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Jill Biden Will Soon Tour Mississippi Vaccination Site; Missouri Doctor Says We've Seen Huge Outbreak of delta Variant, U.S. Government Seizes Dozens of News Website Domains Connected to Iran; California Plans to Pay Off All Unpaid Rent by Low Income People During the Pandemic; Migrant Children Wait to Be Reunited with Families Weeks After Arrival; The Long and Storied History of Making the Sausage. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Any moment we will see first lady Jill Biden touring a vaccination site at Jackson State University in Mississippi. This is part of a two-stop trip that will also take her to Nashville to tour a pop-up vaccination site with country singer Brad Paisley.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: So we know the White House is working to encourage people to get the shot. Because the delta variant, it's starting to spread very aggressively especially in parts of the south and Midwest.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19. There is a danger, a real danger that if there is a persistence of a recalcitrance to getting vaccinated that you could see localized surges which is the reason why I want to emphasize all of that is totally and completely avoidable by getting vaccinated.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Aamina Akhtar is the Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Hospital South in St. Louis, Missouri, and she's with us now. The greatest threat to progress, are you seeing one of those localized surges at your hospital?

DR. AAMINA AKHTAR, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AT MERCY HOSPITAL SOUTH: Unfortunately, we are. Here in southwest Missouri, we're seeing a huge outbreak of COVID-19 infections and they're almost all secondary to the delta variant.

CAMEROTA: And describe that to us. Does the delta variant, the patients that come into your hospital with the delta variant, do they look different than patients had, you know, in months prior to this? I mean, are they sicker? How is the delta variant changing what you do? AKHTAR: Well, one thing we've noticed is the spread of infection and

hospital admissions have taken an exponential growth. So within two weeks we were flooded with as many patients as we had five weeks into the last surge.

The other thing that we're seeing is the patient population coming in is younger. Most of our seniors have been vaccinated. It's the younger age group that's largely unvaccinated and that's who it is affecting, promising more severity of disease. We have teenagers being admitted which we didn't see before.

BLACKWELL: Teenagers with the delta variant that are going to the hospital?

AKHTAR: That's correct.

BLACKWELL: Wow, so we know that -- listen we talked about this at the top of the show, the difficulty in getting younger people to be enthused to get the shot. What is your recommendation, your plan to protect the people there in St. Louis?

AKHTAR: So the delta variant, unfortunately, doesn't know any borders. And so the outbreak we're seeing right now in southwest Missouri, that delta variant will spread, and the only thing that we have to protect our communities from that spread having more serious consequences is getting vaccinated. We have time right now in outlying areas to get vaccinated to prevent that spread and transmission, so that's our greatest tool. But unfortunately, it's currently being underutilized.

CAMEROTA: As the mother of three teenagers myself I'm really interested that you're saying that's the big development there in the surge that you're seeing. Are their symptoms the same? When they come into the hospital how sick are they? And are these -- and I remember at the worst of the pandemic here in New York, you know, they were running out of ventilators and so many people had to be ventilated. Is that what's happening with teenagers or are they skirting that.

AKHTAR: What we're seeing is our hospital systems down there starting to get overwhelmed with the number of patients they're seeing. A lot of the similar symptoms, a lot of vent use. And again the difficulty, the hard part is the population we're seeing is younger, and all is preventable. So by getting vaccinated we would have protected our community and not be seeing this current surge.

BLACKWELL: The best to you and your team there, Dr. Akhtar, for the work you've been doing now for so long and to hear that teenagers are now hospitalized.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean because they're not vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I have to -- just one last question, doctor, what percentage of people that you're seeing in the hospital are vaccinated? AKHTAR: So when you look at all the people who have come in with

recent admission of COVID-19, over 95 percent are not vaccinated and that's the one thing that they all have in common.


BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Akhtar, that is the stat that should sing. Thanks so much.

AKHTAR: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Next, California's governor is coming to the rescue of renters who are thousands of dollars on their payments behind because of the pandemic. Details on the plan to pay those debts.


BLACKWELL: Breaking news, the U.S. government has seized dozens of U.S. website domains connected to Iran. CNN's Evan Perez joins us now with more. Evan, what have you learned?


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, this appears to be an effort at least according to a national security official we have talked to, that this appears to be an effort on the U.S. side to deal with what they say were disinformation efforts that are being -- that are coming from some of these websites.

