend far beyond Harris county?

SHAH: Well, we are absolutely worried. This is also about increased cases in the community. We obviously have increased testing. We're also seeing increasing hospitalizations but Frederick, the big issue that we're finding is that where we were seeing one out of eight of those tests that were testing positive in the community, now it's one out of four.

And that is really the concern because it's not just what's happened to health care system today, it's really the potential for what's happening down the road because of all these increasing cases.

WHITFIELD: So what does that growth tell you because last weekend, I remember reading that it was one out of ten and if now you're at one out of four, what is happening in your area?

SHAH: What's happening in our area is that we have - we've taken our eyes off the ball if you will and we did fight this virus successfully in March and April and May and the numbers show that. Then as the states started to reopen, we started what I call the layering effect of layering on top of all these milestone events and holidays and that's when you get into trouble.

And so when people get inconsistent messaging from the federal, state, local level and they start to say, gosh I don't need to wear masks or I don't - it's - it's not a big deal. That's when you get into trouble and that really causes both complacency and confusion at the individual community member level and I think that's what we're dealing with right now.

[12:25:00]

WHITFIELD: But you do and everyone there is now witness to the Texas governor Greg Abbott, this week issuing this state wide mandate requiring masks in public after facing growing calls from local officials to do so. Do you believe that that will perhaps you know put a dent in the growth rate?

SHAH: Right well Fredricka, you have to remember, every time you open something up, it takes a few weeks to see the impact. If you dial something back, it takes a few weeks. All eyes are on really our communities in Texas and it's for the wrong reason and I do think this is the real challenge we have.

It's July 4 now. You know all of us should be coming together as Americans to fight this pandemic. It is not just going to go away and this is a time for us to unite to fight and if we don't do that ourselves then we are going to be in this real trouble and so you know the U.S. as you know, we've - you know Brazil and other countries were being compared to and we want to be compared to countries like New Zealand and Canada and others that have really started to turn the corner.

That's not what's happening in America. That's not what's happening in Texas and certainly that's what really concerns us here locally.

WHITFIELD: Yes, well, usually on big crises the U.S. is in the lead for the better but the rest of the world is not seeing that in this case so let's talk about something else that's happening later on this month in Texas. The Republican Party of that state will hold their state convention in person with an expected attendance in the thousands.

The Mayor of Houston says he hopes this will move to a virtual platform. What are your concerns and thoughts?

SHAH: Well, we hope so too you know, I'm not coming from public health standpoint. Look, politics aside, we have made this a political fight in against this pandemic, whether it's red or blue or whether it's left or right, doesn't matter to us in public health.

Whenever you get people together and there are large crowds of people together could be for protests or could be for convention. It does not matter. That's when you start to have an increase in risk and that's why Judge - our county judge made it very clear.

Look, you don't even need to go out. Stay home. We need to wear masks. We need to do all those things. We also need to focus on wellness and all the other activities to really make sure we're strong but if we don't as leaders, if we don't give the right messages, then at the end of the day people are put at risk and that concerns us.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Umair Shah, thank you so much. Thanks for your time and thanks to everybody who is putting so much on the line to help others. Appreciate it.

SHAH: Thank you Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right and now to the front lines of this pandemic in a different way where CNN's Miguel Marquez takes us inside a Houston hospital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Houston Texas, now home to a major

coronavirus outbreak. A procedure all too common when treating the most seriously ill with the virus. This patient on a ventilator, the breathing tube being replaced to improve oxygen flow to the lungs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

MARQUEZ: The tube pulled out caked with dried secretions from the lung rife with the coronavirus. The new tube immediately improves oxygen flow.

JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: That's the first one for the day. So that was - we got to change the tube. I need somebody to pass oxygen. He could have died. His tube was malfunctioning. It has a little balloon at the end that was ruptured so he was not getting enough oxygen.

MARQUEZ: United Memorial Medical Center serving a 117-bed hospitals, serving a mostly working class community in north Houston. Some things we've seen elsewhere on a ventilator, a patient's chance for survival goes down, way down.

VARON: The problem is that once you intubate them, the chances of them leaving the hospital is less than 20 percent.

MARQUEZ: Unlike other hospitals we've seen, this facility is transforming itself into a sort of COVID specialty center.

VARON: Last three weeks, I have seen more admissions and sicker patients than on the previous 10 weeks so it's been an exponential increase on the severity of illness and the number of cases that we've met.

MARQUEZ: Its COVID unit expanding way beyond its intensive care unit by turning the whole sections of the hospital into temporary air tight chambers, creating negative pressure zones to keep the airborne virus moving up and down.

And strict protocols are in place for moving in and out of these zones. Everyone must have a test for coronavirus before entering, even journalists and protective gear now so abundant that everyone triples up. Some employees getting through eight sets or more of PPE in a single shift.

[12:30:02]

(on camera): Now, this is for the people that you are treating so that they know what it would actually look like.

