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U.S. Surpasses 150,000 Coronavirus Deaths; Trump Touts Unproven Drug & "Alien DNA" Doc As Virus Deaths Rise; GOP's Gohmert Test Positive, Suggests He Got COVID From Wearing A Mask After Often Refusing To Do So; NBA To Provide Thousands Of No-Cost Coronavirus Tests; Silver: "No Question" NBA Would End Season If Outbreak Occurs; Russia's Coronavirus Vaccine Claim Sparks Global Interest. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Del Toro love talking politics he was always excited to vote. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the del Toro family. May his memory be a blessing.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news, a sobering pandemic milestone. Just moments ago, the United States surpassed 150,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths. Florida and California both set records for single day fatalities.

And with almost 4.4 million confirmed cases nationwide, new infections are surging right now in 22 states.

Also right now President Trump is in Texas, that's a virus hotspot, but he's focusing in on oil and fundraising instead of the pandemic.

Republican Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who shunned mass all these months, was supposed to accompany the President on this trip. But he was kicked from the trip after testing positive for coronavirus. And now incredibly, he claims that wearing a mask is what may have infected him.

First, let's get some more on the breaking pandemic news. CNN's Erica Hill is joining us in New York.

Erica, a 150,000 American lives have now been lost in this global health disaster.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf, and that is since February 29. That is the date that the first death was reported in the U.S., as you said now more than 150,000 have died.

Today alone California, North Carolina and Florida setting records for reported deaths in a single day for Florida. This is happening for the second day in a row.


HILL (voice-over): Masks, social distancing, good hygiene, the tools are there but the virus just keeps spreading.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Like whack a mole. With hotspots all over this country. It's just going to keep popping up if we don't do something nationally.

HILL: That lack of a national plan could result in hundreds of thousands of additional deaths according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, which released a roadmap today for a coordinated response.

DR. ROSS MCKINNEY JR. CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: Having common standards sort of sets expectations, provides some consistency so that we can learn what are the best standards to use so that we don't get these continuous waves of infection that have followed our premature reopening so far.

HILL: While the President is urging governors to reopen, his own administration is warning the 21 states in red on this map. They may need stronger restrictions. The yellow states also being watched closely.

Dr. Deborah Birx noting young adults are fueling the spread in those areas.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE: Remember the majority of those are asymptomatic so if you expect to see hospitalization, by the time you see hospitalization your community spread is so widespread that you flipped into a red state incredibly quickly.

HILL: Indiana, one of those red states closing beaches in Geary today for at least two weeks, as cases continue to rise. Indoor gatherings also causing concern across the country.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY, (D) NEW JERSEY: We simply cannot continue to have crowded house parties. They are not safe period.

HILL: Deaths are rising in 29 states, Florida reporting record numbers for the second day in a row. The governor focusing on the new school year.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: I would absolutely have, you know, my kids in school because I do think that it's safe to do so. I believe that this is something that's very low risk for kids.

HILL: The governor also noting his kids aren't yet old enough for school.

Meantime, a new study finds statewide school closures last spring helped to reduce the number of infections and deaths as Dr. Anthony Fauci offers this blunt to teachers. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So in many respects, unfortunately, though this may sound a little scary and harsh, I don't mean it to be that way, is that you're going to be actually part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know.

HILL: Fauci also recommending teachers use goggles or facials in the classroom for protection, in addition to face coverings.

Baseball, leading the experiment in the sports world, this moment on Tuesday night, not making the grade.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA TODAY SORTS COLUMNIST: And I think that goes to show you exactly what the problem is, that baseball players being baseball players just cannot happen in the midst of this pandemic. And yet there it was on display for all of us to see.

HILL: The NBA is set to resume play on Thursday, as more NFL players say they'll sit out this season. And experts warn. We still have a lot to learn.

ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR OF MEDICAL ETHICS, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Even there's a message here for schools right?


If you can't keep millionaires safe with a quarantine type operation and giving them instruction. What chance do you have with high school kids?


