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Both Presidential Candidates to Visit Pennsylvania This Week; Florida State University Begins Randomized COVID-19 Testing; New CNN Special "Champions for Change" Begins This Week. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we are 50 days -- 50 days, that's it -- from the election, and early absentee voting is now on hold in Pennsylvania. Several lawsuits have stalled the process and the ballots are not yet finalized.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It's of course a crucial battleground state that President Trump, by fewer than 44,000 votes in 2016. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich has more.


VANESS YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In pivotal Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, voters are publicly staking their allegiance.

JIM BARCHESKI, TRUMP SUPPORTER: My neighbor always put up Biden signs, so I want to get back at him.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): At Republican county headquarters, voters streamed in for their signs.

JUSTIN BEHRENS, REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN, LUZERNE COUNTY: We say, hey, Trump signs are in, come on in, and then the doors start flooding open.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Outside the Democratic county office, voters impatiently waiting for it to open.

KATHY BOZINSKI, DEMOCRATIC CHAIRWOMAN, LUZERNE COUNTY: They say signs don't vote? In Luzerne County, they do.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Luzerne could be crucial to deciding Pennsylvania this year. It happened in 2016 when the county, which Barack Obama carried twice, backed President Trump by 26,000 votes. Overall, Trump won Pennsylvania by about 44,000, less than one point.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): If you're running for the Oval Office, you ignore northeastern Pennsylvania at your peril.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Before the pandemic, Luzerne's economy was stable. Trump promised to bring back manufacturing, the largest industry here. And in 2016, manufacturing jobs grew. In a recent poll, while Biden leads by nine points among likely Pennsylvania voters, they gave Trump the edge on handling the economy.

GAETANO BUONSANTE, UNDECIDED VOTER: I do think Trump would do a good job based on his -- the past few years with helping bring back the economy.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Gaetano Buonsante voted for Trump in 2016 on that very issue, something both Democrats and Republicans here still say is their number one concern. Buonsante's family owns several pizza shops in Luzerne.

BUONSANTE: We have a counter with the ovens back there --

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Two didn't survive the pandemic, but it's the issue of policing and race in America that has him questioning his vote.

BUONSANTE: A lot of African-Americans I think have been left behind on a lot of policies. I don't think Donald Trump has done -- he's done some things to help, I don't think he's done enough compared to the window of opportunity that we have right now.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): Across the street, Jay Notartomaso record shop also took a hit during the pandemic. He closed for 2.5 months, collecting unemployment for the first time.

JAY NOTARTOMASO, BIDEN SUPPORTER: The effects of the pandemic could have been less if we took the right initiative and had leadership at the beginning of the pandemic, and we did not. And now we know that Trump actually knew, but downplayed it. That is a disgrace.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): With Pennsylvania's battleground status, voters in Luzerne say they're prepared for another close race.

YURKEVICH: Do you feel like your vote could be a deciding vote in this election?

NOTARTOMASO: Oh, yes. I feel it could be very, very, very close.


YURKEVICH: Now, the president is expected to be in Philadelphia tomorrow, and the former vice president, Biden, will be in Scranton, Pennsylvania for a CNN town hall on Thursday. But both candidates have yet to make an appearance in Luzerne County during the general election.

And that is particularly concerning Democrats we spoke to who say that they think one of the reasons that Hillary Clinton lost the county in 2016 is because she did not visit. They're hoping that Joe Biden adds Luzerne County to his schedule in this critical state of Pennsylvania -- Jim and Poppy. HARLOW: Vanessa, important reporting. Good to hear from them, thank

you very much.

We also do have a programming note, join Joe Biden. He will be part of a special CNN presidential town hall, live from Pennsylvania. Our own Anderson Cooper is moderating. It's this Thursday night, 8:00 Eastern only right here on CNN.

Still ahead, fighting COVID-19 on campus, one university is now randomly testing students, faculty and even staff even if they don't have symptoms.



SCIUTTO: Just a couple weeks into the fall semester, universities and colleges across the country are making big changes to how they're responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

HARLOW: That's right. Today, Florida State University -- this is interesting -- began to randomly test students, faculty and staff for COVID-19, even if they don't have symptoms. This announcement comes after the school saw a sharp increase in the new number of cases. Our Bianna Golodryga joins us with more.

It's interesting because we talked to the University of Illinois last week who had the approach of, you know, testing everyone twice a week with these spit tests. This is random.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: This is random, and this is something they felt they were forced to do, Poppy. Of course FSU lost their season opener over the weekend, against Georgia Tech, but the even bigger headlines are the photos and the pictures that we've seen coming out of it, the partying that students continue to do on campuses -- not just FSU, but across the country.

But in FSU's case, where they have an around seven percent positivity rate on campus, they've now decided to crack down, and said they're going to change their approach to testing, so they're going to be testing five to 10 percent of the student body there, and they have about 30 percent of students who have returned to campus, so that's a change for them.

And other news, in schools across the country, Michigan State said that all students will be in a two-week quarantine after they saw a spike in cases there. They have a little over 300 cases in Michigan State.

And then Ohio State University said that they -- they're -- you know, we're in the fall semester, they're talking about the spring, saying there's not going to be a spring break because they're concerned about students going back to the community and bringing the infection home. So this is really a clear view of what's happening in campuses across the country. SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, and they're responding as they see changes,

credit where credit is due as they do that. Bianna Golodryga, thanks very much.



SCIUTTO: Well coming up, NFL players are fighting racial injustice in more ways than one. We're going to show you how one team honored George Floyd -- it's moving.


HARLOW: Well, all this week, we've got a really special -- hopefully pretty uplifting series for you. It is called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE," and we'll be bringing you inspiring stories of --


HARLOW: -- average folks doing really extraordinary things.

