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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis States Rising Coronavirus Cases Due To Increased Testing; Florida For First Time Releases Detailed Numbers Of Coronavirus Hospitalizations; Disney World Opens Theme Parks In Florida Despite Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic; Coronavirus Testing At Dodger Stadium In Los Angeles, California Resumes; Arizona Hospitals Reaching Capacity Due To Coronavirus Spike; Georgia Governor Criticizes Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Rolling Back City's Reopening; President Trump Threatens To Defund Public Schools That Do Not Reopen. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 14:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. now with more than 3.1 million total infections, by far the highest of any country in the world. Another big point of concern, the rising number of deaths and hospitalizations. All of this as the debate over opening schools rages on. Several states saying that classes will resume in the fall, but a new report saying that one in four teachers faces higher risks of serious illness if they catch the coronavirus.

We have full coverage in the hardest hit areas all across the country. Let's first go to Florida and our Randi Kaye, where the state is reporting another 10,360 new coronavirus cases this morning, also, 95 additional deaths. But speaking in the last hour, Governor Ron DeSantis said that the reason his state is seeing a surge is because of more testing. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: If you test 200,000 people at a three percent rate, you're going to get more cases than if you test 100,000 people at that.

I think as you see, when we started to see more cases, yes, we've been testing more in the last three weeks by far than we have before. But you see that 6/14 to 6/20, the positivity then goes up to 9.6 percent, and then the next week in June, 12 percent, and then we were 14.8 percent for the last part of June, beginning of July.


MARQUARDT: So let's get right to Randi down there in Palm Beach County. Randi, this isn't the first time that we've heard this explanation, this line of reasoning from Governor DeSantis.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, the governor likes to blame the higher positivity rates and the greater number of cases on the fact that we're doing more testing here in the state of Florida, but we have seen positivity rates in the high 20s and the low 30s this week, and he said he would like them to be in the single digits. So certainly a problem here.

But that didn't stop the governor way back in April from taking a victory lap at the White House, basically saying that reporters were wrong to ever say that Florida could be like New York or Italy, and look at where we were right now.

But before the governor even shut down the state, counties took it in their own hands to close down some of their own counties, and residents self-isolated. They really did everything right, and we thought that Florida could escape the worst of it after cell phone data showed that residents were staying at home. But it turned out that wasn't the case at all. So here's a look at what Florida did wrong.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order, hoping to contain the coronavirus. Weeks later, while visiting the White House, the governor took a victory lap for how he managed things back home.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened. We had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward.

KAYE: That turned out not to be the case at all. Trouble started in early May when DeSantis rushed to reopen before many other states. Restaurants, gyms, barber shops, and beaches were first to reopen in most parts of the state. After Memorial Day, the virus was starting to rage. By July 1st, there were more than 9,000 new cases reported in one day statewide. And recently, new daily cases topped 11,000. But if you listen to DeSantis, there's a disconnect.

DESANTIS: I think we've stabilized at where we're at.

KAYE: That's just not true, and the data proves it. Since reopening, Florida's average number of daily new cases has jumped more than 1,200 percent, and dozens of hospitals throughout the state have run out of ICU beds. In the last two weeks in hard hit Miami-Dade County, the need for ICU beds has increased 88 percent, and ventilator use jumped 123 percent. The state's positivity rate is hovering close to 30 percent.

MAYOR DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH: We are in the midst of a very, very vicious spike in our community in Miami-Dade County. and one thing you can't have is for a governor or a president trying to downplay it as if it's not an urgent thing we need to pay attention to.

KAYE: So while the governor continues to defend his move to reopen the state, the fact is, more than 4,100 Floridians are dead, and the message from the governor still coming up short.

DESANTIS: There's no need to really be fearful about it.


KAYE: And now, just overnight and earlier today, we're getting more information on the number of hospitalizations finally from the governor's office here in the state of Florida. For weeks reporters have been pressing to get this information. It's important to share it with the public, how many people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. And we know now that there are more than 7,200 hospitalized statewide with the virus and the disease, and 560 in Orange County where Orlando is.