HILL: And speaking of schools, Florida's Miami Dade County, which is still in phase one of reopening announcing today that they're pushing the first day of school out to August 31. And students in Miami Dade will begin the year with remote learning.

Denver Public Schools, we just learned as well, kids there will have virtual learning through at least part of October, Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. All right. Very, very important developments, indeed.

Erica Hill in New York, thank you.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is with us.

Kaitlan, another coronavirus case very close to the President's or a bit, update us on that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Louie Gohmert, a congressman, showed up at the White House this morning about 7 a.m. to get a coronavirus test because he was supposed to go with the President to Texas today. He tested positive so then took a second test where he also tested positive again, and this has caused massive uproar on Capitol Hill where Louie Gohmert has spent the week.

And of course what people are pointing to is that he on many occasions was seeing not wearing a mask and now he's blaming that mask for his diagnosis.


COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump flew to Texas today with an empty seat on Air Force One after Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID-19 during a preflight test.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, (R) TEXAS: I got it. We'll see what happens from here.

COLLINS: News of Gohmert's diagnosis sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill because Gohmert has largely refused to wear a mask and participated in multiple hearings this week, including Attorney General Bill Bars yesterday, when Chairman Jerry Nadler rebuked Republicans for not wearing mask.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Stop violating the rules of the Committee, to stop violating the safety of the members of the Committee, to stop holding themselves out as not caring by refusing to wear their masks.

COLLINS: Lawmakers were socially distance from Barr during the hearing and were told to remember their mask only while speaking, but Gohmert was seen walking near the Attorney General without one on.

The Justice Department says Barr will be tested again today as lawmakers were sent scrambling to retrace Gohmert steps.

Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger announced that she will self- quarantine after sitting next to Gohmert on a flight Sunday.

Gohmert once memorably told CNN that if he got COVID-19, "You'll never see me without a mask."

Today, he attempted to blame his diagnosis on the few times that he has worn one.

GOHMERT: I can't help but wonder if by keeping your mask on and keeping it in place that if I might have put some germ, some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, President Trump is standing by the misinformation spreading doctor he promoted this week despite facing blowback for elevating her false claim that there's a cure for COVID-19.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was not alone. He was making a statement about hydroxychloroquine with other doctors that swear by it. I think it's great.

COLLINS: Stella Immanuel has a history of making bizarre claims including the doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens.

And CNN has learned Vice President Mike Pence met with the other doctors who joined her in that viral video that was later removed by social media sites.

Her statements on hydroxychloroquine have been refuted by the President's own experts.

FAUCI: Hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

COLLINS: Dr. Anthony Fauci remained in Washington but Trump was in Texas with his former doctor turned politician today, Ronny Jackson, who has defended the President's personal use of hydroxychloroquine.

Before leaving, Trump continued to shrug off reports of U.S. intelligence that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, intelligence, the White House says is disputed

TRUMP: If it were true, I'd be very angry about it. But, if you look at Russia, Russia became Russia from the Soviet Union because of Afghanistan.

COLLINS: The President is facing new questions about it after revealing in a new interview that he raised no concerns about that intelligence with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a recent call.

TRUMP: No, that was a phone call to discuss other things. And frankly, that's an issue that many people said was fake news.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, millions of Americans are set to lose those enhanced unemployment benefits they got as part of the last Coronavirus Relief Bill this Friday. But Congress is still deadlocked on surprisingly and has not come to an agreement.

This morning when he was leaving the White House the President suggested passing a smaller bill which the Treasury Secretary would include extending those benefits for the time being, possibly extending that ban on evictions that we currently have.

But the Chief of Staff Mark Meadows just left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, they clearly have not made any progress on an agreement.


And he said she dismissed the idea of doing that smaller bill while those negotiations continue, like the White House has suggested earlier, which could leave millions of Americans without any of these enhanced benefits starting in just 48 hours from now.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks for that report.

