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New Day Saturday

Key Model Predicts U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Doubling By January; Deadly, Fast-Moving Wildfires Ravage West Coast; Hot, Dry Weather Fueling Western Wildfires; Trump To Hold Weekend Rallies In Nevada; U.S. Announces Troop Drawdown In Iraq; Georgia Secretary Of State: 1,000 Illegally Voted Twice In Races This Summer; Nineteen Black Families Purchase Over 90 Acres Of Land In Georgia To Create Safe Space For Black People. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 12, 2020 - 07:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: it's not going to be turning a switch off and turning a switch on. It's going to be gradual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least 40,000 COVID infections have been reported on college campuses in every state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The college students who knew they had coronavirus throwing a party anyway, and they got busted.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I mean, I was a college student once I get it, but really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hundred large fires are burning, one in four and a half million acres in 12 states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In California, infamous forest infernos, five of the largest fires ever recorded in the state are burning now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you are notified by emergency officials to evacuate, please do so immediately. You may not get a second chance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is New Day weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Live look at the White House, top of the hour now. The president will be heading out West to Nevada, not to talk about the fires, but there will be two campaign events this weekend.

Let's talk though about the reality of the coronavirus, we're starting this hour, and the threat we face as we head toward flu season, the fall and winter.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: An often sided COVID-19 model projects the number of Americans dead from COVID-19 could top 415,000 by January. Now, the prediction is a deadly December driven by people who they believe would not be taking safety measures seriously such as wearing masks.

BLACKWELL: And about those wildfires out West, more than two dozen people are dead. A lot of people still unaccounted for in California and Oregon and Washington State. Almost the entire West Coast is under an air quality alert from state to state because of the lingering smoke. We'll have a live report from Oregon in just a few minutes.

PAUL: Let's bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval though, he's following the latest on the coronavirus from New York. We know Dr. Fauci, Polo, has a pretty sobering projection, but he's optimistic. Is he saying why he's optimistic?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi. Dr. Fauci, among those experts that have been very clear right now stating that the next few months will certainly be challenging, that's to say the least. Right now, we're seeing about 36,000 new COVID cases across the country a day. Sure, that is a better number compared to what we saw in August, but still, as Dr. Fauci said, it is too high, especially as we go into that dreaded flu season.

So, right now, there is a push for people to get those flu shots before the end of October because the concern right now between the coronavirus and the flu is that we could see people experiencing double whammies in the next months.


SANDOVAL: A cautiously optimistic tone coming from the nation's top infectious disease expert. On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN, we may see approval of a safe coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year. Though he says it may take several months to get the country vaccinated and protected against the virus.

FAUCI: It's going to take months to get enough people vaccinated to have an umbrella of immunity over the community, so that you don't have to worry about easy transmission, and that's what I mean, it's not going to be an overnight event where you have a vaccine, and then all of a sudden everything is OK.

SANDOVAL: Fauci also expressed confidence that the vaccine approval process is being done correctly and without political pressure.

Though recent polling indicates 62 percent of Americans worried the Food and Drug Administration will rush it ahead of the upcoming elections. Chief adviser to the government's COVID vaccine program says he would take it once it's proven safe and effective. MONCEF SLAOUI, SCIENTIFIC HEAD, OPERATION WARP SPEED: I would frankly turn the question the other way around and say, what would be my ethical reason to withhold a vaccine that I could have developed faster from being developed faster.

SANDOVAL: And a vaccine can come soon enough, as reopening schools for in-person learning has become a point of contention. Despite opposition by some students, school district officials in Des Moines, Iowa are defying the governor's order to resume in-person classes for at least 50 percent of their instruction.

Meanwhile, at least 40,000 COVID infections have been reported on college campuses in every state. Health officials believe young adults holding social gatherings could be among several factors.

Going into the upcoming flu season, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, recommending people limit risk.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Just because things are open, it doesn't mean we now need to do it all. If we can go to restaurants, maybe we should not go to bars, and restaurants, and movie theaters, and go back to work, and go back to school. We really should look at what are the most essential activities and do that and still follow every precaution when it comes to washing our hands, wearing our masks and following social distancing guidelines too.


SANDOVAL: As for looking back, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says, now is the time to get tested if you think you let your guard down over the Labor Day weekend.


