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Coronavirus Cases in U.S. Rising to Record Levels; States Pausing or Rolling Back Plans to Reopen Due to Coronavirus Spikes; Florida for First Time Releases Detailed Numbers of Coronavirus Hospitalizations; Disney World Opens Theme Parks in Florida Despite Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic; Arizona Hospitals Reaching Capacity Due to Coronavirus Spike; President Trump Commutes Prison Sentence of Political Adviser Roger Stone; Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Interviewed on What is Needed to Reopen Schools; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) Interviewed on Rapid Increase of Coronavirus Cases in Texas. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:15]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you. It is July 11th. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Abby Phillip. Thank you for joining us this morning. You're in the CNN Newsroom.

BLACKWELL: Right now, coronavirus cases, the numbers are headed in the wrong direction. The U.S. set another record on Friday, more than 66,000 cases reported yesterday.

PHILLIP: Florida is now at the center of it all. That state recorded more than 11,000 new cases and 93 deaths yesterday. Despite that, Walt Disney World in Orlando reopened its doors this morning.

BLACKWELL: At least 26 states have paused, some have rolled back plans to reopen. President Trump is pushing to get kids, though, back in school this fall.

PHILLIP: We've gotten a lot of feedback from you all online about the reopening debate, and we'll get to your responses later this hour, and we'll talk to U.S. Education Secretary, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Our reporters are live over the map this morning, covering the coronavirus crisis for us. We'll start the hour with Polo Sandoval in New York. Polo, what's the latest?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, the latest is that you have multiple local officials across the country that are essentially not just pausing reopening but rolling it back. I'll give you one example, in Atlanta yesterday where Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announcing yesterday that in Atlanta, they are basically going right back to phase one, and that will mean a stay-at-home order. The mayor saying the state essentially opened in a reckless way, in a reckless manner to use the words that she used. But the response she's getting from officials at the state level is certainly quite different here. The governor saying that that is really an unenforceable action.

When you look at other states, though, I can tell you there are other struggles they're caught in in terms of COVID numbers. You have Texas, California, and Florida as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, telling the world that the U.S. is at a historic point in the COVID pandemic.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As you can see from this slide here, my own country, the United States, as I'm sure we'll be able to discuss a little more, is in the middle right now even as we speak in a very serious problem.

SANDOVAL: Fauci issued a blunt warning during this year's International AIDS Conference that the coronavirus crisis rages on. Amid ongoing re-openings Florida continues to grapple with skyrocketing daily COVID numbers and hospitalizations. In hot zone Miami-Dade County, the test positivity rates surpassed 33 percent.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: We have 1,800 people and COVID patients now. That's the highest by many multiples. We have almost 400 people in intensive care, and we're about to hit an all-time high in ventilators.

SANDOVAL: Despite the apparent height in the Florida's pandemic --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We look forward to seeing you soon.

SANDOVAL: -- two Disneyland parks are open again this weekend amid criticism from one employee union. Aggressive testing happening in parts of Texas, some regions working with the military to keep up with demand. In another sign the pandemic is tightening its grip on the lone star state, some hospitals are turning to tents and other spaces to treat the overflow of COVID patients.

WESLEY ROBINSON, SOUTH TEXAS HEALTH: Conference rooms, shelf spaces, and currently we have ICU patients that are on medical, surgical floors that honestly need closer monitoring, need equipment, but those are things that we just simply do not have at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone is exhausted, and the patients here are very sick.

SANDOVAL: California also taking steps to relieve the pressure from record COVID numbers. The state's department of corrections plans to release at least 8,000 preselected prisoners from correction facilities across the state, the movement to allow for more social distancing behind bars. As death tolls climb, a troubling new report from Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention about how COVID is disproportionately killing black and brown Americans, the fresh CDC data showing on average those minority groups are dying from the virus at a younger age when compared to white patients. One likely factor, many of them filling essential and service jobs, allowing little room for social distancing or for staying at home.

DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, CEO, ADVANCING HEALTH EQUITY: And what we need right now in the short term are an equitable allocation of resources to black and brown communities, so targeting testing, contact tracing, PPE, ensuring that the health care institutions in those communities are adequately resourced.

