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NEW DAY SUNDAY

At Least 33 Dead As Wildfires Rage On West Coast; Tropical Storm Sally Gaining Strength As It Approaches Gulf Coast; Trump To Visit California Monday Amid Historic Wildfires; AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Set To Resume In U.K.; Des Moines Schools Defy Judge & Governor, Begin School Year With Remote Learning; Senators Demand Company Stop Sale Of Faulty AmazonBasics Products; NFL Season Opens With Focus On Social Justice, COVID And Crowds. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 13, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:05]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just don't believe that it's all going to go up in smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Firefighters are battling California's biggest blaze in history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After 24 hours, you will be tired. You will be beat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We watched these trees beside us go up and then embers flying across the way.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is a climate damn emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen anything like this in my life. This is very devastating to our town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police are searching for the gunman who brazenly shot two Los Angeles County sheriff's department officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a cowardly act. Seeing somebody walk up and just start shooting on them. It pisses me off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: There's a little bit of sun out there, as you can see it, coming up out there in Miami.

Good morning to all of you there. And wherever you might be waking up this morning, we are grateful to have you, as always.

We want to begin this morning with official this is California because they, unfortunately, are confirming that three more people have died from these wildfires. Firefighters are battling two dozen major fires just across California alone. More than 3 million acres burned this year. And they've destroyed at least 4,000 structures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: In Oregon, officials say at least eight of the fires there may not burn out until the winter rains begin. Across California and Oregon and Washington state, at least 33 people have died in these wildfires.

This morning, we're learning about two of them, 13-year-old Wyatt Tofte, died in Oregon Tuesday. He and his dog died. They were huddled together in a car. They were trying to get away from the flames there. And Wyatt's grandmother, she was found in another car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN VASLEV, FAMILY SPOKESWOMAN: Wyatt ended up going back to the car and tried to drive his grandmother out. And so, he attempted to drive that car and he -- the roads are so hot that it burnt up the tires. And so he wasn't able to drive it to safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Close to 100 fires are burning across a pretty broad part of the western U.S. across 12 states from Alaska all the way down to New Mexico and Arizona.

CNN's Camila Bernal is joining us from Marion County. That's in Oregon.

Camila, are the people seeing the changes in weather that they need to try to get some containment?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor, good morning.

Absolutely. It is a lot colder today than what we were experiencing just in the last couple of days. But that doesn't mean that the flames are out. We're still at zero percent containment.

And the smoke is still unbelievable. We're at one of the command centers at the moment. And this is where the firefighters are behind all of these trucks. There are many of them sleeping in tents.

But they're still working around the clock. They have other crews that are out right now risking their lives, doing anything they can to save people and, of course, to save as many homes as possible. Meanwhile, there are thousands who are still under evacuation orders who have already moved to either a shelter or a relative's home.

And so, many of them are anxious. They want to go back to their homes and make sure their homes are okay. We spoke to one man in particular who told us that he had very little

time to evacuate and he said, he essentially felt like he was in a movie. Take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH NEWTON, OREGON HOMEOWNER: It happened so fast that I was there until 5:00 in the morning watering -- trying to water stuff down. But it got so bad that I was having to stomp fire out with my feet. And at that point, you know, we knew we had to go. All the neighbors around us pretty much everything is gone, the whole town. It's just wiped out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNAL: And, Christi and Victor, this is not the only person going through this situation. So many in Washington state and California going through the same thing. They're worried. They're concerned. They're heartbroken.

At the moment in California, five of the states' largest fires in history are burning at the moment. Governor Newsom, of course, tying all of this to climate change, being very vocal about the fact that these fires are so large and so unprecedented that he does believe that this is tied to climate change, which is what scientists already said.

So, of course, the firefighting efforts continue there as they do here. All the firefighters doing anything they can to make some sort of progress -- Victor, Christi.

[07:05:00]

PAUL: Yes, certainly thinking about them.

Camila Bernal, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Let's go to CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin.

