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V.P. Harris Visits SC To Encourage Vaccinations; Former FDA Chief: Delta Variant Could Spark New Epidemic In Fall; Research Shows Weather Connection For COVID Transmissibility; Israel's Netanyahu Ousted From Office But Vows To Return; 272 Mass Shootings So Far This Year In U.S.; FAA Says There's A Sharp Rise In Unruly Passengers On Planes; One Killed After Driver Rams Into Crowd At Texas Mud Race. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 14, 2021 - 14:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Today, the U.S. is on the verge of a grim milestone, nearly 600,000 deaths from COVID-19.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Kamala Harris was at a pop-up vaccination center in Greenville, South Carolina.

She's kicking off a new nationwide vaccine push in an effort to reach the administration goal of getting 70 percent of U.S. adults vaccinated with at least one shot by July 4th.

The vice president is also trying to combat misinformation about vaccines. She told the crowd getting vaccinated is, quote, "the neighborly thing to do."

Meanwhile, in the U.K., the prime minister just announced he is keeping COVID restrictions in place for another four weeks because of concerns over the highly transmissible variant known as the Delta variant.

BLACKWELL: The variant accounts for 10 percent of COVID infections in the U.S.

Listen to the warning from the former FDA chief, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA DIRECTOR: Right now, in the United States, it's about 10 percent of infections, doubling every two weeks. Probably, the dominant strain in the United States.

That doesn't mean a sharp uptick in infections. But it means it's taking over. I think the risk is, in the fall, that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall.


BLACKWELL: Let's bring in now CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen, why is this causing so much more concerns than the other

variants we've seen.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: There are a few reasons for this, Victor. One is that it is more contagious than the other variants. It's 60 percent more contagious than the other variant, B.1.1.7, originated in the U.K.

In the U.K., the Delta variant has crowded out the Alpha variant.

If it's more transmissible, you can't let down your guard at all. Even the one moment that somebody let's down their guard, they could get COVID-19 more easily.

In addition, this appears more virulent and deadly. There's a new study showing it appears to cause twice as many hospitalizations as the other variants.

I think there's a lot of concern that it becomes dominant in the U.S., the risk to those who are unvaccinated becomes even higher.

CAMEROTA: But is it vaccine resistant? Or if you're doubly vaccinated, you're good?

WEN: Well, the studies are still ongoing about this. Based on what we know it appears the vaccines we have are effective against this variant, although not as effective as against the other strains.

And so I think you know what the takeaway is, you should get vaccinated. I don't want people hearing this to say, well, if it's not going to work that well anyway what's the point?

Actually it works very well, just probably not as well as against the other strains.

And so the best thing we can do is to get as much immunity in our population as possible to prevent the further spread of this and other new variants that may develop over time as well.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Wen, let's turn to the classic. After the last school year, parents and kids are hoping for a smoother school year.

Listen to the secretary of education, Secretary Cardona, today.


MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Some of the data you read is because the families couldn't handle the hybrid option either home every day or in person remote. Hybrid should not be an option as a primary option.


Hybrid should not be an option as primary option.

I know you want kids to get back to a normal life, as normal as possible. But should the vaccine approval for kids 12 and under be part of the conversation to determine so early if kids can come back to in the classroom full-time?

WEN: Well, I think it depends on what other mitigation measures we are willing to put in place.

By now, we have so much evidence that tell us that schools can be some of the safest places for children as long as mitigation measures are followed.

Now, if there are very low rates of community spread, you could say maybe we don't even need masking at that point.

But if there's still a level of community spread, if our children are not protected -- or at least young children are not able to be vaccinated, we need to turn to other measures like masking indoors.


We also should be doing everything we can to get staff and teachers vaccinated, and parents of students vaccinated.

So far, this pandemic, we have seen what happens when we don't prioritize our children, when we have open bars instead of schools. I think it's time to prioritize kids.

And the best thing we can do as adults to make sure all the adults are vaccinated and we provide the resources for schools to improve the ventilation and allow them to do things like requiring making indoors that allows all kids to get back safely in school in the fall.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Wen, there's new research that shows there's a weather connection for COVID's transmissibility. I feel we knew that. We knew that outdoors is lower transmissibility than indoors.

But it sounds like this goes deeper to figure out why, in the summer, the numbers went down to precipitously and, in the winter, it went up so much.

WEN: I mean, this is not surprising. Coronaviruses are winter respiratory virus. We know, in the winter, the air is less illumined allowing virus to spread easily.

There are a host of viruses spreading easily in the winter. This is why people come down with colds and flu in the winter as well.