SANDOVAL: Staying fully stocked, that's a big challenge for some hospitals across the country with the virus showing no signs of slowing down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[10:05:07]

SANDOVAL: Back here in New York, the numbers generally on the right track. But even with that, there is this growing concern coming from officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who did say that if there's a potential uptick down the road, Abby and Victor, especially when you see what's happening in the rest of the country, authorities here do believe that it's inevitable that we will see a slight increase because we have such high numbers in the rest of the country.

PHILLIP: That's right, Polo. Thank you so much for that.

For the first time, Florida has released the details of the number of coronavirus hospitalizations.

BLACKWELL: Almost 7,000 people are filling Florida's hospitals, those coronavirus patients. And one ICU doctor tells CNN that all the health care workers have a huge burden.

Let's go now to CNN's Randi Kaye joining us from Florida with more. So yesterday Randi, the second time Florida has reported more than 11,000 cases in a single day, just shy of touching that record. Is this inspiring any significant shift in response from the governor?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing some changes from the governor, at least they're being a little more forthcoming about some of those hospital numbers. But as you said, that was the second highest day on record, more than 11,400 cases, Victor. And the number of cases, the spike that we're seeing, the averages are just remarkable. We know that since the state reopened in early May, the average number of daily new cases jumped more than 1,200 percent, which is remarkable. When Florida reopened May 4th, the average number of daily cases was 680. It's more than 9,000, the average number per day.

And those hospitalization numbers are finally being released after weeks of reporters pressing Governor Ron DeSantis here to release numbers of patients hospitalized throughout the state with COVID-19. He's finally done so. And it changes by the minute. As of now, more than 7,000, as you said, 7,063 hospitalized with COVID. In Miami-Dade, more than 1,600 hospitalized with COVID, that's the hardest hit county. And in Orange County where Disneyworld is opening today, 475 hospitalized with COVID.

We've also learned that at least 50 hospitals around the state are running out of ICU beds or have run out of ICU beds. The governor pushing back on that, saying that we are not nearly at surge capacity and the hospitals are prepared. The governor is also defending his decision to open the state earlier than many other states. He was asked about that yesterday by reporters and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We did phase one at the beginning of May. Our best test results were May and the first two weeks of June. We were five percent or under that whole time. There was really no justification to not move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: And just this week, the governor saying there is nothing to fear, which is probably why he's on board with schools reopening in August. He said that if Walmart and fast food and Home Depot can reopen and they're considered essential, it's essential to educate the kids here, too. Victor, Abby?

BLACKWELL: We'll talk more about schools in a moment. Randi Kaye, thank you.

Let's stay in Florida for a moment. Walt Disney World, as Randi mentioned, also the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, they opened their gates just about an hour ago.

PHILLIP: Epcot and Hollywood Studios plan to reopen this week. CNN's Natasha Chen has the latest. Natasha, what can visitors expect when they head to the parks today? It seems extraordinary that people could be going to theme parks at this time.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Abby and Victor. A lot of people are telling me, at least locals tell me they actually feel safer in the theme parks versus the grocery stores in that area. And that's because there are serious new protocols. Today is the first public reopening. Of course, I'm hearing from someone in the parks right now that there are more people there today than there were during the last couple of days with annual passholder previews. Here's a look what that was like with the new procedures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: Disney theme parks may be an escape to a fictional bubble, but no amount of pixie dust can wipe away the realities of a pandemic.

ERICA M. DISNEY WORLD ANNUAL PASSHOLDER: It does feel a bit surreal. CHEN: It's a whole new world of temperature checks, parties separated

on rides, touchless payments and entry, and required facemasks that must loop around human ears. There are also far fewer people in parks due to significantly reduced capacity and a required advanced reservation for people wanting to go in.

ERICA M.: I do feel a bit nervous when trying to do all the things I love and enjoy doing again, but also remembering to do them as safely as I possibly can. Wearing an N95 masks to the parks, social distancing from other park goers, packing Clorox wipes, packing hand sanitizer, keeping my hands clean, all the different hand washing stations.

CHEN: For locals and theme park bloggers in Orange County, Florida, where COVID cases are rising rapidly along with the rest of the state.

[10:10:00]

CRAIG WILLIAMS, PRODUCER OF "THE DIS UNPLUGGED": We feel safer at theme parks than we do at any other normal store or restaurant. It feels safer at the theme parks because they're putting in that extra effort.

CHEN: He says the extra effort is more visible at Disney than he's seen at other theme parks that reopened in the past month. Rides frequently stop so employees can sanitize them. Plexiglas, especially, in tight cues, and something he doesn't always see outside Disney property.