SANDOVAL: And one pretty shocking example of people letting their guard down was down in Ohio at the Miami University where six students were cited for violating mass gathering procedures. There, at least, the protocols that are in place there, apparently, they organize the house party even though one of them had tested positive for the coronavirus only a week before the university not releasing too much information here, declined to comment because of privacy concerns.

But they did say students who do violate any kind of forging protocol do face disciplinary actions, Victor, and Chris, a lot of people are asking, really?

BLACKWELL: Yes, really? Polo Sandoval for us there. Thank you, Polo.

PAUL: Thank you, Polo.

So, President Trump still out of sync with his own administration's experts on where we stand against coronavirus.

CNN's Rebecca Buck, live near the White House. Rebecca, the president playing down as he characterized the pandemic, and Dr. Fauci offering the fact check. REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Victor, a very different picture from the president. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert when it comes to the future of COVID-19 in the United States.

From President Trump this week, we heard a relatively rosy outlook on the virus in the United States. He said, we're turning a corner now. But Anthony Fauci, on the other hand, saying that it is far from over. He expects, in fact, a very sobering assessment that this could go on for another year or more before things return to normal, even if a vaccine is approved this year.

So, Fauci sat down last night, with our own Wolf Blitzer. Blitz -- Wolf asked Fauci if he believes it's significant that he is different from the President on this core question of the future of COVID in America. Listen to what Fauci had to say.


FAUCI: You know, I'm -- you know, I don't want to answer me or the President, I say, look at the data, the data speak for themselves. You don't have to listen to any individual. And the data tells us that we're still getting up to 40,000 new infections a day and 1,000 deaths. That's what you look at, look at the science, the evidence and the data, and you could make a pretty easy conclusion.


BUCK: A pretty easy conclusion, and yet, as I mentioned, we are getting a very different picture still, from Dr. Fauci and medical experts, and infectious disease experts, and of course, the President of the United States. Christi and Victor.

PAUL: And we've been waiting to hear from the President on those wildfires out West. We did hear from him on Twitter, and he is at West today, but we know it's not because of the fires. What do we know is going to happen with President Trump this afternoon?

BUCK: That's right. Well, I should note that that tweet from the President about these wildfires saying that his thoughts are with the firefighters who are actively fighting these blazes. This was really the first time we've heard from the President in weeks as these fires have swept across California and Oregon and other parts of the West displaced hundreds of thousands of people, of course, taken lives and property as well, unprecedented wildfires that we're seeing out West and the first time the President has really commented on this in any sort of substantial way.

But as you mentioned, his trip today, he'll be going to Reno to Las Vegas. He will not be heading to California or Oregon to show solidarity with people facing these wildfires. He's going to be holding campaign events. At the same time, COVID controversy following him there, his campaign will be once again flouting these rules for social distancing and for large gatherings during this pandemic. So, once again, Donald Trump playing by his own rules. Christi and Victor.

PAUL: Rebecca Buck, good to see you this morning. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring it now. Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Schaffner, it's been a while since you've been on with me. Good to have you.


BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you here. I know you like to stay out of the politics, but what is the impact of telling Americans that we are rounding the corner, that this is the final turn?

SCHAFFNER: Well, Victor, keeps everything confused, doesn't it? Here, we have Dr. Fauci being very, very careful. And I certainly agree with his assessment. And we have political leadership saying basically quite the opposite. Is it any wonder that people are confused and we do not have a coherent national policy? I think that does not help us as we in public health and infectious diseases, as we try to flatten the curve and get ahead of this coronavirus.


BLACKWELL: Yes, something else --

SCHAFFNER: It puts us in a very difficult position.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a very difficult position and an important time in this pandemic.

Going into the fall, going into the ramp up of the flu season, you have urged people to get the flu shot, but I read in a paper, a local paper near where you are, that you said it's important not to get it too early, what is too early and why?

SCHAFFNER: Well, that was then. We're now in the middle toward the end of September, people can start getting their flu vaccine now. We should do it ideally during the month of October and get everybody in the family, all your neighbors in to be vaccinated.

You know, the southern hemisphere, Australia had a pretty mild flu season, in fact, a very mild flu season. And my Australian colleagues attributed to two things, they use more flu vaccine than they ever have before in Australia. And number two, they were all pretty good, not perfect, but pretty good about masking and social distancing. Those two things kept down the COVID virus in Australia, as well as the flu. I'd love for us to do the same thing here in the United States.