SCIUTTO: I think we all need to hear these stories --


SCIUTTO: -- this morning. We're going to introduce you to an architect in Jackson Hole, Wyoming who changed her community by starting a vertical farming business.


NONA YEHIA, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, VERTICAL HARVEST: Jackson Hole exists at 6,200 feet. We are surrounded by Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Park. There are not many farmers in this region, so there's a real need for good quality produce in our town.

We came together to look for an out-of-the-box solution. We wanted to grow as much food as possible in our town, employ as many people as possible and do both year-round. And that's where the idea to go up came from.

Vertical Harvest is really an evolution. None of us set out to be vertical farmers. I'm an architect by trade, and I've always believed in the power of architecture to be a vehicle for social change.

On a tenth of an acre, we grow now the equivalent of 10 acres' worth of food. We grow tomatoes, lettuces, micro greens. We serve four different grocery stores in our town, and over 40 restaurants.

BEN WESTENBURG, EXECUTIVE CHEF, PERSEPHONE WEST BANK: It's a very cold, snowy place, which poses a lot of problems for getting fresh produce. The way Nona has approached it is bringing something unique to those chefs that they can use and feature all year round.

YEHIA: Creating a local source of produce was the inception of the project. But then as we came together, we realized that there was also a big problem, people with physical and intellectual disabilities in our town who want to work, who want to find consistent and meaningful work were not able to do so.

I have a brother with disabilities, and I think I've been an advocate for this population before I even understood what the word meant.


We're pairing innovation with an underserved population and really creating a sea change of perception of what this population is able to do. And we've created an amazing, committed, loyal crew of unexpected farmers.

JOHNNY FIFLES, EMPLOYEE, VERTICAL HARVEST: I'm a microgreens grower. I take some seeds and I lay them on the medium. One layer, no more, no less.

YEHIA: Johnny is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, and really, we count on him to accurately seed every type of microgreen. He is the person that we trust most.

SEAN STONE, EMPLOYEE, VERTICAL HARVEST: I'm grateful for Nona, for hiring me so I can work at this job and help grow produce.

YEHIA: Sean washed dishes for most of his career. And the thing is, is that Sean never had an opportunity to really show to his employer what he can do. Sean is incredibly unique in that he knows how to make this ecosystem run. And while before he had a job, now he has a purpose.

We can empower the most underserved in our communities just by giving them a chance. Everybody here is a champion and everybody here is dedicated to change. And everyone here has shown their ability to change things profoundly in our community.


SCIUTTO: Makes me want to run out and buy some produce from them right away, what a story.

HARLOW: Let's order it, let's figure out if we can --


HARLOW: -- order it online and get it shipped here. We're going to figure out the link and we'll get it out to all of you, good for them.

SCIUTTO: And what a difference they're making in those folks' lives, it's --


SCIUTTO: -- inspiring to see.

HARLOW: Can't forget those stories are happening, right? In the middle of a lot of chaos.

All right, we'll bring you these stories all week, every morning, right here on the show. Be sure to watch, "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE," a one-hour special. It's this Saturday, 10:00 Eastern only right here on CNN.



SCIUTTO: Big Ten college football could be making a comeback this season, a vote is expected later today.

HARLOW: Andy Scholes has more from Jacksonville, Florida. Good morning, Andy. What prompted this, what is a pretty dramatic change in thinking?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Poppy and Jim. You know, and momentum had been building over the last few weeks for the Big Ten to start their season this fall, you had politicians, even President Trump chiming in, kind of, you know, pushing for the league to start playing.

But, you know, in terms of what's changed? You know, over the last few weeks, the biggest thing is the availability of daily rapid-result testing. And that's really what the scientists and doctors were showing the league and the conference presidents and chancellors. And the presidents and chancellors, they're expected to vote today on whether to reverse course and proceed with an abbreviated fall season, an officials familiar with the discussion tells CNN.

Now, the official said that after a weekend of smaller group meetings, the Council of Presidents and Chancellors is moving toward a decision that could allow the conference games beginning as early as October 17th. And getting started as soon as possible is important because this would allow schools to have the possibility of eight games in the books, and the chance to compete for a playoff spot come December.

All right, the first Sunday of the NFL season is in the books, and teams were very different in the way they handled the league's new social justice initiatives, so we saw eight teams yesterday decide to remain in the locker room for the playing of the National Anthem, and the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is the black national anthem. Players across the league, kneeling, raising fists and locking arms together.

Here in Jacksonville where I am, the Colts, they all locked arms together with one person taking a knee, and that was head coach Frank Reich.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Vikings honoring George Floyd, they played a video tribute and then Floyd's family was recognized before the game, and then they did not play the big Vikings horn like they normally do in honor of Floyd.

Now here in Jacksonville, it was the only game on Sunday that did allow fans in the stands. The Chiefs did as well on Thursday. But here, they allowed just over 14,000 fans to enter the stadium. You had to wear a mask unless you were actively eating or drinking.

And I went into the stadium, guys, and you know, they had the fans separated, you had to go with the group you were with, and they were separated in two, four and six throughout the stadium. The protocols seem to be all being followed very well inside the stadium.

They did allow the fans to tailgate outside. They made them park every other parking spot, but you know, I'll tell you this, a tailgate is a tailgate, guys. You know, I -- the fans, you know, they were just mingling with one another, there were no masks involved. So it will (ph) certainly be seen (ph) what develops from that a couple weeks from now.

Four NFL teams will be having fans in week two.

HARLOW: OK, tope (ph) safely. Andy, thank you for that reporting.

And thanks to all of you for being with us today, we'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.


SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with our colleague John King starts right now.