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President Biden Hosts Naturalization Ceremony Ahead of July 4; COVID Cases Rising. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 2, 2021 - 15:00   ET



STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's going to be for all of the airports right now. That has not changed. You see people are not social distancing. It doesn't matter if you're vaccinated or not.

These precautions are something that they're concerned about. But, of course, that doesn't mean people can't go ahead and make plans to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Stephanie Elam, thank you for that report and from the wisdom from children.

OK, so it's not just air travel. Millions are expected to hit the road this holiday weekend as well. And, according to AAA, prepare to see the highest gas prices in seven years.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in Chicago.

So, Adrienne, how would you compare the numbers we're seeing this year to last year?


Well, compared to last year, filling up is going to cost drivers more. I'm filling up right now, as you can see. It's going to cost drivers about $1 more.

For example, I'm in a gas station in the heart of downtown Chicago. Here, it's $4 for one gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. And we talked to some folks filling up throughout the day. They say that's a pricey predicament they weren't prepared.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eleven dollars. I'm at 2.5 gallons. I'm from the '60s -- $11, 11 gallons, remember them days? No. Well, ask you parents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty crazy. I feel like it's almost like a deterrent for people to travel. And that's what we want to do so much right now after being cooped up for how long during a pandemic.


BROADDUS: She's certainly right. So many people were looking forward to reconnecting and seeing old friends and family this weekend.

Some people are traveling, millions actually. To pinpoint exactly, AAA says about 43 million people are expected to drive somewhere this holiday weekend. And that's up about 34 percent compared to last year.

And, again, that's not the only problem. There's pain at the pump for people who are not only flying, as Stephanie pointed out, but people who are jumping in their cars and traveling either across the country or across town -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Adrienne, I applaud your multitasking reporting and filling the tank. That is job well done. Thanks so much for reporting for us.

BROADDUS: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So, the spike in holiday travel comes as we also see a spike, unfortunately, in COVID cases.

And according to the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the hyper- transmissible Delta variant is likely to blame.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: While this is a 95 percent decrease lower from our peak in early January, it does also reflect a 10 percent increase in the seven-day average from last week.


CAMEROTA: Let's bring in Dr. Ali Khan. He's the dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska's Medical Center.

Dr. Khan, great to see you.

So, I was so interested in what the CDC director, Walensky, said, that cases, she says, have ticked up 10 percent this week over last week. And this is the first upward tick up that I remember in -- us reporting on in many weeks. So that's just going in the wrong direction.

So, do you think that's an anomaly this week, or is there a trend line here?


Yes, this was completely predictable. And, currently, the pandemic really is a story about improving vaccine confidence. So, yes, there are about 13,000 cases a day currently, which is a 10 percent increase.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Khan, sorry to interrupt you. We're just seeing that President Biden is taking the podium at this naturalization ceremony. So let's listen.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before I begin, any family of the people who just got sworn in here today? If you are, stand up.

Congratulations to you all as well. Congratulations. Congratulations. It's a good day, isn't it?

All right, you get to -- and, by the way, if you're around on Sunday, we're going to see the fireworks Fourth of July, our Independence Day.


BIDEN: Mr. Secretary, thank you for administering the oath.

I know how meaningful this event is to you personally and professionally. And I thank you and the director of U.S. citizenship and immigration services, Tracy.

Where is Tracy? Did she -- there you go, Tracy. Thank you very much. Appreciate it for joining us in this service.

Look, today's special guest to all of you, it's my honor to congratulate the 21 of you who have earned the title of -- that our democracy in every -- is equal to being president. It's of the same consequence, citizen, citizen, of the United States of America.

You have each come to America from different circumstances and different reasons and 16 different nationalities. But like previous generation of immigrants, there is one trait you all share in common, courage.


It takes courage to get up and leave everything you know and go to another place, no matter where it is. The only homes you have ever known, the lives, the loved ones that weren't able to come, for a new start in the United States of America.

