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Florida Reports Nearly 10,000 New COVID-19 Cases Today; President Trump Delivers Divisive Speech To The Country This Independence Day Weekend, Downplaying The Dangers Of Coronavirus; Seven-Year-Old Girl Among Victims Of Chicago Violence. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 5, 2020 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:01:04]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with staggering new numbers from a state that's approaching epicenter status in this coronavirus pandemic. Florida reporting nearly 10,000 more cases today, that's on top of yesterday's huge numbers which set a single day record for all states with more than 11,400 new infections in Florida.

And then Arizona and Texas are also seeing massive spikes leading some officials to accuse the states of reopening too early, but even as we see cases surge, President Trump is downplaying concerns telling a crowd during a Fourth of July event at the White House that 99 percent of the coronavirus cases are -- I'm quoting now, "totally harmless." A factually incorrect claim.

CNN has a team of reporters tracking the coronavirus in some of the hardest hit states across the country. Let's go first to CNN's Boris Sanchez live at a testing center in Miami Beach, Florida, where this weekend, they are experience beaches closed but clearly people's concerns remain heightened.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, Fred. Especially after hearing those staggering numbers over the last few days, as you said, just shy of 10,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours for the Sunshine State.

If you look at the first four days of July, Florida has seen more than 40,000 coronavirus cases added to their list. They had about 100,000 for the entire month of June so the numbers are very quickly adding up.

I want to paint a picture of what's going on behind me at the Miami Beach Convention Center where there is a testing side. They are here testing just about every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

There is a long line of cars that actually wraps around the entire block, so there are people that are on foot getting tested, there are people that are waiting in their vehicles.

From what I understand, waiting in the car has about a one to two-hour wait. I actually got tested within the last hour. We walked over. We stood on foot. It was a relatively quick process. It took less than a half hour. All I needed was a government I.D., they did the swab, it was a second of discomfort and now, I get the results in about two to three business days, Fred.

Of course, the concern here in the Sunshine State isn't just the rate of infection which is very high, it is over 15 percent, it is also the rate of hospitalizations.

The Mayor of Miami Beach was on CNN earlier today talking about that. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: You can go to our hospitalization, we have doubled our hospitalization. Our census has now doubled in the last 14 days and then we go to your intensive care and that's also doubled and even -- we have 158 people on ventilators right now and I think two weeks ago, it was 64.

So, you know, all of these things that they talk about lagging are catching up, and of course, the problem is you can't wait until that problem is in front of you because this thing bakes into the community two weeks before you see it and so you can't just sit back and wait for it to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Fred, you noted that this holiday weekend, there are beach closures here in Miami-Dade County. There is also a strict curfew that starts at 10:00 p.m. and there is a mask mandate, so if you are in a public area, in a public building, you have to be wearing your mask.

Despite that, the Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez is saying that part of the reason that we are seeing the surge is because people weren't following these basic social distancing guidelines. He is saying that because bars and restaurants opened early and people disobeyed those guidelines, we are seeing this surge, this record-breaking surge in numbers -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and Boris, so you took advantage of the testing right there on Miami Beach. You said, in two days, you will be notified. How will you be notified? Is this is like text? E-mail? What?

SANCHEZ: Well, they took my phone number down, so I am supposed to be getting a call again within two to three business days. The helpful folks here basically instructed us that if we don't get a call in five business days, they gave us a web address to visit or a phone number to call, so if we don't get the results by then, we have to be proactive about it and get themselves ourselves.

It's relatively easy. Again, just a moment of discomfort when that swab is going on and then you finally get your results and you figure out what risk you are facing from the coronavirus -- Fred.

[15:05:19] WHITFIELD: All right. Good job, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

Miami Beach.

All right, turning to Texas now, another state battling a massive wave of new cases. The state reported more than 8,200 new cases on Saturday bringing the number of residents infected to more than 192,000. It marks the second highest day on record for new cases according to Johns Hopkins University.

The hardest hit areas include Harris County where Houston is located. Governor Greg Abbott has issued an Executive Order that requires residents in counties with 20 or more active cases to wear face coverings in public.

