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U.S. President Claims Immunity from Virus; Trump Gets Ready for New Round of Campaign Rallies; Battle Intensifies Hours Before Barrett Confirmation Hearings; Top Scientist: U.K. Nearing a 'Tipping Point'; U.S. Reports 50,000 New Cases for Four Straight Days; Biden Silent on Adding Justices to Supreme Court; Qantas Sells out Sightseeing 'Flight to Nowhere'. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.

[00:00:23]

So coming up on the show, we're just hours away from the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Hear what she'll say in her opening statement.

A CNN exclusive: Dr. Anthony Fauci is expressing outrage after being featured in a Trump ad without his consent.

And England braces for tough new restrictions as coronavirus cases surge there. Officials say they're near the tipping point.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Ten days after telling the world he tested positive for the coronavirus, the U.S. president is now claiming he's tested "totally negative," without offering any evidence. The White House won't say whether he'll get an update -- we'll get an update from his doctor, who vaguely told us earlier that President Trump is no longer considered a transmission risk.

But now the president is taking it a step further and actually claiming to have immunity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): I have to tell you, I feel fantastically. I really feel good. And I even feel good by the fact that, you know, the word immunity means something. Having -- having really a protective glow means something. I think it's very important to have that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: President Trump also touted his alleged immunity on Twitter, claiming he can't get the virus, or give it. And Twitter then slapped a warning on his tweet, saying it violated rules about spreading potentially harmful information.

To be clear, there actually have been documented cases of coronavirus reinfection.

Now, this of course, is all happening hours before the president launches his next round of campaign rallies. Here's Jeremy Diamond with that -- Jeremy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is heading back to the campaign trail, hitting a trio of battleground states, beginning today in Florida.

(voice-over): Tomorrow, the president is going to go to the battleground state of Pennsylvania before heading to Iowa on Wednesday.

Now, President Trump heading back onto the campaign trail after the president's physician says that he has recovered from the coronavirus; also saying that the president is no longer infectious.

(on camera): Now, the president himself claimed that he had gotten a negative test for coronavirus, but the president's physician, Dr. Sean Conley, didn't exactly say that. Instead, he said simply that the president's latest molecular test for coronavirus showed that he is no longer infectious, that he can't infect other people. But he did not say that the president had tested negative for the virus.

But nonetheless, the president and his campaign are seizing on that letter from Dr. Sean Conley to say that that second debate that had been canceled by the Commission on Presidential Debates after President Trump withdrew from that second debate, the president's campaign are calling for that debate to be reinstated, saying the president should be able to participate after he's been cleared by his doctor to resume public activity.

But another controversy is hitting the president and his team. On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci putting out a statement to CNN after the Trump campaign aired this misleading ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America. Together, we rose to meet the challenge. President Trump tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DIAMOND (voice-over): Now, Dr. Fauci saying in a statement to CNN, "In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidates. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials."

(on camera): Now, it is clear from looking at that interview, which was taped all the way back in March, in the early months of this pandemic, that Dr. Fauci was, indeed, referring to the members of the coronavirus task force and other public health officials.

But nonetheless, the president and his campaign standing by the ad. The president noting that these are Dr. Fauci's own words.

Of course, what is notable here is that the president and his reelection campaign seemed to realize that the president is getting bad marks on his handling of the coronavirus. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans have said in recent polls that they disapprove of the president's handling of the virus.

And what's also clear is that the campaign is using Dr. Fauci's image and his words here because Fauci is far more trusted by the public on this issue of coronavirus than the president is himself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Jeremy Diamond there. Thanks, Jeremy.

So the coronavirus is certainly adding to the uncertainty over another big story playing out in Washington. Just hours from now on Capitol Hill, the confirmation hearings begin for Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

[00:05:07]

Barrett is expected to tell lawmakers that courts are not supposed to make value judgments or set policy. This as Democrats fear abortion rights and health insurance that millions of Americans rely on could be in jeopardy.

Here's Lauren Fox with more on that -- Lauren.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those critical hearings beginning on Capitol Hill on Monday. And the first day of hearings is going to be lawmakers getting to make their opening statements, as well as Amy Coney Barrett, the nominee, making her opening statement, which CNN has obtained.

