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U.S. Unlikely to Reach Biden's Vaccination Goal by July 4th; Concern Grows Over Rapid Spread of Delta Variant; Dozens of Delta Variant Cases Found In Shenzhen; Italy Easing Covid-19 Restrictions in Most Regions; Olympic Organizers Make Decision on Spectators at Games; Critics Blame Bolsonaro for Covid-19 Crisis in Brazil; Nine Children, 1 Adult Killed in Multi-Vehicle Crash; Tropical Depression Claudette Drenching Southeastern U.S.; Police: Truck Ramming at Pride Event a "Tragic Accident". Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM -- more transmissible and quite worrying. The world grapples with the Delta variant of the coronavirus as vaccination rates in many places struggle to keep up.

Plus, the tropical system that won't let up. Claudette is dropping rain and spawning tornadoes across the U.S. Southeast.

And we've live in Ethiopia. A country mired in crisis and conflict but going to the polls at this hour for what the government calls its first free election.

Good to have you with us. Well the Biden administration is pushing the president's goal of at least partially vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by July 4th. But so far only 16 states and the District of Columbia have met that objective. And while the U.S. will likely miss that goal, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says that won't have a major impact. Instead the U.S. should start thinking about the next phase of the vaccination effort.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Now we need to think about trying to push out the vaccine into community sites where people can get it delivered to them through a trusted intermediary. That's going to mean doctor's offices, schools, places of employment. We need to think about a different vaccine delivery strategy to get the people who are still reluctant or who still face challenges getting to the access sites. But as people contemplate going back to school and back to work in the fall, they will be seeking out vaccines. And I think that's where we need to think about that 2.0 campaign and a different strategy for delivering vaccines to those who remain unvaccinated.


CHURCH: And let's just take a moment to compare China's effort to the United States. On Saturday, China announced it had administered more than 1 billion vaccine doses and you see on the left how it accelerated its vaccination pace after getting off to a slow start. In the U.S., the daily vaccination numbers are tampering off just a bit but the chart on the right puts those same numbers in a different context. China still has a way to go when it comes to catching up with the U.S. and other countries in terms of vaccinations per capita.

Global health experts are worried about places where vaccines skepticism is high or access to the shots is lacking. The Delta variant is spreading fast throughout those communities and as Michael Holmes reports, officials are scrambling to stop it.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aggressive and infectious, that's the way Moscow's mayor describes the coronavirus variant spreading through the city. Health officials in Moscow reported more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily figure for the city since the pandemic began. That from the city's mayor who said the Delta variant first identified in India is responsible for nearly 90 percent of new infections.

SERGEI SOBYANIN, MOSCOW MAYOR (through translator): The situation in Moscow with the spread of COVID-19 disease is rapidly deteriorating and the dynamics are quite unexpected. Since more than 60 percent of Muscovites people have either been ill or vaccinated.

HOLMES (voice-over): The Kremlin said vaccinations are critical to protect against the variant spread but many Russians are still hesitant to get the Sputnik vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We're afraid of getting sick. But we did not get vaccinated because we are also afraid of that.

HOLMES (voice-over): The W.H.O. says Moscow is just one of several places where the Delta variant is thriving. And with so many people across the world still unvaccinated, there's plenty of opportunity for it to circulate even more.

SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, W.H.O. CHIEF SCIENTIST: The Delta variant is well on the way to becoming the dominant variant globally because of its significantly increased transmissibility.

HOLMES (voice-over): One W.H.O. official says Africa is particularly vulnerable because of a lack of vaccines. The Delta variant has been detected in at least 14 countries on the continent. But even countries that have had success with their vaccination programs have been inundated with new cases. More than 46 percent of the population in the U.K. is fully vaccinated but COVID-19 infections are increasing there once again.

[04:05:00] The Delta variant fueling the rise.

A similar spike in Indonesia. Authorities in one district giving live chickens as an incentive to older residents to get the shots. Countries around the world trying everything they can to catch up to this fast-moving virus.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


CHURCH: And most health experts agree that the Delta variant is likely to be the dominant form soon. I spoke with an epidemiologist Anne Rimoin earlier and asked her how big a threat it could become, especially to the unvaccinated.


ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well it's very important to note that this Delta variant is much more contagious than the original variant, the original strain and the B.1.1.7 or the U.K. or Alpha variant. In fact, it could be up to 60 percent more contagious. Meaning that if you have the same interaction with somebody who has COVID-19 and you are that much more likely to get it than previous variants.