So I should note that that's where Disney World is reopening today, and it's going to be a very different Disney World there, Alex. People will have to wear masks, they'll have to get temperature checks as they come through the gates. They will have to social distance in this Florida heat, standing outside, waiting in line, and they won't be able to get up close and personal with the characters either. They're trying to take all the precautions that they can, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All sorts of precautions as they reopen after four months of being closed. Randi Kaye in Palm Beach County, thanks very much.

Let's cross the country to California where coronavirus testing at Dodger Stadium has resumed, and it comes as the state has surpassed more than 310,000 cases. Our Paul Vercammen is here in L.A., Los Angeles with more. Paul, I understand that you actually yourself, you got tested at Dodger Stadium?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have. I've been tested here twice. The last time was extremely efficient. They returned my test to me in just a little over 30 hours. Let's show you what they're doing here. they have six lanes now working at Dodger Stadium. They say they are the biggest test site in the nation. Their capacity is 6,500 people per day, so 6,500 people per day about.

And let's look at the latest Los Angeles numbers as we look at this shot live. We had a case of 50 deaths in the most recent numbers in Los Angeles, 2,667 new cases and 10 percent positivity rate. The L.A. Mayor Garcetti telling everybody in Los Angeles you need to stay vigilant.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, (D) LOS ANGELES: Even though we know it's going to be very hot this weekend, it's not a green light for a pool party or barbecue. Please don't do that. Build on the good work of this past week. It's better to be at home. I know this can be frustrating. I know it's been a long, long time. And I know that we feel like there will never be an end to this. But we do know that there are lives at stake, every single decision and every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VERCAMMEN: And as we try to flatten the curve again in Los Angeles, so far 156,000 people have been tested here at Dodger Stadium alone, Alex.

MARQUARDT: And Paul, we're learning that there's a clothing company called L.A. Apparel that has been ordered to close after they reported four coronavirus deaths and more than 300 cases. What do you know about that?

VERCAMMEN: That's just off in the distance behind me in downtown Los Angeles. L.A. Apparel was put back together by what was American Apparel. And basically, the county health department has come down hard, saying that they were violating so many rules, the county health director saying these were flagrant violations at L.A. Apparel.

And let's look at a statement from her. She also called the four deaths tragic and heartbreaking. The L.A. County health director basically saying in this statement that it's incumbent for these companies to ensure the safety of their workers, a social responsibility, as you can see right there. And she went on to say it's important now, more than ever, as we are in the fight against this deadly virus that they get compliance.

On the flipside, Dov Charney is the owner of L.A. Apparel and he fiercely defended himself to CNN late yesterday evening, saying that, among other things, he felt that the county health department didn't properly instruct his workers on how to stay safe, and he said that that was a poor job. You can be sure that this dustup will continue. But as for now, L.A. Apparel is shut down. Back to you, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Paul Vercammen in L.A. County in California where they are also seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. Paul, thanks very much.

Arizona is another one of those states. It has become one of the country's hardest hit states by coronavirus, and as health officials say there are less than 1,000 hospital beds available across the entire state. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins me now from the Grand Canyon, of course one of the state's main tourist attractions. Evan, are you seeing people out there? How are they handling the crowds?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, as you mentioned, this state, Arizona, is one of the new epicenters of the pandemic here in the United States. And obviously anybody who knows Arizona, seen an Arizona license plate, this is the Grand Canyon state. And that's where I am right now.

The park is open, and park officials tell me that they are seeing a decline in overall attendance, but people are here. I'm at Mather Point, one of the most popular parts of the Grand Canyon. And as you can see, the rules here are when you're inside buildings, you have to wear a mask. Outside it's a recommendation in areas where you can't socially distance to use your best judgment. And as you can see, best judgment means different things to different people. But the park remains open, and people here say that, look, this is the kind of place where if you do the right thing, if you socially distance, it's huge. [14:10:06]

You're looking a mile down over there, and there's a lot of places to go. So if you want to come with your family and stay apart from each other, it's OK to do. But they do say obey the social distancing rules when you're in the gathering places like I am right now, Alex.

