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Delta Variant Now Half of New Cases; Vaccination Progress Stalls; Adams Projected to Win NYC Primary. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired July 7, 2021 - 09:30   ET



LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And said, you know, I have not heard from this person, but never provided any sort of information or even contact to follow-up on.

So they're following every lead, but what they have confirmed of the people who were actually inside that building is the reason there is a bit of a gap in those numbers.


Leyla Santiago, on the scene, thanks very much.

Well, the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 now makes up more than half of all new coronavirus infections in the U.S. This according to the CDC. In the state of Missouri, conditions are so dire that the U.S. government is now deploying a surge team to the state to provide health support.

Missouri reported the second highest number of new COVID infections in this country, only behind Arkansas. Not surprisingly, Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Health officials say people living in these low vaccination areas are more at risk.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warning that if you have not been vaccinated, now is the time to do it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have more vaccine than we need. I mean we have vaccines for everyone and anyone who needs it and there are places in the world where people would do anything to get vaccine, and yet we have a substantial proportion of people in very specific regions of the country who just do not want to get vaccinated despite the fact that we have a significant threat. So if ever there was a reason to get vaccinated, this is it.


SCIUTTO: Here to discuss, Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Disease at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Good morning. Nice to have you back, Dr. Sax.


SCIUTTO: I wonder if you can put the delta variant in some context for us because it's not the first new variant of COVID that we've seen. You have the U.K. variant. You had the South Africa, Brazil, and they've all been pretty well controlled by the vaccine. Is there something particular about delta that concerns you and puts it in a different category than those other previous variants?

SAX: Yes, this particular variant seems to be the champ, unfortunately, as far as contagiousness, and so it's about 60 to 70 percent more likely to be transmitted. So the kind of activities that maybe before wouldn't have led to transmission of the virus, now could because of delta.

It does have some of the vaccine evasive properties of some of the other variants, but it does look like our vaccines still work against preventing severe disease. And I think I want to underscore that. You know, last -- recently in the state of Maryland, all of the people who died of COVID-19 were people who were unvaccinated. We're finding that 99 percent of the people with severe disease are unvaccinated. So the vaccines are preventing severe disease even from delta.

SCIUTTO: And that, by the way, folks, as you're listening, is not an exaggeration. It is literally 99 percent, more than 99 percent, for instance, in June of COVID deaths were among the unvaccinated.

I want you to listen to what the governor of West Virginia had to say about people who have yet to be vaccinated because I want to get at the importance of a message like this.

Have a listen.


GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): If you're out there in West Virginia and you're not vaccinated today, what's the downside? If all of us were vaccinated, do you not believe less people would die? And if you're not vaccinated, you're part of the problem rather than part of the solution.


SCIUTTO: There is a politics to this that red states tend to have lower vaccination rates. So what is the importance of, particularly Republican politicians like this one, Mitch McConnell said something similar yesterday as well, trying to pierce that vaccine hesitant bubble?

SAX: Yes, that's a really important point. There are a bunch of reasons why people haven't been vaccinated. And one of, I think, the worst reasons is the politics behind it because the science really doesn't care whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. It basically just -- it's going to find the unvaccinated people and the more contain contagious variants are really going to find the unvaccinated people.

So it is something that we can -- if we can remove the politics from it, I think a lot of people who are now sort of hesitant or distrustful of the vaccine will go ahead and get it done. Certainly I think we should continue to listen to people, listen to their concerns and push forward as fast as possible because that's really, you know, our only way out of this pandemic, is getting as many people vaccinated as possible.

SCIUTTO: Part of the Biden administration's strategy to reach more of these people, get them vaccinated is that public messaging, but it's other things that they've unveiled in the last 24 hours, one of which is encouraging clinics in workplaces, that kind of thing. Also to give people time off to get a vaccine, or at least hours off to get a vaccine. It's pretty quick these days.

Are steps like that, do you think, able to make a difference?

SAX: They really do make a difference. It's remarkable, when I talk about it with patients, how many people don't do it just because it's inconvenient or they have to take time off from work or they have child care responsibilities. Making getting the vaccine as frictionless as possible is one of the key -- one of the key efforts that we have to go forward with because, remember when we started this, there was short supply.


It was very hard. People had to sign up. It was complicated. Some people still think that's the case. That's really not the case now. And the more places that we can make them available, workplaces, pharmacies, community centers, in people's homes, the better. And I think that that's where we're headed next to find some remaining portion who are not getting the vaccine.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, folks, please take advantage.