Let's get some more in all of this. Joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and CNN's Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borgia. Dr. Jha, right now, very sadly, 150,000 Americans are now dead from this coronavirus. So, what goes through your mind as you reflect on all those lives lost in only five months?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Wolf, there's so much suffering associated with that, right? There are 150,000 families who don't have somebody at home today, and the effects of that are going to be felt for years, if not decades.

And I think the fact that we as a country have not been able to get our arms around this, have not prioritized preventing those deaths is all that much more maddening. And so, for me it's frustration, it's sadness, and a resolve to try to figure out how do we prevent the next hundred and 50,000. I think we can, but we're really going to have to work for it.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, it was almost inconceivable, you know, that 150,000 Americans who would die from this coronavirus just a few months ago, but now there's a fear out there. A lot of Americans are getting numb to these numbers.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I hope not, Wolf. This is a tragedy. And it is hard to sort of wrap your arms around these kinds of numbers in this short period of time. But what this requires is leadership. It requires a leader to come out there every single day and talk about the people, not just the numbers, but the people who have lost their lives as you do every day at the end of your show, Wolf.

Americans need to understand and I think a vast majority do that these are our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our spouses, our children even, and that they're not just numbers, but it requires a leader who is not in denial about it, who was not just looking towards the next election, who is not trying to sweep it under the rug and get beyond it as Donald Trump has done time and time again.

And it's wonderful that we are looking towards a vaccine that may well happen sooner than anyone expected. And I think that's a terrific development. But we also have to understand until we get there, we have to find a way to control this or more people will die and that's the message that we need to be hearing in unison, from both Republicans and Democrats.

BLITZER: Yes. As Dr. Fauci told us here on Monday when he was in THE SITUATION ROOM, if they don't do something about this, in his words, it's conceivable that 10s of thousands of Americans will die over the next few months alone.

And with that, you know, awful thought, Dr. Jha, when we've crossed this grim milestone today, a 150,000 confirmed American deaths, the President is still promoting false claims, this time from a viral video.

How concerning is that to you that the President of United States is giving credence to some sort of weird video out there on the internet, rather than Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, his own top health experts, including the doctors at the FDA, and the CDC?

JHA: Yes. So, I think it's important for --

BLITZER: I think we've just lost our connection with Dr. Jha. We're going to try to reconnect with him. Are you back with us Dr. Jha?

JHA: I think so.

BLITZER: OK. Go -- yes, go ahead. You heard the question, right?

JHA: Yes. Yes, I did.


JHA: So very quickly, what I was going to say, Wolf, is that there are more days ahead of us before a vaccine than behind us. And if we don't want another 150,000 Americans die, then we have to get very serious. We have some of the leading public health scientists in the world.

And the idea that we would not listen to them and instead promote videos of people with, you know, really questionable credentials is mind boggling. This is hard enough if we do everything well. And I feel to me like we're just trying to do everything poorly. And the consequences are what we're seeing today.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, a Republican, we just reported and as you know, he was supposed to be traveling with the President today to Texas until he tested positive early this morning for the virus. He wasn't wearing a mask during that hearing yesterday. He doesn't like to wear a mask.


We saw him close to the Attorney General Bill Barr with no mask, they were walking together yesterday. He potentially expose his staffers and a lot of others, including some members of Congress. How big of a concern is this right now here in Washington?

BORGER: Well, it's a huge concern in Washington. It's a huge concern in Congress. I mean, the President's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, who used to be a Republican member of Congress came out and he said, look, everyone should wear a mask, and by the way, members of Congress ought to be tested, which they are not routinely tested at this point.

And what Gohmert has done, I know we've tried to explain it away in some crazy way, saying that maybe it was the mask that caused him to test positive or to pick up the virus in some way. I'd like to hear what the doctor has to say about that. That kind of surprised me. But people need to stop looking at this mask as some kind of a cultural issue here.