BLACKWELL: Yes, something that's being called and it was just up on the screen that Twindemic, the flu and coronavirus and the possibility that someone can have those at the same time, what would that do to one's body and would, one, exacerbate the symptoms and the impact of the other? SCHAFFNER: Well, we think that that can happen, that is you can have flu and COVID at the same time. There have been some case reports about that. Whether that makes you more seriously ill or not is uncertain, but it doesn't sound like a good idea. And you certainly could have them in sequence first one and then the other.

And, you know, it's going to be very difficult for doctors and the healthcare system. Those two illnesses look very, very much alike when they present to the emergency room or the doctor's office. So sorting that apart will be difficult.

You know, if you get flu vaccine, that will also take some of the strain off the health care system. The last thing we need in our hospitals, clinics, et cetera, is a double barrel respiratory virus season, bang with the flu, bang with COVID. Please, do what you can to mitigate the flu part of it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We know that resources are finite. We saw that back in March and April.

Let me ask you about Sanjay Gupta's interview with the director who's advising Operation Warp Speed, who says that the vaccine will likely be administered to those over 71st. We'd heard that potentially earlier in this process that those who are working on the front lines, first responders, those in hospitals would likely get it first. Do you believe that is the best approach to give it to seniors first and then potentially those who are working on the frontlines?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I would think and actually the committee at the CDC that's working on it, of which I'm a part, has got health care workers first. And we've done focus groups in the public, and they think also those first line responders ought to be first in line. Afterwards, essential workers and people who are at the greatest risk, including minority communities that are particularly hard hit by this epidemic ought to be close next.

So, delivering this vaccine is going to be a very elaborate enterprise. As Dr. Fauci said, it will take time. Remember, this is a vaccine that likely will require two doses separated by a month. That's double the task we have to accomplish.

BLACKWELL: A couple more topics before we wrap up here. Adults, who tested positive, according to a study for COVID-19, were approximately twice as likely to have reported that dining at a restaurant and the two weeks before, they tested positive. Dr. Fauci said this week that regardless of the percentage of capacity of these restaurants, eating at a restaurant, the risk increases. What's the threshold? What should people consider when returning to restaurants during this period?

SCHAFFNER: Well, Victor, I think the first thing they should consider is who are you? Are you older? Do you have an underlying illness? If that's the case, be extra cautious. See if you could eat outside rather than inside. If you're there with another couple, for example, wear the mask unless you're eating and drinking, and absolutely make sure that the restaurant spreads people apart, and all the waitstaff are masked. BLACKWELL: Before we wrap up here, this is the return of football this week. On Thursday, the season started Jacksonville Jaguars, they have their season opener against the Colts tomorrow, one of two teams allowing fans to come into the stadium.


We've got some numbers on the latest cases day by day, they're Jacksonville, Duval County, same thing. They reported though a record 22 deaths on Thursday. Should there be, at these games, even socially distant fans in these stadiums? What do you think?

SCHAFFNER: Well, it all depends. What's the local circumstance, and has the team really controlled the environment very carefully, so that the fans are spread apart? All the way from parking, to getting in your seats, to managing everything from restrooms, to food service. I think it could be done with reasonable care, but it's a bit -- a bit of an experiment.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we're seeing far more the college games than we are in the NFL.

Dr. William Schaffner, thank you so much for your expertise this morning, sir.

SCHAFFNER: Good to be with you, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

Well, still ahead, Oregon officials say they're preparing for, quote, a mass fatality incident. Two of the major wildfires there are threatening now to merge into a single raging inferno. We are taking you live to that scene next, stay close.

BLACKWELL: Well, it's a group of black families purchased more than 90 acres to create a safe space for black people. The hope is to eventually create a self-sustaining city. We're going to tell you about it, ahead.



BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to the dangerous and destructive wildfires that are burning across the Western U.S.

PAUL: Yes. We're talking about more than 100 large fires burning across 12 states. Look at the map there, 28,000 first responders and support personnel are battling those wildfires in the West right now. In fact, fires in California, alone, have burned more than 3.1 million acres. That's an area, just to give you some perspective here, that's twice the size of the state of Delaware. And we also know at least 26 people have died in those fires just since last month. So, officials are preparing for the possibility that there will be more.