So, Tyler, we heard that Camila say that the -- it feels better there because the temperature has gone down a bit there in Marion County, Oregon. But what about the air quality that's encompassing so much of the western states?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Christi, it doesn't look like the air quality is going to improve. And the humidity is low. So, we're seeing just ripe conditions for these nearly 100 large wildfires that we have out there across the west to continue to grow, maybe even some new wildfires popping up, too.

We have elevated to critical fire risk from California and Nevada all the way up to Washington. Now, with so many wildfires, you get the smoke and the haze and that is leading to that very poor air quality and also very bad, dense fog and very bad visibility out there, too. Not only that fire season but it's also hurricane season and if you can't tell by the graphic behind me, we're in the peak of hurricane season. There are seven areas of interest out in the tropics this week.

The one we want to focus on is 50-mile-per-hour Tropical Storm Sally, which is bringing heavy rainfall and flooding to south Florida right now. It will eventually impact other states this upcoming week.

New Orleans, you're under a hurricane warning because if Sally makes this trek to the northwest, it's going to strengthen into a category 2 hurricane before it makes landfall near you come early Tuesday. Now, as it takes this trek, yes, it's going to strengthen. It's going to strengthen very quickly. The panhandle of Florida could be feeling the impacts by the time we get to later on tonight.

The mouth of the Mississippi is feeling it on Monday. It then slows its forward motion before it comes ashore in New Orleans on early -- on Tuesday, the early morning hours of Tuesday. Of course, this is going to lead to the potential for some very heavy rainfall. We could see upwards of a foot of rainfall near New Orleans and in excess of six inches in Mississippi, Alabama and the Tennessee Valley.

And, yeah, we got that threat for storm surge from the Big Bend of Florida, all the way to Grand Isle, Louisiana. Guys, not only are we seeing that, these hurricanes are multifaceted systems. We could also see isolated tornadoes as well.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, the wind speeds get all the attention. It's the floodwaters with the storm sitting over there that can cause so much damage.

Tyler Mauldin, thank you so much.

President Trump will head to California tomorrow for a briefing on the wildfires. Today, he's in Nevada for more campaign events. He held a rally there last night. The air quality conditions there across the state potentially unhealthy because of the smoke.

PAUL: And the president did calmly address the fires during his speech.

CNN's Rebecca Buck joins us right now.

It just took him a while to get to the subject. Walk us through exactly what he said with you, Rebecca. And good morning.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Sure, good morning, Christi.

The president not usually one to keep quiet, but it did take him a number of weeks to get to this point where he acknowledged the disaster ongoing in the Western United States, including California, and offering his thoughts to the firefighters and in particular who are fighting these blazes.

Now, the president found it difficult to ignore this because he is currently on a trip out west where, not only the fires are burning, but the air quality, as we've mentioned, is so greatly diminished. He was in the Reno area yesterday where smoke has been in the air, unhealthy air quality there. So the president really had his hand forced by this trip. At this

event yesterday in Reno, he did mention he's concerned for the firefighters actively fighting these blazes. He also offered some unsolicited advice. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, our hearts are with all the communities in the West battling devastating wildfires. But, you know, it is about forest management. Please remember the words, very simple, forest management. Please remember. It's about forest management, and other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCK: One thing we did not hear from the president there, the words climate change. Of course, experts say that is a driving force behind not only this unprecedented fire season but other unprecedented fire seasons we have seen in the western United States in recent years. Of course, you all on this program have covered that extensively.

We also did not hear from the president words of concern for the millions of Americans who are being displaced or impacted directly or indirectly by these fires. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti commented to "The New York times" today that he believes that's because the president doesn't care as much about California, has not been as attentive to California's needs as president because of it's a state that voted for Hillary Clinton and leans very Democratic, solidly Democratic.

So, a lot of eyes this week will be on the president as he visits California during this crisis for the state, for the western United States.

[07:10:07]

And, of course, a lot of people looking for words of comfort and concern as he travels there -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Rebecca Buck for us in Washington -- thank you, Rebecca.

PAUL: We got some breaking news from overnight in California.

Two sheriff's deputies are hospitalized right now. They were ambushed and shot multiple times. This happened in Compton. It's according to the Los Angeles County sheriff. The sheriff's department still looking, by the way, for that shooter.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, released surveillance video shows the ambush. It shows the suspect there walking up to the deputies' car near a train station and then firing off the shots and then running away.

