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Back-to-School Day for Millions of American Students; Eight Weeks Until Election Day: Trump Blasts Biden, Harris for "Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric; Wildfires Force Evacuation of Entire California Town; Kawhi's Finger Leads Clippers to Victory. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Back to school during a pandemic. Some of the biggest districts in the U.S. reopen today but millions of kids will not attend in person.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Joe Biden and President Trump taking aim at each other over a possible coronavirus vaccine with Election Day now just eight weeks away.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

KOSIK: Good morning, Laura.

And I'm Alison Kosik. I'm stepping in for Christine Romans.

It's Tuesday, September 8th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the New York.

And never has a back to school day caused so much fear and anxiety for parents. Majority of the nation's school children return to class this morning, some in person, others remotely. That includes big city districts like Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Baltimore. Over 7 million kids will start school online, as large Labor Day crowds trigger new fears of another surge in cases across the country.

CNN's Athena Jones has more.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I worry that any new surges will be potentially quite catastrophic.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Labor Day weekend seems like this dance party in San Francisco raising concerns among health experts and public officials that a surge in COVID-19 cases could soon follow, just like they did after previous holiday weekends.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI: We have seen, as we mentioned, spikes after long weekends, after spring break. And so, that's certainly a concern. JONES: In fact, new coronavirus infections are averaging around

40,000 a day, double the daily average going into Memorial Day. With cases on the rise in the Northeast and Florida, while states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee lead the nation in a seven-day average of new cases per capita.

Also of concern, flu season is almost upon us which combined with coronavirus could present new challenges as experts worry people may be letting down their guard after months of restrictions.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: People are exhausted. They've been social distancing, staying home for a long time. I think people's willingness to comply with the simple things we know can reduce spread is going to start to fray as we head into the fall and winter.

JONES: With the federal government increasingly focused on the swift approval of a vaccine, two former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioners tell CNN that while they think it's very unlikely that President Trump could pressure scientists into a proven COVID-19 vaccine, it's possible. A third former commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says he has faith in the agency's scientific staff.

GOTTLIEB: There's a great risk process around the development and approval of a vaccine. I don't think those people are going to be pushed around to make a decision that they're not absolutely confident in.

JONES: "The Wall Street Journal" reporting pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are preparing an unusual joint pledge, promising not to seek approval until they are proven safe and effective, a move aimed at increasing public confidence in a vaccine if and when one becomes available.

DR. ESTHER CHOO, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: Yes, that was such a tremendously important statement. The vaccine manufacturers know that trust is such an important component of distributing vaccine.

JONES: Meanwhile, more than 33,000 COVID cases have been reported at colleges and universities in all 50 state, with some schools cracking down on students who violate safety protocols, including rules on congregating and mass wearing.

NYU tweeting over the weekend that it suspended more than 20 students days after Northeastern University suspended 11 students without refunding their tuition.

(on camera): One thing that could slow down the vaccine approval products, experts warn that phase 3 clinical trials are still not enrolling enough minorities, something that's necessary to better reflect the population hit hardest by COVID-19, and to make sure the vaccines work for everyone.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

(EDN VIDEOTAPE) JARRETT: Athena, thank you for that.

President Trump is heading to Florida and North Carolina today as he kicks off nearly a full week of campaigning across the country. On Labor Day, he held another campaign-style news conference at the White House, teasing a coronavirus vaccine by Election Day which most health experts will tell you cannot happen.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on this from the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump seizing on Senator Kamala Harris's vaccine comments, calling on Harris and Joe Biden to apologize.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Biden and his very liberal running mate should immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric that they are talking right now. It undermines science.

DIAMOND: But Trump is mischaracterizing Harris' answer when asked if she would trust a vaccine touted by Trump.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump. I would trust the word of public experts and scientists and experts but not Donald Trump.

DIAMOND: Trump who has repeatedly undermined public health experts and pressured government agencies to rush a vaccine insisting Harris is playing politics.

TRUMP: She is talking about disparaging a vaccine so that people don't think the achievement was a great achievement.

DIAMOND: Even as he continues to suggest without any evidence that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day.

TRUMP: We're going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I'm talking about.

DIAMOND: Trump is still defending himself from an "Atlantic Magazine" bombshell, insisting he never referred to fallen service members as suckers and losers, and touting a new denial by a former aide.

