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Interview With Gov. Steve Sisolak (D-NV); Arkansas Governor: Unvaccinated Are Leading To New Hospitalizations; Charlottesville Removes Two Confederate Statues As Onlookers Cheer; Texas State Republicans Resume Push For Voting Restrictions; Surfside Death Toll Mounts As Search Enters 17th Day; Jimmy And Rosalynn Carter Celebrate 75 Years Of Marriage; Hunter Biden's Art Debut Raises Ethical Concerns; Delta Variant Ripping Through South Africa, Causing Third Wave. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 10, 2021 - 13:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST (on camera): Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, concerns are growing this weekend about the potential for a third wave of the coronavirus. The Delta variant is now spreading fast and has become the dominant variant in the U.S.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Five clusters of largely unvaccinated groups are leading this new surge. 27 states are now seeing a rise in COVID cases over the previous week. Many are in areas that have low vaccination rates.

The governor of Arkansas says that is leading to younger people needing hospitalizations.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): 20 to 65 range, they have not gotten vaccinated at the same rate as those that are older. They have resisted it, they've put it off. And so, the result is those are going the hospital now. The average age has gone down 10 years.


WHITFIELD: Here within now, Dr. Joe Thompson. He is the first surgeon general of Arkansas. And now, he is the president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. And a professor at the University of Arkansas for medical sciences. Dr. Thompson, so good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So, the numbers are getting worse in your state. What do you blame?

THOMPSON: Well, I think we've got a combination of a new, more aggressive mutated variant of the COVID-19 virus, combined with low levels of vaccination and protection. And those two things coming together, you are going to be ripe for a forest fire. And I'm afraid that we are on the front end of experiencing that now.

We've jumped from just a few 100 cases a week or so ago. Now, we're having 1,000 or more cases each and every day.

WHITFIELD: And do you -- is it your view that Arkansas as a whole handled a COVID as best it could from the beginning stages until now?

THOMPSON: I think we did well, I think we took a phased approach as the threat went up, our protections went up. We dealt with the political polarization that the nation did, and our state is a very conservative state.

And unfortunately, we had some handcuffs put in place by General Assembly on mask mandates.


WHITFIELD: And what do you mean by that?

THOMPSON: Well, public establishments, local municipalities are not allowed to have mask mandates now and as this scales back up, I'm afraid that, that may be a public health tool that we need to bring back out and put into place.

But the most important thing is getting our vaccination levels up. We have parts of the state that less than 15 percent of the local population is vaccinated.

WHITFIELD: Do you wish there had been more mask mandates?

THOMPSON: I don't think we needed a mask mandate, we need the vaccination rates to go up now. We need to be on offense against this Delta variant or what comes next. With the levels of transmission, we may have another mutation that is either more aggressive, or what I fear the most is could get out from under the protection that the vaccines offer.

WHITFIELD: How do you encourage people to get vaccinated when some of the same people that you want to get vaccinated were reticent about wearing a mask in the first place?

THOMPSON: Well, I think time and experience and just repetitive messaging is important. The governor is out across the state. We need all of our elected leaders Democratic and Republican, we need our faith-based leaders to be issuing the message of what the threat is, and reinforcing the importance of getting protected, moving from an unprotected group which we have far too many, over half of Arkansans are unprotected, moving them into a protected state.

WHITFIELD: So, what will be the metric? How do you measure progress in terms of getting vaccinations up? We just had a reporter who was at a vaccination site and there was hardly anybody there. So, what do you say, how do you urge Arkansans to be proactive to want to get a vaccine as an answer or a tool to combat getting your rise in COVID cases or even being exposed to the Delta variant?

THOMPSON: Well, I think the most important thing is to continue the message of the safety and the effectiveness of these vaccines. Of the people that are hospitalized and have died in our state, 98 -- 99 percent were an unvaccinated status. They were unprotected, and therefore, those deaths were avoidable.

Unfortunately, I think what will happen is more and more people are sick and we start seeing our death rate rise again. People will revisit their decision and hopefully, our message of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines will have a different result moving people from an unprotected state to a protected state.

WHITFIELD: Are you hopeful that there will be a real potential change for the better, especially, by the time kids are going back in school across your state?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm afraid that we're going to be in for some rough times in the next few weeks. The exponential expansion of this virus means we have lost control of it here in our state. And with the number of unprotected people, our hospitals are going to be heavily burdened and our communities are going to feel the impact.