We expect that she'll say, quote, "There is a tendency in our profession to treat the practice of law as all-consuming, while losing sight of everything else, but that makes for a shallow and unfulfilling life. I worked hard as a lawyer and a professor; I owed that to my clients, my students, and myself, but I never let the law define my identity or crowd out the rest of my life."

Now, also looming over this hearing is going to be the fact that coronavirus is still very much a factor in these proceedings. Remember, two lawmakers, both Republicans, on the Judiciary Committee tested positive for coronavirus just more than a week ago. Those individuals, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, as well as Senator Mike Lee of Utah, both tested positive. And while we know that Tillis is expected to attend the hearings in person later this week, we still don't know whether or not Senator Mike Lee will attend the hearings in person.

It's critical whether or not they show up. That's because the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, told reporters on Sunday that, if those two members -- and it has to be both of them being absent -- are not there on Thursday, the day of a critical vote in the Judiciary Committee, he will not provide the critical number of Democrats necessary to get a quorum. That, essentially, could slow down this entire nomination process.

So, while the first order of business is going to be what lawmakers say in their opening statements tomorrow, what Amy Coney Barrett says in her opening statement on Monday.

It's also important to remember that the health of the individual members on this committee is going to be closely watched over the upcoming days.

For CNN in Washington, I'm Lauren Fox.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Daniel Strauss is a senior political reporter with "The Guardian," and he joins me now from Washington.

Daniel, hi. So another week. We're going to see a highly politicized legal battle for the Supreme Court seat. How toxic do you think it's going to get?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": I mean, you never know about these things, but judging by the last few Supreme Court battles, it's probably going to get extremely heated. And part of that is just because that we are on the very edge of the campaign season before a major presidential election.

CURNOW: Do you think voters will be swayed by what happens in the Supreme Court and in the next few days?

STRAUSS: I'm a little skeptical about that, and not because of any sort of, like, precedent about that or any -- or historical trends about awareness on the Supreme Court, but more just because this race has been incredibly static for months now. Former Vice President Joe Biden has retained leads in both national and statewide polls.

And despite any different, and any major development in a host of issues or breaking news, that has been the margin between the vice president and President Trump. And I don't think a Supreme Court battle at this point is going to change that.

CURNOW: Court packing has been dangled by the Democrats. What is the strategic value of that? Or is it an unforced error?

STRAUSS: Well, look, it's -- it has -- when -- look, I think the important thing to think about with this is that the idea of court packing was not proposed by Joe Biden or his presidential campaign. It came up in the primary, and the root of it really came from the campaign of former South Bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg.

And the argument here is that, look, Democrats are not going to be able to get a Supreme Court justice onto the court with nine seats any time soon. That's just not going to happen. There are too many justices that are healthy, and the -- and the president -- the sitting president is more inclined to nominate justices that will satisfy conservatives.

So what Democrats propose is that they add seats to the court. They -- there's nothing that says that the high court has to be just nine justices. You can add two more or four more, this argument goes.

[00:10:00]

The -- what makes Democrats antsy about that is because Republicans argue that this is, like you say, court packing in a derogatory term. And it's, essentially, sort of skirting the long-standing tradition of the Supreme Court. And Joe Biden has refrained from giving a straight answer on this.

And that's partially because, in some Democratic circles and some activist circles, the idea of adding seats to the Supreme Court is very popular. But in others, not so much.

And there is a worry among Democrats that committing to adding seats to the Supreme Court would alienate moderate voters or voters who are leaning toward voting for the -- the former vice president but don't usually vote for Democrats.

CURNOW: That's interesting. And we're also seeing Mr. Trump, the president, returning to the campaign trail. What does he need to do to win back momentum?

STRAUSS: I mean, it's hard to say at this point, and that's precisely because I think a lot of this is baked in. We are less than 30 days out from this election, and despite so much that's happened, the race has remained static.