I get hold a second and just point out that I'm often asked by world leaders that I'm with, particularly autocrats, how can I define America? I was with Xi Jinping in -- on the Tibetan plateau. And he asked me that when I traveled with him 17,000 miles. And it was a private meeting, just he and I and contemporaneous translator.

He said: "Can you define America for me?"

I said: "Yes, I can in one word, one word. Possibilities. Possibilities."

That's what America is built on. It's one of the reasons why we're viewed sometimes as being somewhat egotistical. We believe anything is possible in America. Anything is possible in America.

I think about my own family's journey here. At least two-thirds of it came from a -- got on a coffin ship in the Irish Sea back in 1849, having no idea whether they would make it across the Atlantic to the United States, then to the colony -- to the United States of America, but certain, if they did, they could do better.

And they did. They did better. And they eventually built a life and raised a family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, over generations.

And here I stand on the shoulders and sacrifices of my great-great- grandfather, my great-grandfather, my grand -- and just all that they did, because they believed. They believed, like you believe, anything is possible.

So, I want to thank you all for choosing us. And I mean that sincerely. Thank you for choosing the United States of America, believing that America is worthy of your aspirations, worthy of your dreams. Making this journey, you have done more than move to a new place.

I have often said that America is the only nation in the world founded on an idea. Every other nation in the world is found on the base of either that -- your geography or ethnicity or religion. You can define almost everyone else based on those characteristics.

But you can't define America. I defy you to tell me what constitutes an American. You can't do it. We're an incredibly diverse democracy. But there's one thing that does define us as a country. We're founded on an idea, that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Sounds corny to Americans, as we learn this in grade school, in high school. We have never fully lived up to it, but we have never, ever, ever walked away from it. And every generation opens that aperture a little bit wider.

You know, go back, as I said since our nation's founding, the quintessential idea in America has been nurtured and enriched and advanced by the contributions and sacrifices of so many people, almost all of whom were immigrants.

Native Americans were, in fact, the only people who were here, only people who were here.

And so, folks, it's dreams of immigrants like you that built America and continue to inject new energy, new vitality, new strength. We have seen that most clearly during this pandemic, with immigrants as front- line workers, and as scientists and researchers on the front lines of finding vaccines.

Another defining moment of our nation in the past year was NASA landing Perseverance rover on Mars, flying the Ingenuity helicopter above its surface as I talked to them, what is considered a sort of outer space Wright brothers moment.

I spoke to the team about this historic mission while it was under way, which includes immigrants. The team was made up of immigrants, who told me they grew up looking at the stars, literally. Not a joke. I'm not making this up.


That is what they told me in our conversation, looking at stars and believing that only America could take them there. Well, and we see it each and every single day.

Folks, among you are six members of the United States military.

I ask you all to please stand.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your service.


BIDEN: Thank you.

Folks, please sit. Please sit down.

I was telling our new citizens in the other room before we came in that one of my most, I don't know how to say it, fulfilling moments was as vice president, when I went over to Saddam Hussein's god-awful gaudy palace.

And there were, I think, 167 men and women in uniform standing in that palace, as my wife, who I think -- I'm not sure of this -- may be the only first lady or second lady to go into a war zone, an active war zone -- she was with me.

And we both stood there, as I was able to swear in every one of those military officers as U.S. citizens. And I thought to myself, I thought to myself, what incredible justification for all the things that Saddam didn't believe in.

And they stood. And there were a number there who had won Silver Stars, not -- like you, not citizens when you join -- won Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, Conspicuous Service Medals, Purple Hearts. And I got to swear them in the palace of a dictator.

Also among the incredible group this year are health care workers and front-line workers who went above and beyond the call in the fight against COVID-19. They did so in hospitals, in clinics, at our National Institute of Health, the NIH, at restaurants and retailers, as educators also in our schools.

I want to thank you all for risking your lives to help others keep their country and our country going.

And joining you today are your families. And I want you to know and understand that this is your day as well. I can only imagine the pride you must feel, pride in where you come from and who you are and the lives you built together as America -- in America, and the communities that make you stronger, make us stronger.