Again, the officers who were shot are alive. We'll update you as soon as we get more on their condition. We know that the sheriff says that one deputy was 31 years old, the other is 24. Both were sworn in two years ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF ALEX VILLANUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: That was a cowardly act. The two deputies were doing their job, minding their own business and watching out for the safety of the people on the train and seeing somebody just walk up and start shooting on them, it -- it's -- it pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time. And I -- there's no pretty way to say it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: The sheriff's department called out protesters, they say, were blocking emergency entries and exits to the hospital, while they were trying to confront deputies. Authorities are asking for your help in providing any information about the shooting.

PAUL: So a large coronavirus vaccine trial set to resume in the U.K. after that unexplained illness in one of its volunteers.

We'll talk about it. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:54]

PAUL: Well, a large coronavirus vaccine trial is set to resume after it was paused over some safety concerns.

BLACKWELL: And we're learning about two other companies looking to expand their phase 3 trials.

Let's go to Polo Sandoval. He has more for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coronavirus vaccine trial halted last week after an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers will resume. The University of Oxford announced Saturday. The university, which is developing the vaccine with AstraZeneca did not say when the trial would resume, only that it would take place in the united kingdom and it's working with health authorities across the world to determine when other trials can resume.

Also Saturday, U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company biotech announced an expansion of phase three clinical trials for their COVID-19 candidate, BNT162, to include 44,000 participants and patient populations that are more diverse.

The company say the expansion could include people as young as 16 years old, as well as people with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: The importance of these phase 3 trials is to make sure that, before any vaccine goes to widespread use, we understand the true safety profile of it. That includes not only for young healthy volunteers, it includes the elderly, the young as well as those who are sick from other disease, including things like HIV and people on other medications that may affect their immune systems to see that they generate antibodies and don't have untoward side effects that may make them sicker.

SANDOVAL: Meanwhile, as wildfires ravage Western U.S. states, doctors are warning the bad air quality from smoke and make people more vulnerable to coronavirus infections.

DR. BRAD SPELLBERG, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF THE L.A. COUNTY-LSC MEDICAL CENTER: There is evidence that exposure of the lungs to bad air quality, to pollutants is increase the protein that the SARS COVID 2 virus binds to infect the lungs. Just as hospitals see spikes in COVID cases, you know, within a week after air pollution worsens.

So it seems to be both that it may increase the risk of transmission, your risk of acquiring it may go up and it may also make it worse.

SANDOVAL: It's been six months since coronavirus completely changed our lives and now, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that normal life may not return until the end of the next year.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think it's going to take several months before we get to the point where we can really feel something that approximates how it was normally before COVID-19. For that reason, I made the projection of getting back to that state of normality well into 2021 and very unlikely before then.

SANDOVAL: This comes as a key coronavirus model is now predicting a most likely scenario of 415,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by January.

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Certainly, those numbers are troubling. And they point us all, hopefully, to highlight the fact that lives are at risk. The public health is at stake here. Now, I see in certain areas folks wearing masks and making sure they're keeping physical distance and not gathering in large crowds, but, unfortunately, that is not universal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: And there's the issue of colleges and campuses across the country grapple with outbreaks just weeks into a semester. I'll give you a couple of examples. We have Arkansas, for example, on Friday reported about 1,100 new cases. According to local health officials, about a third of those were attributed to -- or at least a third of the state's total attributed to young people on college campuses.

And then there's also Michigan State University that's now encouraging students to self-quarantine after they saw about 342 new COVID cases since late August. About a third of those according to local health officials, have been attributed to people who recently attended social gatherings -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval for us this morning, thanks so much.

[07:15:00] Let's bring in now Dr. Saju Mathew, primary care physician and public health specialist.

Good morning to you, Saju.

Let me start here with the AstraZeneca trial that will resume in the U.K., not in Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa yet. Still no details on what caused the pause. What justifies continuing the trial.

Is it typical for there to be so few details and what's your view on the continuation now?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Yeah. A couple of things that I take away, Victor, from this trial with AstraZeneca. Number one, I think we need to be reassured that during these large vaccine trials, you are going to have steps like this that are stopped in between either because somebody gets sick or a new diagnosis is made.