It's a way to protect Get yourself. It's a way to protect your neighbor and your family and your friends and just wear the mask. And members of Congress are rightly concerned, Wolf, that they had been infected by Louie Gohmert, who walked around, according to Manu Raju, walked around on the House floor without wearing a mask, spoke to people at close range without wearing a mask and therefore put them in danger.

So, if I remember Congress right now, I'd say I want to be tested. And everyone I work with ought to be wearing a mask.

BLITZER: Right. It's so, so irresponsible for United States member of Congress to be doing that.

And, you know, Dr. Jha, he's actually, and it's hard to believe, he's actually suggesting that maybe wearing the mask, taking it on, taking it off, may have given him coronavirus. And I'm anxious to get your thoughts on that.

JHA: Yes. So, kind of like testing, wearing masks don't cause infections. You know, the mask actually protects people from infections. And protects other people from infections if you're infected.

And there are some very basic simple approaches, so taking off your mask and, and not rubbing your, you know, a face and eyes after you've touched the mask. So, as long as he was doing things that kids and adults all around the country are being able to do pretty responsibly, I'm pretty skeptical that the mask somehow caused the infection.

I think it almost surely is that the lack of wearing the mask and maybe not doing social distancing may have exposed the congressman to somebody who might have been infected and then given him the virus.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you, Gloria, thank you -- very quickly, Gloria.

BORGER: Sure. I say you can spin your way out of a lot of things, but you can't spin your way out of the Coronavirus and say, well, the mask gave it to me.


BORGER: Just doesn't fly.

BLITZER: It's crazy.

All right guys, thank you very, very much.

Up next, as more Major League Baseball players are now testing positive for coronavirus, the NBA reports no new cases in more than a week. The season resumes tomorrow.

And the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, there you see him, he's standing by live. We've got lots to discuss. We will right after this.



BLITZER: The breaking news this hour the United States just passing the 150,000 mark as the number of Americans killed by the coronavirus climbs. Yesterday alone, more than 1000 Americans died. Amid this pandemic. The NBA is now set to resume its season tomorrow and it's just announced a very ambitious community testing program.

Joining us now the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver.

Adam, thanks so much for joining us. We've got a lot to discuss.

But first, tell us about this NBA community testing program that you just announced. How will this work? Which communities will this serve?

ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: We're particularly focused on Orange County in Orlando, Florida, which is where we're launching our season. So we recognize -- well, we're using a private lab down in that community, we wanted to make sure that our presence was additive to the community that we weren't taking away from it. So for example, we're setting up a mobile testing lab for people in the vicinity of Orlando.

BLITZER: Is this part your answer, Adam, to the people who have wondered why the NBA has so many testing resources available? While unfortunately, so much of the country is now struggling to get tested?

SILVER: It is, and I recognize it's a national issue. It's frustrating for us as you recall, when we first shut down our season in mid-March, we were one of the first industries or businesses for that matter to shut down and the reason was because we were doing some testing, and we were using very small amounts of testing. And at first, we were credited with being the canary in the mine. And then people few days later said, why are you doing testing?

And again, you know, we felt it was important. We, of course, are subject to whatever state national regulations exist. I mean, personally, my sense is there should be a lot more testing right now. And, you know, the CDC understands our plan, they've endorsed it, but we are using tests.

I frankly think the answer is there should be a lot more asymptomatic testing, rather, rather than focusing on us. But what we're doing at least in this community is bringing more testing to the Florida area that we're in.

BLITZER: Yes, that's really important.

Let's get to some of the major news that's unfolding. The NBA season is resuming tomorrow. It's something all of us fans have been waiting for. But this is happening in a hotspot, we're talking about Florida, Adam, right now, which just reported its highest single day death toll. So one of the chances you make it through this abbreviated season right now without an outbreak of the virus.