President Trump delivers another divisive speech to the country this Independence Day weekend, and he is also down playing the dangers of coronavirus with a number of false claims as the U.S. death toll nears the 130,000 mark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us, so Jeremy, a lot of baseless claims there. What are people in the White House or perhaps even his Cabinet members, you know, other colleagues saying about all that he is saying?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, the President's claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless defies reality and it goes directly against what public health experts are trying to do right now, which is to get the country to take the virus much more seriously.

Look, while the World Health Organization estimates that the mortality rate is less than one percent, it also says that about 20 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus are going to require oxygen or hospitalizations, so certainly not harmless there.

Here's how the F.D.A. Commissioner, Steven Hahn who is a member of the Coronavirus Taskforce responded when pressed with the President's claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. STEVEN HAHN, F.D.A. COMMISSIONER: So, I'm not going to get into who is right and who is wrong, what I am going to say, Dana is what I have said before, which is that, it's a serious problem that we have.

We have seen this surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide and we have this in our power to do it following the guidance from the White House Taskforce and the C.D.C. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: So, as you can see there. Dr. Hahn certainly doesn't want to contradict the President, directly but he is also making clear that this is a very serious situation. The message echoed by every other public health expert in this government.

The President also falsely claimed there that testing is responsible for the rise in cases. Of course, that the true. We are also seeing the percentage of people testing positive for the virus going up and Fredricka, while the President focused on downplaying the coronavirus during part of his speech, his broader focus was on sowing divisions and amplifying this cultural and racial divisions in the United States.

We heard the President there just as he did at Mount Rushmore the evening before talking about a new left fascism and talking about a leftwing cultural revolution that he said is literally trying to end and destroy America as we know it.

Those words, very incendiary from the President and certainly marking how this President is going to move forward with his 2020 re-election strategy -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeremy, and I talked to one medical expert earlier who also said that, you know, not, weighing in on the President's misinformation really only adds fuel to the fire. All right, thank you so much, Jeremy Diamond.

Dr. Darria Long is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Tennessee. I want her to weigh in on this, as well. She also happens to be an emergency room physician.

Doctor, good to see you.

So let me start by getting your reaction to the President claiming 99 percent of coronavirus are -- I am quoting him -- "totally harmless." What potential damage does that do?

DR. DARRIA LONG, ASSISTANT CLINICAL PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE: So, Fred, hi, good to see you. And I think we have to stop talking in absolutes. This is an example of that.

And to decode it, what the President is talking about is that the mortality rate is around probably around one percent of all people who get the infection. But you can't just look at the survivors and say, well, the disease was harmless to them.

Just as an example, the mortality rate of a localized breast cancer is on percent. I bet none of those 99 percent survivors would say that it was a harmless experience.

WHITFIELD: So then if citizens, you know, can't feel they can trust what the President says about coronavirus, the dangers or even his leading health experts, then who are they to believe? LONG: I think that there's a lot of again, absolutist language going

across all channels and I think for citizens, it is really frustrating, it is really confusing. I think that's why you and I are here, trying to really give really evidence-driven information for people and I think, the bottom line again, is that this is not a harmless disease. It is one we never heard about until about six months ago. We are learning how to handle it, and there are steps you can take to protect yourself, to make sure that you and your family stay safe.

If we stay sane and measured about it, then our population can do the same.

[15:10:16]

WHITFIELD: So, let's talk about some of the numbers, staggering numbers of what we are seeing, even leading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend and many health experts believe that not long after Memorial Day holiday, we saw a spike in cases and even though you've got a number of beaches that were closed, this holiday weekend, are you concerned that come a week or perhaps two weeks from now, the numbers will spike?

LONG: You know, Fred, can I just say that I hate that we had to close the beaches and so many things because we just hadn't seen people follow some of the commonsense guidelines. I hated seeing all of those things closed, but what we have the look, as the reporter ahead of me mentioned me, it is not just the number of cases, it is the positivity rate.

That is, as the Governor said earlier, it is going to predict in two to three weeks what our hospitalizations will be. What we have to do is keep the hospitalizations under what we can handle, even in for instance, Tennessee where I work, the hospitalization rates are rising, but our ICUs can still handle it.