So it's really important that everybody who is unvaccinated really do double down on their efforts to make sure that they are protected. They're wearing masks, they're social distancing, and avoiding exposures where they can. If you are vaccinated, you are much less likely to get this variant but it is not as zero risk scenario. You can still become infected. It's just much less likely you'll end up hospitalized or dying.

So we all should be very concerned, it's a threat. It is definitely important for people who are unvaccinated to take a great caution. Take great precautions to avoid getting it. Because it's also possible that this particular variant could lead to more severe symptoms, hospitalization and death.


CHURCH: That was Anne Rimoin talking to me earlier.

Well Chinese authorities say at least 38 people connected to a flight from Johannesburg to Shenzhen have been infected with the variant. That flight arrived on June 10th. Shenzhen also found two locally transmitted cases on Thursday. One of those was a vaccinated restaurant worker in the airport. More than 400 flights from Shenzhen were cancelled on Monday. But officials wouldn't confirm to CNN the cause of the mass cancellations.

So let's turn now to CNN's Steven Jiang. He joins us live from Beijing. Good to see you Steven. So what is the latest on these cancelled flights from Shenzhen in the wake of dozens of Delta variant cases being identified? STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well Rosemary, these flight

cancellations are probably not entirely surprising given the dramatically falling demand for air travel in and out of Shenzhen. Especially after local officials added this testing requirement for all departing passengers.

But, you know, this latest cluster is seen as a new wave of cases in the southern province of Guangdong that really began about a month ago. When you look at the numbers, though, the number of new locally transmitted cases remains relatively low by global standard. We are talking about single digit or low double digits on a daily basis. But given this is in China, many officials, especially at the local level, are still adopting this zero-tolerance policy. That's why you've seen them take a familiar page -- a familiar page from the playbook in terms of conducting multiple rounds of mass testing, very strict and extensive contact tracing as well as targeted lockdowns in cities across the province.

Now as you mentioned, the authorities have said most of their new local cases are the Delta variant and, also, they've linked most new patients to imported cases. That's why they have become very alarmed given how fast this new variant has been spreading across the world. So now, of course, they are really trying to redouble their effort in terms of trying to get everyone vaccinated. But that task, obviously, becoming a bit more challenging because of that new case of the airport workers, as you mentioned, given she contracted the virus despite being already vaccinated -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Steven Jiang joining us live form Beijing, many thanks.

In Italy, more signs of progress in the battle against COVID-19. Starting today, all but one of Italy's regions can drop most of their coronavirus restrictions. They're now designated as white zones. Since cases are falling and the areas are low risk.

So for more on this, let's bring in CNN's Antonia Mortensen in Milan. Antonia, what is the latest on the easing of COVID restrictions in all but one of Italy's regions. And how are people there responding to this news?

ANTONIA MORTENSEN, CNN PRODUCER: So it's great news. From today most of the restrictions that we had due to COVID-19 will be lifted in all of Italy, aside from Valle d'Aosta region which is a small region in the north. Effectively, it means that people can more or less go back to normal life. And people are frightened about that.


Some wedding will be reinstated again. And that was something that so many here were waiting for as well as farmers who had plans to come and get married here in Italy. I would say that there is a collective sigh of relief but there's also caution because of the Delta variant that you've been talking about in your show and, actually, Italy has reinstated the quarantine rule for any travelers arriving from the U.K. from today, as well. CHURCH: Antonia Mortensen joining us live from Milan, many thanks.

Well the first cruise ship to leave from a U.S. port since the pandemic began has set sail on a trial run. Royal Caribbean's "Freedom of the Seas" is testing new COVID safety measures with hundreds of its employees who volunteered to be the passengers. The company says everyone aboard this cruise has been vaccinated. New measures from the company require a negative COVID test for unvaccinated passengers before arriving as well as two additional tests during their trip.

All right. We want to -- we want to go live now to Tokyo where the Olympic organizers have made a decision on whether the games will allow spectators from Japan. CNN's Blake Essig joins us now on more on that. So what was decided to?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary, we learned just in the past hour that local spectators will be allowed to attend the Olympic games with the decision regarding how many and under what circumstances that could be announced at any minute. Now the original decision to allow local fans was announced during the opening statements of a five-party meeting of the Olympic organizers. And again, while we're still waiting on an official number of fans that will allowed to attend these events, just last -- just this past week, government officials did say they put a cap on the number of local fans that will be allowed at any general sporting event at 10,000 or half the capacity of any given venue, which an event might be taking place and whatever number is lower.