BLACKWELL: And it's not just the fires that are creating the problems there. Almost the entire West Coast is under air quality alerts. And now, there's a warning from medical professionals. The smoke can make you more susceptible to COVID-19 and other ailments.

CNNs Camila Bernal is joining us now from SDK to Oregon. More than 500,000 people across that state have been told to evacuate. Show us around for as much as you can with that thick smoke and tell us what the situation is this morning.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Victor, the situation is really all about smoke at the moment. As you mentioned, the air quality is pretty bad. It's what the governor, Kate Brown, says is the worst in the world. And I'll try to show you, I know it's dark out and it's hard to see, but this is not anything other than smoke, a gigantic permanent cloud of smoke.

And so it makes it hard, not only for people who are in this area, because it irritates your eyes and it makes it hard to breathe, but it makes it really difficult for firefighters, they're not able to be up in the air. They're not able to, in many times, even see the fire line. And so their job is made difficult because of this smoke.

On top of that, you have reports of dozens of people missing at the moment. So, of course, the governor, Kate Brown, also very concerned about that, and then also seeing just the massive destruction that these fires have caused. It is just unbelievable to really realize how big these fires are.

You guys, earlier, spoke to the city manager in Talent, Oregon, that's about five hours from where I am, and the damage there is also extensive. Take a listen.


SANDRA SPELLISCY, CITY MANAGER, TALENT, OREGON: It's going to be a very difficult search process. The areas that were impacted are, we're not talking about half-burned buildings or smoldering ruins. We're talking about utter devastation with simply twisted metal and piles of ash.


BERNAL: Now, the weather is improving, but keep in mind, that this fire is zero percent contained. So, the work ahead is going to be long and difficult. They say the smoke is also going to stay in the air for at least a couple of days. So, really, it is going to be difficult for the firefighters and for the many people who've had to evacuate and that don't know it when they if and when they come back, they're going to find their homes again.

So, of course, just so difficult and heartbreaking for so many residents here in this area. Victor, Christi?

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

Let's bring in CNN's Allison Chinchar because we know that strong winds and dry conditions have fueled this thing. How does it look for the firefighters out there who are -- who are battling this? It's a tough call.

ALLISON, CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is and the conditions aren't ideal. But at least a little bit of bright news is the conditions this weekend are improving slightly, winds are starting to come back down, at least compared to where they have been, temperatures not nearly as hot.

Again, it's not ideal conditions, but we're making improvement. But the biggest concern with all of these fires is the smoke. And the problem is it's widespread. You have four different states that are looking at air quality alerts right now. You've got Idaho, you've got Washington, Oregon, as well as California. So, it's not just one state, but notice a couple, it's the entire state that you're dealing with those air quality alerts.

Now, one thing to note too, they desperately need rain, that's the biggest thing. And then not only would it help the fires, but also drought. Take a look at how many of these areas are under drought in the western half of the country. So, obviously, rain will significantly help that but there really isn't much in the forecast until at least Monday, but that's the short term.

What about the long term? Because on Thursday, NOAA released that we are now under a La Nina advisory. And basically what that means for the continental U.S. is you're going to continue to have dry, warm conditions for much of the southern U.S. That includes the southwestern U.S. where, again, as you notice from that last map, we already have drought conditions.


Now, as again, as we mentioned, on Thursday, they upgraded us from a La Nina watch up to an advisory because they are now seeing that those La Nina conditions are present.

Now, another thing that that has an impact on is hurricane season. Typically, in La Nina events, the Atlantic Ocean ends up having more hurricanes than a normal season. And a lot of that has to do with the systems that come off of the coast of Africa. A lot of that leads to more favorable development those. And take a look, this is right now, this isn't a typical La Nina. This is what is happening right now. Look at all of these systems that are out there. Some have names, some don't, but all of them are actively being watched by the hurricane center.

But the one that has the biggest imminent threat to the United States is this, Tropical Depression 19 sustained winds of 35 miles per hour. And, again, Victor, Christi, the main concern here is going to be the rain because this is not a fast-moving system at all. So, over the next several days, this is likely going to dump a tremendous amount of rain along Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

BLACKWELL: It's remarkable that we are this far into the alphabet for storms this season, and we're not even at mid-September, that we could soon see the S storm named.

Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Allison.

So, here's a quote for you, being with you today was truly amazing. Those are that -- those words are from newly-revealed love letters between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. We say love letters because that's how the president characterized them at one time. What the new book by Bob Woodward reveals about the President's relationship with dictators.



BLACKWELL: The peace talks have begun in Qatar, these are between the Taliban and Afghan government. And today, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation said that all U.S. troops in Afghanistan could be pulled out of the country by April if all goes well and conditions are met.

PAUL: We'll going to get reaction from CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier. She's also a contributor in Time Magazine. Kimberly, always so good to have you with us.

So, what is your degree of hope for an effective outcome here and does the timeline make sense to you?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That is really optimistic. You got two sides that haven't sat down in 40 years of ongoing off and on Civil War, and you have the Taliban stating today in Doha that they want to establish -- they didn't say an Emirate but an Islamic form of government that is different than the Islamic -- the public that exists right now. So, that's a big gap to bridge between the two sides.

Also, the fighting is going on, continuing on the ground. The Afghan vice president just survived another assassination attempt on his life that killed many of his bodyguards and injured him.

So, you have points of friction that are existing that are going to make it very hard to push this forward. Plus, the main thing that was pushing the Taliban onward was the threat of U.S. forces backing the Afghan government up, and the Trump administration is taking that away.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about other forces that the Trump administration is pulling out and let's go to Iraq pulling out 2,000 of the -- roughly 5,200 there. Centcom commander says that this is because of the U.S.'s confidence in the Iraqi security forces. But this also aligns politically what the president has promised to pull troops out. Also, 52 days ahead of election, everything is seen through that prism. What is the impact and what do you glean from this decision to pull out?

DOZIER: Well, part of this is because the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces are better at their jobs. But there are still 10,000 ISIS fighters between Iraq and Syria that have gone into hiding. So, that threat remains.

This is an acknowledgment, however, that Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq that are part of the Iraqi government. The militia forces that are now under the Iraqi security umbrella, they have made life very difficult with constant harassing attacks on U.S. military sites and U.S. diplomats.

So, officials have told me they have kept the footprint very small at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and they have purposefully been reducing the numbers of troops and consolidating them into bases that they think are easier to defend because they don't want so many targets out there for Iran-backed Iraqi militias to rocket.

So, yes, this is an acknowledgment that there's been progress made on the Iraqi security force side, but it's also an acknowledgment that Iranian harassment has worked.

PAUL: I want to get real quickly to Bob Woodward's book, Rage, and in it, he revealed what he described as these love letters between Kim Jong-un and the president. One example for you, Kim wrote to Trump on December 25th, 2018, following their first meeting in Singapore, and I'm quoting here, "Even now I cannot forget that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency's hand at the beautiful and sacred location as the world watched with great interest and hope to relive the honor of that day."

What is your reaction to that kind of language between these two men and is there a precedent for something like this?


DOZIER: Look, diplomatic language -- letters like that, there are often certain flourishes, though you don't usually see as many flourishes on the U.S. side. But I think what we're learning from that exchange and how proud the president seems to be of it in his conversations with Woodward which are on tape, is that he is run his foreign policy like he runs his businesses with flattery from him and the tough talk comes from other people. And he puts a lot of stock into these personal relationships.

The problem is, diplomats here in D.C. have learned this and told their bosses when you meet with that man, you flatter him, and then you ask the hard questions. But always make it seem like you're on his side and it seems like Kim Jong-un has also learned that lesson.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and what is the fruit of this type of engagement with Kim.

Kimberly Dozier, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

DOZIER: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, Kimberly.

So, you know, President Trump has repeatedly encouraged his supporters to test the system by voting both by mail and in-person. Will hundreds of Georgia voters could be prosecuted for doing that this past summer?



PAUL: 40 minutes past the hour right now, and the top election official in Georgia this week said 1,000 people voted twice in the June primary, and he believes it was intentional.

Now, this is what he said. "These voters returned absentee ballots and then also showed up to vote at polling places on Election Day. There's no excuse under the law for double voting."