THOMPSON: The message I would give to parents right now is if you have a college student or a teenager that can get the vaccine, and they have not started or not finished getting the vaccine, next week is the time to start.

The vaccines take several weeks to have their full protection go into effect. And we are several weeks away from the start of college and the start of schools.

If you have younger kids, it's time to revisit some of those defensive measures, making sure you're having good hand hygiene, wearing the masks when you're in public, and actually trying to keep social distance from groups that are not vaccinated and may place you at risk.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Joe Thompson, thank you so much. All the best and continue to be well.

THOMPSON: Thank you. All right now to Charlottesville, Virginia, where four years after white supremacists use the protection of Confederate statues as an excuse to rally there. This powerful moment brought cheers to much of the city today.

THOMPSON (voice-over): A pair of Confederate statues, that of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson taken down, put onto the back of trucks, and driven away. The Charlottesville City Council had voted last month to remove the statues following a court battle that lasted more than three years. The mayor there spoke just before the statues came down.


NIKUYAH WALKER, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: As we debate in America, whether critical race theory, actual history can be taught, our community battles with the falsities they have created to enshrine and preserve whiteness as supreme. Taking down the statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with its sin of being willing to destroy black people for economic gains.


WHITFIELD: Evan McMorris-Santoro is live for us now out of Charlottesville, Virginia.

So, Evan, what was the morning like? What was the crowd like when those statues came down?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Fred, that intro -- that bite from the mayor really explains the situation really, really well.

Right behind me is where that statue of Robert E. Lee stood for nearly 100 years until about 7:00 a.m. this morning. And for, at least the last five years or so, that's been a source of great embarrassment here in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Council's voted in a number of times to take this statue down, and they weren't able to do it because of those court battles. It was a long fight. And then, of course, that culminated in that horrible 2017 Unite the Right rally -- in the middle of a battle over the statues.

Finally, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that this city had the right to take its statue down if it wanted to. And today, it went ahead and did it.

And the response from the crowd here, the feeling here this morning, was one of jubilation. There was cheering everywhere, the people who came out were happy to see these statues come down because Charlottesville is wanting it to come down for a long time. So, today, it felt like Charlottesville finally got what it wanted. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Evan McMorris Santoro, thank you so much for that.

All right, coming up, the fight over voting rights now playing out in Texas. A hearing on new restrictions is being held right now. In fact, I'll talk live with the Harris County elections administrator in just a moment.



WHITFIELD: All right, right now a showdown in Texas. Texas Republicans are mounting yet another effort to pass restrictive voting laws in that state as a special legislative session gets underway at this hour.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): And Texas Democrats, while they're considering another mass walkout in a desperate attempt to stop the bill from becoming law. The new law would ban drive-thru voting. It also adds restrictions to voting by mail and gives new powers to partisan poll watchers.

Texas is one of many GOP-led state legislatures passing new voting restrictions, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.


REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): We all have to recognize that there is one party that is no longer playing by the same rules in terms of our democracy. Texas is already the state in the country that it's hardest to vote.

We already every election are in the bottom five in terms of voter turnout. Our issue isn't voter fraud. Our issue is trying to allow people to vote, and they're trying to make it harder, and they're going to make it harder.

And so we have to have a federal response. And that's going to have to be led by the President. No one else is going to be able to get this across the line.


WHITFIELD (on camera): Isabel Longoria is the Harris County Texas elections administrator. Isabelle, good to see you.

All right. So, what's your response to what the congressman is saying, Congressman Allred that, you know, it really is indicative upon the president to intervene here. What kind of federal response if not for congressional legislation could there be?

ISABEL LONGORIA, ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR, HARRIS COUNTY: We need help in Texas, that's the bottom line. So, as the person administering elections in Harris County, which is the Houston area, they fix the typos from the first time around that it was a bad bill. But it's still a bad bill here. And what we're seeing is the continued efforts in Texas, to take away options from voters.

And you know, in the United States, voting is a sacred right. We trust and believe that people should have options that they should be able to vote securely and safely and successfully.

And I'm really worried right now that the trend we're seeing today and the hearings both in the House and Senate here in Texas are just further illustrating that our Texas leadership is not going to do what it takes to protect voters. And so, we're going to need more help from the federal level.

WHITFIELD: And I understand you could be called to testify if you haven't already. If -- have you already been called to testify?