So, let's prepare our hospitals. Let's prepare our ICUs so they can handle whatever's coming at them, too.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I heard the Houston Mayor earlier today on another network say, you know, while hospitals are strapped, he is not so concerned about running out of beds. There will always be beds. It is easier to bring in beds, but the problem is, you've got staff members, you've got medical personnel whose health is being compromised by the growth and that is what is meant by hospitals being strapped and in trouble.

Medical personnel to attend to anyone else's care? Well, they are in trouble, too. Nurses, doctors getting sick by COVID.

So, let me also get your thoughts now on this "New York Times" report where more than 200 scientists from around the world are urging the World Health Organization to acknowledge that coronavirus can linger in the air indoors and spread to others.

Currently, the W.H.O. guidance only says that COVID spreads by large droplets from coughs and sneezes. But what is your feeling? What is the distinction of droplets that are in the air versus just saying something is airborne? What's the difference?

LONG: Yes, so this is a great conversation and many of our audience probably has heard more about droplets in aerosol in the last six months than they ever heard about in their lives beforehand.

So, droplets -- that's usually -- those are moisturized droplets when you cough or sneeze. They are going fall to the ground. They are not going to stay floating for long period of time.

If it is aerosolized, cough, sneeze, some people who are really sick can aerosolize and different procedures can aerosolize. So, we know COVID can do both, like SARS can do the same thing. So we need to be aware and protect for both. I think that's a valid concern.

WHITFIELD: Does it also means -- does that also mean when you're outside a cough, sneeze -- I mean, those spores or droplets, I mean, they are carried by the wind and they have a greater trajectory? Hence airborne?

LONG: They can, but at least if you're outside if you -- you know, if the wind carries one or two virus particles on you, you're pretty safe, it is when you're in an enclosed space and somebody literally coughs or sneezes in your face, you have to get enough of a virus to get sick from it.

So in terms of risk, being outside is better, but yes, if this is aerosolized, that's why distance, duration and shielding -- masks. Those are the big paradigms of how we protect ourselves. We didn't invent it in Medicine. It comes from radiation exposure and also through other exposures.

If we follow that and if we were just smart about it, we could get this under control.

WHITFIELD: All right, we are all learning a little bit more every day. Just everyone, pay attention. Right? Dr. Darria Long, thank you so much.

LONG: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, what went wrong in Arizona? The state reporting an explosion of coronavirus cases, and now the Mayor of Phoenix says a major mistake was made that puts lives at risk.

Then later, 3,000 people trapped in their apartments for at least five days. They can't even go to work or go food shopping. We'll tell you about the extreme lockdown that has families and officials scrambling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:18]

WHITFIELD: Nationwide, 34 states are seeing an upward trend of new coronavirus cases. But that's not stopping many Americans from heading to the beaches this weekend. You are looking live at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

Health experts warning that mass gatherings and Fourth of July celebrations this weekend could produce an even higher spike if people are not taking precautions -- recommended precautions.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joining us now from New York. So, Polo, what are you learning there? What are the concerns and what are the habits of people there this weekend?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not just concerns, Fred, but also one of the first questions that comes to mind is, did this perhaps help the virus spread? And of course, the answer at this point is we just don't know. It is too soon.

The other question of course is, does this actually go against what health officials had been wanting to see this weekend? And obviously, the answer there is yes.

I want to take you right now to the Ozark Lake in Missouri and that's one of the videos that is right now on social media. At least two lake front restaurants showing large crowds there.

And I also want to show you in Michigan, this is a video that is also making rounds on social media. This is out of Michigan's Diamond Lake basically in the state's southwest side, party goers in very close proximity here. I don't really see any masks in the shot there. The video posted on a social media page that is actually run by residents in and around that lake.

CNN actually speaking to one of those residents who has said that this was a party organized by residents for residents. A party on a sandbar, entertainment and things like that were actually gathered -- it was paid for with donations there by the group.

And what do know is, that resident describing this again, there were announcements that had been made to those party to goers to try to keep that distance, but obviously with these kinds of situations, it is going to be extremely difficult.

We should point out, however, coming out live here to New York that there is a mask requirement there, but the question is what will health officials say about this video? That's something that we're actually working to get for you.

But here in New York, I can tell you, it is obviously a sunny Sunday after Fourth of July. Very similar to what we saw here on Coney Island Boardwalk, also on the beachfront.

