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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Hasn't Had a Pandemic-Related Event in 10 Days; White House Won't Say If Trump Will Send Son to School: "Personal Decision"; More NBA Players Test Positive While in Quarantine Bubble in Orlando; Former NBA Coach Stan Van Gundy Blasts Florida Governor on His Handling of Coronavirus, Mask Deniers; 2 California Churches Sue Governor Over Ban on Singing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 17, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: With me now, White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

I mean, Kaitlan, what's happening here? Is the president ignoring the virus? This seems very unusual to not have an event about the biggest issue that is confronting the country right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not a single event this week was dedicated the pandemic, and that's notable as we've seen cases soaring, so many questions about school openings, and what's going to happen going forward.

And the president has briefly addressed it at some of these events, faced questions about it. But he has not held a single event to talk about reopening schools or anything like that. The last one he held on reopening schools was last Tuesday.

And of course, there have been so many questions still going forward about guidance. The CDC delaying the guidance they were going to put out going forward.

It's raising questions about how much the president is paying attention here. Because the White House says he's focused on the pandemic and he's briefed daily on it, Brianna, but it's not reflected in his activities.

Americans seem to be noticing that because you saw the new "Washington Post"/ABC poll that said 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the way heh as responded to coronavirus so far.

And even some of his advisers, people like Kellyanne Conway, are trying to explain those numbers, saying they think the president should be more forward facing. Maybe he should bring back the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings he was doing for so many months.

A reminder that he ended those after -- largely after he had that one where he suggested you could use disinfectant to treat COVID-19.

KEILAR: Some people tried, right? Very unsuccessfully? Today, Kellyanne Conway was asked, Kaitlan, whether the president

would send his son back to school. What did she say?

COLLINS: Yes. Listen to what her answer was. And then we'll talk about it after you see what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's a personal decision. I don't know what the school has decided or what the first couple has decided with respect to their teenage son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Kaitlan, it's a tricky one because it --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: -- it is a personal decision. But it's also about whether the president is asking Americans to make this personal decision themselves.

COLLINS: Yes. And there are many parents in the administration, so, it's not like it's not a question about sending back their students as they're urging everyone else to fully reopen the schools. So it's going to be a question the president may be faced with again.

I want to note, as we're considering if they do decide to send their son back school if other people in the administration decide to send their kids back to school.

You have to consider where they're going to school. A lot of these children are going to wealthy, more elite, better-funded school than the majority of ones across the nation that may not have the funding to social distance kids in their classrooms, the funding to get another bus so they can space out on their way to school.

Things like that are something that public school teachers are having to face with as they're scheduled to go back, in some areas, like Alabama, where I'm from, a little less than a month from now, actually, a little less than a month from now.

That's why there's so many questions about what decisions the president making? But also the CDC guidance, that being delayed. The guidance, the longer it takes to come out, the less time teachers and administrators could have to prepare for that opening.

KEILAR: And we'll have to see what schools -- we already know what schools in the D.C. area are starting to do. Some are saying they're not reopening. I have a child in a D.C. school and they're going to start a hybrid model. At least, that's the anticipation, but it's not going to be until close to winter.

So, we will see how this all changes and evolves. It might not even be a decision the president makes. It might be made for him.

Kaitlan, thank you so much for the report.

COLLINS: That's true.

KEILAR: And still ahead, a former NBA coach is calling foul on Governor Ron DeSantis' handling of coronavirus in the state of Florida.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:38:08]

KEILAR: In less than two weeks, the NBA is set to start their basketball season and two more players tested positive for COVID-19. At the moment, they're gearing up for that tip off in a self-imposed bubble in Orlando, Florida, a state that has become the epicenter of the pandemic.

About 20 players tested positive before teams arrived in Orlando. And since then, two have tested positive while in the bubble quarantine.

Stan Van Gundy is a former NBA coach. He is a TNT commentator. And he has a lot of opinions on the NBA, the pandemic, and other social issues facing our country.

Stand, thanks for being with us.

STAN VAN GUNDY, TNT COMMENTATOR AND FORMER NBA COACH: Glad to be with you.

KEILAR: Do you think it's realistic the NBA will finish out its season with a pandemic raging in the state?