LONGORIA: I have not.




LONGORIA: I'm watching three screens, seeing when we're coming up here.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, what kind of questions would you anticipate if you are called to testify, and what's the message that you're wanting to convey?

LONGORIA: My message is, you know, they're banning drive-thru voting, even though we've done it successfully, safely, securely, four times in Harris County, and voters love it and love using it and feel good using it.

Same with our mail ballot voting. We have now over four elections and way more than before I came on. Send out mail ballot applications to people just so they don't have to print it themselves. Mail ballots are used more often by seniors and folks with disabilities. And those options are being severely stripped down.

We're also seeing things like if a voter tries to report a poll watcher for intimidating them, belittling them picking on them, that that won't count that so voters reporting their own issues won't count when trying to correct poll watchers for bad actions.

And so, time and time again, what I want to reiterate is, the voting options that people love and adore and use safely and securely in Harris County, are being stripped away because of, I guess, conspiracy theories that our leadership would prefer to really trust in here over election experts like myself.

WHITFIELD: Well, how people understand and maybe even some of your fellow Texans understand why those provisions are sacred, in your view, to keep, such as the drive-thru voting.

What is it about Harris County? How do you convey, I guess one of -- some of the obstacles in Harris County and why some of these measures are needed to help people be able to vote?

LONGORIA: Yes, so, I'll take drive-thru voting. You can do anything else from your car right now. That's where the idea came from. You can think from your car, you can buy food from your car, you can do all sorts of curbside things. And especially with a pandemic that is still raging on, we wanted a method that was safe, secure, families could stay in the car together, but still access their shaker right to vote.

And then what we found further, again, after using drive-thru voting for elections, is that it's more often used by our Black, Latino, and Asian voters. Our minority voters who struggle for different reasons, for systemic racism, and other barriers in voting from voting in other ways. And we see that with 24-hour voting, and we see that with mail ballot voting, and we see that with the intimidation of poll watchers.

So, it's much more than just a partisan political fight at the national level because of these conspiracy theories in real life. These options are being taken away from you and your viewers, as voters here in Harris County.

And all I want as an elections administrator is to give voters the options to vote in exactly the way they've asked us, and the freedom to help those voters be successful and safe, and secure in voting.

And I just can't stress that enough. These bills take away our options as elections officials, as the people sworn to defend your right to vote. They're taking our options away from helping you as voters, and it's having a real impact on our minority communities, our seniors, and our voters with disabilities here in Texas.

WHITFIELD: So, not long ago, Democrat -- democratic legislators walked out, so, that this Republican-led legislature couldn't vote there. There is a feeling that, that might happen again. But how long could that go on in order to prevent any passage of these bills?

LONGORIA: I can't speak necessarily to the tactics or, you know, how long it could go on infinity. But what I will say is, how long should it go on as long as it takes to protect our voters in Texas. And if that takes forever, well, I hope they keep doing it forever.

Because if these bad bills keep coming up, you got to do everything we can to stop them the first time and the 50th time.

WHITFIELD: What are voters telling you?

LONGORIA: Voters, I get calls all the time. You know, I'm the one going to the civic club meetings and they're telling me, we don't get it, we vote at drive-thru and it was just fine. Or, you know, they helped me with my paperwork. Maybe there was a little bit of rain. But guess what, I get to stay in my car and be safe throughout that time.

We have stories of 24-hour voting, our medical workers when we had a voting location at a hospital between shifts that taking care of folks were coming in voting at 3:00 a.m., almost in tears telling me this is the first time I've been able to vote in years because when the polls closed earlier in the day, no matter how much I may want to vote, I can't get off of my shift.

Same for our port workers in Houston. Same for our seniors who say, or parents and families who say I have an elderly, you know, mother, she can't get out of the car. And so, we'd rather come through the drive- thru voting so it's safer for us.

Or I've got my kids, it's hard to take them out of the car and strap them back in, and so, I want to be able to vote with them in the car so that they can see mom, dad voting, and illustrate that to them.

So, I've heard nothing but positives about all of these options, and that's why it's really even more confusing to me as to why they're still on the chopping block in this -- these bills in Texas.


WHITFIELD: Yes, and again, there were no widespread cases of fraud. And there were no successful court challenges stating the case as well.

Isabel Longoria, keep us posted. Thank you so much.