WILLIAMS: It really blew me away that everyone was following all the rules. So I definitely didn't expect that.

CHEN: Orange County officials were asked Thursday if they had seen COVID cases stemming from theme parks that are already open.

DR. RAUL PINO, ORANGE COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER: I would be lying to say we have not seen a case here and there that mentioned one of the parks, but we have not seen an outbreak in any of the parks that opened so far that we are aware of.

CHEN: Disney's chief medical officer said in a blog post this week, "we reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly," and that includes the many restaurants on Disney property, like Chef Art Smith's Homecomin', which has a new patio and spaced out tables.

CHEF ART SMITH, OWNER OF HOMECOMIN' FLORIDA KITCHEN AT DISNEY SPRINGS: Everyone wants to enjoy time here but safely. And I think together we're doing that.

CHEN: He says people need a safe way to get a little comfort food and magic right now.

SMITH: It ain't how we are in good times. It's how we are in challenging times, OK?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: And of course, with fewer people, that means shorter wait times for rides. But there was one long wait during passholder preview that we heard about. There was a virtual cue up to four hours for people who wanted to buy merchandise related to the ride Splash Mountain. Remember, Disney had announced they were changing the theme of the ride with a story that has some racially insensitive origins. They're changing it to Princess and the Frog right. So it seems a lot of people were after that existing merchandise with the old theme. Victor and Abby, back to you.

PHILLIP: Wow, Natasha, thank you so much. Thanks for that.

BLACKWELL: Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order limiting indoor dining capacity to 50 percent. The state's reopening plans were on pause last month because of the spike in cases there.

PHILLIP: The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, is also pausing any further phases of reopening. He ordered bars to close again and restaurants to reduce capacity to 50 percent. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, another hot spot in this coronavirus pandemic. Evan, what else are you learning that is going on there in Arizona? What is the situation with hospital capacity, and how is the state managing these rising cases down there?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Abby and Victor. And you're right to say that the state is having trouble with the hospitals. The latest numbers that we saw showed about 89 percent capacity on ICU beds, about 187 left in the state. That has hovered around 90 percent for the past few days that we have been here.

But I wanted to come to the Grand Canyon, because if you look at an Arizona license plate, you'll see that they say that this state is the Grand Canyon state. And so I came here to the famous south rim of the Grand Canyon. Over there is the El Tovar Hotel. It's a famous, one of America's first tourist hotels, famous hotel. And this of course over here is the main event, the Grand Canyon itself.

Now, the Grand Canyon is part of the story in Arizona and part of the story of this pandemic. This park is open now. It was closed for a couple of months earlier on in the pandemic. And now it's open under the county guidelines of the county in Arizona. So that means that there are masks that are required when people are here. Inside the El Tovar, when you eat, there's distance at the tables in there. But that's not true of everywhere in Arizona. One of the challenges for local health officials here has been that the governor has not laid down a statewide mask requirement. So in some counties masks are required, some places they're not. That's true of other things as well.

The situation here really is pretty dire. We have been tracking this number, which is the average per capita new case load on a seven-day period, and Arizona has lead that number since June 7th. So it's a tough situation, and one that effected even out here in the Grand Canyon, where you're looking down in geological time, the current environment is still really affecting how things are working out here, guys.

BLACKWELL: We focus a lot on Florida and Texas, but let's not forget the trend in Arizona as well. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thanks so much for that report.

Still to come, President Trump, he commutes the sentence of his friend, political ally, Roger Stone, who lied to protect him. Let's remember that. We'll discuss the legal and potential political fallout when we come back.

[10:15:02]

PHILLIP: Plus, as schools' reopening nears, we are talking with the former U.S. Education Secretary about the steps he thinks schools have to take in order to reopen safely, up ahead.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, if you lie for the president, if you cover up for the president, if you withhold incriminating evidence for the president, you get a pass from Donald Trump. That's the message that the president has always wanted to convey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: That was House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff criticizing the president's decision to commute the prison sentence of his longtime friend and political ally, Roger Stone. Stone was scheduled to begin serving his 40-month sentence next week.

BLACKWELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that there should be a law to limit the president's pardon power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:20:02]

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): There ought to be a law. And I am recommending that we pass a law that presidents cannot issue a pardon if the crime that the person is in jail for is one that is caused by protecting the president, which this was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Of course, that would take an amendment to the Constitution, which is unlikely. Stone was convicted last year of lying to Congress, witness tampering, other charges related to the Russia investigation.

PHILLIP: Even though Roger Stone is no longer required to serve any time in prison, he has said that he'll continue to try to overturn his convictions.

BLACKWELL: Earlier this morning, we spoke with constitutional attorney Page Pate about the fate of the appeal. We also asked the speaker's call to limit the president's powers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAGE PATE, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: The idea that Mr. Stone can still appeal his conviction, that's true. But there's nothing about that conviction that I can see that will be successful on appeal and result in a new trial. So I think it was a compromise by the White House.

The Constitution clearly gives full pardon power to the president. It is completely unchecked. And there were some objections about that when put into the Constitution, but James Madison said look, it's not a problem. If a president ever tried to pardon anyone he may have been connected with in the commission of a crime, he would be immediately impeached. Obviously, that's not going to happen in this environment. So the idea that there would be a check on the pardon power in the Constitution never made it.

So to change the pardon power, we're going to have to amend the Constitution, and that is a huge effort, and I don't see that happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Let's bring in Sarah Westwood at the White House. Sarah, what has the president said about all this so far?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Abby, despite the fact that the commutation took place last night after the president had a brief phone call with Roger Stone, he's speaking out about it for the first time this morning in a tweet that I want to read you. He said "Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal witch hunt that never should have taken place. It is the other side that are criminals, including Biden and Obama who spied on my campaign and got caught." Obviously, the spying, the wiretaps, this is an accusation that the president has repeated about his predecessor quite frequently. It is not true. There's no evidence that the Obama administration at any point spied on the Trump campaign or any of Trump's associates.

The inspector general for the Justice Department did find that there was misconduct on the part of individual investigators who were involved in that investigation, but that did not extent to Roger Stone's case. He was convicted in November, sentenced to 40 months in prison for, among other things, witness tampering, lying to Congress about the campaign's connections to WikiLeaks. That had nothing to do with misconduct that Trump and his allies are frequently citing.

Roger Stone had been under gag order for much of that case, that was lifted after he was found guilty. And he has been leading a crusade to try to get an act of clemency out of the president. Stone's allies also had been pressuring the president to do so. Now, there were some advisers who worried about repercussions of the president commuting the sentence of someone who was involved in a criminal investigation against the president himself, but obviously the pressure on the president to keep Stone out of jail outweighed those concerns in the end, Abby and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Sarah, we are hearing from occasional Trump critic Senator Mitt Romney. What is he saying?

WESTWOOD: That's right. So far, Victor, the only Republican who is speaking out against what the president did last night with respect to Stone's case, I want to read you what Romney wrote. He said "Unprecedented historic corruption, an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president." It's unclear if we're going to hear a similar sentiment from other Republicans. In many cases Romney is the only Republican to speak out against the president. This seems to be one of them.

The White House is already responding to Romney's tweet with the Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany telling CNN that the only unprecedented historic corruption is on the side of the Obama-Biden administration. Again, that is not the case, but the White House very quickly pushing back on that Romney tweet, deflecting criticism of the president's decision to keep Stone out of prison last night, Victor and Abby.

PHILLIP: And perhaps sending a warning to other Republicans who might be considering weighing in as well. Thank you so much, Sarah.

BLACKWELL: Big question right now -- how do you get millions of kids back into classrooms and keep them there safely? We're going to ask a former U.S. Secretary of Education next.

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[10:29:05]

LARRY KUDLOW, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: Just go back to school. We can do that. And you can social distance, you can get your temperature taken, you can be tested, you can have distancing. Come on, it's not that hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Not that hard. That was from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow as millions of U.S. families and teachers near school starting amid a deadly pandemic. But there is nothing easy about any of this. As the COVID-19 cases are rising, a new report is now finding that nearly one in four, or 1.5 million teachers, are at high risk of getting seriously ill.

BLACKWELL: Of course, there's a concern, too, about the spread. A summer camp in Missouri just had to shut down after 80 kids and staffers tested positive. Kids can also get seriously sick, even die in some very rare cases. So the question is how do you open the classrooms safely? And how do you keep the kids there?

