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Unemployed Benefits about to Expire; Labor Department Releases Unemployment Numbers; Nascar Hosts Big Crowd; Schools Reconsider Reopening; Teachers Weigh Returning to Classrooms. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 08:30   ET



REBECCA DIXON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NELP: It's going to be total economic devastation. The unemployment insurance program is the lifeline for workers in this public health crisis.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This lifeline is disappearing, just as some states roll back their reopenings, forcing many workers back on unemployment. Up to 23 million Americans could be evicted from their homes by the end of September.

DELENA SANDERS, UNEMPLOYED DOULA: When they take the $600 away, that would reduce me down to about $300 a week, which is, for me, not really feasible as far as covering my bills.

YURKEVICH: Cara Steele has been waiting 17 weeks for unemployment. She's making some drastic decisions.

CARA STEELE, UNEMPLOYED BARTENDER: What is most important that day? You know, are -- you know, am I going to go out and buy something to eat or am I going to purchase some medication or am I going to, you know, save my funds to go to a doctor or put gas in my car.

YURKEVICH: She's a bartender in New Jersey, where indoor bars and dining remain closed. The back pay she's owed from unemployment will go straight to her bills, piling up for months.

STEELE: When is everything going to reopen? Because if I'm getting the $120 a week without this extra $600, what happens if I'm not going back until October, November, December, or until there's a vaccine?

YURKEVICH: The unknown is leaving many Americans paralyzed. And with Congress unlikely to pass an extension of the extra unemployment benefits by July 31st, Sanders faces a stark reality, giving up.

SANDERS: Yes, I would feel very set back. I mean it took a lot of self-encouragement for me to even decide to leave my job and move to another city to kind of chase after a dream. So if it gets shut down, I kind of feel like I did all of this for nothing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YURKEVICH: And like almost everything with this pandemic, women and people of color are being affected the most. One advocacy group says that of the people losing the $600 a week, about half will be women. And of that total, about half will be people of color.

And, Alisyn, I've spoken to so many people who are unemployed over these last four months and they do not want to be on unemployment. But there is no other option for them. Even though we're seeing some jobs coming back, Alisyn, there's simply not enough to be able to re-employ so many millions of people who are just looking for a job and really just looking for financial help at this point, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Vanessa, those personal stories really just drive it home. Thank you very much for sharing that reporting with us.

All right, we do have some breaking news right now.

The Labor Department has just released the new jobless numbers.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with the breaking details.

What do they say?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They're still stubbornly high here, these jobless claims numbers, 1.3 million filings for unemployment benefits again last week. This is now 17 weeks in a row where we've seen a million plus.

It's not the 6 million at the very beginning of the pandemic, which was simply catastrophic. But it tells you this pace of week after week of layoffs continues here. Fifty-one million claims since mid-March. That's more than 30 percent of the pre-pandemic jobs market.

And here's the wrinkle now. A concern going forward as you have the resurgent virus in places like Texas and Florida and Arizona and California, where you have closures again, you could see more jobless claims going forward.

There's another indicator in here that we talk about every week. It's called continuing claims. We want to see that come down. That would show that there has been a little bit of hiring. And we are seeing that number come down a little bit. So watching that one very, very closely again to see if we can get a trend -- a better trend overall. But just to say 51 million people either furloughed or laid off over the course of 17 weeks is something that is just unheard of in this economy. But it is happening. This is the coronavirus recession. This is a pandemic that is still underway and it's simply devastating for the labor market, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I mean, and it was unimaginable. Those numbers, as you point out, unimaginable months ago.

ROMANS: That's right.

CAMEROTA: And now here we are.

Christine, thank you very much for that breaking news.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: All right, Nascar just hosted the biggest crowd at a sports event since the shutdown four months ago. We have it for you in the "Bleacher Report," next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the biggest U.S. sports crowd since the pandemic began,

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Andy, Nascar did it.


So up to 30,000 fans were allowed at Nascar's all-star race last night in Bristol, Tennessee. This was the biggest U.S. sporting event since mid-March. Now, they did not release official attendance numbers for this event, but it appeared that at least 20,000 fans were socially distanced throughout the stands. And the track there, they -- it can hold 160,000.

Now masks were only required for entry, so fans could actually take them off once they got to their seat. According to the speedway, by buying a ticket, fans assume all risk of exposure to Coved-19 and agreed to release the track from claims that might result.

Chase Elliott ended up winning the race and a million dollar prize.


CHASE ELLIOTT, NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE WINNER: What a better night to have fans back than tonight. I mean, you all are awesome. All those number 9 hats and t-shirts up in the stands. Love to see it. There's no feeling like it. And --


SCHOLES: Now, before the race, a plane was flying over the track pulling a confederate flag banner. Nascar, of course, banned that flag at its races last month. A similar flag was flying over the race at Talladega Superspeedway last month.