GUNDY: I do think it's realistic. But at the same time, it will require an Adam Silver miracle to pull this off. Nobody does a better job of logistical planning and attention to detail than Adam Silver and the staff at the NBA.

And I said several times, if the NBA can't pull this off, then there's no possible way we can play sports anywhere in this country for a long time because of all they have put into this. If this doesn't work, nothing will.

KEILAR: The NBA has set up an anonymous tip line to report players who violate the quarantine rules. What do you think of that hotline?

VAN GUNDY: I think this whole bubble concept was set up to keep people safe. And it depends on the compliance of everybody within the bubble that nobody pierces the area.

And so, I think everyone in there has their concerns and they don't want anybody breaking that bubble. So, they should call, absolutely.

[14:40:04] If you have concerns somebody is doing something that could endanger your health and that of everyone else, you need to point that out to people and have it checked out.

KEILAR: You've been very outspoken on masks. You shared this Jason Alexander tweet: "In World War II, Londoners were asked to blackout their homes at night so the enemy bombers wouldn't see the lights and know where to target. No Londoner said, it's my right to have lights on because others would say you light on endangers us. Substitute light for masks."

I mean, when you see this, do you see that changing at all? Do you think it's getting better?

VAN GUNDY: It's definitely not getting better. I saw the representative yesterday talking about how we definitely should not mandate masks. And even if he doesn't wear a mask when he goes to the grocery store, the politics are not going away. And it makes no sense to me.

It's about public health and caring for yourself and your community. This idea that everything has to be a matter of individual liberty is ridiculous. We require seatbelts in the car for public safety. And that is something that if I get hurt in a car wreck, it's not about injuring me.

If I don't wear a mask, it not only affects me, it affects you. And yet, we're saying that we can't mandate that for the good of the public. It makes no sense.

It's a lack of political courage on the part of the governors who won't enact this. We know it's something that could really help and we refuse to do it.

KEILAR: So, you're joining us from Orlando, in the middle of this in Florida. And you're someone who, it's clear you're taking personally very serious precautions to mitigate risk here.

When you think of the surge going on in your state, what do you attribute that to and what needs to get better?

VAN GUNDY: Well, I mean, what we attribute that to is we opened up and we opened way too early and we opened up without necessary precautions. I mean, we still don't have a state-wide mandate on wearing masks.

I can tell you, Publix, the largest supermarket chain here, they announced Tuesday will require masks inside the store. It's been really spotty here to see people wearing masks or not.

What I don't understand, if you're in the crowd that really wants to open up fully and quickly, then wear a mask and maintain social distance. That's our best chances of opening up safely.

The people that are against mask wearing, it is going to keep the economy from opening up. It doesn't even make sense to me. KEILAR: No. It is illogical to be in favor of reopening and anti-mask.

It's very bizarre.

And before I let you go, back the NBA. You said, look, it will take a miracle, but if anyone can pull it off, it's the NBA. What do you think might shut down or restart? Two cases, 20 cases? At what point is the threshold?

VAN GUNDY: I don't know. Only Adam Silver could answer that. If it gets in an active player and somebody plays while infected in a game, it can spread very, very quickly. Those guys are indoors, in close contact, breathing hard on each other for a prolonged period of time.

So, if that bubble gets pierced and testing doesn't identify somebody quickly enough, and they're out there playing while infected, it could spread very quickly and shut things down.

I think, over the first eight or nine days in the bubble, they'll begin practicing. I've talked to coaches. I was just on a call today with people from the league office. I think everybody's pretty encouraged with the way things have gone so far.

KEILAR: All right, sir, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.

VAN GUNDY: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Stan Van Gundy with us from Florida.

[14:44:38]

And still ahead, a pastor sounding off about a California ban that has silenced his church choirs in an effort to stop the spread of a coronavirus. He's suing Governor Newsom for the right to sing, saying it's mandated in the Bible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: California's new set of coronavirus restrictions is coming under fire again by the religious community. Some pastors are suing the governor over the state's ban on singing during worship services.

This is a new order issued last week and it tells places of worship to discontinue singing in rehearsals and services, chanting, and other practices and performance where there's an increased likelihood of transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.

Scott Thomson is the pastor of River of Light Assembly of God Church. He is one of the plaintiffs that is suing the governor. Nada Higuera is the attorney representing the plaintiffs here.

And Pastor Thomson, to you first.