[10:30:00]

The former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently laid out eight steps to reopen schools that he says must be taken or plans will backfire. And the former secretary is with us. Sir, good to have you back. ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: So let's start here. I want to start with what your successor, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, her follow-up on the president's tweeted threat to pull funding to schools if they don't fully reopen five days a week. Here's what she explained.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: If schools aren't going to reopen, we're not suggesting pulling funding from education, but instead allowing families, let the families take that money and figure out where their kids can get educated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Is that plausible that the Department of Education could or would do that? And what would be the impact?

DUNCAN: No. Trump is just a bully here. He's lying. Secretary DeVos has only one interest, and that's vouchers. So everything she sees through that lens. So rather than threatening to take away money from school districts, what the federal government should be doing if they truly cared about children and about teachers and about education would be putting about $150 billion to $200 billion into schools and school districts across the country right now to help them prepare to try to reopen and keep children and staff safe in this very, very difficult time.

BLACKWELL: Let's get to what you write in "The Atlantic" now. You co- authored this with former CDC director Tom Frieden and Bush 43 Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Before we get to the steps, I want to talk about the approach. There's a line that jumped out at me where you wrote "We don't close our schools because of risk of influenza, and we don't necessarily need to close them because of risk of COVID-19." The president has caught hell for comparing coronavirus to influenza in the context of the required response. Even Dr. Frieden wrote an op-ed for CNN, and the title was "COVID-19 is different from the flu and we mud respond differently." Why is that an apt comparison?

DUNCAN: Obviously, this is just absolutely deadly. And what just breaks my heart is we shouldn't even wondering about whether we can open school this fall. Had we as the nation, had the president provided any real leadership in March and April and May and June, we would be good to open like other countries are. But because he has denied science, because he denied reality, so many people are still dying, and our children are in jeopardy of being able to go back to school safely this fall. So we just have to -- the president has made himself irrelevant, he's lost all credibility. We as a country have to step up now --

BLACKWELL: Mr. Secretary, let me interrupt you, because the question wasn't about the president. The question is about the comparison to the flu. So is it something we compare to the flu or do not compare to the flu, because it seems like we are getting different characterizations and comparisons here?

DUNCAN: Yes, I'm not the scientist or the epidemiologist, but this is killing way, way, way too many people. It is spread way too easily. And we have to educate everyone, but we have to keep them safe first, both our children, their parents, our teachers, our custodians, our bus drivers. That's of paramount importance.

BLACKWELL: Let's put up some of the steps. We have got a graphic we can put up on the screen, and I'll read them for the people who are listening on Sirius Radio. "Shield the most vulnerable, reduce the risk where possible, keep the virus out, wear a mask." Before we get to the rest of them -- well, we've got them up now. "Reduce mixing among students and staff, reduce occupancy especially indoors, implement new health and safety protocols, and prepare for cases."

Let me go back to number three, keeping the virus out. No nonessential visitors, sick children and teachers of course stay home. Dr. Anthony Fauci estimates up to 45 percent of these cases can be asymptomatic. What's not addressed in these eight steps are testing. Day one, when kids go back to class, there could be a dozen people in the school who are positive. Should testing be part of the regimen, should there be testing regimen to determine if the virus is in the school?

DUNCAN: Yes, testing. But that's just a starting point. Let me be clear, first we have to have accurate testing, reliable testing. Secondly, we have to be able to get those results back very quickly. If you are getting those results back six days, eight days later, that's not good enough. Then if you have positive results, you have to be able to contact trace. And then you have to be able to quarantine and isolate. So unless we're willing to do all of those things as a nation that are so critically important, testing by itself isn't enough, but is a critical first step. If it is accurate, reliable, cheap, and we get results back quickly so we can act upon what we find.

BLACKWELL: And one of the steps includes cleaning protocols. And we have been asking viewers to send in their thoughts on if schools should reopen. And we've got one from an educator here, Anita Crawford Clark. Her tweet is "No one talks about funds needed to make our classrooms safe. Guess they want us teachers to pay for that out of our own pockets like we do for other school supplies and fun stuff for our kids."

[10:35:03]

Where is the money supposed to come from for all this? And if schools can't buy the cleaning supplies and all that's necessary, can they, should they open?