And actually, back in July, with this very trial, Victor, a patient was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which had nothing to do with the vaccine and just this past week, a lady we know just a few details, she was diagnosed with a condition called transverse myelitis. It's a rare spinal cord inflammation that can cause paralysis. It's very rare, it can be dangerous, but she's expected to do well.

The question now remains, exactly, if we continue to sort of expedite the process of vaccine, are we going to encounter issues like this. And I think once more, it just suggests that like all signs that say we should make sure that the phase 3 is completed and that we have enough data before the vaccine is approved.

PAUL: There's a big question mark over that. There's another big question mark over what happens after you have COVID, particularly for long haulers. There's a new article on CNN.com about this. Just came up overnight about a U.K. study that found 12 weeks after patients were released from the hospital, 74 percent of them had serious complications that were lingering, including shortness of breath. There was excessive fatigue. There was a mom of two who said she ran three times a week, she did yoga before this, and now can barely make it to the corner.

Is there any indication what the long haulers are facing are going to be something that last forever or any idea how long they may last.

MATHEW: So, those are the two most important, Christi. We're six months into this pandemic and unfortunately, only time will tell. Those two cases that you mentioned are worrisome, because we're talking about healthy individual who are not recovering whose life basically has changed with shortness of breath.

I know more patient in my own practice, Christi, where these are young patients who have supposedly recovered but are still complaining about shortness of breath. Unfortunately, I feel that in the future this will be a field specifically dedicated to these type of complications that neurologist and primary care physicians like myself have to address. BLACKWELL: Let's go to Florida. Bars will be allowed to reopen

tomorrow with 50 percent capacity. We remember Dr. Fauci said a couple of weeks ago that congregation in a bar is bad news, congregating inside.

Also, Florida Governor DeSantis says that he will be lifting the 50 percent cap on indoor dining very soon. What are the metrics that support that in Florida considering all we've heard about how rough the fall and winter are going to be?

MATHEW: So, Victor, when I specifically the scientists look at the metrics in Florida, I see no reason why bars are being opened, period. To me, personally, it doesn't matter if it's 25 percent or 50 percent, if you've got a few people at the bar that are not wearing masks, that are drinking and sort of letting loose, that is a absolute environment where this virus can propagate and transmit.

So, ultimately, we need to go back to the White House guidelines, which is if the positivity rate is greater than 5 percent and there are daily rise of cases for five days in a row, especially in a case like Florida, although the cases have gotten better, I see no reason why bars should be open. It's the exact opposite.

We need to make sure that closed spaces are really environments that are prohibited to decrease the transmission.

PAUL: Dr. Saju Mathew, so good to get your expertise. Thank you for waking up early for us this morning.

MATHEW: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: More concerns about the postal service. The postmaster general is being sued over a pre-election mailers sent out across the country that could confuse voters. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:28:57]

PAUL: A sheriff's deputy in Clayton County, Georgia, is on leave this morning after video showed him using force to arrest a black man.

BLACKWELL: We have some of the video here. You see two deputies pinning down Roderick Walker. They're also seen, at least one of them, hitting him in the face. In the video, you can hear one deputy saying, "He bit my hand".

Now, Walker's attorney says his client was in a Rideshare, one of the app services when the car was pulled over for a taillight violation. And that the attorney says that deputies asked Walker for identification. He said he didn't have any and challenged their right to ask for it.

The Georgia NAACP is now condemning the officer's actions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GERALD GRIGGS, NAACP ATTORNEY: It's just distressing the level of force that was used and then the back story behind it is more upsetting. Administrative leave is not enough. The level of force used in that video was just abhorrent. And then considering the facts as we gather them, we become more disturbed by what we're learning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:30:00]

BLACKWELL: Jail records show Walker is charged with two counts of battery, two counts of obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers. In a statement, the Clayton County sheriff's office says their entire internal affairs unit immediately started an investigation when they saw the video.

PAUL: We're going to talk about schools in Des Moines, Iowa, are going to continue remote learning. This is despite an order by the judge and the governor that says at least 50 percent of instruction has to be via in-person.