TRUMP: I was very happy to see Zach Fuentes came out. So, I was happy to see that Zach out and said it's not true. It just came out. And it's a disgrace.

Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say a thing like that.

DIAMOND: Fuentes saying in a statement he, quote, did not hear POTUS call anyone losers, when he told Trump he could not fly to a World War I service because of weather. But Fuentes also suggesting Trump may have made similar comments another time, saying sources may be, quote, conflating stories.

Even if Trump insists that he would never disparage the military, he attacked the military brass.

TRUMP: I'm not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.

DIAMOND: Trump taking questions after delivering charged political attacks on the front steps of the White House.

TRUMP: Biden's a stupid person. You know that.

DIAMOND: Falsely claiming the U.S. is leading the world in suppressing the coronavirus.

TRUMP: We're hopefully rounding the final turn in the pandemic. We are an absolute leader in every way.

DIAMOND (on camera): And Labor Day also marks the beginning of school for so many students and teachers across the country. But this year's schools are reopening amid a pandemic. And many of them don't have the funding necessary to be able to open their doors safely. That's because negotiations on Capitol Hill between the president and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have stalled over a number of other outstanding issues. But they were expected to prove billions of dollars of additional aid for those schools.

The president on Monday was asked about why he hasn't sat down yet with the Democratic leaders to negotiate face to face and said throughout these negotiations he has delegated to other White House officials. The president saying that he doesn't believe it would make a difference for him to sit down with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and claiming that he's taking, quote, the high road by not doing so.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


KOSIK: Joe Biden back home in Delaware this morning after spending Labor Day in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state. Biden telling union members he would be the strongest labor president they ever had and, again, blasting President Trump for his reported comments disparaging fallen soldiers as losers and suckers.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is with the Biden campaign in Harrisburg.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Alison, Joe Biden spent Labor Day here in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he once again slammed President Trump for those remarks he reportedly made denigrating veterans and those killed in battle. The former vice president called the president's un-American. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And none of the veterans you know were losers or suckers. No president has ever talked about our servicemen and women in that way and I'm sorry if I'm coming close to losing my temper, but the simple truth is if that's how you talk about our veterans, you have no business being president of the United States of America.

SAENZ: Now, while in Pennsylvania, Joe Biden did a virtual event with union workers and also met one on one with three union workers in the backyard of a Lancaster home. Those union workers were also veterans, as Biden hopes to continue to hammer away at the president over those comments about veterans.

Now, as the president has floated the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine coming before Election Day, Biden said he would take such a vaccine but only if it went through a transparent process that was back by scientists.

Now, Biden spent his labor day here in the all critical state of Pennsylvania, a state that President Trump won back in 2016. Democrats are hoping to pick up wins this year in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, trying to take those states back into the blue column after the president won them. And Biden is heading to Michigan on Wednesday --- Laura and Alison.


JARRETT: Arlette, thank you so much for that.

Joe Biden's running mate, meanwhile, Kamala Harris, making her first solo trip as the vice presidential nominee. Harris traveling to Wisconsin on Labor Day where she spoke with Jacob Blake and met with his family.



HARRIS: Really wonderful. I mean, they're an incredible family. What they've endured. They do it with such dignity, grace. And, you know, they're carrying the weight of a lot of voices on their shoulders. Just want to express concern for their, you know, well-being and for their brother and son's well-being. And to let them know they have support.


JARRETT: Harris encouraged the family to keep using their voices in spite of their pain to help the country make progress against racism.

KOSIK: The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. According to "The Washington Post", Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York launched the probe following reports that DeJoy gave bonuses to employees at his own company for making GOP campaign contributions. It's a potential violation of election laws. She says she's now looking into whether he lied under oath.

House Democrats have also said they will DeJoy for documents he's withholding from Congress as they accuse him of doing the president's bidding to make it harder to vote by mail. DeJoy's office says he always followed campaign fundraising laws.

JARRETT: Well, still ahead for you, a military chopper is trying to save people trapped by a raging wildfire in California. We have the latest for you, up next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Wildfires are forcing an evacuation of an entire town in Central California. A military helicopter attempting to rescue dozens of people trapped by the Creek Fire, which is burning out of control near Lake Edison and China Peak.

Several wildfires still ravaging the state. One of them sparked by a gender reveal party gone wrong.

We get more on all of this from CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fire is getting dangerously close to some of these mountain communities. The town of Auberry which has about 2,500 people had to evacuate as the blames basically took over hillside above that town.