DUNCAN: School districts are going to be hit really hard financially this year because so much funding comes from local and state property and sales taxes and those have been decimated. So as I said earlier, we need an influx of resources that can only come from the federal government. We need to help schools open across the country. Between $150 billion and $200 billion. We can get this money out very, very fast. We did it in 2009, was part of the Obama administration. We have to do this in a really fair way, and get the money to the schools and the school districts who need it most. Rather than the president talking about taking away funds, starving public education, now is the time to invest, and we have to do it now.

BLACKWELL: Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, thank you, sir, for coming back.

DUNCAN: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: As I mentioned, we have been asking for reaction to this push to open schools, or at least, I shouldn't say reopen schools, because school never ended. Bring the kids back into the building, into the classroom. Here are a few of the responses.

This first one is from Donna. She writes this "Distance learning doesn't work for everyone and underserves many children, especially those in poorer communities. Schools could be open in low outbreak states with strict protocols in place. We are working hard in Connecticut to ensure children are in the safest environment possible."

PHILLIP: And we got this message from Casey. "No way! I'm a teacher and I've had COVID. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I'm a parent, and there is no way I would send my kid anywhere near a school during this horrible pandemic. We need national leadership, not magical thinking."

Susan says "If children need to return to school for their social well-being with mask and social distancing requirements, how is that going to be different than online learning? They can't interact with each other, play with each other, or basically be with each other. How does it help?"

BLACKWELL: We've got this from Tara. "I'm the mother of a second grader in Kentucky. I desperately need her to be in school learning. She is falling behind with reading she was just learning that. Plus, I desperately need child care that isn't costing me $150 a week. I'm working only to pay child care at the moment."

And we've got this is from D. Moore. "As a teacher it saddens me how little I hear concerns for my safety mentioned. While children might be safe from the spread of COVID-19, the adults that have to work with them are not. If I get sick, who's going to teach?"

Important points, all of them. And thank you so much for the comments. We of course continue to take those in.

Abby, if you think about it, we may be able to get students into classes, but the concept of keeping them there for the whole school year, that's certainly a major concern.

PHILLIP: It's a major concern, as is the concern of parents who are trying to figure out how to keep kids learning and keep them fed because they have got to work, too. So these are tough questions, and they require nuanced answers. But in some cases, it's just very polarizing on both sides of this. BLACKWELL: I think of single parents who have more than one child, how

you keep those kids learning while trying to work from home yourself. We'll continue to follow the school's reopening.

Coronavirus cases in Texas are spiking, and now the state is bringing in some federal health representatives. Sheila Jackson Lee joins us next to talk about the pandemic response.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:42:42]

PHILLIP: A grim view for the COVID-19 situation in Texas. A medical task force from the Department of Defense is being sent to Texas on Monday as the state struggles to get a spike in COVID-19 cases under control. Just yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott extended the disaster declaration across all of the state's 254 counties. That order is being made as we learn more than 10,000 coronavirus patients are filling the state's hospitals.

I want to bring in Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. She is a Democrat from Texas and a surrogate for the Biden campaign. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, you're in Houston, Texas, right now. I want to know, what are you seeing on the ground? And are you satisfied with what the governor is doing, rolling back some of the state's reopening at this point?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): First of all, let me thank all our first responders. It's good to be with you, nurses, doctors, and techs, and people who are just stretching themselves to the very end all over the state. And I offer to them our greatest appreciation.

Abby, with 10,000 patients with our deadliest day just about two days ago in terms of death, we know that Texas opened too early, and we are now experiencing and suffering the impact of that. So frankly, what we're doing now is trying to patch. And we express our appreciation for what is being done. I spent two days ago a long time on a call with the FEMA director after I polled hospitals who needed everything you could imagine -- ICU doctors, ICU nurses, respiratory techs, and others, and begged them to send additional medical staff here.

In the last two days, we got 2,400 nurses, which I hope are spread not only to large hospitals and small. And then of course we have the defense disaster medical teams. That's important. I think we have to ask the real question, how do we get in front of COVID-19, particularly as relates to stopping the community spread. And I believe we actually need a stay-at-home order that can be determined by science and phasing out next time of the opening.

Medical professionals cannot get their hands around how many people are getting sick, how many people are sick at home, how many people are positive, until we have the stopping of the community spread and using of contact tracing. So that's where we are.

[10:45:07] We needed a strategic plan by the president of the United States. We never got it. He has abandoned COVID-19. He tells us it is going to puff away, and it has not. And so we really need real work, and we're doing real work down here in Houston. The Biden plan, of course, is strategic.