People are out and about enjoying themselves. There are those signs that are posted for people to remain six feet apart. Those that do not have masks, there is parking police, they are handing those out especially when some of those folks are using some of the common areas like restrooms, perhaps some of those lines for restaurants and so on.

But of course, the famous attractions, those remain closed as they were closed yesterday. People here can certainly do with a little bit more confidence since that test -- the amount of people that are testing positive for this is less than one percent here in New York and of course, we are still moving forward with reopening here in the Empire State. Back to you now -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

All right, Arizona is seeing a huge increase in new cases over the last week. Per capita, cases are rising there faster than any other state. The governor has pushed pause on further plans to reopen the State of Arizona, but given the rising numbers we are seeing, some mayors are now criticizing the state's decision to reopen in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KATE GALLEGO (D), PHOENIX, ARIZONA: We opened way too early in Arizona. We were one of the last states to go to stay-at-home and one of the first to reemerge and we reemerged at zero to 60. We had crowded nightclubs handing out free champagne, no masks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in a lakeside community near Phoenix, and Evan, how are people reacting there? How are they bracing? How are they even reacting to the numbers -- the rising numbers?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the attitudes are very different depending on who you talk to. I'm on a Saguaro Lake, literally I am on the lake in a boat, a pleasure lake just outside Phoenix.

We wanted to show you what it looks like here on July 5th. You know, an important vacation day for a lot of people. You can see behind me, there's a little beach area over there. People are sort of hanging out in terms of social distance fashion.

Obviously, on the lake, there are a lot of boats that are sort of staying a little bit far apart, but you could see the marina, if I can I get this cam to look over there at the marina over here, you could see the marina is packed. There are people there and just sort of next to that is a restaurant that's here which is also pretty full.

We were walking around earlier before we got on our boat and people saw us wearing masks and a person was kind of making fun of me for wearing a mask.

Arizona is dealing with an issue where people had been very reticent to embrace some of this social distancing stuff and the Mayor of Phoenix, which is sort of the big city near this lake was on TV this morning talking about how she has had to integrate masks into her city's attempt to try and bring this dire situation down here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GALLEGO: We are in a crisis related to testing. I was visiting a testing facility this weekend, people waiting still eight hours. It is really, really difficult.

I've been spending time begging everyone from Walgreens to open up testing, out of state testing companies to come in because it's awful to see people waiting in a car while you're feeling sick. People were running out of gas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now, of course, she was there talking about the testing situation which is also a tough one. We were at a testing site last week where the doors would open online. You could call and get a slot to get tested starting at 7:00 a.m. and they will be closed seven minutes later. That's how the fast the testing slot would fill up.

But also when it comes to masks, the Governor of Arizona has tried to limit gatherings here and change the rules around masks a little bit, but they are up to the individual location.

So, in Phoenix you have to wear them, but out here on this lake today, most people just aren't -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow, and so when you said someone kind of made fun of you for wearing a mask and then listening to the mayor there who sounds really exasperated. She sounds like she is kind of swimming upstream, is her sentiment, you know, reflective of a minority of people there, too, who feel, you know, helpless and are wondering why others are not getting on board?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, that's true, too. I mean, all over the country, we have seen varying degrees of people embracing some of these rules and guidelines that public health officials are laying down.

But Arizona has had a long history during this pandemic of being very reticent of embracing some of the rules that we have seen in other states like New York that was the epicenter. Now, the epicenter is moving down to states like this.

So, we'll see how those attitudes start to change as the story changes -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

All right, still ahead, dozens of people reportedly shot in Chicago this weekend, 13 killed including a seven-year-old girl. Is the coronavirus pandemic triggering a rise in violence? We'll go one on one with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:29:37]

WHITFIELD: In Greenville, South Carolina, at least two people were killed and eight others injured early this morning at a large gathering inside a nightclub. The Sheriff says the club may have been in violation of an Executive

Order prohibiting large gatherings because of surging coronavirus cases in that state. Here's what he had to say about who may have been involved.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SHERIFF HOBART LEWIS, GREENVILLE COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: We don't know who initiated it. There was a band or a group performing and I think they had some involvement.

I don't know if they initiated it, but they were involved at some point.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

[15:30:15]

WHITFIELD: Police believe there are multiple suspects involved, but so far no arrests have been made.