SAX: Please.

SCIUTTO: They're out there and they're easy to get.

Dr. Paul Sax, thanks very much.

SAX: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: New this morning, a CNN analysis of CDC data shows that many of the demographic groups that have been hit hardest by COVID-19 remain under represented among Americans who have been vaccinated.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me live this morning.

So, Elizabeth, walk us through these numbers here because this, you know, this gets to real vulnerabilities.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That is right, Jim. You know, people of color, as we know, were so disproportionately hit by COVID-19. And the hope was that once the vaccine came out, that those communities in particular would get vaccinated so that they could be protected. And, unfortunately, that turns out is not what has happened.

We would expect at the very least that people would be vaccinated in proportion to the numbers in the population. So, for example, 60 percent of the U.S. is white. And it is true, it worked for white folks, that -- that number works, about 60 percent of white people are vaccinated.

But let's take a look at what those numbers look like for other groups. So, whites and Asians are vaccinated in proportion to their population. However, for blacks, they represent 12 percent of the population but only 9 percent of the vaccinated population. Latinos represent 17 percent of the population, but only 15 percent of the vaccinated population.

And you might say, well, those differences aren't huge, 17 versus 15, 12 versus 9, but that represents more than 5 million people, more than 5 million black and Latino people who are not vaccinated. So that number is really, really important.

There are also disparities when you look geographically. And Dr. Fauci sort of mentioned this when we heard from him earlier in our show.

So let's take a look at what the geographic difference is. If you look at the southern part of the United States, it represents about 38 percent of the population, but only 34 percent of the vaccinated population. Again, that is millions of people who are not being vaccinated.


SCIUTTO: Are there differences among age groups, too?

COHEN: There are. So we know that elderly people have availed themselves of the vaccines in great numbers really since the beginning of the rollout, but that is not as true for younger people.

So let's take a look at folks ages 18 to 39. They represent 30 percent of the population, but only 27.5 percent of the vaccinated population. Again, millions of people, opportunity lost, not getting vaccinated.

You know, part of the issue here is that younger people don't tend to get as sick and don't tend to die as often and so, really, this is a time for young people to step up and say, hey, I care about more than just me. I care about my grandma. I care about older people. I care about people with underlying conditions. I'm going to get vaccinated for them. Hopefully that will happen.

SCIUTTO: That's the thing, it's about you and it's about others and it's, frankly, how the virus spreads and mutates, right, when it has opportunity.

COHEN: Right. That's right.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, President Biden holding a meeting on how to fight the rising number of cyberattacks on the U.S. New details on the White House's strategy, next.



SCIUTTO: Right now President Biden is meeting with key leaders in his administration and members of the intelligence community as the White House races to finalize a government-wide strategy to deter future ransomware attacks. It comes after two more major cyberattacks in just the past week by criminal actors believed to be based in Russia. And Russia knows about them.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins me from the White House.

So, Jeremy, listen, this is an issue that multiple administrations have struggled with. They've tried sanctions. They've tried warnings. A whole host of things. Do we know what the Biden administration is considering that's different?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that there is this kind of government-wide inter agency effort underway right now to formulate a comprehensive government strategy to not only combat these ransomware attacks, but also help companies harden their defenses against these attacks.

This effort includes looking at how to stop these attacks and what authorities the government can leverage, and also the ways that they can help these private companies harden their defenses.

We do know that President Biden is meeting today, as we speak actually, with key leaders from across the government, including from the State Department, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the intelligence community, and that really does speak to the extent to which this ransomware effort really does hit all different parts of government and the need for an across- the-government kind of response to this.

We do know that President Biden raised this issue of ransomware this his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which happened three weeks ago today, and we know that this latest attack on this company Kaseya appears to have been carried out by this Russian-based group REvil, and the White House has not yet made a firm attribution here, but the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki making very clear today that President Biden and U.S. officials have said that if Russia does not take action, the U.S. could.




JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the president made clear and said to President Putin is something that our experts in these conversations that are ongoing with Russians are conveying clearly as well, which is that even if it's a criminal actor, even if it's someone that's not the federal government, even if it's a bad guy or bad gal in Russia, you have a responsibility there and you have a responsibility to take action. And if you don't take action, we reserve the right to.


DIAMOND: And one thing that's interesting here, Jim, is the question is, how can these attacks still be going on even after President Biden made very clear to President Putin that there would be consequence if indeed these attacks continued, whether they were from the Russian state or from groups based in Russia.