What the president is trying to do here is he's trying to energize as much of his supporters as possible. The Trump campaign feels that, despite all the polling that shows Biden ahead, there is still a possibility that there is some silent majority. There is some group of voters that conventional polls are just not picking up, much like in 2016. And that, if the president simply gets out there, proves that he's still vital and has not been sidelined by contracting the coronavirus, he can rally momentum and really sort of leapfrog Biden and create a surprise victory. CURNOW: OK. Daniel Strauss, really appreciate it. Thanks for joining us. It's certainly going to be another week. Appreciate it.

STRAUSS: Thanks.

CURNOW: Be sure to tune in to CNN for the latest from Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing. It all gets underway at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. That's 2 p.m. for all you folks in London.

You're watching CNN. Still ahead, the U.S. sees another surge in coronavirus cases, prompting new warnings from health officials. Why some believe the crisis will only get worse as the winter approaches.

Plus, a top doctor says England is reaching a tipping point in the pandemic, but that's not stopping protestors from voicing their frustrations. That story, as well, coming up.

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[00:16:36]

CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So European countries are struggling to respond to coronavirus infections and they're surging. Here's some of the latest updates.

Italy just marked its highest increase of patients entering intensive care since the end of March. Back then, the country was dealing with one of the world's biggest outbreaks. Thirty people were admitted on Sunday.

And for the fourth straight day, Portugal reported more than 1,000 cases.

And with more than 1,300 new cases on Sunday, Russia just set a new record for coronavirus infections for the third day in a row. The country now has nearly 1.3 million cases overall.

And we're expecting to hear from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later on Monday. He's set to announce a new system of corona alert levels for England.

Salma Abdelaziz has more on the urgent need to get the pandemic under control in the U.K. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the U.K.'s top scientists warning the country is reaching a tipping point. The deputy chief medical officer saying in a statement on Sunday that the U.K. will see more deaths in the coming weeks, and the decisive action is necessary if history is not to repeat itself.

Very stark words there, but they are backed up by the numbers, number of coronavirus cases in the last week across the U.K. has nearly doubled. The rate of infection is now between 1.2 and 1.5. And in the north of the country, cities and towns are battling a resurgence in the number of infections and a rise in hospitalization rates.

Now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday. He's already drawn a lot of criticism for failing to communicate to the public during these last few days as the number of cases has risen.

The opposition Labour Party accusing the prime minister's government of losing control of the coronavirus message.

Now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to put tougher measures into place, and while we don't know the content of that statement, according to local media reports, the government has been considering a three-tiered system.

That is they cut up the country geographically, based on each region. They would assess what level it would be at regarding its rate of infection, the number of coronavirus cases. If an area is found to be at the highest level, level three, as is expected in the north of the country, then those areas will be subject to tougher measures, which include closing down pubs, closing down restaurants, banning households from mixing together. And potentially, the statement would also include an economic relief package to help those business that have to close their doors.

But for right now, the priority is, according to medical experts, is to slow the rise in the number of cases. The British Medical Association saying that the country is reaching a perilous moment and calling on the government to provide clear and simple instruction so that the public can comply quickly and that this rise in cases is stemmed.

Otherwise, they warn that this wave can be even worse than the one in the spring.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Well, people in London are taking their coronavirus frustrations to the street. Take a look at these images. They marched in the city over the weekend. Again, shutdowns, social distancing restrictions and the threats of possible lockdowns to come.

Now, it doesn't matter that cases are rapidly rising in parts of England. Protestors say they are fighting for something else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it's basically about is the freedom of our country. Our grandfathers went to war as you all know, back in the day, and they fought for our freedom, for the whole world, everyone, yes? Freedom in the whole world. And we're here today because what's going on is not right.

[00:20:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm skeptical as to whether these deaths are actually linked to this virus or whether there's other things which are causing deaths, like the lack of treatment, lack of healthcare, canceled operations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Meantime, in the U.S., infection numbers have also been rising at an alarming rate. For the first time since August, the country's reported more than 50,000 new cases for four consecutive days. Now, this pushes the infection total closer to 7.8 million people, while the death toll is now far above 200,000 people.

As CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports, the outbreak is still expected to worsen, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fears of a new coronavirus peak in the United States are growing in some corners. New cases are now on the rise in 30 states, and this country has reported 50,000 new cases for four consecutive days. That's the first time that's happened since August.

The former CDC director, Tom Frieden, told CNN over the weekend that a second wave is not inevitable. But he added that the new cases mean a lot of tragedy is coming to this country in the coming weeks.

TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: The only thing that's really inevitable is what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks. And from the infections that have already occurred, we will see something like 20,000 deaths by the end of the month, additional deaths.

Any time we ignore, minimize or underestimate this virus, we do so at our peril and the peril of people whose lives depend on us. We still have, within ourselves, within our communities, within our society, the ability to turn this around.

And if you look around the world, the parts of the world and even the parts of the U.S. that have been guided by public health and have supported public health have done better.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Frieden's words about the urgent need to follow infection mitigation guidelines ring especially true here, in New York City. This was once the hardest-hit place in America when it comes to the pandemic. That those numbers have dramatically improved in recent months.

That's until recent weeks, when a few New York City neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens have seen their infection rates go back up. They're now six times the overall infection rate in the state. Those numbers are very concerning.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: Dr. Darragh O'Carroll is an emergency physician in Hawaii, and he joins me now from Honolulu.

Doctor, good to see you. We spoke about a little bit earlier on in the show. What do you make of the U.S. president's claim of immunity?

DR. DARRAGH O'CARROLL, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: That's a very difficult one for most physicians to swallow. It's not in context of anything we've dealt with before as, you know, the medication that I think he's using, Regeneron, that he hangs most of this statement on hasn't been used in very many people. You know, less than 200. And what his -- his physician's statement said, it didn't say that he tested negative, just that he wasn't transmissible.

You put it in the context of all of the data that we do know. Somebody has mild illness, the CDC guidelines are to say, hey, you're no longer symptomatic -- or transmissible, as long as it's been 10 days since the start of symptoms, your symptoms are improving, and you're not taking fever-reducing medicines, and you're not having fever for the last 24 hours.

Now, somebody has moderate illness, and I would absolutely argue that our president had moderate illness. He required hospitalization. He required oxygen. He required Dexamethasone, which we only give to people who do require oxygen, that number bumps from 10 days to 20 days.

And so they're flat-out going against the -- most the recommendations, if not all the recommendations that physicians across the country are using.

So for me, I don't think that statement holds weight, and I think he's putting all those he comes into contact with at risk.

CURNOW: Yes, the three rallies coming up in the coming days.

I want to just talk also about the cases that we're seeing rising in the U.S., in Europe in the U.K. Is this the second wave? And how concerned are you about all of these soaring new infection rates?

O'CARROLL: Well, it's tough to say. Is it the second wave? It definitely could be the start. If we had a -- if we had a, you know, magic ball we could take a look. It absolutely could be the start of a second wave.

And this is what happens with an upper respiratory illness that is similar to flu in how it's transmitted. However, this is much more transmissible and also much more deadly. We know those things.

So flu does increase in the fall and winter months. And the reason why that happens is that it's cold out. People are inside more. People are spending more time closer together. And the more that we are doing that, the less that we're wearing -- we are wearing masks, the more that we're gathering, the more opportunity, which is one of the main variables that this virus uses, the more opportunity we have, the more we're going to transfer it to others. So this absolutely could be the start of a secondary wave. And we're

seeing that, you know, in the United States here. It's getting a bit colder out, because our weather is changing, and cases are increasing.

[00:25:11]

CURNOW: I don't know if you heard. Just before we came to you, we played a few clips, sound clips from folks in the U.K. in London who are marching. And they're frustrated about all the lockdowns, being particularly tough in the U.K. Areas like Liverpool are -- are about to also face more tough restrictions. Pubs are -- you know, pubs and life have changed.

Do you, as a doctor, understand that people are projecting a lot of these harsh crackdowns and feeling extremely frustrated about having these limits on their lives. What do you say to them, when they express that?

O'CARROLL: Sure. I absolutely do understand, because on one hand, we are seeing the consequences of prolonged lockdowns and that, you know, our economic health is tied to our public health, people are unable to have the proper gainful employment that they used to have. That is harmful in itself.