In Chicago, a seven-year-old girl visiting her grandmother was fatally shot Saturday while playing with a group of kids. She is among 67 people, CNN affiliate WLS is reporting were shot this weekend alone across the city. Thirteen were deadly.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeting this, "A seven-year-old girl in Austin joined a list of teenagers and children whose hopes and dreams was ended by the barrel of a gun." The violence comes amid an uptick in shootings and homicides in cities all over the country in the middle of the pandemic.

CNN's Omar Jimenez takes a looks at the rise in violence in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough is enough.

GROUP: Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's become an all too familiar scene at the intersection of coronavirus and gun violence in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (on camera): Compared to last year, shootings up 40 percent?

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: Yes.

JIMENEZ: Homicides up more than 30 percent.

LIGHTFOOT: Yes.

JIMENEZ: So just point blank, what is happening right now?

LIGHTFOOT: All of these forces are coming together at the same time and making it very difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Officials point to months of people cooped up indoors. First responders including police that have either been infected with COVID or died.

The Cook County Jail hit was hit with hundreds of detainees either infected or dead. Courts have had to close and more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIGHTFOOT: This layers and layers and layers of things that are complicated. The ecosystem of public safety that isn't just law enforcement but is local, community based. They, too, have really been hit hard by COVID and are now just kind of coming back online and getting their footing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Over the course of nearly two weeks alone, a 10- year-old was shot and killed, so was a one-year-old.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That coward took a piece of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Mekhai James was three.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHESHA JAMES, AUNT OF MEKHAI JAMES: I'll never see him again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Mekhai was riding with his dad when someone opened fire on the car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTAL ALLEN, AUNT OF MEKHAI JAMES: To hear the children talk about it, I feel as if they shouldn't know anything about death at a young age.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they do.

ALLEN: But they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Their children now carrying the caskets of children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: We have to say to the kids, okay, we'll walk you through the steps. Be strong. Hold your head up. Don't drop the casket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Citywide, 2020 is on pace to be a deadliest year in decades for the city despite months of people staying inside.

At the jail, the population is at its lowest levels ever with a reluctance to add more inmates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM FOXX, COOK COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY: We have a jail that can only maintain a limited population because of COVID-19 and we should be making sure that our attention is going after those who are causing harm to our community.

The jail is the last stop on a systems of failure long before they get to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): Among the alternatives to jailing -- electronic home monitoring. Already at a record level of around 2,500 people pre- COVID according to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, now that number is up more than 3,300.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF TOM DART, COOK COUNTY JAIL: The whole monitoring population not only has gone up dramatically, but the people on it are now charged with violent offenses. These devices were not meant for monitoring those type of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: A task stretching resources dangerously think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIGHTFOOT: Having someone with that kind of history out on the street is highly problematic. We have got to make sure that electronic monitoring is not just electronic and no monitoring.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ (voice over): It is not being the cycle of violence will take more than just figuring out where to put the violent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES: If they give us a chance to become better and just not think about our past, maybe the guns will stop. When we don't have a chance, we go look to the streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: All factors within an ecosystem of public safety alrady complicated, but now, more than ever, at the intersection of two emergencies, neither with a clear end in sight.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And then there's summer camp shutdown. At least 30 people infected with coronavirus at a YMCA camp in Georgia. The news striking a nerve with parents who are worried about school reopening as well. I'll talk about it with the President of the American Federation of Teachers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:39:06]

WHITFIELD: All right, this just in to CNN, 121 students from the University of Washington have tested positive for coronavirus. One hundred twelve of those students are residents of fraternity houses located in the Greek row just north of campus. This is all according to a joint press release put out by the university and the city's public health department.

Last week a pop-up testing site was set up near campus where so far nearly 1,300 tests have been administered.

States across the country are grappling with getting more than 50 million kids back to school starting just a few weeks from now, and everyone as coronavirus cases surge, plans are being hammered out for how to get most of these kids back into an actual classroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The C.D.C. has guidelines about the opening of schools at various stages of those checkpoints.

The basic fundamental goal would be as you possibly can to get the children back to school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:40:11]

WHITFIELD: The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, and last week, said the value of getting children into a classroom outweighs any health risks.