All of you represent how immigration has always been essential to America. We're constantly renewing ourselves, constantly. We come out of this pandemic and build an economy, we're going to build it back better. If we're going to do that, we need to fix our immigration system and fully tap the talent and dynamism in our nation.

I have kept my commitment on sending an immigration reform bill to the United States Congress. It includes smart border management and a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people in America.

With Vice President Harris' leadership, we're getting at the root causes of why people are migrating for our Southern border, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in the first place, the violence, the corruption, the gangs, the political instability, the hungry, the natural -- the hunger, the natural disasters.

And I made it clear that we can work together on other critical issues as well, a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, the young people who have only known America their home, a pathway for immigrants who are here on temporary protective status, TPS, who came from countries beset by manmade and natural-made violence and disaster, and a pathway for farmworkers who are here putting food on our tables, but are not citizens.

Folks, in the competition for the 21st century, we need an immigration system that both reflects our values and upholds our laws. We can do both.

I'll close with this. No matter where you come from, or the culture that has made us, the language we speak or the faith we follow, one of the most basic acts of respect is inviting others into your home.


As we close out Immigration Heritage Month, and start our nation's Fourth of July weekend, I can think of no better way to honor each occasion than by welcoming all of you into the White House, the people's house, I might add, designed by an Irishman.


BIDEN: For real -- in a nation shaped by the immigrant's heart.

I look forward to standing with you as you embrace your new rights and responsibilities as American citizens and as generations have done before you.

So, welcome, my fellow Americans.

Now, before we take the Pledge of Allegiance together, I would like to invite one guest.

Sandra Lindsay, please come up on stage.


BIDEN: Sandra emigrated to Queens, New York, from Jamaica when she was 18 years old.

And over the past -- I don't believe this -- 30 years -- she doesn't look 30 years old.


BIDEN: She's pursued her dream of becoming a nurse to allow her to do what she wanted to do most, to give back to her new country.

She earned a bachelor's degree, then a master's degree, then a doctorate degree and her citizenship. And now she's director of nursing for critical care at a hospital on Long Island.

And during the height of the pandemic, she poured her heart and soul into the work to help patients fight for their lives and to keep her fellow nurses safe.

With a grandson at home prematurely, she did what she had to do. She kept her distance and kept him safe. He is safe. But she lost an aunt and an uncle through the virus. But in her pain, she didn't lose hope. When the time came, she was the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside of clinical trials.

She can now hug her grandson. She's out there making sure her patients and folks in her community are getting vaccinated, so they can get back to their lives and their loved ones.

Sandra, if there are any angels in heaven, as I told you, having spent a lot of time the ICU, they're all nurses, male and female. Doctors let you live. Nurses make you want to live, make you want to live, for real.

Sandra's vaccination card and hospital scrubs and the badge that she wore will be included in the Smithsonian's National Museum American History exhibit on COVID-19.


BIDEN: And, today, she's receiving the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Outstanding American By Choice recognition, which recognizes the naturalized citizens who have made significant contributions to our country through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship.

Sandra, thank you for representing the very best of all of us. Thank you all in this room. Thank you again.

This is America. Happy Fourth of July. May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


CAMEROTA: OK, we have been listening there to President Biden welcoming a group of new American citizens.

Those, as we understand, are 21 new Americans in that room, some of them military service members, I believe, who served overseas, and their families. And President Biden there has singled out one new immigrant from Jamaica who was working as a nurse during the pandemic. And all this is part of a big push by the Biden White House to create 10,000 new citizens this next coming week in celebration of July 4.


Let's see if Dr. Ali Khan is still with us.

Dr. Khan, are you still there? I'm sorry to have interrupted. There you are. Thank you for your patience. Really appreciate it.

So, when I interrupted us, I was talking about that there has been an uptick this week in COVID cases. And that's not the direction that we have wanted it to go, obviously.

And so I just don't know how alarmed to be by that. Is that a trend? Or is that just an anomaly?