MARQUARDT: But Evan, what about outside the park, when the state's officials looking at the massive spread, how are they addressing the surge?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So that's the central question here in Arizona. Really the story of the state right now is local officials and public health officials versus the governor when it comes to closures and just how strong a tact to take to try to tamp down the numbers here. About 10 days ago or so, the governor reclosed things like bars and gyms and pushed the school year back a couple of weeks.

But indoor dining is still available. Last week at a press conference, he added a new regulation to indoor dining saying it had to be only 50 percent of the fire code to try to keep people out of the restaurants, from being congregating in the restaurants. But local officials, such as some of the mayors of the bigger city here, and the public health officials say that's not enough and they're hoping for more.

MARQUARDT: Thanks very much to Evan McMorris-Santoro on the south edge of the Grand Canyon. Quite a sight right there behind you.

Now, Atlanta's mass transit system will be enforcing a mandatory mask policy as cases spike also in that state, and this comes as Georgia's Governor Kemp slams the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, for her decision to roll back the city's reopening. The surge in new infections is inspiring a former Georgia governor who also happens to be a former president, Jimmy Carter there, with his wife sharing this photo. They are encouraging people to wear masks.

CNN's Natasha Chen joins me now from Atlanta. Natasha, we're now seeing a showdown between the governor and the mayor of Atlanta.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and this is similar to the type of confusion that happened earlier in the pandemic. As far as facemasks go, as you were saying, there's no statewide mandate, even though the governor has strongly encouraged people to wear them.

The Atlanta area and Savannah areas, they have their own facemask mandate to require people to wear them indoors, and then when you're outdoors whenever you can't socially distance. So in my situation, there's no one remotely close to me so I can keep mine off for a moment here.

But this is a definite back and forth with the Atlanta mayor wanting to roll things back to phase one. Remember, she did test positive for COVID herself. Phase one would mean having people stay home unless it's an essential trip, rolling retail and restaurants back to curbside or takeout only.

And that is because of the rising number of cases. Let's look at the chart that shows the seven-day moving average of new cases. You can just see in late June, early July, those numbers really exploded there. Now, Governor Brian Kemp says that Mayor Bottoms action today, this is a quote, "is merely guidance, both nonbinding and legally unenforceable. As clearly stated in the governor's executive order, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide."

And of course, the governor did acknowledge that hospitalization rates are also increasing at the same time. Those people hospitalized, different from what we saw in the beginning. These are younger people, people who are staying in the hospital for a shorter stay with less acute symptoms. But still, a very serious thing to see that number rise, and he did reactivate the makeshift hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center downtown.

So at the same time, I'm checking in with the mayor of Tybee Island. There was some back and forth in the beginning of this quarantine period about the beaches there as well. She says that the Chatham County Commission is debating whether they are going to institute their own mandate. Really more focused on whether there should be a facemask mandate. And she says even if the governor finds that to be unenforceable, she does believe that having such a mandate locally would send a strong message, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right, the governor saying, essentially, it's up to him. Natasha Chen in Atlanta, thank you very much.

Now, this is just in to CNN. South Carolina has just hit two new grim milestones in the fight against coronavirus. Today the state is reporting the highest number of new cases ever for South Carolina with more than 2,200 new cases. That's a new single-day record for South Carolina, and it comes as South Carolina is also reporting its first pediatric death associated with coronavirus. That was a child under the age of five who passed away from complications related to COVID- 19. Our thoughts, of course, with that child's family.

Now in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is renewing and expanding his disaster declaration which will now allow for additional federal resources to fight COVID-19. On Monday, the U.S. Army is expected to send a medical task force to Houston, and this comes as the state reports more than 9,700 new cases in a single day, bringing the state's total number of cases to over 245,000 with more than 3,000 deaths.


The pandemic also continues to impact, of course, major league sports. The Houston Astros have canceled today's team workout because of a potential COVID-19 exposure to a staff member. This news comes a day after Major League Baseball announced that just under two percent of team personnel had tested positive for the coronavirus in the final intake screening through the end of July. Coming up, today President Trump is visiting Walter Reed Medical

Center to meet with wounded troops. He's expected to wear a facemask for the first time in public, but is he sending the right message with his words?