There's additional concern that people have not been together over the last year.

And so when we get kids in school, again, we're going to get lots of fever and sniffle and cough. It's challenging to sort out what's coronavirus and what's not.

Part of the plan is to see what happens in the winter, how we improve testing, make sure contact tracing is in place.

We will be facing a situation of more people coming together and together indoors in a way we have not been over the last year.

BLACKWELL: And we do not want to return what we had at the start of last fall.

Dr. Leana Wen, thank you.

All right. So we are waiting for President Biden to address the media there. We looked at the podium for about 40 minutes now.

CAMEROTA: It's getting more exciting.

BLACKWELL: It is. Riveting television.

We're waiting for the president to come out at the NATO meeting in Brussels. Of course, we'll bring it to you when it happens live.

But first, the historic shift in Israel. As the new prime minister takes over, Benjamin Netanyahu is not letting go that easy. And some of his promises may sound familiar.



BLACKWELL: Israel has a new government. The cabinet's new diverse coalition is already at work. And the new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, spoke with President Biden by phone yesterday.

CAMEROTA: But the man he replaced said he will not go quietly. Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing his return.

CNN's Hadas Gold in Israel.

Hadas, the former prime minister told supporters he will return, quote, "faster than they think." Even used the word "overthrow," sounding frighteningly familiar to us after the January 6th violence.

What does Netanyahu mean when he says that?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: It's incredible for the first time since 2009 somebody other than Benjamin Netanyahu is called the prime minister of Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu now has the title of opposition leader.

Naftalie Bennett has been sworn in as the new prime minister on a razor thin confidence vote, leading, as you said the most diverse coalition in the Israeli history to the far left to Naftali's far- right party.

And for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab Israeli party is part of the coalition.

But the diversity is part of their fragility. They don't agree on much other than getting Netanyahu out of power. They managed to do that.

But now the task is to govern, to survive, to stay together, to try and pass a state budget.

They are likely not trying to take on any of the hot-button issues, not trying to pass a start of a new Palestinian peace process.

They'll focusing on interior issues, like welfare, infrastructure, economic reform. Because of such the wide diversity of views, it will be hard for them to come together.

And as you noted, Benjamin Netanyahu wasting no time becoming leader of the opposition.

He opted out of actually the traditional formal ceremonial handover. And he said having a short, less than 30-minute meeting with Naftali Bennett behind closed doors.

Though he's out of office, he's still in politics. Now leader of the opposition. His Lukid Party is the largest party still in Israeli parliament.

And today, he spoke to his supporters and he vowed that they will do everything in their party to try to topple the new government. He called them fraudulent, said they are a dangerous to Israeli security.

He said in a speech yesterday that a prime minister needs to stand up to the Americans, to know when to say no to the American president. He doesn't think that Naftali Bennett, his former chief of staff, will be able to do so.

And vowing they will be able to take down the government very quickly -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: As always, it's complicated there.

Thank you very much, Hadas Gold.


OK, a new danger in the skies. Airline passengers, the latest incident of chaos in the cabin, and the disturbing new numbers from the FAA.


CAMEROTA: A manhunt is underway right now for one of the suspects in a mass shooting in a popular tourist section of Austin, Texas.

BLACKWELL: A 25-year-old, Doug Kantor, was shot and killed just as the bars were closing on the famous Sixth Street. A tourist, visiting from Michigan.

His family released this statement. They said, "He was looking forward to marrying his high school sweetheart of 10 years and starting a family. He was loved by his family, friends, and everyone who loved him. This senseless tragedy has put an end to all of his dreams."

CAMEROTA: So heartbreaking.

And 13 other people were hurt. One teenage suspect is in custody. Police are searching for a second suspect.

In Atlanta, a mall security guard is recovering after being shot in the chest during an armed robbery in Buckhead. But he is in critical condition at this hour.

A 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl are in custody.

In response to the latest gun violence, Senator Chris Murphy blasted his colleagues in a tweet.

He said, "FYI, 32 people were shot yesterday in three mass shootings. And when Congress returns to work on Monday, half of the members elected to protect the country won't give a shit."


BLACKWELL: They don't even send out thoughts and prayers anymore.

CAMEROTA: We don't have to live this way. We don't have to live this way.


CAMEROTA: This is a choice.

BLACKWELL: We don't.

It's interesting because there are polls that show, that within the margin of error of everybody, there are people in this country who believe and agree there are some things we can do that can get us closer to general safety.

To go through the list of places where there have been mass shootings, it takes less to list the places where they have not been.