All right, coming up next, temperatures in the West once again soaring into the triple digits. The governor of Nevada joins me live to talk about how to combat climate change.

Plus, 75 years of love and friendship, and leadership. Former President Jimmy Carter reveals the secret to the longest marriage in presidential history.



WHITFIELD: All right, a massive heatwave is torching records across western states. Heat alert stretching from the U.S.-Canadian border, all the way down to the border with Mexico.

The worst of the heat is expected to peak in the southwest of Central Valley of California. This weekend, where temperatures will soar well into the triple digits.

CNNs Camila Bernal is in Las Vegas. Camilla, how are people holding up?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Fred, I can tell you that after they come here and take a picture, they're headed back to a pool or casino, really anywhere with air conditioning. And that's because this weekend in Las Vegas, we could either tie or break the all-time record high of 117 degrees.

The National Weather Service, telling people not to gamble with these dangerous conditions. A lot of the locals know how to handle this. But there are many tourists in town for the big fight, for concerts, for celebrations, and they may not always be used to this kind of heat.

So, I talked to some of those tourists, and here's what they said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feels a lot different than the 100 in where we're from. Here, it's a lot drier, and a lot harder to breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went out early so that we can roam around, said it's 9:00 and it's all burning. It's like -- it's like hell here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) that door we realized how hot it was.

BERNAL: No, OK, tell me what was that like? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that was too much, you know, and we put -- literally, wanted to close the door and get back inside.


BERNAL: And people are having fun here, but it is dangerous. And it's not just about people's health. It also is making the drought, the severe drought in the western part of the United States even worse.

We're talking about water, electricity, the high fire danger. And so, overall, this is a serious situation. And a lot of the officials that I've been talking to just want people to be very mindful of what's going on here in this region. Fred.

WHITFIELD: You got to be real careful. I mean, this is life- threatening heat. Camila Bernal, thank you so much for that.

Let's talk more about all of this with the governor of Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak. Thank you so much for being with this, Governor.

GOV. STEVE SISOLAK (D-NV): Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic. So, you just saw our reporter there in Las Vegas, where that city broke the record yesterday, and it could potentially break the heat record again, this weekend. I understand it's 102. That is unbelievable.

I mean, what are your concerns about how people are going to stay cool?

SISOLAK: Well, it is warm right now. And it could get up to, you know, 116, 117, 118 this afternoon.



SISOLAK: And we understand that. And most everything is air- conditioned. It's still a great place to come and vacation. We encourage people to come and the pools are incredible. And all the properties are air-conditioned.

But you know, we're going through a little bit of a heat snap right now. And we'll come out of this like anything else. But this is part of the overall picture, the increase in climate change how it has affected us on the West Coast, and it's something that we're learning to deal with.

WHITFIELD: Yes, well, OK, heat snap, you call it that. But then, yes, it's part of the, you know, the big climate change picture. In fact, to you, an eight -- you were one of eight western governors, both Democrat and Republican talking to the president in a virtual meeting that took place on June 30th.

So, what plans were made if any? What was the discussion about climate change? About this kind of heatwave, these dangerous conditions?

SISOLAK: Well, the issues that we're dealing with our climate change is more it's inclusive of our water shortage that we're having right now, of our wildfire situation.

We've got a good agreement. All the western governors are working together to be first responders. We're sending resources, wherever the fires are, and trying to get things handled from that basis.

There's a great deal of cooperation, the federal government has been good in terms of the BLM, and wildfires, and whatnot, and getting us resources in order to handle this thing.

But that it is heating up all over the country. Climate change is real. You know, we've done everything we can to preserve water out here in the West, and have these resources available to fight the fires when they come about.

But people need to realize that 85 to 90 percent of these fires are human costs. You know, they're caused by as a result of a catalytic converter campfire that wasn't put out or the last big one we had in Reno up north was a result of the spark from someone that was just target shooting out in the wilderness. So, that causes a problem as well.

And today, up in Reno, my staff just called me 10-15 minutes ago, we've got visible smoke in Reno that's coming across from the California wildfires. So, it's --


WHITFIELD: Hopefully, we didn't lose your signals there.

So I wonder, you know, Governor, you talk about water supply. I mean, reservoirs are drying up fast. And big cities like the one are you in, Las Vegas, rely heavily on these water supplies as well as water from the Colorado River.

When you talk about resources coming from the federal government, what does that mean as it relates to water?