Plus, a new analysis finds that nearly 1.5 million teachers are at a higher risk of serious illness if they contract coronavirus. We'll talk about that and answer your questions as part of our half-hour special on reopening schools coming up at 2:30 p.m. eastern time. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: Just in to CNN, the CDC is now estimating at least 40 percent of Americans who are infected with COVID-19 don't have any symptoms, they're asymptomatic, and that asymptomatic estimation has gone up from 35 percent back in May. The CDC is saying that about half of the COVID-19 transmissions happen before people get sick. All the more reason for people to wear their masks.

Soon, President Trump will be visiting injured troops at Walter Reed Medical Center, and while he's there, he is expected to wear a facemask in public for the first time. Despite the skyrocketing COVID case count across the country, the president continues to claim that the U.S. has the outbreak under control. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the United States losing the war against COVID?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, we're winning the war, and we have areas that flamed up, and they're going to be fine over a period of time. They flared up in areas where they thought it was ending, and that would be Florida, Texas, a couple of other places. And they're going to have it under control very quickly.


MARQUARDT: CNN's Kristen Holmes is at the White House for us. Kristen, you were actually with the president yesterday when he was in Florida, really a hotbed within that state in Miami-Dade County, and he didn't wear a mask. We're told he's going to today. Of course, we haven't seen that yet. Why the change of heart?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the change of heart came from a lot of begging and pleading, Alex. We are told that aides and advisers really made a full court press to get him to wear a mask. And we've seen this shift in the Republican Party. Look back on the last couple of weeks. We have seen Republican leader after Republican leader come out and endorse masks, and President Trump still has not.

We are told that aides just believed it was time. Many staffers feeling deeply uncomfortable when they looked at photos from that Tulsa rally and saw the sea of mask-less faces there. But I do want to note what you just said, which is this decision was made before he traveled to Florida yesterday, and yet yesterday he still did not wear a mask. Now, that was intentional. He says he's wearing a mask due to the setting of Walter Reed. Take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it's not difficult at all. In fact, I'll be going to Walter Reed, I believe, tomorrow. And I think when you're in a hospital you should definitely wear a mask. It wouldn't be difficult at all for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've worn them?

TRUMP: I've had them on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will we see you wearing one?

TRUMP: Yes, if you would like you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.


HOLMES: So obviously the question there was, is it difficult for you to wear a mask, and he says no. But let's really break this down. What is the intention of aides trying to get him to wear a mask? It is to show that President Trump endorses wearing a mask. Well, now we have a situation in which he is saying he's only wearing a mask because he is at the hospital with wounded soldiers.

So does that really get the point across that masks need to be worn all the time? And trying to send a message to his supporters that masks are indeed incredibly safe and they are something that will help stop the spread of COVID. But putting it in this limited setting of a hospital it's unclear if that will do that.

And Alex, just to make one thing also very clear, this is a photo opportunity. It's a closed press event so any images of President Trump with a mask on interacting with these soldiers, those are going to have to come from the White House. And again, overall unclear if this gets the message across that you should be wearing a mask every single day to stop the spread of COVID.

MARQUARDT: That's a very good point. The White House is controlling exactly what they want us to see out of this visit to Walter Reed. Kristen Holmes on the north lawn of the White House where the White House grounds crew are working hard this afternoon. Thank you so much, Kristen.

HOLMES: They are.

MARQUARDT: It's a source of stress and anxiety for parents across the country, when and how will schools reopen? And what about social distancing on school buses and during lunch in the cafeteria? Our panel of experts is here. They will be answering your questions. That's coming up. And a programming note, later today you can join Michael Smerconish

for an entertaining and poignant look at his one-of-a-kind career. CNN presents "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking." That's tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern time. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: As many states struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus, school districts across the country are trying to find a way to get more than 50 million students back in the classroom safely in the coming weeks. And President Trump is doubling down on his threat to pull federal funding from schools that don't fully reopen this fall. Larry Kudlow, the president's senior economic adviser, he put it this way.


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 ha hard.


MARQUARDT: Just go back, it's not that hard. In Florida, one of the hardest hit states in the country, Governor Ron DeSantis said it can be done.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.