CAMEROTA: That's right. You can't be a tourist in Austin. You can't go to a mall. You certainly can't send your kids to school. You can't go to a spa.

BLACKWELL: Or a church or grocery store or a massage parlor. And the list goes on. Every weekend.


CAMEROTA: On airlines, the FAA says they've seen a sharp rise in unruly passengers on board planes, with more than 3,000 incidents reported so far this year.

BLACKWELL: This chaos in the cabin took a strange turn and would end when an unruly passenger turned out to be an off-duty flight attendant.


UNIDENTIFIED OFF-DUTY FLIGHT ATTENDANT: On the floor please. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) All three of you. All three of you.



CAMEROTA: It happened on an Atlanta-bound Delta flight Friday night when a man took control of the intercom, which led to this fight. He was eventually subdued.

Polo Sandoval is following this story.

Polo, what happened here?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we have to preface this by, saying we are asking but we still don't know what this man's state of mind was when he allegedly caused this turmoil in the sky and caused that chaos in flight.

When you read the police report -- I obtained today -- it certainly paints a very scary picture of what the passenger aboard that flight that left Los Angeles bound for Atlanta experienced.

According to police, they say this 34-year-old off-duty Delta flight attendant started having bizarre family. He was stashing belongings, with tennis balls with writing on them.

And then according to witnesses, he took control of the intercom system and started make these announcements that fueled the fear of passengers, saying the plane is going to be taken over.

Recommending the passengers put their seat belts on, and the plane would descend to blow 10,000 feet.

Adding to concerns, according to witnesses, he previously submitted a note to one of the flight attendants saying there was a terrorist on board.

We all know none of this was actually true.

But it did take a violent turn when they tried to remove that P.A. system from his hand. That's when, according to the police report, he assaulted some flight attendants.

He allegedly then wrapped his hands around the neck of one of the off- duty flight attendants on that flight.

And that's when authorities -- at least the crew -- called on any able-bodied men on that flight to make their way to the front of the plane to help contain the situation, to try to restrain this individual.

That's exactly what ended up happening. The plane making a safe and unscheduled emergency landing in Oklahoma City where authorities boarded the flight, removed this individual.

We should mention that we do know who -- at least he's identified in the police report. We have reached out to him. We have not heard back.

It's unclear whether or not he has an attorney since authorities did announce that the FBI is involved and charges are certainly possible here.

Again, we do not know this man's state of mind, what prompted him to allegedly do what he did.

It really becomes the latest among 3,000 similar cases we've already seen this year aboard aircraft.

BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.

So, there's this accident that happened during a mud race in El Paso County, Texas. We now know it's turned fatal.

The sheriff's department says one person has died after -- watch this -- a race car, the driver there lost control and slammed into the crowd standing along the track last night. Several other people were injured, some critically.

CNN's Rosa Flores is with us with an update.

Have investigators figured out how this happened, why this happened?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, it's still early in the investigation.

But according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, they say their preliminary investigation revealed that, for an unknown reason, this one vehicle just exited, left that mud track, hit three vehicles, striking and then breaking the guardrail and plowing through the crowd.

The individual who took these pictures, who took this video, talked to CNN and says he's OK. But it captured these intense moments that people were screaming. At one moment, the video goes dark.

One other spectator says a security guard warned spectators about these fast-moving vehicles.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: The security guard went around announcing, like, the mud tracks are a lot faster this round, be careful, keep your eye out. When they started the race, sure enough, didn't last long before he crashed into a pile of people and cars.



FLORES: Now, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, he says that all of this transpired yesterday evening at about 6:30 p.m. Eight individuals were injured. And this has turned deadly. One person

has died. The sheriff's office identifying that person as 21-year-old Vedee Valdez Ramedis (ph).

And, Victor, according to the sheriff's office, two other individuals remain in critical but stable condition -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Rosa Flores for us. Rosa, thanks so much.

More on the breaking news now. Let's check back in on that podium. We're waiting for the president to come out and speak at the NATO summit there in Brussels.

We are expecting him to come out about an hour ago. The White House has not given an update on specifically when he'll be out.

Of course, we expect he'll reaffirm the United States alliance with NATO. A look at how he's preparing to face an American adversary in a couple of days, Vladimir Putin.

CAMEROTA: I'll monitor the podium during the commercial break.

First, programming note. CNN has new details about what happened January 6th, as Drew Griffin talks with people who were there. Firsthand reports. "ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY: THE ROUTES OF TRUMP'S INSURRECTION" this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.