SILVER: That's -- it's a great question. And the issue for us is at the time we designed our protocol and the restart down in Orlando, Florida. In fact, they were on the lower end in terms of states, in terms of number of cases. They're having -- what we design this campus environment where everyone, you know, regardless of symptoms or not, is tested on a daily basis. If somebody were to test positive, of course, we would trace their contacts, they would be quarantine. People are quarantine before they enter this campus. And when they first arrive to ensure that to extent there's any virus in their system that isn't showing up on the test that it gives it time to incubate. So we do catch it.

And so we're protected in essence from the high case rate around us. But it's not, as I've said before, hermetically sealed bubble of any kind. And so, we have people who go in -- on and off our campus. Certainly many of the Disney Employees are living in the community.

It's possible infection could come on that in that way. But we hope by virtue of having everyone wear masks, it's critically important everyone is wearing a mask on our community. Everybody's following the appropriate handwashing, physical distancing protocols that even if somebody does have an infection that it doesn't spread on our campus.

And so far, we've been there for roughly three weeks, and we've had zero cases. So it seems to be holding up and working so far.

BLITZER: Let's hope it stays like that. The NBA, as you pointed out, suspended this season in March after one positive test. Is that the same standard you'll follow to pause games that are in the so called Bubble right now down in Florida, one positive case and that you'll pause.

SILVER: It's not clear. It would depend on the circumstances.

Of course, when we paused in mid-March, we knew very little about COVID-19 about this particular coronavirus and we're also at that time had fans in our arenas. And we weren't really doing any large scale testing of our players, we were only testing the particular player, Rudy Gobert, who tested positive on Utah Jazz. He was tested because he had symptoms. And then we did some additional testing of those people, of course, who had been around them.

Now we're in a very different environment, there are no fans whatsoever. We're testing on a daily basis, we're following those other protocols.

So if we were to get a single positive test, it probably wouldn't shut us down. But what we'd want to do is try to understand through tracing how that person whether it be a player, coach or someone else who's on that campus got the virus.

BLITZER: How many positive cases do you think it would take for, let's say, all the teams, all the NBA teams who are playing down in Florida to pause the season again?

SILVER: Well, if we had any significant spread whatsoever, we would certainly stop immediately and then we would investigate and determine whether we could move forward.

I mean, I'm watching obviously what's happening in baseball right now. They have group of infections on one particular team, they've paused that team and as far as I understand it, they intend to continue on with their season. I'm sure they're undergoing the same analysis we would and try to figure out where the spread is coming from and whether their protocols are working.

BLITZER: Have you had conversations with the other major sports commissioners, for example, Major League Baseball, to get lessons from them, lessons from you. Baseball, Major League Baseball right now seems to be in huge trouble. They're not playing in a Bubble like you guys are.

SILVER: We do all talk, but I would only say the circumstances are very different. Again, our system -- our season was suspended. You know, we'd already played 80 percent of our regular season. So in essence, putting our players in a Bubble environment required sort of different set of sacrifices than it would to play an entire baseball season or for that matter, entire NFL season.

Plus, obviously outdoors, indoors, different numbers of participants. So, we talk but we all have various different situations,

BLITZER: I assume you would cancel the NBA season, Adam, if that was the right -- that would be the right thing to do if it involved the player's health and safety and other personnel, coaches, et cetera, you would just end the season right?

SILVER: No question. In fact, that's what we did on March 11. We, as you said earlier, we had a single positive case. And we stopped the season that night. And so we haven't been playing, you know, for roughly four months.

So, it's a different standard now because again, we have a different protocol in place. But everything we've done has been in partnership with our Players Association. And you know, we have a panel of experts, immunologist, infectious disease experts, public health experts, and really they would make the decision frankly, it would not be a business decision.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit and I want to move on to some other issues. But tell us a little bit about the testing protocols, the other measures that are in place in the Bubble in Florida right now.

SILVER: In essence, everyone is tested on a nightly basis.


And then they, as a practical matter, don't leave their room until they have the results the next morning. So it varies a little bit, but roughly it's around a 10-12 hour turnaround.