And Nascar, John, now moves to Texas Motor Speedway. And because of government regulations, they're allowing 50 percent capacity at that track, which is up to 60,000 people. They're selling tickets not only for the grand stand and for the infield. It will be the biggest sporting event in Texas since the pandemic started.

BERMAN: Texas, by the way, which is seeing record deaths and near record hospitalizations.


Nevertheless, it was a very interesting picture to see with those stands, people spaced out in those stands. It will be interesting to see the impact of all of this to say the least.

Andy, thanks so much for that report.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: So older teachers and those with underlying health conditions face a tough choice if their schools reopen. Do they risk their lives or quit? We're going to speak to a Florida teacher about this, next.


CAMEROTA: Schools in Houston and San Francisco are the latest to announce they will have only online classes starting in the fall. Teachers and parents across the country are still trying to figure out how to get children back into the classrooms safely.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Jacksonville, Florida, with more.

What are you learning, Martin?


You know, this is really a strange time for back to school. Many school districts in Florida still struggling to come up with their plans. Many parents, as you point out, still trying to decide if they're going to even send their children.


And there are teachers who are actually not only working on lesson plans, but their wills as well.


SAVIDGE (voice over): Angry parents and anxious teachers protest with a motor march outside Duval County Public School's headquarters, driving home the message, with coronavirus cases sky rocketing, it's no time to put kids back in the classroom.

LAURA HAMMOCK, DUVAL COUNTY TEACHER: I'm a teacher, I've been with Duval County for 23 years. I have a mother at home that is sick and if I'm to get the coronavirus, I don't want to bring it back to her.

SAVIDGE: Duval County teachers are supposed to report to work August 3rd. Students are due back a week later.

ROLLINE SULLIVAN, PARENT: My daughter doesn't want to go back to school. She wants to keep the family safe.

SAVIDGE: When Duval County shut down classroom learning last March for its 129,000 students, the county had just five cases of coronavirus. Now, as schools prepare to reopen, the county has nearly 14,000 and climbing.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Do you think it's a safe time to return?


SAVIDGE (voice over): The only way Marla Bryan's (ph) 15-year-old daughter is going back to school is online.

SAVIDGE (on camera): So you think it's politics?

BRYAN (ph): I absolutely 100 percent think it's politics.

SAVIDGE (voice over): Last week, Florida's education commissioner issued an executive order requiring districts to reopen brick and mortar schools five days a week starting in August. On the same day, President Trump tweeted, schools must open in the fall.

Jacksonville and Duval County is also hosting the Republican National Convention. And the state's Republican governor has echoed Trump's message, likening going back to school to reopening a store.

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

SAVIDGE: Critics contend shopping is optional, education isn't, especially for teachers. Something made painfully clear by this teacher speaking to a virtual St. John's County, Florida, school board meeting.

ANDREA CLARK, TEACHER: We know that if we go back into the buildings full-time and at full or mostly full capacity, some of us are going to die.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Do you believe that teachers will die?

TIM FORSON, SUPERINTENDENT, ST. JOHNS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Do I believe that teachers will die? I -- I don't -- my goodness, I -- I hope -- I hope not. I certainly would never take an action that I believe would cause teachers to die.

SAVIDGE (voice over): The St. Johns County District is spending $1.6 million on personal protection equipment for its staff and 44,000 students, including everything from Plexiglas dividers, to hand sanitizer, to face shields for pre-k students.

FORSON: Sometimes I -- I will get that from a parent is, I want it to be 100 percent -- say, I want you to guarantee me there's not risk. I can't guarantee there's not risk.

SAVIDGE: But Superintendent Forson can guarantee he'll do everything possible to keep everyone as safe as possible, including his own five- year-old daughter who will also be walking into a classroom.

FORSON: I have confidence in the decisions that I've made for it to be the right place for her to be and that that -- it's a safe environment. And the learning that's going to happen is going to -- is going to enrich her a great deal.

SAVIDGE: A little bit of trepidation?

FORSON: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Yes, I would be foolish not to say that there's not -- there's not a little bit of concern.


SAVIDGE: Already, Alisyn, I should point out that St. John's, like a number of districts in Florida, is saying they're going to delay reopening, pushing it to perhaps the very last day of August, hoping by then the coronavirus numbers get better. But that only begs the question of, what if they don't? What happens then?


CAMEROTA: Martin, thank you very money for all of that reporting.

Meanwhile, as school districts consider reopening, older teachers or immunocompromised teachers are wrestling with whether to go back into the classroom in the fall or whether to quit their jobs.

Joining us now is Dave Galloway. He's a sixth grade science teacher in Jackson County, Florida.

Good morning, Dave.


CAMEROTA: So you've been a teacher, as I understand it, a science teacher, for 14 years.

Do you enjoy it?

GALLOWAY: Oh, my only regret about teaching is not starting teaching sooner in my life.