KHAN: So, no reason to be alarmed, because you're fully vaccinated.

But, first, Alisyn, no apologies needed. That was really inspirational. And it reminds me of my father, who lied about his age, jumped on a cargo ship as a greaser boy for the opportunity to come to America and become an American.

CAMEROTA: That's a great story.

KHAN: So, it was an inspirational moment. So thank you for that.

Yes, cases are going up in the United States, completely predictable, but let's keep that in context. So, this is 13,000 cases. We peaked at 250,000 cases a day in the United States. Deaths are still coming down in the U.S., now less than 300 deaths a day in the United States, way too many.

But really the story, Alisyn, is a vaccine story. Most of the cases coming in -- into hospital now are unvaccinated. So, if you're vaccinated, you're protected. And we really need to encourage people to get vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I mean, the vast majority of people who are dying, tragically, are unvaccinated and going into the hospital. I mean, it's somewhere between 95 percent and 100 percent.

But I want to show you this next one about how many adults are partially vaccinated in the U.S. As you will recall, President Biden had wanted this number to be 70 percent by Fourth of July. Doesn't look like we're going to make that.

KHAN: Correct. It's the -- we're probably going to be about 67, 68 percent vaccinated at least with a single dose of adults.

But let's recall this is just a number on a push to get more people vaccinated. So we have had 154 million people fully vaccinated in the United States. We need to continue to get those numbers up if we're going to continue to get cases down.

And, to be honest with you, these 200 deaths a day would disappear if we increased vaccination rates in the United States.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Khan, I want to -- I know you are a huge mask champion for people certainly who are not vaccinated. And before we were vaccinated, we talked about that a lot.

But there is a lot of confusion about who's supposed to be wearing masks right now, particularly if you have young children, who can't be vaccinated. So let me just play for you some of the conflicting information.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If you are vaccinated, and you are in a situation where you're protected against Delta by about 88 percent against symptomatic disease, and by over 90 percent against severe disease, that, for the most part, you can feel safe without a mask indoor or outdoor.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I think it's very reasonable for parents who are living with kids who are unvaccinated or, for that matter, other family members who are unvaccinated, to consider wearing a mask if they're in a high-risk area or if their job requires a high degree of exposure.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Khan, which one is it? Are parents supposed to wear masks if they're in a high-risk area if they have been doubly vaccinated or not?

KHAN: So, it's actually both, and because the science is spot on. If you're vaccinated, you're very well-protected, although not 100 percent protected, but public health happens at a local level.

And if you're in a community with a lot of disease -- so, right now, I would say if you're in Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas, Wyoming, Utah, places with three to four times the number of cases in the U.S., increasing hospitalization, increasing deaths, absolutely.

I would tell even vaccinated people there that they should be extra cautious, wear a mask when indoors and protect themselves.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Ali Khan, we always appreciate talking to you. Thanks so much for sticking around with us.

KHAN: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, still ahead, the White House coming to the defense of Vice President Harris, after reports of dysfunction in her office. Is she being sabotaged?

And the New York attorney general says investigations into the Trump Organization are not over. So what's next?



CAMEROTA: The White House was just asked about reports of rising tension between the staffs of the president and the vice president.

Axios reports that top White House officials are rushing to defend Vice President Harris. But, according to unnamed sources, her team has had P.R. bungles and public bickering and infighting between her staff and the president's staff.

One of the president's senior advisers told Axios -- quote -- "It's a whisper campaign designed to sabotage her."

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this of the vice president.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will say that the vice president is an incredibly important partner to the president of the United States. She has a challenging job, a hard job, and she has a great, supportive team of people around her.

But other than that, I'm not going to have any more comments on those reports.


CAMEROTA: Let's bring in CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She has some reporting on this. She's also the managing editor of Axios.

So, Margaret, are people trying to sabotage the vice president?


I mean, look, these complaints are pretty widespread. They exist both inside the administration, inside the White House, and also inside Democratic circles and in Congress.