Des Moines public superintendent Thomas Ahart is with us to talk about this.

Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. Ahart. We appreciate it.

THOMAS AHART, SUPERINTENDENT, DES MOINES PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Good morning.

PAUL: Good morning to you as well.

I think what most people want to know is, is the school system prepared to open fully to have students at 50 percent capacity come back, or are you just uncomfortable with this? What was your reasoning for not following those orders?

THOMAS AHART, SUPERINTENDENT, DES MOINES PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, we had decided to open virtually a few weeks before the school year started because of the prevailing COVID-19 functions in Polk County where most of our school district resides. We still feel like it's unsafe, and that the standards that the state put out to allow for all virtual learning are just unreasonably high, 15 to 20 percent positivity rate in a community before you would -- you would limit in-person instruction just seems way -- way out of the pale.

PAUL: What are you hearing from teachers and bus drivers when it comes to transportation and even the ability to get kids back to class?

AHART: Well, that's a good question. Our teachers -- our teachers have been very supportive and have genuine concerns, especially those with preexisting health conditions that put them at higher risk. We have a significant number of teachers that are in the over 50 and over 60 age range, as well as over 30 percent of our employees that have a preexisting condition that puts them at high risk of COVID-19 impact.

Our bus drivers, we're really struggling. There's a shortage of bus drivers really all over the country, and we're beginning to lose bus drivers who are just fearful of coming into that close of contact with students, you know, twice every route. That happens twice a day.

So, transportation will be a serious challenge for us when we eventually do resume in-person learning.

PAUL: So when it comes to the state mandate to open schools face to face, you had said earlier, quote, it kind of feels like science versus politics. What politics do you believe are at play here?

AHART: Well, I said that because there's no scientific basis that we can discover that would set those markers so high. So there's about 15 to 20 percent positivity rate and the 10 percent absenteeism rate of students, not staff, but students due specifically to COVID-19. If those conditions did exist, we've had one preeminent epidemiologists say even in court that our house it on fire.

So, politics seems to be the only logical place where that could have come from.

PAUL: So I know you're waiting for the school board to respond. But since the judge ordered or had ruled that the state mandate be met and the kid go back to school, what does that mean for you and for the district and how far you're willing to take it?

AHART: Well, that's -- those are all very good questions and very much the questions of the moment for us. What the judge had ruled on was I'm denying an injunction. In essence, it would have allowed us to stay all virtual until the judicial review that we've petitioned for made it before the courts.

So, we still don't have a date for that, and the board is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of denied injunction.

So, you know, clearly, what's driving our actions is protecting the health and safety of our students, our staff and their families and the broader community. When we're open for business in Des Moines, you know, Polk County has about, you know, a little less than half a million people. And when Des Moines Public Schools is open for regular business, we have over 40,000 individuals going in and out of our buildings on a daily basis and a lot of our employees live outside the boundaries of the district.

[07:35:01]

So they're going to communities that surround Des Moines. So, the opportunity for accelerated transmission of the virus is heightened when we're in business as usual. So we just feel like once we begin in-person instruction, either in a hybrid or fully in person, there will be no turning back. We feel a lot of harm will come to a lot of people if we do that.

PAUL: You're struggling with decisions that a lot of people all across the country are struggling with right now.

Tom Ahart, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you, sir.

AHART: You bet. Thank you. BLACKWELL: Up next, the exclusive CNN report that discovered at least 1,500 reports of Amazon products exploding, catching fire or melting. It got the attention of several U.S. senators. So, what, if anything, is the company doing about it.

And later, on "STATE OF THE UNION", Jake Tapper is speaking with the White House economic and trade adviser, Peter Navarro, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Florida Congresswoman Val Demings today at 9:00 Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:42]

BLACKWELL: Three senators want Amazon to do more to stop selling defective products marketed under AmazonBasics brand name. They want the products recalled and notify customers about the risks.

PAUL: Yeah. Well, lawmakers say in an exclusive report about the faulty products prompted them to take action.

Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Burned furniture, scorched outlets, melted power strips, all reportedly involving AmazonBasics electronics.

At Leeona and Jimi Smail's house, it started with a distinct odor.