We're also experimenting with some point of care testing. You know, it's one of the things our experts are working with down there. And that is to increase the amount of tests available, just not only in this community, but nationally, there's a bunch of now new companies that have, in essence, 20 minute tests that don't need to go to a lab are all self-contained.

And so in addition to the PCR overnight test, the traditional ones which require swabbing in our case of nose and throat, we also have these other tests that we're just introducing now. We can use those that we get a positive test to quickly check others, we can use those for visitors who come in onto our campus but don't have access to the players maybe just at a single point in the arena. So that's the type of testing we're undergoing, but we're rigorous about our other protocols.

Everyone -- other than when guys have to take those masks off when they're playing basketball, mask requiring -- masks are required at all times on the campus. And we keep people physically distant in any way we can possible in terms of when eating arrangements, outdoor activities, it's all the things that the doctors on your network are constantly recommending,

BLITZER: What sort of consequences will there be? And, you know, there will be these certain players, what will they face if they sneak out of the so-called bubble or break the rules that you have in place which are very strict rules?

SILVER: It would be tough to sneak out given this campus environment, but we have had players who have left and there is a protocol for when they leave in terms of how they can re-enter. And it requires not only testing when they're off campus, but multi-days of quarantine when they're returned to campus and that's something we've dealt with with a particular cases.

I mean, remember, putting aside sneaking off, we haven't dealt with that. But, of course, these are real-life people who have families and, you know, crises and issues within their families that need to be taken care of. You know, there's several hundred players on the campus so we didn't -- we anticipated.

If this campus setup works, the finals won't end until October 13. So it requires, I mean, in fairness to everybody, enormous sacrifice being away from their families, being in one place. I mean, there's a lot of, of course, wonderful benefits that come with being an NBA player.

But it's difficult and everybody's lives all the things that around social justice that are happening around the communities in our country. So we recognize that there may be times when they have to leave but its health and safety first. So whatever the reason is, we still have to follow a certain protocol to bring them back.

BLITZER: We all remember at the start of this, Rudy Gobert of Utah Jazz, he made light of the virus. Now, you have Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. saying the pandemic, in his word, is overblown, being used to, quote, control the masses. Does that attitude potentially endanger him and his teammates?

SILVER: It's unfortunate that he said that. I would only say in our league we have 450 players. Guys are young occasionally going to say silly things. I think most people quickly dismiss that comment.

BLITZER: This season will be very different for those of us who are huge NBA fans and I admit I am one of them. What will it be like watching these games on TV without fans in the stadium?

SILVER: We've had a few scrimmage games so far so we have a sense of it. I mean, it's a very different experience. It's obviously very different for the players and it's different for the fans watching at home. I mean, in this sport, like a lot of others, you know, there's that home-court advantage that six man it's sort of the roar of the crowd, the boos of the crowd.

I mean, we're trying to replicate that to a certain time without just like piping in obvious crowd noise. We have a partnership with Microsoft. They have a product called teams with this together mode where you actually have fans up on arena screens on the sidelines who are at home and watching with their friends and others and talking about the game. So -- and you can see their images courtside.

There's an app that, literally as part of the NBA app, where you can tap the cheer. We're adding all kinds of new camera angles, because of course, we don't have people in the seats so we don't have to find new -- you know, we could put cameras in places we typically couldn't.

We have a rail cam that goes back and forth. We have unique audio we haven't had in the past. So we're trying to do our best to replicate the experience that fans are used to at home but also to create excitement in the arena for the players.

BLITZER: If -- you're speaking to me, Adam, from New York, are you planning to go to Orlando to go into that bubble, stay in that bubble for these games over these next few months?

SILVER: I'm heading down to Orlando tomorrow. I'm going to be at the games on Thursday and Friday night which was our opening on TNT tomorrow night and ESPN on Friday. And I'm going to travel back and forth a bit and then I'm going to move down onto the campus later on in the summer.