CAMEROTA: I know you would like to continue --

GALLOWAY: It's -- it's just what I do, yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean it's -- you consider it your calling and you would like to continue doing it, but now you have other concerns. You're 64 years old. Both you and your wife, as I understand it, have some significant health concerns. So just tell me about the kinds of conversations you two are having at home.

GALLOWAY: Well, I was planning on retiring at the end of this school year. And all our -- you know, our financial calculations were based on that date. Now I'm looking at pushing my retirement maybe to this year to avoid contact with -- with this virus.

[08:50:08] And so it's having an impact financially on my family. And just the whole cloud of corona. I mean, what do we do? I mean you work towards retirement. You have a certain plan. Now we -- now I might have to modify that plan.

CAMEROTA: You have, as I understand it, Type II Diabetes. Your wife is a breast cancer survivor. So I understand why you would consider pushing up your retirement.

But, you know, the commissioner of education in Florida says that, you know, it's safe for kids to go back to -- into the classroom or that it's safer, I suppose, than them being at home. And so what's your response to that?

GALLOWAY: My response to that is, when the governor's office is open for visitors, when Commissioner Cochran will take visitors in his Tallahassee office, when school boards decide not to meet virtually because of safety issues, then I would consider our schools to be safer.

When we received proper funding to ensure the safest classrooms possible, then I would consider it to be safer. Right now we've been given yet another mandate, a demand to perform, if you will, with zero leadership -- what I consider zero leadership from Tallahassee. And the -- zero funding to accomplish what it is they want us to do.

CAMEROTA: You point out that you are a veteran. You do not scare easily.

GALLOWAY: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: But, you know, you -- you say that you feel like they're forcing you to go back in the trenches.

GALLOWAY: Well, literally and figuratively. I mean I'm a former U.S. Army paratrooper. I spent 12 years in the infantry. I'm not hard-wired for stress. I'm -- I'm able to absorb what's going on, make a -- make a good plan of action, if you will. And they are putting an assumed level of risk on teachers and students and our most vulnerable students that, quite frankly, I find untenable. No school year -- no -- I'm sorry, no yearbook this year should include a memorial page for those that passed from Covid this year. And that's what we're looking at.

Martin mentioned earlier, part of my prep this year is, I'm looking at setting up a will. It's just -- it's mind boggling.

CAMEROTA: That is mind boggling. Your prep, as you prepare for the school year, is not just your syllabus, it's setting up a will?

GALLOWAY: This is the most exciting time of the year for -- for a teacher, quite frankly. I mean they're -- you're getting your class list, you're getting ready to practice your craft, to work with kids, to really do something. And now it's -- knowing a class list, getting the will ready (INAUDIBLE) affairs in order. I mean, that's just -- that's just teaching today in Florida. CAMEROTA: So what are you going to do? I mean if this is -- if your

school is open for, you know, in classroom learning and kids are coming back, what's your plan?

GALLOWAY: You know, and, again, like -- like a lot of things, it -- it -- we're -- it's a great unknown. I mean I have health considerations. My wife has health considerations. But I want to be able to enjoy the retirement that, you know, I've been working towards. And in order to do that, I have to crunch numbers and, you know, make decisions. And right now we -- I just have not made that final decision.

CAMEROTA: Well, Dave Galloway, we --

GALLOWAY: But I'll tell you, I'm not the only one thinking about it.

CAMEROTA: No, I mean, I hear you. I understand that you're not. And it's really interesting to talk to you and hear the type of calculation that you all are forced to make this month.

Please let us know what you decide. We really appreciate you sharing your personal concerns with us.

GALLOWAY: And I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.


BERMAN: Thank you for the work he's done for those kids. He should be working on lesson plan, not a will.

All right, time now for "The Good Stuff."

A very courageous six-year-old boy being hailed as a hero after saving his sister from a charging dog. Briger (ph) Walker was brutally attacked by a German shepherd when he jumped in front of it to shield his four-year-old sister. You can see what happened there. Briger, also a big Avengers fan. And when his aunt shared his story on Instagram, Captain America himself, Chris Evans, took notice, promising a special reward.



CHRIS EVANS, ACTOR: Wow, you're a hero. What you did was so brave, so selfless. Your sister is so lucky to have you as a big brother. Your parents must be so proud of you.

I'm going to track down your address and I'm going to send you an authentic Captain America shield, because, pal, you deserve it. Keep being the man you are. We need people like you. Hang in there. I know recovery might be tough, but based on what I've seen, I don't think there's much that can slow you down.


BERMAN: Oh, what a nice guy. Anne Hathaway also shared Briger's story saying, I'm not an Avenger, but I know a super hero when I see one.

Good for Briger. Great on Chris Evans. That is awesome.

CAMEROTA: Briger really took that exciting announcement of getting a shield stoically. I think he was still stunned that Chris Evans was talking to him through the iPad there.

BERMAN: Well, he's a superhero. He knows how to play it cool.

CAMEROTA: You're so right. You're so right.

BERMAN: All right, a lot of breaking news this morning. Our coverage continues right after this.