We do understand that, but the more that we are gathering, the more that our cases are going to increase, the more restrictions are going to be opposed. And -- and that's just -- you need to think long-term rather than short-term.

And Hawaii is going through the same thing here, in that, you know, our state has been closed for the last six months or more because of our mandatory 14-day quarantine. So how do we institute the necessary protective measures to keep our residents safe, yet also continue to make gainful employment for the, as well?

So I understand. But we need to think long-term and we need to think ahead, rather than just in the next week. And if we do protest and we do go against the public health guidelines. So that's really what needs to guide us, is these public health guidelines.

And I'm really happy to hear the United Kingdom government has had now a little bit of change and they're -- they're having three different regions, that follow those and make sure that you listen to science. Because we do know that, when you don't, you transfer it to other people.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much. Live from Hawaii. We really appreciate you sharing all of your expertise, Dr. Darragh O'Carroll. Thank you.

O'CARROLL: Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: So coming up on CNN, the question Joe Biden is refusing to answer as the Senate prepares to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We'll talk about that, just after the break.

Stick with us. You're watching CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:39]

CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, and it is exactly 30 minutes past the hour.

So the latest polls show Democrat Joe Biden expanding his lead over Donald Trump in the presidential race. But Democrats are urging voters not to be complacent. A "Washington Post"/ABC News poll of likely voters shows Biden with 54 percent to President Trump's 42 percent. And it's the third major poll in the past week that has Biden up by at least 5 points and above 50 percent.

Now, the pandemic is a key issue, with a clear majority believing Mr. Biden could handle it better.

Well, the U.S. Senate will begin confirmation hearings for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee in the coming hours. But with Joe Biden's big lead in the polls, many are wondering about his plans for the court if he's elected.

Arlette Saenz has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden and his campaign continue to deflect on the question of whether the former vice president supports adding more justices to the Supreme Court.

This comes as Republicans are seeking to turn this into a campaign issue, as hearings are about to begin for President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.

Now, the Biden campaign on Sunday again called this a distraction from the president and his allies. Take a listen.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, BIDEN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This is a distraction that they want to throw out. This is a hypothetical that they want to throw out right now to distract from the fact that they are trying to ram through a nominee who, as I said, is going to change the makeup of the court against the will of the American people.

They don't want to talk about that, so they are trying to create a distraction and, you know, send folks down a rabbit hole, talking about this.

SAENZ: Now, during the Democratic primary, Joe Biden said he opposed packing the Supreme Court. And there have been no public indications yet that he has changed his position on that. But he has said that he will not answer that question until after election day.

Now on Monday, Joe Biden is heading to the battleground state of Ohio, where his polls have recently shown that President Trump and Joe Biden are locked in a tight race, just four years after President Trump won Ohio back in 2016. And Joe Biden hoping to make this state more competitive heading into that November election.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: And Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris will remotely attend the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. Harris serves on the Judiciary Committee. But she says she's wary of participating in person after two Republican members tested positive for COVID last week.

Harris criticized Republicans for their, quote, "refusal to take common-sense steps to protect members and others."

And that Senate race is really tightening up in South Carolina, a reliable red state that Donald Trump carried easily back in 2016. But Democrat Jaime Harrison raised $57 million last quarter, shattering Senate fundraising records, and it's putting even more pressure on the three-term pro-Trump Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham.

Harrison has outraised Graham consistently, prompting Graham to publicly plead for more donations. Graham has not yet released his fundraising totals.

And still ahead, travel isn't what it used to be. That's for sure. Well amid the pandemic, sometimes all you really want to do is get away, even if you land right back where you started. The flight to nowhere, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:37:18]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Police here in Belarus used water cannon, batons and tear gas to break up anti-government protestors on Sunday. A human rights monitoring group says more than 200 people were detained, including 35 journalists.

There've been huge protests since the August election. Opposition activists say it was rigged, and they're demanding President Alexander Lukashenko step down.