We do need to point out it is not known if this was intentional or if this was -- if this perhaps were just people who weren't sure if their vote had been counted.

So, let's bring in Amber McReynolds. She's president of the National Vote at Home Institute.

Amber, good to have you with us. Thank you for being here. What happened in Georgia and is your organization doing anything to help fix it for November?

AMBER MCREYNOLDS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL VOTE AT HOME INSTITUTE: Well, in looking at the Georgia case, it appears that voters were unsure of whether or not their mail ballot had been received by the elections office. So, it's quite possible that some of these voters were either encouraged to go in by, you know, folks doing outreach to them, or were just weren't sure or didn't know if the election office had received their mail ballot.

And it's actually a great example of why ballot tracking systems are so critical that, that inform voters as to the status of the mail ballot so that they know it was accepted and they don't have to worry about it.

And so, usually, in any time we see a case like this around the country, historically, that's usually the case where the voters just unsure and they want to make sure their vote counts. So, they go in, and then, usually, the procedure is a provisional ballot is issued if eligibility can't be determined, or in Georgia's case, there's a procedure in which the election judges are to call the office to verify receipt of the -- of the mail-in ballot before issuing an in- person ballot.

PAUL: So, if this had worked properly if they had gone in to vote in person, they would not have been allowed to do so because their mail- in ballot would have already been counted, is that correct?

MCREYNOLDS: That's correct, or in a lot of states, even the issuance of a mail ballot would also drive a provisional ballot being issued. So, I think what's really going to be interesting to watch in Georgia is what exactly happened? Is it clerical error? Was it a lag in the e- poll book that wasn't showing the status of the mail ballot? What was it about the situation in Georgia that created this issue? PAUL: So, let me ask you this because we know that voting is already going on in North Carolina. There may be people wondering, you know, where do mail-in ballots go to be counted this early in the game? Are they counted early and who is the keeper of those ballots?

MCREYNOLDS: Well, that's a great question. And what happens is, is that when you start voting like in North Carolina's instance now, and you return your mail ballot, they're going to mark you as having voted. So, they're receiving those into each of the local election offices.

And then, there's a secure procedure internally to secure those ballots, usually vaults or those sorts of things on camera, all the ballots are stored in secure ways in that way.

The other great thing about North Carolina and they just announced this yesterday -- and again, this is one of our top recommendations from the National Vote at Home Institute is sophisticated ballot tracking systems.

So, North Carolina just rolled out a program called ballot tracks. And a voter can actually sign up for a text or an e-mail notification just like you would track a package, and you get verification of the status of your mail ballot throughout the process, along with confirmation once the election official has received the ballot.

And it's really important for that to happen to prevent the types of confusion or situations like what Georgia is dealing with, because it could be -- and in a lot of cases and a lot of times, we see this that the voter was unsure whether or not their ballot was received.

PAUL: So, let me ask you this real quickly. I know that you, your organization is working with 40 states right now. Have you identified any cracks in the system in some of these other 40 states, and how could that be remedied in 52 days? We're 52 days away from an election.


MCREYNOLDS: Often time when we see these sorts of issues comes -- come up, its clerical error, its procedural deficiencies, or election judges, again, at all of these polling places there's so many staff required to staff in-person voting sites that mistakes can happen.

And so, when we see this, this sort of situation happen, it often is traced to that not necessarily a voter trying to do something incorrectly, it's often clerical. And the other issue that we see is that most states don't have real-time e-poll books, meaning, they can't tell immediately if a ballot has been returned already.

In a lot of states like Colorado, that is the case where there's a real-time system, but in most states, that's not the case. So, usually, you'll see a provisional procedure or some alternate procedure to determine -- to prevent this from happening.

PAUL: All righty, Amber Reynolds -- McReynolds, I should say, I apologize. Thank you so much for being with us.

MCREYNOLDS: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, we're going to introduce a group of families who work together. They put their resources together to purchase more than 90 acres of land to create a safe space, a safe city for black people.


ANNOUNCER: "FOOD AS FUEL" is brought to you by noom. Noom is based in psychology, for lasting health and weight loss results.

PAUL: Well, in today's "FOOD AS FUEL", CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard looks at the role diet plays in staying heart-healthy.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. So, keeping your heart fit is important, and a healthy diet can help. The American Heart Association, says to start with plant-based foods high in fiber, like fruits and vegetables. Other great sources of fiber are nuts, legumes, and whole grains.