But I spoke with an official this morning who told me, we did expect more of these attacks to continue, and that is because these attacks have been happening long before President Biden came into office, and they expect those to continue. So an ongoing problem here certainly at the White House.

SCIUTTO: And we'll see if the U.S. follows through on that threat, right, with some sort of attack on Russia.

Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.

Well, the results are in, former police captain, Eric Adams, will be the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor in the race there.

Up next, how crime and public safety played a key role in this race and could impact others around the country.



SCIUTTO: CNN projects that Eric Adams will narrowly win the Democratic primary race for New York City mayor. Tuesday's ranked choice vote count, which included nearly 126,000 absentee ballots cast, shows the Brooklyn borough president and retired NYPD captain leading by a single percentage point in the final round over Kathryn Garcia.

Adams spoke with CNN this morning about criticism that as a former police officer he will not support police reform.


ERIC ADAMS (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: If black lives really matter, then it means that we won't have senseless gang violence in New York, Chicago, Atlanta. I say that it's time for us to start believing that we should have the right tweets, we should have the right safe streets.


SCIUTTO: CNN political commentator Errol Louis is the political anchor for Spectrum News New York One here in New York.

Great to have you on, Errol.

A couple points about this race. One is this, you know, there are a lot of folks who thought this was going to be a progressive moment for New York City politics, yet Eric Adams, relative moderate in this field. What happened in your view?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in my view, New York is a very progressive place compared to the rest of the country. It's just that certain jobs are not necessarily the ones where you want to put wild-eyed progressives who are ready to do social experimentation. It's really going to be on the other side of city hall, in the city council, where I think you're going to find a lot of progressives who appear to have been elected, or at least nominated.

When it comes, though, to making sure we're safe from terrorism, keeping the streets safe, running the largest school system in the country and so forth, the will of the voters seems to be that a little more moderate approach is what's needed.

SCIUTTO: How about crime? The role of violent crime here in New York has been seeing a real surge in crime, although the NYPD did say yesterday that compared to June last year murder was down somewhat significantly but, big picture, going up. How much did that play into choosing a former police captain as the Democratic nominee in your view?

LOUIS: Several of the polls -- really all of the polls coming down the home stretch showed that voters were most concerned about disorder and public safety and violent crime more so than any other issue. It was an even bigger issue than COVID, Jim, that's how important it is to people because when the streets don't feel safe or you see attacks on the subways, which we've seen, people being pushed on the tracks and so forth, people get really, really upset. And that is job one of government, obviously. It's what voters said that they want the next mayor to deal with, without delay.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we were out with police on patrol a couple nights a couple weeks ago and we saw exactly what they're facing.

I wonder, given the margin in this race, but also the major hiccup early on in the first count of these ranked choice ballots when they accidentally -- the board of elections put in sort of test votes that should not have been in the count, do you expect either Maya Wiley, the civil rights attorney, or Kathryn Garcia, to challenge these results or ask for an audit?

LOUIS: I don't know if they're going to do that, but I know that they're going to take their time for exactly the reason you described, the board of elections had some major screw-ups. The whole new process of ranked-choice voting is a little bit opaque. We don't really quite understand all of the nooks and crannies of it. And so I think they're going to be especially cautious.

We should keep in mind, Jim, that here's no particular urgency for them to concede. You know, the general election is on until November. So it's not like you need Democratic unity so that you can hurry up and run against the other site. In New York, first of all, there kind of isn't much of another side. The Republican Party is really very much in decline. And, secondly, you know, we've got until November to figure it out. So they're right to take their time and make sure that all of this was done properly.

SCIUTTO: So does ranked choice voting, is it here to stay in New York? And do other communities around the country look and say, hey, that's something we want to try, or, no, we're not going to do it?

LOUIS: I would urge other -- other jurisdictions to look carefully at what has happened here before making a decision. There are some pluses and there were some minuses, you know. I would say to the rest of the country, don't be swayed by reformers who tell you that it's all upside and there were no problems.


There are some problems and we've experienced some of them. And we'll see whether or not voters want to keep it. There's at least some talk from some legislators of trying to undo the law that created ranked- choice voting. Overall, though, I think people are going to be satisfied, in part, Jim, because we had really high turnout compared to what we usually get. And that alone is a reason to think that we had a successful election this time.

SCIUTTO: Errol Louis, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, millions in Florida and along the East Coast are facing storm surge, heavy wind and rain as Elsa is about to make landfall. We'll have much more on the storm, next.