MARQUARDT: The leading pediatric groups in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom both released statements saying that the need to put students back in class outweighs the cost and health risks.


And just today, "The New York Times" published a wide-ranging editorial saying schools need to get creative and find ways to get kids back in the classroom. They argue what is needed to reopen is not just more funding, but also creating the space. That's so important, the space to do it in by using gyms and cafeterias, even outdoor spaces.

So for the next hour, we're going to be talking about all of this, all things education and the reopening of schools, and our panel will be answering your questions. Lily Eskelsen Garcia is the president of the National Education Association, Edith Bracho-Sanchez is a pediatrician and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Columbia University Medical Center.

She also just wrote a new op-ed for on this very subject. And Molly Gardner is a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children's Hospitals -- Hospital, singular. Thank you for all for joining me this afternoon. We're going to have a great discussion. There's a lot to get to, a lot of different threads. It's a very complex, very critical, and timely subject.

Molly, I do want to start with you. Why is it critical, why is it so important that kids go back into an actual structure, physical structure, brick and mortar school as they start the new school year rather than continuing virtual educations?

MOLLY GARDNER, PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGIST, NATIONWIDE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, I think this is really the big question, right? So I think there is lots of evidence, I don't know that anybody is arguing that in general, in a normal environment, schools are really, really important. I've heard a lot of parents talk about some of the challenges of virtual and distance learning, but they say I'm not qualified to teach high school math and things of that nature. We know this.

So academically it's really important, especially for kids who might have plays or need some extra support that might be a little more challenging to do in a virtual setting. And aside from the academic piece, we know that socially and emotionally, schools can be really great, comfortable places for kids and families. And, that being said, I think there's a lot of anxiety and angst about this decision as well.

MARQUARDT: Students of course get a lot more than just education at school. Oftentimes they get food as well.

Lily, here on CNN we're going to have Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on "State of the Union," that's tomorrow morning. What does she need to say in her interview about the challenges that you're facing in trying to safely get students back to school?

LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: I appreciate the way you put the question, because we are trying to open schools safely. That was the word we did not hear come out of Donald Trump's mouth or Betsy DeVos. It was open the schools, all the schools, all the kids sitting in the same classroom all day long. So they didn't want to hear about any creative shifts or anything like that. It was all, all, all on a certain day.

And we're working with experts, we're working with education experts, medical experts, mental health experts, and parents, public school parents who, by the way, especially special ed parents, who are really worried about medically fragile kids and making sure we do this right. And so the question I would ask for Betsy DeVos is, what qualifies her to come up with these demands? All, all, all, I don't want to hear anything creative. It's easy to do. Just put those kids back in the classroom the way they left. What qualifies her?

And where did she get her authority to threaten the funding that goes to our really most vulnerable students, special ed funding, school lunch funding? Those are the federal funding for public schools. Where does she get her authority to threaten our funding if we don't obey her? That just doesn't make any sense.

MARQUARDT: Yes, many of these localities get millions and millions of dollars from the federal government, around some 10 percent, I believe, of their budgets can often come from federal funds.

Dr. Bracho-Sanchez, one thing that we haven't perhaps touched on enough is the threat to the teachers as well. And in your op-ed, you talk about the truth about reopening schools during COVID, and we know that nearly 1.5 million teachers are at higher risk of serious illness if they contract coronavirus.

That's according to a new analysis that was just released. So how do we find that balance between the need to reopen the schools, which everyone pretty much agrees we have to do, but also this absolute need to keep everyone safe, both teachers and students?

EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PEDIATRICIAN: Alex, that part is so important, and it's not just teachers. It's staff, it's administrators, it's bus drivers, everyone, all the adults that are involved in getting kids to school need to be taken care of as well and need to be protected as well.


I think part of the science that went into the recommendations that came out recently from the American Academy of Pediatrics is this understanding that we have now that children don't seem to be transmitting this virus to adults in the way that we thought they would. They're not transmitting it at high rates like they do, for example, for influenza, right, which is counterintuitive and we don't fully understand why, but it should offer us some reassurance.