These are news websites essentially that are run by the Iranians, but the most prominent of them is Press TV which is their English language news website. And it's the one that now when you go onto that site at least from here in the United States, you will likely see something that looks like this, it says this website has been seized and you'll see the logos of the Justice Department and the FBI.

Now, we don't know the exact number of sites at this point but we expect that later this afternoon we're going to learn a little bit more from the Treasury Department and Justice Department about exactly what this is about. But right now what we're told is that this is the latest of a number of these types of actions at the Justice Department and the U.S. government has made in the last few months.

Back in October of 2020, they took a similar action where they took down dozens of sites, some of them were on Facebook and other social media sites that they said -- that the U.S. says were linked to disinformation efforts by the Iranians.

In this case it appears that Press TV as well as some sites in Yemen and other countries, again, all of them linked to the Iranian government have been taken over by the U.S. government as part of this effort.

CAMEROTA: This is really interesting, Evan. I mean basically you're saying these are fake news sites. This is misinformation and the Department of Justice trying to crack down on the proliferation of it. Has there been any response from Iran?

PEREZ: The only thing we know from the Iranians is we're getting some of their official agencies are tweeting about this. They're confirming that this has happened and they say that this is an assault on press freedom, which is obviously somewhat ironic thing to come from the Iranians. But that's what their current response is. Again, we're going to learn a lot more when we see what the official announcements are from the Justice Department and the Treasury Department as to why they carried out this action.

Again, the most prominent of these is Press TV which is their most prominent English language news site that is available in the United States and around the world.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean as we've learned just because you put press in your name or news in your name doesn't necessarily make you legitimate. Thank you very much, Evan Perez.

PEREZ: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, still ahead, we have new details about the treatment of migrant children at the border. CNN has learned that some of them are still waiting weeks to be reunited with family.



BLACKWELL: There is rent relief coming for low-income Californians who struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAMEROTA: The federal eviction moratorium that helped millions of people keep a roof over their heads is set to expire at the end of this month. And for low income Californians, the governor says the state will use an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus money to keep them in their homes.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Anybody that's impacted by this pandemic that can't pay their rent and can't afford their water bill or a utility bill, California will pay those bills -- 100 percent.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles. Stephanie, what a relief, I'm sure, for all of these folks. How is it going to work?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, there is a lot of people, Alisyn and Victor, who are really worried about how they were going to pay back thousands of dollars that has accrued.

What we know is that this plan is going to be a $5.2 billion plan that will reach back, help people from April of 2020 who needed to pay their rent and haven't been able to pay because of the pandemic to catch them up. What is that going to do? That's going to clean the slate for these

renters and landlords won't be cut out either because they will get the money back that they're owed. They are also setting aside $2 billion that will help people who haven't been able to pay their utility bills as well. And right now they're saying that this will target low-income renters.

But that's the target but that doesn't mean everybody else is excluded. This is saying for Californians who may have not been able to work. They see their rent as just piled up. This will help them do that and pay those numbers.

This is all coming from federal stimulus money as well. This is money that came from President Biden's America Rescue Plan and so all tenants who fall into this, this is what they're saying they're going to do to help. Because of all this money and pointing out that they're going to have safeguards set aside to make sure that people don't abuse it.

It's also worth pointing out that good news for Governor Gavin Newsom is not a bad thing right now when he's facing a recall and perhaps this might sway some people to think this is a good thing he's using this money to help get the economy roaring back as they say here in California.

CAMEROTA: Yes, people do like when politicians give them money.

BLACKWELL: Yes and pay their rent. We know the affordable housing crisis in many of the cities in California, this certainly helps. Certainly helps. Stephanie Elam, thanks so much.

So attorneys say migrant children waiting to reunite with their families here in the U.S. are still spending weeks in temporary government holding facilities.

CAMEROTA: Court filings claim the conditions of these facilities are not fit for minors and that the prolonged stay is impacting these children emotionally. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is with us. So Priscilla, what kind of conditions are they reporting?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: The conditions can really vary across these temporary facilities.


But generally what children are reporting is very little outdoor recreation time, sleeping to pass the time, limited access to showers, limited access to calling family either in the United States or abroad.

Now, these are facilities that fall under the Health and Human Services Department. That department is charged with the care of unaccompanied children, and they have facilities across the country. But given the record number of children that cross the U.S./Mexico board alone this year, they had to open up emergency intake sites, these are temporary facilities to accommodate these children. In fact, as of Sunday, there are 14,467 children in these facilities, many of whom are in the temporary facility setting.