(voice-over): In the 100 days they've been treating patients with coronavirus, only one nurse has developed the sickness. She is now being treated by her own colleagues.

You are the frontline worker in the battle against COVID and you now have it. TANNA INGRAHAM, ICU NURSE, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Yes. And it's -- I wouldn't wish this on my own enemy because I hurt from here all the way down, the base of my neck, and it's getting any sleep is almost like -- it is impossible.

(voice-over): She is not sure how she got it but thinks that may have been a patient who had stopped breathing and despite multiple layers of PPE, the physical effort to save his life may have put her own at risk.

INGRAHAM: I was coding him. And as I was pushing down, air was coming but that's the only position that I could do it with.

(voice-over): The isolation of the disease difficult to deal with even for someone who knows what to expect, her thoughts now with her nine and ten-year-old daughters.

What would you say to Madeleine and Abigail right now?

INGRAHAM: Baby, mommy loves you and misses you. I hope you're having a great time in California. OK. I'm done.

(voice-over): The Lone Star State is now in a full-blown surge with coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rising at alarming rates. In Travis County, Austin's convention center is preparing to host a coronavirus emergency care facility.

Bear County, home to San Antonio saw a more than 600 percent increase in hospitalizations in June. And in Houston, hospitals are nearing capacity and preparations are underway to turn NRG Park, where the Houston Texans play, back into an emergency medical facility. It was taken down in April.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars.

(voice-over): Texas now reversing parts of its aggressive effort to reopen its economy. Bars now closed again throughout the state.

MOHAMED ALAM, OWNER, THE ORIGINAL RED ROOSTER: Well, it's been difficult.

(voice-over): Mohamed Alam owns two night clubs in Houston, both now closed until further notice. He is now fighting for his life.

How do you think you got COVID?

ALAM: When the club opened, I have a -- the thing is they like to give me a hug and everything. So they try to give me hug or shake hand or maybe there was paying the money, counting the money.

(voice-over): Today, United Memorial Medical Center is at about 80 percent capacity.

JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Please understand, these patients are very sick. These are patients that are about to die. So we have to admit them.

And once they're here, despite of everything we do, I mean, they have to stay in the hospital anywhere between five and ten days at a minimum. So those beds will be occupied for a period of five to ten days. So, sooner or later within the next two weeks, we're going to be at full house.

(voice-over): Dr. Varon, who has now worked for more than 100 days without stop has become a sort of coronavirus specialist. For now, it appears to be paying off, 96 percent of patients admitted to the hospital, he says, beat the disease.

VARON: COVID is a very fluid illness. It's an illness that changes. And what I knew four months ago is completely different than what I do now. The way I treated patients two months ago, it's 100 percent different than what I do now.

(voice-over): Does this still surprise you? Does the disease still do things that make you scratch your head?

VARON: Every single day, I get surprised, every day.

(voice-over): Dr. Varon now aggressively attacking inflammation and blood clotting, using everything, from vitamins, physically rotating patients, antibiotics, hydroxychloroquine for some, even STEM cells soon, anything from having to put patients on a ventilator, the virus still confounding doctors and surprising those trying to avoid getting it.

This husband and wife who did not want their names used now share a room in the coronavirus unit here. They say they did everything, staying home, wearing masks, and keeping their distance from others.

COVID PATIENT, AT UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: It's a little bit scary. I wish that people would take it more seriously. They should take it more seriously. You can't trust people just because they look healthy, because a lot of people are walking around looking healthy and they're not healthy.

(voice-over): It's the biggest challenge those that don't know they have it are giving it to others making them sick and possibly killing them.

VARON: In Houston, there are two types of patients, those that have COVID and those who will get COVID. My concern as a healthcare provider is that when they get sick, they all come to me at the same time, which is what's happening at the present time. And that's what's going to kill patients because we won't have enough resources.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[12:35:11]

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. Well, thank you to the medical personnel and the patients there for not mincing words and showing and telling how painfully real this is. And thank you Miguel Marquez for taking us there.

All right, holiday travel during a pandemic, some airlines are selling the middle seats again, but it's not all bad news. The improvement that could speed up your trip, next.

Plus, beaches across the country now open as coronavirus cases surge. You're looking live at images from Hampton beach, New Hampshire. Will the holiday celebrations make the pandemic worse?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:18]

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. This would normally be one of the busiest travel weekends of the year but because of the pandemic, this holiday is looking very different. CNN's Pete Muntean has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This weekend, airlines are anticipating the most passengers of the pandemic but only a fraction of a year ago.

MICHAEL BARON, TRAVELER: Well, we planned this trip for approximately a year ago. And certainly, I need a vacation.

(voice-over): Fliers like Michael Baron have a higher chance of being on a full flight. American Airlines announced that is now selling every seat, it joined United which has been selling middle seats throughout the pandemic. Major airlines are now requiring that passengers' wear masks, lawmakers are demanding social distancing on board.