And Nigeria has disbanded a controversial police unit following nationwide protests. A special anti-robbery squad known as SARS has been accused of torture methods, including hanging, mock execution and sexual violence, according to Amnesty International. The group says it's documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria just over the past three years.

The protests were a culmination of weeks of anger and outcry online by the country's youth.

And Australia's Qantas Airlines took a scenic flight to nowhere on Saturday. The flight sold out in a matter of minutes, and hours after its departure, passengers were delighted to be right back where they started.

Kim Brunhuber has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Qantas Flight 787 to Sydney now ready for boarding.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR (voice-over): These die-hard travelers in Australia, many of them grounded for months because of coronavirus restrictions, are ready to embark on their next adventure, even if it's only a seven-hour flight on Qantas Airways, from Sydney to Sydney.

For them, it's about the journey, not the destination.

WARREN GOODRIDGE, PASSENGER: It's very upsetting for us. We love traveling and so on, and as soon as we saw this one here, Jason and I thought, We've got to go on this one.

BRUNHUBER: Tickets to the so-called "flight to nowhere" sold out within ten minutes. The airline says middle seats were left empty so passengers could social distance.

The Boeing Dreamliner flew over some of Australia's iconic sites, for a birds-eye view of places like Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, it was spectacular. I thought that some of the sites that we saw today, one would never get the chance to see it quite like that. I felt that I was so close to a lot of them.

BRUNHUBER: And, of course, there was an in-flight meal for that special class of people who miss eating a meal at 30,000 feet.

The experience is designed to be a morale boost for travelers yearning to fly again, and an airline that posted a nearly $1.5 billion loss earlier this year because of the pandemic.

CAPTAIN LISA NORMA, QANTAS 787 FLEET MANAGER: It's been a very challenging year. And you know, when flying's in your blood, you know, I think we're all really struggling.

BRUNHUBER: Critics say flights like these are just joyrides and harm the environment, though Qantas says the flight will be fully carbon offset.

ALEX PASSERINI, PILOT: Hopefully, we've -- we've planted some seeds in terms of people's next holiday plans. We want more of those flights. Can't wait to get airborne again.

BRUNHUBER: And not to be outdone by the airlines, Singapore announced a travel plan to begin cruises with no port stops in November. [00:40:04]

An embattled travel industry that's taking the staycation to the next level.

Kim Brunhuber, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Great story.

So coronavirus isn't stopping BTS, one of K-Pop's most popular bands, from putting on arena shows. The group held a virtual concert on Saturday. Take a look at this. And though fans weren't in the stadium, it didn't look -- sound very different from a packed audience. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Thousands of fans cheered, waved light sticks and sang along from home.

The band's management company hasn't released how many people actually watched this latest show, although it gathered some 114 million cheer clicks, a sign of approval that fans can press multiple times.

Now, the band also had a smaller, socially-distanced audience in the BTS-themed cafe in Seoul.

And if you're an international viewer, thanks for being with us. WORLD SPORT is coming up next. I'm going to hand you over to them. But if you're joining us here in the United States, I will be right back after the break. A little bit more for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:45:14]

CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Roby Curnow.

So U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is expected to focus on her family and her faith when she appears on Capitol Hill. Her confirmation hearings will start in the coming hours. Now, that's despite new calls to put the process on hold.

Brit Conway explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRITT CONWAY, CNN WRITER/PRODUCER (voice-over): President Trump's Supreme Court justice nominee is gearing up for a grilling on Capitol Hill. Ahead of Monday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, lawmakers spent the weekend calling for delaying any hearing to fill the vacancy until after the election.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Two Republican senators have said they're not going to participate in this farce. If two more join them, then it's game over.

CONWAY: Democrats also taking issue with Judge Amy Coney Barrett's position on key issues.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): It's rushed. It constitutes court packing, and her views are too extreme to qualify her to serve on this court.

CONWAY: The hearing comes just ten days after two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee tested positive for COVID-19. But Republicans are vowing to move forward.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think they are looking for anything to delay things even a day or two or three. And I think that Senate Republicans will follow the guidance, the medical guidance of the Capitol physician.