And just so it's clear, there's a protocol I've been tested, I'll be tested again before I enter the campus in Orlando. But even having been tested there, we have different tiers. I'll be -- so-called tier four entrant -- I'll be able to go directly to the arena, sit in essence they're smaller arenas, but the upper deck of the arena physically distant from everyone else, obviously far away from our players.

And that's a protocol in which I can enter to watch a game. But then later on, towards the end of the summer, I will move down there, quarantine and then be part of the campus life.

BLITZER: This renewed season, Adam, as you well know and all of our viewers know comes with a renewed commitment by many of the NBA players to the cause of racial justice in our country. How do you see the NBA's role and your role as Commissioner when it comes to supporting those players? What will you do, for example, if some of those players decide to kneel during the National Anthem? SILVER: As you know, Wolf, the league has a long history of, you know, supporting important issues around social justice. It's no secret that 80 percent of our players are black. I think that, you know, around the death of George Floyd, many of our players were seen protesting, many have been extraordinarily active in their communities, on social media.

And when we came together to put this protocol in place for returning to play, they made it very clear how important it was to them that just because they were going to be in essence isolated down in Orlando, they still wanted to be actively participating in this movement.

So you're going to see down on our floor it does has Black Lives Matter right on the arena floor. Players, something they worked out with their Players Association have selected certain messages around social justice to wear on their jerseys. So -- and in addition, we're in discussions with our Players Association about creating a foundation something that all 30 teams would be part of dedicated to economic empowerment specifically focused on the black community in the United States.

BLITZER: So, what if a player does kneel during the National Anthem, what happens?

SILVER: Well, we've had a rule in place for a long time that requires players to stand, it precedes my predecessor David Stern. I will say though, I do respect, you know, peaceful protest and, you know what, we'll see what happens if that's the case. But I understand this is a unique moment in our history.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Before I let you go, if you make it safely to the end of the season and all of us are hoping you guys make it safely all of you to the end of the season, how do you think whoever wins the NBA title should be remembered compared to previous seasons? Will there be some sort of asterisk next to this season because of this deadly coronavirus?

SILVER: I think rather than an asterisk, there should be a double gold star. It will have been, if we make it to mid-October, it will have been a 54-week season, certainly the longest season in our history. And I think that that team should receive special, a trophy will double its size for the commitment and the sacrifice and just the endurance to have made it to the end of what would have been our longest season.

BLITZER: Well, we're grateful to you, Adam Silver, for doing what you're doing. This is must have been such an enormous, enormous challenge to you and your colleagues and the entire NBA, all the players and coaches, everyone else. We're looking forward to watching some games on TV.

Thanks so much for joining us and good luck.

SILVER: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Coming up, CNN exclusive details of global interest in Russia's claim of a vaccine breakthrough. Plus, new fears of new coronavirus clusters as hundreds even thousands of people attend parties and concerts. Hard to believe. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: This hour's breaking news, the U.S. just surpassed 150,000 coronavirus deaths. And in a sign of the global desperation caused by the pandemic, Russian officials now say nearly two dozen countries are interested in the new vaccine. They claim will be approved within two weeks, despite all the medical and ethical questions the claim has raised.

Let's go to CNN's Matthew Chance, he's been doing exclusive reporting for us. He's joining us from Moscow right now. Matthew, tell us more.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's incredible, Wolf, because there's so much skepticism and criticism, quite rightly, in some regards, about this Russian vaccine. The fact that it's not necessarily safe because the human trials have been curtailed, that it's not necessarily going to be very effective. The data on the test so far have not been made public so we don't know yet.

And of course, there are all these allegations that foul play was the root of it as well with the allegations that Russian spies hacked into American, British and Canadian labs to steal vaccine secrets.


But none of that appears to have deterred a great many countries because, as you mentioned, Russian officials are telling me tonight that at least 20 countries have approached in the past few days to try to get their hands on this virus -- sorry, on this vaccine. And countries like Saudi Arabia, countries like Brazil, countries like India have been mentioned to me by Russian officials, so significant players in the world and could have other countries as well that haven't been named across Africa, across Latin America, and across Asia as well.