Get your grains in the morning with steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast or try sprinkling flaxseed on top of yogurt or add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your cereal. The fiber in flaxseed helps keep you feeling full without contributing a lot of calories. A healthy diet also includes fish like salmon, and lean protein, and some dairy.

If you're a vegetarian, some foods high in protein are edamame, lentils, and split peas. For the meat-eaters, boneless and skinless chicken breast is a good option.



BLACKWELL: About 130 miles from where I'm sitting right now, there is something new. It is open, it is rugged, it's green, and the people who bought it say it's also safe.


BLACKWELL: Do you hear that? That is the sound of freedom. A lush and rugged expanse about 130 miles south of Atlanta, just shy of 97 acres, it's undeveloped, unincorporated, and it has new owners.

RENEE WALTERS, PRESIDENT, FREEDOM GEORGIA INITIATIVE: It feels amazing. It feels really amazing, I cry every time I come here.

BLACKWELL: Renee Walters is one of them. She's president of the Freedom Georgia Initiative. It's a collective of 19 black families who recently bought this land. This dream all started a few weeks ago during Renee's typical morning call with her friend Ashley Scott.

ASHLEY SCOTT, VICE PRESIDENT, FREEDOM GEORGIA INITIATIVE: She said, Ashley, did you see the article about Toomsboro for sale?

BLACKWELL: It turns out that the entire small town was never for sale, just a bundle of a few dozen homes and buildings. So, Ashley, a real estate agent, looked for listings in the area and found one for this.

SCOTT: And it was just such a beautiful piece of land, it was affordable, and it just made sense that we could create something that would be amazing for our families.

BLACKWELL: Why were these two women interested in the prospect of buying a town in the first place?

SCOTT: It really was a -- when we saw what happened with Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and the protest.

WALTERS: We both had black husbands, we both had black sons, and I was starting to get overwhelmed and have a sense of anxiety when my husband would leave the house to go to work.

SCOTT: So, watching our people protesting in the streets while it is important and I want people to stay out in the streets, bringing attention to the injustices of black people, we needed to create a space and a place where we could be a village again, a tribe again.

BLACKWELL: So, Renee and Ashley reached out to family and friends, and together, they bought what they intend to name Freedom Georgia, a new black city.

SCOTT: We don't intend for it to be exclusively black, but we do intend for it to be pro-black in every way.

BLACKWELL: Jessica Gordon Nembhard is an economist and an expert on black collectives.

JESSICA GORDON NEMBHARD, PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE AT CUNY: I've found tremendous benefits to individuals, families, and the communities that are involved in it. Including, you know, the economic stability and prosperity, but also leadership development, social capital development, other kinds of human capital development. And so, it's really a win-win for everybody involved to be involved.

BLACKWELL: The owners hosted the big black campout over Labor Day weekend, supporters drove in from across the country. The plan is to introduce farming next, create a lake for sustainable fishing, facilities for recreation, and eventually, develop a fully operational expanded city.


SCOTT: By being able to create a community that is thriving, that is safe, that has agriculture, and commercial businesses that are supporting one another, and that dollar circulating in our community, that is our vision. And to be able to pass this land down to my children and to the children that are represented by each of our 19 families as a piece of legacy. We're hoping to create legacy.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Wilkinson County, Georgia.


BLACKWELL: So, I took that drive out there on Wednesday and met Ashley and Renee and everyone there, and it really is a beautiful piece of land. They've got some work to do. They've got to Go Fund Me.

I just tweeted out the link to it, they've got to clear the trees and build roads and bring in some of the utilities. But, legacy and safety important to build that in that community.

PAUL: And she said something I think that would resonate with anybody when she said we have black husbands, we have black sons, and we know that we will do anything possible that we can to give them that safety, and to give them that freedom to be who they are, so they can grow up, and we hope to be happy.


PAUL: I mean, it's all we all -- we hope for our kids, and it's -- it -- I am going to be watching, and so excited to see what they do and how they build this.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this will be -- this will not be the last story. I do on this as this continues to develop.

PAUL: Good.

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: Good. I can't wait to see it. Stay with us. NEW DAY Weekend continues in just a moment.