PHILLIP: I'll ask you, as you know, this is a dual crisis. And a stay- at-home order being put back in place in Texas and elsewhere is creating a huge economic crisis. Joe Biden, who you're a surrogate for, gave a major economic speech this past week. But are you comfortable, do you feel like he is out on the trail enough, given the environment, given the state of crisis that the country is both economically and in terms of this coronavirus pandemic?

LEE: Abby, out in the community we say we feel you. I can tell you that we feel Joe Biden. We feel his heart, we feel his intellect and passion, and we feel the ability for him to unify. And he's doing that with his economic plan. He is talking about investing in the middle class, working families. He's talking about $300 billion as relates to research and $400 billion to create jobs through procurement and buy back America, green jobs.

We know that if we pass the Heroes Act, which Joe Biden would have signed by now, we can take care of these people that may have to be in a stay-at-home situation. But Joe Biden is looking to ensure everyone has a $15 an hour job, that if they're working hourly wage jobs, that that is the minimum that they would get. Joe Biden knows that the economy has knocked us to our knees at this point. He's prepared to have us stand up.

And he is unifying the party to ensure that all voices are heard. And frankly, I believe if Joe Biden was president right now, we would have had a strategic plan for COVID-19. We may not have had to return back as many cities are doing, from Atlanta to Miami is considering that and others. We need this governor to direct to the local authorities their own individual determination as to whether they need stay at home order based on science.

What we have now is chaos and we have lives that are being lost. I don't want any more lives to be lost. And I know that Joe Biden, if president, would not have us in this predicament as relates to COVID- 19. But I'm inspired that he will have an effective economic policy that will get us out in flying colors.

PHILLIP: I do want to ask you quickly about polling. Obviously, a lot of polling shows the American public not happy with how President Trump has been handling the crisis, and that Biden in this head-to- head is leading Trump in many of these polls. But there are some questions from Democrats about whether you can trust them. Do you trust the polls? And there are some Democrats who say Biden maybe should be thinking bigger, thinking to states like Texas, your home state. Is Texas a battleground state? And do you think the numbers are reflecting where you think the race actually is?

LEE: I've heard that Texas is a battleground state. We are a battleground state. We were almost a battleground state with the Senate race in 2018. We have grown now. We're younger, we're more diverse. We view the world in different perspective.

And I don't think Vice President Biden takes poll numbers and takes anything for granted. I think he is energized by the fact that there are greater opportunities in many more states that he has the opportunity of playing in successfully and winning. We don't want to skate by. We're not looking to stand on numbers. We want voters. And we know that votes count, not numbers. All of us are energized. I'm excited about Texas. Our last numbers show that we were dead even. And I can't even capture how excited both the Democratic Party is, but really independents and Republicans in Texas excited about voting for Joe Biden.

He is bringing the big tent into play, and people of every persuasion feel that they have a home if Joe Biden wins as president of the United States. And we're going to run like we've never run before. We're going to encourage voting like you never voted before so that we can have a victory in November, 2020, not a poll victory, but a real victory with voters voting for Vice President Joe Biden.

PHILLIP: I know Democrats have been trying to get Texas into the battleground category for a long time. Thank you, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, thanks for being here this morning.

LEE: Thank you for having me. Have a good day.

BLACKWELL: So imagine going to an amusement park, and there's a sign, "No screaming," even on rollercoasters. So these two guys in suits proved that it can be done. We'll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:54:14]

KAORI ENOJI, CNN BUSINESS: I'm Kaori Enoji in Tokyo. No screaming on the rollercoaster, that's the recommendation for Japanese theme park operators as they gradually reopen throughout the country. Mask- wearing here is a matter of course, but they're recommending this as an additional layer of protection to prevent people from spraying droplets that may contain coronavirus through the air. Even in law abiding Japan, this has been a big ask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: All right, well, remember to scream inside your heart. Thanks for joining us this Saturday morning.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: I am not going to that amusement park if I can't just scream out. If I can't scream on the rollercoaster, I don't want to ride.

PHILLIP: You can scream here, Victor.

[10:55:00]

BLACKWELL: I've been screaming inside my heart for eight years.

CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Alex Marquardt in today for Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for joining me.

We are beginning with the U.S. yet again setting a new single day record for coronavirus cases now, as many states are struggling to contain the spread of the virus.