That's not enough, though, Alex. We need to implement layers so that we protect the vulnerable adults as well, right. We need to make sure that we're taking all the other precautions so that teachers can feel safe and all the administrators can feel safe as well.

MARQUARDT: Absolutely, that is one of the most crucial parts of all of this.

We have a lot more to discuss. You, my panel, you are not going anywhere. Coming up, they are going to be answering your top questions about the future of education, safety in the classroom. We will be right back with more.



MARQUARDT: The debate over reopening schools in the coming weeks and months is understandably causing anxiety and stress across the country, but CNN is here to try to help. My panel is back with me again to answer your top questions, so welcome back to Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association, Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez who is a pediatrician, and pediatric psychologist Molly Gardner.

So we have a number of questions from our viewers who have written in. And Lily, I want to start with a question from Nick from Connecticut. "What do you think classroom learning will look like in the fall? What requirements need to be mandatory besides social distancing?" Lily, that's to you.

GARCIA: One of the things, the baseline information that we have from the CDC guidance is you have to see a constant decline in the infection rate before you even think about implementing the plans that we're making right now. So it's going to look different.

The one thing you're going to see is that it will not be on one single day that someone flips a light switch on September 1st and all of the schools are open. It's going to look different if you live in Miami- Dade, if there's still surging infection rates, then if you're in some rural community that socially distances just because that's the way they're set up.

So first of all, we have to get used to things being different all over. And we have to get used to the local community, the educators, the parents, the school board members, the health professionals in that community coming together and saying it's time, and here's the best way to do this in a safe way. It could be a hybrid model.

It could be something that says we are creatively using the space, and we're going to have all the kids in and we're going to be using the space in the school because there is space. Other schools don't have space. So it's going to be very different, and we are getting some very creative ideas all around the country, rural, suburban, urban. It is going to look different.

The one thing that we know is that we have to plan, that if they don't do this right with the infection rate all over, if they keep opening prematurely and then having to close things down again, we may open schools and then have to close them again. No one wants to do that. But we know which of our students don't have wi-fi in their home, don't have a laptop from their parents. They don't have what they need. And so we absolutely must have some kind of plan b for these kids so that they're not left behind.

MARQUARDT: If and when this happens, obviously one of the most basic elements of it will be asking the students to respect broadly the CDC guidelines, including handwashing. Dr. Barcho-Sanchez, we have another viewer who is asking "How can you ensure that kids are using proper hygiene and hand washing techniques?

Kids may tell you they washed their hand, but how they did it might be lacking." Sounds like this viewer actually has some experience with children. But Doctor, how do you answer that? How do you ensure that?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: So first of all, let's not underestimate children. I think their ability to learn is huge, and I think when you teach them in groups and when you make it fun you can really make sure that they are washing their hands and that they're doing it properly. I have to tell you, I am pleasantly surprised all of the time at how well children have adapted to some of these measures. So let's not underestimate them.

And the second thing is, we need to adopt and try to have in schools hand sanitizing stations, right. Not everywhere is going to have a sink where children can just go and wash their hands. So it's going to be really important that we make the hand sanitizing stations available.

MARQUARDT: Then of course along with hand sanitizing and washing hand, you also have social distancing and wearing of masks. And so Molly, we have a question from a retired elementary school teacher who says it is a fantasy to think that children will follow social distance and mask rules. "How can new rules be enforced and how about potential behavioral problems be addressed?"

GARDNER: Sure. Enforcing rules and managing behavioral problems, schools are used to that. That will not be something new necessarily, although what those rules are and kind of what the policies might look a little bit different. But I want to echo what some of the other experts have said, is that kids are really, really adaptable, right. So to put new rules in place and say here's how things are going to look different this year, kids have been doing this hopefully for the past four or five months or so, and families have a large part in how they can support what the new school rules are.

So I think kids will adapt to that. But the viewer is right, that sometimes things won't happen 100 percent like we expect them to, and that's OK. I think gentle reminders about why we're doing this and why it's important, again having some practice at home. But schools are used to reminding kids to do different things that they need to do.


MARQUARDT: All right, I'm going to ask you all to stand by. We're going to be answering more viewers' questions right after the break, so please stay with us. We'll be right back.