With me now is Randi Weingarten, she is the President of the American Federation of Teachers. Happy fourth weekend. Good to see you.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: You, too, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So, where are you on all of this? Should kids and families be prepared to get their children back in the classroom as early as next month for some school districts?

WEINGARTEN: So, you know, we have been at this trying to figure out how to get kids back into school. Not whether, but how to, since the end of April.

And so, you'll excuse my -- I'm really glad that parents and the pediatricians have now weighed in and they see what we've seen from the beginning. That's isolation is bad for kids.

WHITFIELD: In terms of the value of kids interacting in class.

WEINGARTEN: Right.

WHITFIELD: You're in concert with that.

WEINGARTEN: Of course.

WHITFIELD: Okay, but?

WEINGARTEN: But there's one big word that we have to use, which is safely. And so, there are ways to do this, the C.D.C. said it, the pediatricians said it. We have said it. Because -- and there's three words that I want your audience to think about -- four words: social distancing, masks and hybrid.

What we believe you can do in a period of time we are not seeing an increase of cases in a community, so put aside Texas and Florida for a second.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

WEINGARTEN: Is that if we actually started counting and really put physical distancing in place because that's what tells you how many kids you can have in a school at any one time and make sure we also have the appropriate PPE, then make this happen.

And in fact, New York City, the teachers union and the principals union and the city just agreed to the safety protocols late Friday night that would make that possible.

And so, that's what all of these school districts need to do and they need to involve parents in it so that it doesn't feel like this is magical thinking. They feel like there is a science behind this and then we -- so it's possible if we have the money, the teachers want it. We just called our members and 76 percent of our members, if the safety protocols are in effect want it.

And we know we are going to have to have reasonable accommodations for those who are more senior and more at risk, but it is doable, Fred, if we could actually get the money and the planning intact. That's been when's been in short supply, both the money and the planning. WHITFIELD: So, then when you say hybrid, you know, talking about the

actual virus and talks about mutations, you're talking about changing the -- because no school, no school district can now change the footprint of the school. You still have --

WEINGARTEN: Correct.

WHITFIELD: You know, 25,000 square feet or whatever it is for that school, and now, you have got to figure out how to dovetail the existence of some of these kids and instructors in class because they can't all be there at the same time.

WEINGARTEN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: When you talk about hybrid, you're saying, maybe one week, you know, half of the student body is there. The other half remote learning. So talk about when you talk about the how, are most schools -- do most of them have the resources to entertain those dynamics so that they can safely get kids back in school?

WEINGARTEN: So we're going to need -- so two things. Number one, when I talk about hybrid, it is different for different ages. For example, you want young kids in school for direct instruction.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

WEINGARTEN: In smaller class sizes. For older kids, one of the things we have learned and let's put aside the digital divide for a second, but one of the things we've learned with older kids is you could do something like having a lecture which, you know, a student -- I was a high school Social Studies teacher, could listen to like at 10:00 at night and then you use in-school for reinforcement.

So it would be different, like you could envision younger kids in school three days a week and older kids in school one or two days a week, but it is absolutely essential to try to have all kids in school at one point or another because that's what helps cement the relationships and create the relationships with kids.

Remember, in March, we had our kids from September to March so we knew them. Now, when you start a whole new year, it's starting relationships anew so -- but let me put that aside for a second and say the money.

The money, it going to costs 25 percent more and not less. It is going to cos more money for cleaning, for masks like you know, this one happens to be my AFT mask, but --

[15:45:23]

WHITFIELD: This is where you're also then encouraging -- Federal money has to come to all the school districts because every state is already saying they're having to make cuts and education is one of the first places in which cuts are going to be made.

So if it is going to cost 20 percent more to get schools operating, at least at par, they need Federal money.

WEINGARTEN: Exactly. So that's why what's happened is you have seen this tremendous immobilization because most of the time, you know, principals and superintendents and mayors don't want to plan unless they have the money. They don't have the money yet. This is why we have been spending millions of dollars on ads about the Heroes Act because the House of Representatives said we need a trillion dollars for states and localities and schools.

The Senate just upped that number which I think is correct to about $300 million for Higher Ed and for K-12.

WHITFIELD: Okay.