JOSH EARNEST, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, UNITED AIRLINES: It's very, very difficult if not impossible to socially distance to on board an aircraft. Keeping the seat next to you open is not going to make a material difference.

(voice-over): Fear of flying is one of the reasons AAA thinks road trips will drop only 3 percent this summer. Travel analytics firm, INRIX, says the distance that drivers are traveling has returned to pre pandemic levels in many states and holiday traffic could feel more like normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the Bourne Bridge, it was a parking lot. I was stuck there for about 30 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each and everyone, yes, it's great, fantastic.

(voice-over): Amtrak is restarting trains that are cleaned after each trip and it's leaving every other seat empty.

KIMBERLY WOODS, AMTRAK: The summer is a peak travel season for Amtrak, but ridership is still low.

(voice-over): Regardless of how they get there, Americans are facing holiday travel that is far from the norm. A TSA checkpoint in Atlanta was shut down temporarily when a worker tested positive for coronavirus.

JOHN SELDEN, GENERAL MANAGER, HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: This is probably the most different Fourth of July travel day we've had maybe ever.

(on camera): One more difference, the TSA is opening up more lanes at security checkpoints across the country. The goal is to speed passengers through more quickly to keep exposure to employees low. The TSA says the number of its workers who have tested positive for coronavirus is now nearing 1,000.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, and if you're staying home this holiday weekend CNN has you covered with an evening of fireworks and an all star musical lineup featuring Jewel, Barry Manilow, CeCe Winans, Don McLean, and many more in CNN's the Fourth in America live tonight starting at 8:00 Eastern. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:51]

WHITFIELD: All right, in the U.K., they are calling this Super Saturday. Today is the day when pubs, restaurants, movie theaters, and hair salons are all allowed to reopen.

CNN's Anna Stewart is outside a pub in London. So Anna, how are they handling this colossal reopening?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a really exciting day for many of these businesses. But they have had to introduce lots of COVID-19 safety measures. And actually that means many pubs and restaurants have decided not to reopen yet.

They feel that maybe they can't get enough customers through the door. Given those measures, perhaps it won't be financially viable. And also there is some concern that the consumer appetite might be there yet, there's still a lot of anxiety in the British public.

This though is one pub in West London that has reopened the Black Lion. Lots of new safety measures in place socially distance tables. You order your food, you drinks via an app on your phone. And you have to give your contact details as you arrive. And that is in case there is an outbreak of the virus and they can do contact tracing in the U.K.

And this is the big concern, the outbreaks that you could see in the weeks to come as the lockdown lifts. The Prime Minister has said that they must enjoy summer safely. He wants Brits to spend. He wants them to get out there in England and enjoy the hospitality. But he does not want to have to re-impose lockdown if there are outbreaks, Fredricka? WHITFIELD: All right, Anna Stewart in London, thanks so much.

[12:48:12]

All right, a game changer in the sports world, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians considering a drastic move has the debate over their names reached a tipping point.

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WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back on this July 4th, as racial injustice continues to dominate the national conversation, the sports world is no exception. Executives for both the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins are meeting behind closed doors to determine if it's time to rename their teams. CNN sports correspondent, Carolyn Manno has more.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the issues of diversity and inclusion continue to be top of mind across sports leagues as the Cleveland Indians now say that they are going to take a look at the long debated nickname that they have had for over 100 years.

The team releasing a statement last night, which read in part, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name. The National Congress of American Indians applauded the move after years of complaints saying that this is a big step in the right direction but that much work remains here.

Two years ago, the team made a notable change by removing a cartoon caricature as its logo, which has long been criticized as offensive to Native Americans. This comes after the Washington Redskins issued a statement on Friday saying that they are having internal discussions about a change to the franchise's name. This runs contrary to what Washington owner Dan Snyder has said in the past.

For years he has held firm that he would never consider changing the Redskins moniker. But after melting financial pressure from brands like FedEx, Nike, and PepsiCo Snyder says he will conduct a thorough review with input from sponsors alumni in the team's local community.

Fred, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was quick to add his support to this. He issued a statement shortly after the team issued there's saying that he is on board with this next step.

WHITFIELD: Carolyn Manno, Thank you so much.

And we'll have more news in a moment. But first CNN Hero Harry Grammer is empowering, incarcerated youth in reducing recidivism in Los Angeles, here's his Independence Day message.

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HARRY GRAMMER, CNN HERO: On July 4th, 1776, 13 colonies claimed their independence from England. My ancestors never lived in England. In a Fourth of July keynote address, Frederick Douglas wrote, the rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that has brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. I must mourn. You may rejoice.

Back then Black-Americans were seen as unfit for the fruits of freedom. Nearly 250 years later, the scales are still tipped to one side, making it hard for us to subscribe to something that Dr. King would still call a dream. It's not until we balance the criminal justice system, root out systemic racism, and provide equal freedom to all that we become a truly free country. And maybe then we'll have a day we can all celebrate.

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WHITFIELD: For more information, go to CNNHeroes.com.

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