CONWAY: Despite the growing calls, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says he's moving full speed ahead with the nomination, sparking precautionary moves from some Democrats. This weekend, New York Senator Chuck Schumer demanded Judge Barrett recuse herself from certain cases if she's confirmed to the high court.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Given Judge Barrett's conflicts of interest, she should recuse herself from any decisions involving the Affordable Care Act and its protections and any decision related to the election.

I'm Britt Conway, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Joan Biskupic is a CNN Supreme Court analyst and joins me now from Washington.

Good to see you. So what do you expect on Monday in particular?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Thanks, Robyn. Good to be with you.

Monday is the day for all sides to lay down markers. The senators will give opening statements. We've got some 22 senators who will introduce their lines of inquiry just in terms of pure statements. And then the nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, will give her statement, too.

There won't be any questioning or answers on Monday. That will start on Tuesday. But everyone will sort of lay down -- plant a flag, so to speak, to alert people to where they're going to come from.

And the nominee herself, Judge Barrett, will try to introduce herself in a warm way, talk about her family, talk about her idea of the court and judging, just to sort of preliminarily introduce herself to America. Meanwhile, the Republican senators, who want this to be a swift, easy

hearing, will try to portray her and themselves in the most positive light. And then Democrats, who have the hardest chore here -- they know that Senate Republicans have the votes to confirm this woman -- they will want to put an emphasis on Donald Trump, what Donald Trump has done to the Supreme Court, what he will continue to do to the Supreme Court and, in particular, the risk to what's known as the Affordable Care Act. And that's the 2010 health insurance overhaul that has brought medical coverage to more than 20 million Americans.

CURNOW: So is that the main issue that's going to be at stake here? I mean, let's bear in mind the Democrats say this shouldn't even be happening a few weeks before the election. The Republicans say, you know, we can do this. This is -- you know, this is within the time frame of the presidency, and President Trump can do it.

Besides the Affordable Care Act, what are the other main issues that are going to be honed in on?

BISKUPIC: That's an excellent question, because the Affordable Care Act is going to be argued before the Supreme Court right away, on November 10. So, that's why it's completely in focus here.

Also, because it means so much to Americans. But right -- right before that on November 3, we have a presidential election. And President Trump has, in fact, said that he thinks that ballot controversies could easily get to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the election could be decided there. And he has said out loud, he wants his appointee there to decide any kind of case. He wants nine justices there.

So, that's in the very immediate world, Robyn. But then going forward after that, abortion rights are at stake, LGBTQ worker rights are at stake. All sorts of issues will be coming down the road. But most immediately in focus will be the election and then the Affordable Care Act.

[00:50:08]

CURNOW: How much of a tightrope will Democrats have to walk here, particular I suppose, when it comes to the issues around religion?

BISKUPIC: Amy Coney Barrett is a devout Catholic. She has devoted some of her academic scholarship to writing about faith and the law. But the last time that Democrats tried to bring up religion in 2017, when she was up for a U.S. appeals court seat, they kind of bungled it. They -- they suggested by some questions that maybe they thought that it was bad thing that she was so religious.

Senator Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the committee, famously said, "I think the dogma leads -- lives loudly within you." And she received a lot of criticism for perhaps being anti-Catholic.

But yet -- so -- so Democrats are going to steer away from it. But we have an unusual nominee here. She has actually written a lot about faith and the law. But I think they're going to avoid it this time. Or if they do touch it, go -- walk very, very gingerly around it. CURNOW: Yes. Either way, this is going to be politicized and may or

may not influence voters' choices.

Joan, thanks so much. Really appreciate you joining us.

BISKUPIC: Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: The White House economic adviser believes there's still hope for another stimulus package. Larry Kudlow says negotiations between Democrats and the White House will continue this week. And he told CNN's Jake Tapper Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin may offer a deal that's closer to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is proposing. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Secretary Mnuchin is after 1.8 trillion. So the bid and the offer is narrowing somewhat between the two sides.