For the most part, though, this fire is burning in the rugged Sierra National Forest. But you do have, of course, a lot of campers who use this area for recreation, and that's why you had all of these people who are at the boat launch who had to be airlifted to safety.

About ten or so people suffered moderate injuries, but hopefully, everyone will be okay.

In the meantime, we're getting more information about the so-called gender reveal party in Southern California, in San Bernardino County. You did have this couple that went to a nearby park to basically announce the gender of their baby. They had a pyrotechnic device and you light it off, it either goes pink or blue, on any event set this wildfire in motion.

Dan Simon, CNN, Auberry, California.


KOSIK: Two Trump supporters arrested after violent clashes with counter protesters in Oregon. Police say the confrontation took place at an All Lives Matter rally on Monday in Salem, about 50 miles south of Portland. The two sides started yelling and firing paint guns at each other from across the street. Things escalated when members of the All Lives Matter group ran across and began shoving counter protestors.

Two men were arrested and charged with assault. They've both been released from custody.

JARRETT: Well, it was an historic day for moms at the U.S. Open. See something that's never happened before next.



KOSIK: A big night in the NBA as the Celtics and Clippers both got back on track.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning.


So, the -- sorry, the Clippers were made the favorites in many people's eyes to go ahead and win the NBA championship mainly because of one guy, and that's Kawhi Leonard. He, of course, led the Raptors to the championship last year.

He continues to just be fantastic in these playoffs. He's nicknamed "The Claw" because he has those massive hands. And The Claw was at work in crunch time in game three against the Nuggets. Jamal Murray going for the slam gets rejected by Kawhi.

If you look closely, Kawhi literally blocking that dunk with just his middle finger. What an effort.

Clippers would win 113-107 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

And afterwards, Clipper' Paul George couldn't believe that block.


PAUL GEORGE, L.A. CLIPPERS FORWARD: That's an extra long middle finger. It kept growing or something. That's Kawhi, man. Big-time player. The mitts, it's something else.


SCHOLES: All right. Meanwhile in the East, pivotal game five between the Celtics and Raptors, and this one all Boston. They opened the game on an 18-5 run. Never looked back. They were up by as many as 30 at one point. Went on to win 111-89.

Jaylen Brown led the way, 27 points. Celtics now one win away from the spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tonight, we got two more games on our sister network, TNT, starting at 6:30 Eastern. Bucks trying to stay alive against the Heat. And it's game three between the Lakers and the Rockets. That series tied up at a game apiece.

All right. 2020 not been an ideal for most of us, not sure Dustin Johnson could say anymore. D.J. winning the tour championship yesterday. And the prize, one of the richest in sports, a cool $15 million. Time to celebrate at the end of the golf season for DJ though. The rescheduled U.S. Open next week in New York.

And speaking of U.S. Opens in New York, more history in Flushing Meadows. For the first time ever, three moms have advanced to the quarter finals in the singles draw. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Tsvetana Pironkova all moving on yesterday.

And Pironkova playing in her first tournament since giving birth to her son three years ago, and after her match, she talked about how hard the tournament has been being away from him.


TSVETANA PIRONKOVA, REACHES 1ST GRAND SLAM QUARTERFINALS: Well, yeah. I haven't seen him in two weeks and it's very tough. It gets tougher every day. But I know he's watching me. I know he's proud of me, and it's worth it.


SCHOLES: So cool there. And Pironkova, her toughest match coming up next, Laura. She's going to take on Serena. And I'll tell you what, it's just so cool to see those moms out there still competing at the highest level and doing well.

JARRETT: Look, there is no tougher job than being a parent. So I'm sure it has served them well preparing for those tournaments.

All right. Good to see you, Andy. Thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: President Trump is now pressuring reporters to take off their masks, the ones that keep them safe. See how it happened just ahead.



JARRETT: Back to school during a pandemic. Some of the biggest districts in the U.S. reopen today but millions of kids aren't going back in person.

KOSIK: President Trump teasing a coronavirus vaccine by Election Day now just eight weeks away. But doctors say that's unlikely. Good morning. This is EARLY START. So glad you can be with us. I'm

Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans.

JARRETT: Great to have you, Alison.

I'm Laura Jarrett. About 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

We begin this half hour with anxiety for millions of parents on this back-to-school morning in America.