MARQUARDT: There's a chance that schools may never look the same because of this coronavirus pandemic, and that has triggered an avalanche of questions about the future of learning. So my panel is back with me to answer your top questions about reopening schools.


Dr. Bracho-Sanchez, I want to start with you. To what extent is the fear about reopening these schools that -- not necessarily the kids will get sick, but that the school could act as a vector to spread the disease to adults, to teachers, to parents who then come to the schools to pick up their kids?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Yes, the fear is real, and I think we have to take it into account. We have to understand that the public has been trying to understand for the past few months recommendations that have evolved, and it's been difficult for everyone to keep up, right?

I think when we think about schools as potential vectors, we have to remember that the first thing, the most important single thing that we have to do right now is control the virus in our communities. If we don't bring this virus under control in our communities, there is no way that schools are going to be able to open safely and ensure that the adults that are involved in making sure that kids can go to school are able to be there safely.

MARQUARDT: I think it's probably fair to say that kids are as eager to get back to school after all these months away as parents are to send them back to school. Molly, we have a viewer asking, "How can I make sure that my child feels safe and comfortable at school while also not being distracted by all the changes?"

GARDNER: Yes, I think that's also a really, really good question. I think here, preparation and communication is key. This has been addressed briefly, but things are going to look different whether schools reopen or whether they don't reopen. Things will look different, and to pretend that they won't look different is probably not doing our kids any service.

So acknowledging what those differences might look like, planning for what those differences might look like, practicing at home, and then a lot of flexibility, too, because if we've learned anything over the past several months, it's that things can change very, very quickly.

So we can come up with the best laid plans, but then something might change. So trying to foster stability and being able to move around what we need to do, but absolutely practicing it. And this speaks to kids' adaptability, too. This is a new thing now, but it won't be a new thing forever. So kids will get back in. They will get used to what things look like that are new and different, and they will likely be able to roll with it much better than we expect them to.

MARQUARDT: Yes, kids are absolutely very, very good at adapting. But when these schools do adapt, when they do impose all these changes, a lot of them will have to dip into their coffers. It's going to be a very expensive endeavor for many of them. We have been talking about the funding, the threats from the federal government to cut off some of that federal funding if the schools don't open up.

So Lily, to you, how will school districts, and this is a question from a view in California, Susan, she wants to know "How will school districts pay for all of these anticipated changes?"

GARCIA: I really appreciate the question, and I was used to paying for my own art supplies for my sixth graders. This is not about a bake sale. To pay for what we're going to need for specialized disinfection, for the PPE, the protective gear, the masks, the gloves, for sometimes ventilation in those schools, we have poorly ventilated schools in a lot of our places. I had 39 sixth graders one year, and one open window in my class. That was not healthy before the pandemic.

So to do all of these things are important, and they're costly. And it's worth it. And so to have someone say it can be done easily or cheaply or don't worry about doing all of those things, we will do this correctly, or those schools shouldn't be open.

We have asked Congress to act, in the same way that they acted to help all of those businesses that were going underwater because of this pandemic. We supported the CARES Act and the money that went to help workers and businesses. We're asking for the same consideration with something called the Heroes Act that would send some dedicated funding, billions of dollars to public schools to buy the PPE, to even look at the wi-fi broadband and technology that we can give to our students that have so little in their homes. It would cover a lot of things where we could open schools safely.

It passed the House. It's sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk. The president said dead on arrival because he said it shouldn't pass, the funding shouldn't pass. I don't know why. But schools are going to need help. Remember, right now the tax dollars that fund your neighborhood public schools have fallen off a cliff. People aren't going shopping, folks are losing their jobs.


So at a time when we may be looking at sending pink slips and laying off a million school teachers and support staff, we're going to need some help from the federal government just like any business needed the help. And now is the time to give it to us.

MARQUARDT: And that's why it's so worrying when you hear the president essentially doubling down on his threats to cut off federal funding to schools.

This has been a fantastic conversation. It's one that needs to continue. It's one that will continue as parents and school districts look ahead to whether schools will be opening in the coming weeks. We have to leave it there. I want to thank my guests for joining me today.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ana Cabrera. Take care.