LEEONA SMAIL, CLAIMS AMAZONBASICS PRODUCT CAUGHT FIRE: It smelled just like hot plastic.

GRIFFIN: Leeona and Jimi couldn't find the source of that smell. They even called 911. But it wasn't until after firefighters left that Jimi discovered the apparent culprit inside a cardboard box.

JIMI SMAIL, CLAIMS AMAZONBASICS PRODUCT CAUGHT FIRE: The smell was overwhelming when I opened the box up.

GRIFFIN: An AmazonBasics battery charger.

The local fire chief told CNN it had overheated and melted.

J. SMAIL: It was melted straight through. I'm dumbfounded. I have no idea.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Unplugged?

J. SMAIL. Unplugged.

GRIFFIN: No source of power to it?

J. SMAIL: None.

GRIFFIN: No batteries in the position to be charged?

J. SMAIL: They weren't even in the box. I didn't have a battery in the box. No controller, nothing that could produce electric.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN found at least 1,500 reviews written about dozens of AmazonBasics products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions, all in the last five years.

Of course, that represents a tiny fraction of the more than a million reviews posted about AmazonBasics products overall. And fires caused by consumer electronics are not unique to Amazon. User error can also be a factor.

But CNN found nearly 200 reviews which complained of damage to homes or belongings, charred walls and carpets and fried cell phones and other electronics being used with the AmazonBasics devices.

And about 30 products, flagged by three or more customers, as a fire hazard or other danger remain for sale on Amazon.com, including the very battery charger that caused all that stink.

(on camera): "It may catch fire" is one of the reviews. "The charger started melting." "My AmazonBasics charger burnt through the plastic while not charging or plugged in."

This is exactly your same problem.

L. SMAIL: Yes. It's exactly our situation.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Amazon told CNN it tested the type of charger used by the Smails and that it is safe.

It's one of 5,000 AmazonBasics products the company sells under its own label claiming they are cheaper and just as good as name brands.

This past February, CNN took two potentially defective AmazonBasics products to the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering Lab. A burnt phone charger and a damaged AmazonBasics microwave that had more than 150 reviews flagging it as a potential hazard.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL PECHT, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ADVANCED LIFE CYCLE ENGINEERING LAB, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Yes, stop, stop.

There's a clear problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something is wrong?

PECHT: Something is definitely wrong. The smell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GRIFFIN: It took just a few seconds for the engineers here to determine something wasn't right.

PECHT: It's clear that there's damage on this. And you can see the plate that this is attached to has -- is burned. And there's clearly some kind of a fault in here. There's a risk in using this machine for sure.

GRIFFIN: Professor Michael Pecht, who runs this lab, says most consumer electronic problems like these could be from poor manufacturing, cheap materials and a lack of robust quality control.

Amazon told CNN the company is confident the AmazonBasics microwave is safe.

And responded to CNN's questions about all of this saying, in part: Amazon thoroughly investigates any indicators of safety or quality concerns with AmazonBasics products. If we determine that a product is unsafe, we remove it from our stores and take all necessary actions. We are also continuously refining processes and leveraging new technologies to ensure that our private brand products are safe.

Rachel Greer used to work in the product safety at Amazon and says, in her opinion, Amazon customers now do the testing. You buy it. You use it. You test it.

[07:45:00]

You rate it. If reviews are good, sales are good, it stays.

RACHEL GREER, FORMER AMAZON PRODUCT SAFETY WORKER: Amazon responds to data. And if consumers continue to buy AmazonBasics in the numbers that they expect, they won't pay attention to the details.

GRIFFIN: Leeona Smail says she's at least one consumer no longer buying.

L. SMAIL: I'll probably avoid electronics now with AmazonBasics.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Well, Colorado's top election officials suing the embattled postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, and the U.S. Postal Service over a pre-election mailer that she says could confuse voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENA GRIWOLD, COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: This may have started as well-intentioned. But after we told them that it was wrong information, they should have at least delayed.

I do believe that this mailer could have a suppressing effect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So the mailer was meant to inform you about voting by mail and advises you to request a vote by mail ballot at least 15 days before the election and return the official ballot at least seven days before. Those guidelines however do not align with election policies in Colorado which are conducted entirely by mail.