WEINGARTEN: But because of -- so -- but what is important is that school districts are now taking the risk to plan regardless, but let me say to your listeners, if we don't get the money so we don't have extra teachers, that we don't have extra nurses, that we don't have the psychologists and the social workers and the guidance counselors, we don't have the time for instruction. We don't have the cleaning supplies then we are all going to be on remote even though we all believe that it's wrong.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Well, Randi Weingarten, again, I have got so many more questions, so look at your calendar, see if you're available again next weekend and the weekend after that because school starts mid- August for some school districts and parents are really confused and really at a loss as are a lot of educators and still, there are so many more things to talk about, but this was very, very helpful. Appreciate it, Randi.

WEINGARTEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. A pastor cancels in-person services after staffers and worshippers test positive for coronavirus. His message to fellow religious leaders next.

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[15:52:06]

WHITFIELD: As the pandemic in this country rages, one question still on the minds of so many Americans, is it safe to return to my place of worship? It's a hotly debated issue and one that my next guest has had to address head on.

Pastor Derek Allen from Mobile, Alabama has just shut down his church again and is moving his services back online after multiple staff and congregants tested positive for COVID-19 and he is joining me right now.

Pastor Allen, so good to see you.

PASTOR DEREK ALLEN, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH TILLMAN'S CORNER, MOBILE ALABAMA: Good to see you. Thank you for having me on.

WHITFIELD: So, tell me about this dilemma and how you came to your most recent decision.

ALLEN: Yes, it's really an issue of the head and heart. You know, our heart, we want to be together. God commands us to be together. There's so many things that we do as a church that we can't do when we're not gathering in person.

So, our hearts really want to be together, but when we started seeing the local numbers, it's difficult to make decisions based off of numbers that are statewide or even statewide, but when we started getting texts and phone calls, instead of reading charts and numbers that are coming out on a report, when we started seeing that our local members were really suffering, and when we saw it and spoke to them and saw the level of suffering that they were going through, it was an easy decision, I mean, from the head standpoint.

Now, again, our hearts still want to be together, about you we knew we needed to make a decision to go back online only.

WHITFIELD: So you had these living examples so to speak. You had examples of people and the hardships that they were being put in because of their testing positive, but did you still have other congregants who thought you know, let's stay open anyway?

I mean, did you have to twist any arms? Did you feel like you had to have a real heart to heart conversations with people about your decision to go back online?

ALLEN: Well, in some ways, I feel like the most blessed pastor in America because our church family is so supportive. Of course, we've all had different opinions. I mean, there's one day that I decide I think well, we should be open, and then the next day, I think, no we need to close down and that's just me personally.

So, you know, everybody is back and forth on this. But one thing that I have been blessed with -- and I know not all pastors are -- but I've been blessed with a church that says, no matter what we need to do as a family, we are going to do it together, and we're going to walk through this day and this season together.

So everyone has been very supportive in that decision, and when we saw -- we have so much hope in the Gospel and so much hope in what God has done for us and how He has loved us, and He has commanded us to love one another, and when we saw the suffering of our brothers and sisters, then, you know, it was an easy decision for all of us to make.

WHITFIELD: So you also urge other faith leaders this message. You said, "Don't get caught in the political conversation. Be concerned about your local flock, and if you have any hesitation, err on the side of caution."

ALLEN: Yes.

[15:55:07]

WHITFIELD: Did you say that because you were getting other sentiments from other leaders in the faith community questioning your decisions?

ALLEN: No. In fact, we've gotten -- I have gotten several other pastors who have reached out, you know, just to thank me, not that I did anything admirable, but just simply that they are struggling with the same kind of decisions.

And it is so difficult to go through the weeds and to figure out what you should do as a church based off of this data or that data or this news report or that news report.

So, I really just leaned on what Peter instructed us, to shepherd the flock of God that is among you, so really at the local level.

So what I've heard from other pastors is not necessarily questioning our decision, but I have heard them questioning which decision is right for them to make.

That's why I said, you know, err on the side of caution and try to clear away some of the political stuff that's out there. Just clear it all and make the decision as best for your church.

WHITFIELD: All right, Pastor Derek Allen in Mobile, Alabama, thank you for your time. Be well.

ALLEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

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