President Trump actually had always said -- I mean, I've heard him say it in the Oval. As far as the key elements are concerned, the checks, the unemployment assistance, the small businesses assistance. We've got to help airlines out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: So there is some pushback, though, from Republicans who worry about spiraling debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But you agree that a stimulus package needs to pass. There needs to be one. Right? And you're hoping to do it in the next three weeks?

KUDLOW: I don't think, Jake -- I mean, I don't want to parse. But I don't think the recovery is dependent on it. Look, we've had --

TAPPER: That's not what the Fed says.

KUDLOW: Businesses are reopening. We are learning to deal with the virus in a targeted, safe, preventive way. So --

TAPPER: No, we're not.

KUDLOW: -- it's not dependent. All I'm saying is a little -- some targeted assistance would go a long way.

TAPPER: We're not -- we're not learning to live with the virus, Larry. We just had four days in a row of more than 50,000 infections. The death rate is the highest in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Jake made a good point there. Now, the Trump administration has been pushing for schools to reopen

in-person -- for in-person learning. But it's left up to the schools and local health officials to figure out how to do it safely.

Well, there's some positive news, though, as Bianna Golodryga reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREN NGOSSO, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: I have this just up here so that the kids can refer back to it.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (voice-over): For the past six months, Karen Ngosso has been teaching her third graders from this makeshift classroom in her Baltimore home.

NGOSSO: We connect first thing in the morning. We make that connection, and you find just a huge amount of information just asking that question. How's everybody doing?

GOLODRYGA: The first few weeks of remote learning last spring were challenging. Ngosso says less than half of her 42 students regularly logged in for class. And those that did seem gripped with fear.

NGOSSO: I can vividly remember this one student of mine. He was like, Am I going to die from COVID? Am I going to catch it? Do I have it already, because I was coughing yesterday?

GOLODRYGA: The start to this school year has been much better.

NGOSSO: Everybody is coming on, even with all the technical issues and things like that. People are logging in.

GOLODRYGA: Also better: the city's seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases, down to 65 from a high of almost 158 in July.

Yet, online learning has not been without its challenges. Less than two weeks into the school year, fewer than two-thirds of Baltimore public school students were able to log into virtual learning classes, according to Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City public schools.

And while most of the nation's largest school districts began the semester fully online, nearly half are offering some form of in-person learning.

EMILY OSTER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: And the confirmed case rates with the kids in schools were pretty low.

GOLODRYGA: Without a federal tracking system, it is difficult to compile official data on school-related cases. However, initial data from some 700 school districts, collected by Brown University's COVID- 19 School Response Dashboard, suggests spread within schools may not be as rampant as feared.

[00:50:03]

OSTER: We had about 120, 130,000 kids in in-person learning. GOLODRYGA: Confirmed cases were found in less than two-tenths of a

percent of students.

OSTER: The rates in staff are a bit higher than that but still really quite low.

GOLODRYGA: As more is learned about the virus, experts are also learning which students appear more vulnerable, according to this initial data.

JENNIFER NUZZO, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: What we have seen is that sort of age- related phenomenon play out in the case numbers, where younger children are less likely to be represented.

GOLODRYGA: In New York City, where nearly half a million students returned to school buildings last week, already signs of trouble. One hundred and sixty-nine public schools are now closed to students after an uptick of COVID cases in their neighborhoods.

Karen Ngosso believes that schools should remain closed for now. The risks, in her view, far outweigh the benefits, even when presented with early data.

NGOSSO: You want to make sure it's safe. I don't want to be a guinea pig to see, you know, is it safe? I know what I do in my space. You know, I know how I'm handling the pandemic. But I can't control what anybody else does.

Bianna Golodryga, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: And the Los Angeles Lakers have won the 2020 NBA championship. They defeated the Miami Heat in game six Sunday night in Orlando, Florida. It's the Lakers' 17th title all-time, tying them with the Boston Celtics for the most in league history.

LeBron James was named finals MVP.

And the team also got a shout-out from former President Barack Obama. He congratulated the Lakers and the Seattle Storm, who won the WNBA title, saying he was proud of how the leagues' teams and players used their voices for racial justice.

So thanks for watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. The CNN original series "FIRST LADIES" is next. And then I'll be back in an hour with more news.

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