Now if a state of emergency order is in effect, Prime Minister Suga said today that in order to ensure the safety of the Japanese people, that he would consider holding the games without spectators. But that decision to allow local spectators, period, goes against the advice from Japan's top coronavirus advisor.

Now just last week, he said that staging the games without spectators is desirable and the best option to limit the spread of infection. Now this advice came following the G-7 where Prime Minister Suga said he wants support from other leaders to host the Olympics and because of that advisers said they decided that the discussion about cancelling the games was meaningless and instead they focused on providing a proposal that would best limit the spread of infection.

Now despite the possibility for a reduced number of fans to attend these games, infectious disease experts continue to warn that allowing any domestic spectators to attend the Olympics will lead to a spike in cases. In fact, projections recently released by Kyoto University and the National Institute of Infectious Disease show that Tokyo could see an additional 10,000 COVID-19 cases if these games are held with spectators versus not at all.

Now because of the pandemic, over the weekend, the governor of Tokyo announced that all live Olympic public viewing evens will be cancelled. Instead the six planned locations in Tokyo will be used as vaccination sites. Now in terms of vaccinations, the rate here in Japan is still incredibly low at 7 percent but it is speeding up with people 18 and up now able to be vaccinated -- Rosemary. All right, Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo, many thanks.

Hundreds of red roses have been placed along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro to pay tribute to the more than 500,000 people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Brazil. Many Brazilians blame the COVID crisis on the President Jair Bolsonaro's management of the pandemic and his efforts to downplay its severity.


ANTONIO CARLOS COSTA, PRESIDENT, NGO RIO DE PAZ (through translator): At the head of the Republic, there is a president who violated all sanitary norms from the beginning of the pandemic. He underestimated the lethal power of the virus and participated in anti-democratic public demonstrations simulating the agglomeration. Today we are a country that has no mass vaccination deepening the economic crisis and causing unemployment that reaches countless families.


CHURCH: And Brazil is now just the second country in the world to top 500,000 COVID deaths behind only the United States.


Well there's more ahead including a look at parts of the U.S. southeast getting slammed right now by tropical depression Claudette.

And a tragic outcome of a weekend crash in Alabama. Officials are investigating the cause.


CHURCH: Officials suspect severe weather from Claudette may be to blame for a devastating and deadly multi-vehicle accident in Alabama. Nine children and one adult were killed when a van collided with another vehicle Saturday. Martin Savidge has the story but we must warn you, some may find this report disturbing.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four of the victims who died in Saturday's crash attended the high school here. Federal investigators now are going to begin sifting through the scene trying to determine exactly what caused it.

This tragedy is horrific on a number of different levels. Not just the number of lives lost here but also the fact that nine of the ten were children between the ages of 9 months and 17 and that many of the children had already gone through so much difficulty in their own lives to die tragically. This incident happened around midafternoon on an interstate highway known as I-65.


It was in the northbound lane just south of Montgomery and it was a multi-vehicle crash. The images convey just how horrible this scene was. At least 15 vehicles involved, including semi-tractor trailer trucks, and there was a terrible fire. We know that the worst number of deaths occurred in a van that was capable of carrying 15 people. It had nine people. Eight of the people in the van, all children, died. The one person rescued from the wreckage by passersby. And passersby were the heroes here. It was the ranch director. She pulled unconscious from that van. She lost two of her own children in that crash. And then there were two other victims, a father and daughter aged 29 and nine months who died in another vehicle.

Weather right now is being looked at as a potential cause. There was very bad weather in the area at the time. The man who was the CEO of this girls ranch that oversees it says that they are devastated.

MICHAEL SMITH, ALABAMA SHERIFFS YOUTH RANCHERS CEO: We lost eight young people that can make a difference in our world. We lost eight young people that didn't have a chance to have their own children. We lost eight young people that can't break the cycle of where they've been and change it for their children.

We had two vans of children coming back from the beach and also a chase car. But they were several miles apart. And the first van was the one that had the accident. We had nine people in that van. We had eight fatalities and one survivor in that van yesterday. That's the tragedy that we're faced with.

SAVIDGE: And the children, many of them who died in that van, had already been taken by the state into their custody from homes where parents had been caught up with drug addiction or the children themselves had been abused. And now this organization, which is primarily run through donations, finds itself having to plan for eight funerals. It will be a very difficult week. Martin Savidge, CNN, Camp Hill, Alabama.