So this, I think, is interesting, because it underlines a couple of things. One of them is the fact that, you know, the situation is so desperate out there. There are so many countries out there that wants a solution to this global pandemic, that they're willing to look at the any solution that's available, including the Russian one, which as we've been talking about, has lots of problems hanging over it and lots of concerns associated with it. So --


CHANCE: -- I think that's a really interesting feature that's come out in the past couple of days. BLITZER: Yes, the Russians are suggesting this could be another Sputnik moment for them. We shall see. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks for the really terrific reporting. We're grateful to you.

Coming up, a Republican Congressman who shunned masks test positive for the coronavirus before a planned trip with President Trump. Plus, the concern over a giant house party that drew get this 700 people despite the pandemic,



BLITZER: This hour's breaking news, the U.S. just surpassed 150,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths. Meanwhile, disturbing images of large house parties and concerts have health officials fearing clusters of new coronavirus cases.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, some of these events have drawn hundreds even thousands of people, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have drawn that many people, Wolf, and as we've been reporting and warning about in recent weeks, many of those people are young people. These mass gatherings have inexplicably continued and tonight states which thought they had flattened the curve are now bracing for new clusters of coronavirus.


TODD (voice-over): Officers respond to a house party in Jackson, New Jersey. Police say it took them more than five hours to break up the party on Sunday because more than 700 people were there. About 600 more than Governor Phil Murphy's executive order allows.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: We simply cannot continue to have crowded house parties. They are not safe period. This is no time for anyone to be vying for induction into the knucklehead Hall of Fame.

TODD (voice-over): State health officials say they're worried that that house party could lead to a new cluster of coronavirus cases. How bad could that cluster get?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's a nightmare situation from the perspective of epidemic control because you've got so many people exposed to each other. And then that job of contact tracing means that you're following up not with a few people, not with tens of people, but with potentially hundreds of people.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, top doctors are concerned that large gatherings of young people still haven't stopped despite dire warnings in recent weeks that they can be super spreaders.

New York State officials investigating this drive-in concert at the Hamptons in recent days after footage appeared to show large groups of people not socially distancing. In Weld County, Colorado over the weekend, thousands packed into a field for a day of live music. Many people at these gatherings have been observed not wearing masks despite the constant pleadings of health officials and experts around the world.

New video from researchers in Australia shows on the top left how far droplets travel in the air from someone talking, sneezing and coughing while not wearing a mask. On the right and in the other frames, you can barely see any droplets when the person is wearing a mask or adding layers to the mask.

DR. ROSHINI RAJ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU LANGONE HEALTH: If you are going to be outside and you're going to be in any sort of gathering, you really want to be protecting yourself only when you're with your immediate close family and loved ones should you not be wearing a mask.

TODD (voice-over): A daunting question looms tonight. Why are so many people, many of them under 40 ditching guidelines and still going to these crowded events?

RAJ: People are tired, they're fatigued of the isolation, and they're craving that contact or some return to normalcy. But what everyone has to realize is we still do not have a cure, a really good treatment for the disease or a vaccine.

TODD (voice-over): One expert says it's a careless game of Russian roulette and not just with these people's own lives.

DR. CHARLES LOCKWOOD, DEAN, USF HEALTH MORSANI COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: They may infect their parents or their grandparents or their teachers or their employer who might be over the age of 65, who might have an underlying condition and they will die.


TODD: Experts say young people who go to these parties and concerts should also remember that even if they get COVID-19 and recover from it, it could cause other complications for them later in life. Things like kidney or heart failure, lung disease and chronic fatigue. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you.

There's breaking news next, the U.S. coronavirus death toll now more than 150,000 people as two states also now reporting a record number of deaths. And a new report just issued by experts over at the Johns Hopkins University. That report now says the U.S. needs to reset, reset its entire response to the virus.



BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.