Tell us why you are suing the governor.

[14:50:02] SCOTT THOMSON, PASTOR, RIVER OF LIGHT ASSEMBLY OF GOD CHURCH: First of all, thank you, Brianna, for having me on the show and giving us an opportunity to share from our heart what's going on.

And I just want to clarify, before we came on, there was the statement that we're doing this just simply because it is mandated in the Bible. Honestly, I wouldn't -- yes, it is in the Bible, clearly, all throughout the Bible.

But deeper than that, I think that part of the concern of ours is that the way the coronavirus is being handled is just only dealing with the physical aspect in people's lives.

And to be quite honest, we believe that coronavirus is serious. In my family, we had a family member -- excuse me -- a family friend who died from the coronavirus.

We're not having our head in the sand and thinking this is not an important issue or a serious concern for our church.

We have completely listened to many of the mandates that have come through from the government. And we are underneath the 25 percent capacity. And we are underneath the 100 percent max in our sanctuary.

We have provided masks. We have sanitation stations. And we have blocked off every other pew so people could have space. And we're not in there spitting on each other.

And just - honestly, often times, we might -- (INAUDIBLE) -- so we could hear everybody singing. So to put an overall blanket ban is kind of a wide brush approach to this.

And we believe that beyond just the dealing with people's physical wellbeing, you have emotional and spiritual wellbeing that are also really important.

We had one church member who got laid off during this coronavirus and she was in the hospital the next day because she had a stroke because of serious stress.

There's other issues that are taking place. I know that -- I think Nada will mention some statistics on that matter.

But I want to say we're not angry at the governor. We don't want to have our fist in the ground. He is having to deal with this in unprecedented times and making decisions on all different levels of industry, including the church. And so he has the right to do that.

And we pray for him. I do not preach against him or say he's the devil or anything like that. We absolutely support him and pray for him and his family.

KEILAR: Yes.

THOMSON: But as citizens, we have the right to, as well, disagree on certain issues. And this is one for sure that we are standing in disagreement on.

KEILAR: I think this has been one of the most difficult kind of balancing acts, right, when it comes to what so many people need. They need that spiritual life. An important part of their spiritual life is going to church. Singing is so much a part of it for so many people.

But, Nada, you've seen some of the numbers, too, right. Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church in Washington, these are choir coronavirus outbreaks. The CDC reported 53 infections and two deaths.

And in March, the Netherlands' Amsterdam mixed choir had 102 infections, one death reported after a concert.

How do the plaintiffs in this case, how do you balance this? You don't want to be on this list.

NADA HIGUERA, ATTORNEY TO PLAINTIFFS: Right. Of course. And as you mentioned, the choir practice, you had 122 choir members in the same room practicing.

Which is substantially different than in a church where individuals are socially distanced and wearing masks and singing their worship songs. So there are differences there.

But you're absolutely right. We do want to factor in the health concerns. And as Pastor Scott had mentioned, they're taking a lot of precautions.

And it's about balancing. Balancing their rights, balancing public health, and also mental health of the parishioners and those who do rely on the services and on their faith to help them and get them through.

Which is an important component, when you see suicide through the roof and alcohol and drug abuse, and you have this place where they could go for comfort and solace.

So is about balancing all of those factors.

KEILAR: I have 30 seconds, Pastor. When they are singing in church, are they wearing masks?

THOMSON: No.

KEILAR: They're not wearing masks? And --

(CROSSTALK)

THOMSON: I take that back. I take that back. Yes, some are. We're not kicking people out if they're not wearing masks. So, yes and no. There are people who are wearing masks. But we are not mandating them.

We've mandated the separation with the pews and, again, provided the masks and provided the hand sanitation. But we're not mandating --

KEILAR: You're not mandating.

THOMSON: -- someone wear a mask.

KEILAR: I want to thank you both for coming on.

It is a tough problem. And churches are obviously -- we've heard from so many people who intensely miss that important part of their life.

[14:55:05]

Pastor, thank you so much.

THOMSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Nada, thank you so much.

HIGUERA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Still ahead, a mask showdown in Georgia. The governor is suing the mayor of Atlanta over her mask mandate. Stacey Abrams weighing in on the debate as the state's coronavirus cases continue to rise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:04]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you for joining me today.

Let's let science and the experts lead the way today.