Now, attorneys have been visiting these sites to assess conditions as part of an ongoing settlement and speaking with the children to gather what it's been like. And one 16-year-old from Guatemala put it quite simply, he said, quote: Every day I feel really sad. He goes on to say, that there are some other kids who have been here about the same time as me, and there is just a lot of sadness among us.

This child had been in a temporary facility for more than 60 days, so really a sense of desperation among these children, Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Is HHS saying anything about this?

ALVAREZ: So, HHS told CNN in a statement that they have, quote, around-the-clock efforts to improve services and conditions. They also went on to say that there are fewer children in these emergency intake sites than there were at the height in April, which is around 14,000 children 500, then and now fewer than 8,000. So they say they're working around the clock to reunite them with families. But attorneys say it's just not happening fast enough.

CAMEROTA: Priscilla Alvarez, thank you very much for that status report. Obviously, you will stay on it for us.

CNN has just learned that in a rare move, Vice President Kamala Harris will preside over the Senate tonight as it votes on whether to open debate on a sweeping Democratic voting rights bill the Republicans had vowed to block. Earlier this month President Joe Biden announced the vice president would lead his administration's efforts on voting rights. So Harris will preside over tonight's vote which is expected to fail, in her role as president of the Senate.

BLACKWELL: Also, Senator Joe Manchin said that he expects a deal tomorrow on infrastructure. We're going to take you live to Capitol Hill for both of those developing stories.



BLACKWELL: So, three of President Biden's top advisers on Capitol Hill today, they're trying to make some progress on an infrastructure deal. Now it's a negotiating process that the president's senior adviser Cedric Richmond described pretty vividly to me yesterday.


CEDRIC RICHMOND, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The legislative process and I know is like making sausage. It's an ugly process, but you look at the end result. And so Senator Sanders, and we'll see how he shapes it and what he puts in it.

BLACKWELL: We've seen that the legislation doesn't have the votes. What does that mean practically?

RICHMOND: Well, it means we go back to that ugly process of sausage- making.


BLACKWELL (on camera): The reference is to sausage, then sausage- making, it's a phrase we've heard quite a bit from the White House.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As you know from covering these sausage-making, bill-making, policy-making extravaganzas, the sausage-making takes some time.

PSAKI: I would say we're kind of smack in the middle of the sausage- making of legislating. And we will see where it ends up on the other side.

PSAKI: It may not look exactly the same on the other end when it comes out of the sausage-making machine. Let's have discussions, let's have engagements with both parties, and let's see what comes out of the sausage-making at the other side.

PSAKI: And so we certainly recognize that sausage-making is messy. It takes some time.


CAMEROTA (on camera): She's making me hungry. The press secretary is not alone in her fixation with sausage-making. The expression has actually been around since 1869 when American poet John Godfrey Saxe said, quote: Laws like sausages cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.

And ever since then, we've been blessed with that cliche. Here's more.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): So the hearings are part of this process the way we so-called make the sausage, so-called.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It won't be pretty. It's like sausage-making.

JOHN MCCAIN, FORMER ARIZONA SENATOR: It's bitterly partisan, unfortunately an unsavory study in Chicago-style sausage-making.


CAMEROTA (on camera): I love it. I think it's evocative and gross.

BLACKWELL: It is evocative and gross. Chicago-style sausage-making. Which is different type of sausage-making apparently. But you know, as we're seeing today, we talked about the sausage-making. The virtue of sausage-making is that at some point you actually make the sausage.

CAMEROTA: There's a finished product.

BLACKWELL: There is a law.

CAMEROTA: Right, so this is like a closed sausage factory. Congress is not actually producing the sausage.

BLACKWELL: They're in there just mixing around meat and spices.


BLACKWELL: At some point you got to serve up a sausage. Otherwise, what are we doing?

CAMEROTA: I don't know.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMEROTA: I really don't know. But thank you for that thought exercise.

We have a quick programming note on the new CNN film "LADY BOSS." It's all about Jackie Collins who's wrote the book on sex, power, and feminism. But her story has never been told this way, and it premieres this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: We just did a minute and a half on sausage-making.

CAMEROTA: It's not long enough.


CAMEROTA: As far as I'm concerned.

BLACKWELL: "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.