PAUL: In a statement USPS says the card provides, quote, all purpose guidance on the use of the mail and not guidance on state election rules -- unquote, there.

All right. You know we're talking NFL now, we're in it. A lot of talk is about COVID, it's about social justice. There's one mom, though, who is either glued to an end zone of an empty stadium. Find out why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:04]

PAUL: All righty, we're officially in NFL season, despite the concerns over coronavirus and the safety protocols we have seen all summer, there are games being played.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, Carolyn Manno is with us, the season starts with social justice at the forefront, Carolyn.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Christine and Victor.

The Minnesota Vikings going to honor George Floyd before their game. The Atlanta Falcons have named late Congressman John Lewis as an honorary captain. There is a lot going on around the league at every NFL stadium, you're going to see phrases like end racism and it takes all of us both on the field and also on helmets.

The hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing" will be played, along with "The Star-Spangled Banner". In addition to those symbolic gestures, the league is committing additional funding to community-driven causes supported by players as well. What we won't see everywhere are fans, only the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to allow crowds this weekend, joining the Kansas City Chiefs who had fans at their game on Thursday.

Today marks the first game for Tom Brady as Tampa's quarterback, divisional matchup against the Saints and another future hall of famer in Drew Brees. Brady admitting there may be a little bit of rust without a preseason, but he's ready to go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: I think the first quarter of the game is probably going to be new for everybody. You know, just getting our feet wet and understanding the speed of the game will be a little faster than what it has been in practice.

Hopefully, I can recall some of the things I've done over a period of time and, you know, go out there and try to play a real solid football game against a great football team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANNO: And later today, against the Browns, the Baltimore Ravens will honor their 14-year-old superfan Mo Gaba who passed away back in July after his latest battle with cancer. The team filling section 146 of its stadium, with close to 600 cardboard cutouts with the teenager's image. The letters M and O will also be painted in gold at the end zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONSY GABA, MO'S MOM: This is hard to believe my son left behind a legacy. Him just being himself. He did nothing out of the ordinary. What he did in 14 years of his life, like, I can't help but be proud of him. I'm so proud of him. I miss him, but I'm so proud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANNO: Christi and Victor, Mo was born blind and his mother said she lost her best friend when he passed away back in July, but by all accounts, he had the sweetest soul and the rows of Mo are going to stay until fans can come back into the stadium and the organization says they're going to look for ways to continue to honor him and keep his spirit alive within the organization.

BLACKWELL: It's a great tribute, a great tribute to Mo.

All right. Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.

PAUL: Carolyn, thank you. Good story there.

Well, some teachers in Maine are getting a back to school gift ahead of what may already have felt like a pretty rough school season. Barbara Courschesne is a florist and she's the owner of the Bud Connection. Well, she donated these flowers with the help of a local Subaru dealer, which helped with the deliveries. But they say they know being a teacher is always tough, but particularly right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA COURSCHESNE, FLORIST: We're in the feel good business. So even in people's worst moments, flowers tend to be uplifting and make people feel good and bring joy.

JASON CRAIG, CAR DEALER: Teachers are one of the most underappreciated professions around. You know, they're always struggling to make sure their kids have what they need for education. So it is just our way to say, you know, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: And, listen, these are no small numbers here. Barbara said Friday, they were delivering to 26 schools and roughly 750 employees. And they plan to hand out about 3,000 stems of flowers.

He's right about those teachers. They are so underappreciated. My mom was a teacher for 30 years, my dad taught to get to law school and they got stories that you would not believe as so many teachers do, just trying to, you know, do the right things for the kids.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, and it's not just -- I mean, the flowers are a great gesture, but just to know that somebody cared enough to think of you and say "thank you" in any way at all.

[07:55:04]

Great gesture there.

PAUL: Yeah. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Human kindness, we do it every week.

PAUL: That's right. Let's put it out there. I want to see some more of it, people.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: It matters. It really does matter.

And with that, we say I hope you can go push some human kindness out there this week and make some good memories.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next. Dana Bash is in for John King.