CHURCH: A tragic situation there. And the storm system named Claudette has left destruction in its wake as it moved across the U.S. southeast. In southern Alabama Saturday, at least 20 people were injured when then tropical storm Claudette moved through. It spawned a tornado that tore apart the destruction 22 miles wide. Fierce wind and heavy rains slammed parts of Louisiana on Saturday, including this home near New Orleans. One witness described the damage.


LOGAN SHEPARD, SLIDELL, LOUISIANA RESIDENT: That house right there, the water was inside the house last night. Our house it didn't get too high but got up to the front door. We had to move the cars because it was inside the cars. But our neighbor also right here, she also got some water inside her house. It was kind of crazy last night. It was falling pretty bad.


CHURCH: And right now Claudette is a tropical depression lashing North Carolina but the National Hurricane Center expects it to restrengthen into a tropical storm. So let's bring in CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, what is latest on this storm system?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know Rosemary, it is parts right there around the eastern corner of North Carolina, about to reemerge back over the western Atlanta. And as you noted, water temperatures here plenty warm enough when you factor in the Gulf stream offshore that is going to allow this system to reenergize back into a tropical storm.

Mind you right now 35 miles per hour winds. At 39 MPH, that is when it's categorized back into a tropical storm. So we expect that to take place here within the next four to six hours. And once it does, this steering environment for the storm really picks up in forward progression. So we expect the system to begin to really begin to skirt north ward and offshore and potentially will impact portions of the say, the Canadian Maritime is beginning to say, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

But not a major wind player anymore. Going to bring in quite a bit of rainfall. But the immediate concern is going to be as it tries to strengthen and develop. But we can see storm surge along to coastal region of the Carolinas from Wilmington up towards Hatteras about 1 to 3 feet. So those coastal communities, not only will there be some beach erosion and some damage on the immediate coast. But storm surge again going to be a threat.

But notice this, as much as a foot of rainfall has come down already across portions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. And this system again, finally out of this region.

Now across the Western U.S., it has been about the extreme heat. Of course, we know summer just is a matter of hours old. Summer official arrived in the Northern Hemisphere at 11: 32 p.m. on Sunday night. The longest day of the year, shortest night of the year. With that said, Rosemary, look at this heat our friends across the southwest have dealt with. Six consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 115 degrees. It has never happened before in recorded history.


Of course, we know how hot Phoenix typically gets. And this is impressive even by their standards -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Unbelievable, isn't it? Pedram Javaheri bringing us up to date on all of that, many thanks.

Well police in Florida say a deadly incident at a pride parade on Saturday appears to be a tragic accident not an intentional or criminal act. Two pedestrians were hit by a truck that seemingly ran out of control. One of the victims died. Natasha Chen has the details.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are on the border of Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors. Along the parade route where the Stonewell Pride Parade was scheduled Saturday evening. It was supposed to be a joyous event that turned into tragedy. The Wilton Manors police chief says now that they understand this is a tragic accident and not a criminal act directed at any one person or group of individuals.

Fort Lauderdale police provided a statement giving a few more details about what happened. They said a 77-year-old man was in a white pickup truck. He was scheduled to drive that car in the parade procession. He was a participant though he was not planning to walk with the group. And as he moved the car forward for the start of the parade, police say it suddenly accelerated unfortunately striking two pedestrians and then plowing across the street into the garden center. Of the two people who were hit, one of them died and the other is expected to survive. All those involved, the victims and the driver, are a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus.

DURRELL WATKINS EXECUTIVE MINISTER, SUNSHINE CATHEDRAL: Because it was devastating, we assumed it was intentionally violent. And then we were wondering, you know, who's done this. It seems now that those fears were not just by -- and thank God -- it doesn't change the outcome. And we just wanted to end our pride celebration on a note other than tragedy.

CHEN: The Fort Lauderdale Guy Men's Chorus issued a statement saying we are deeply saddened by the tragic death and injuries that occurred as a result of an unfortunate incident at the start of the Stonewell Pride Parade. As the chorus family mourns together, we thank the community for their love and understanding.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


CHURCH: And still to come, tough talks on Capitol Hill over the cost of President Biden's infrastructure plan. Why one key Senator says he wants to raise the price tag to $6 trillion.

And America's gun violence epidemic is nearing an alarming milestone. The latest on another weekend surge in shootings.