Oh. While we can see you, we have lost the audio.

So, Governor Sisolak, we do appreciate your time with us as long as you were. Try to stay cool in that serious, as he called it, it's getting warm out there. No, it's a serious heatwave out there.

Thank you so much, Governor.

All right. Still ahead, the death toll in Surfside, Florida, rises to 86 as crews continue searching the rubble of a collapsed condo. We will go live to the scene next.


[13:35:32] WHITFIELD: Officials in Surfside, Florida, gave an update on the ongoing search efforts this morning. And 86 people are now confirmed dead after a condo building collapsed 17 days ago.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava had this message for the community.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Please pray for all of those who have lost loved ones and whose hearts are broken from this unspeakable tragedy and for those who are still waiting.


WHITFIELD: Natasha Chen is with us now from Surfside.

Natasha, what is happening there?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, the search continues. There's still potentially 43 people unaccounted for.

Mayor Cava, who you heard from just there, also reminded folks that this is the largest non-hurricane response in the history of the state of Florida.

So this is a huge effort right here that's been going on now for more than two weeks.

Meanwhile, as they continue to search for people in the rubble, there's an investigation going on here into why this building collapsed and how to keep other people in the area safe in their buildings.

The town of Surfside hired a structural engineer, Allyn Kilsheimer, shortly after the collapse of this building. He has been taking a look at the north tower.

Champlain Towers North is a sister building to the one that fell, built around the same time with a similar design.

So they have been drilling into the concrete there. The samples have been sent off to a lab.

Kilsheimer says he needs to actually get access to the material that's being pulled off of the pile right now.

Here he is describing what he needs to access to investigate and also the types of conversations he's having with other building officials.


ALLYN KILSHEIMER, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Once they're down to the basement slab, which they were getting closed to yesterday afternoon, we need to go in there and be able to drill holes in the ground, dig pits through the slab to look at the foundation and look at the souls and stuff below.

I understand that a number of building officials are going to get together and look at buildings all along the ocean.

So I am putting together a little list so I can discuss with them the kind of things that I would look for, if I were doing it.


CHEN: And the north tower that he has been inside of, and giving my colleague, Rosa Flores, a tour of yesterday, he said that while there has been a voluntary -- relocation of the residents in that building, he noticed more cars parked there now, than 20 days ago.

It's unclear how many are heeding the volunteer relocation, how many are choosing to leave that building at this time.

A little bit of good news, though, through all of this struggle and pain, is there was a cat reunited with a family yesterday. We were told about Binks, a cat who lived on the ninth floor of Champlain Towers South.

Volunteers had been feeding cats in the vicinity and one of them noticed this cat, recognized it, brought it to the animal shelter. It was positively identified and Blinks was reunited with his family -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right. That's pretty amazing.

Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right. When asked the secret to an enduring marriage, former President Jimmy Carter said, "It's best to choose the right woman."

Cleary, he did. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are celebrating 75 years of marriage this week, the longest in presidential history.

He explains how they have stayed so long in all of these years.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: What's the secret when you don't see eye- to-eye on something for how you patch it back together?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the end of the day, we become reconciled and overcome all of the differences that arose during the day.

We also make up and give each other a kiss before we go to sleep, still in bed. And we always read the Bible every night. We share different aspects of our life.

So we really try to become completely reconciled each night.


WHITFIELD: Wednesday was the official anniversary. And today, they're celebrating in their hometown of Plains, Georgia, hosting a reception at a local high school with a few 100 of their friends there.

Joining us right now, Julian Zelizer. He's an historian and professor at Princeton University and author of "Jimmy Carter, A Biography of the 39th President."

Julian, so good to see you.


WHITFIELD: The Carter's relationship truly has been a special bond. Rosalynn having been described as the former president's most trusted adviser ever.

Tell us about that.

ZELIZER: Yes. It's not just a very good marriage, it's a great partnership.

When he was governor of Georgia, when he president of the United States, even since the presidency and the Carter Center, they really work together very well. She's always been an advisor to him, someone he trusts and listens to.


And I think that partnership has been at the heart of his political life, not just personal life.

WHITFIELD: The Carters really do have multiple legacies, don't they? During office, their union and then their work post-presidency, just to name a few.

Which, in your view, has really made the greatest impact?

ZELIZER: I can't separate them. I mean, presidency and post-presidency for this couple, both have been influential.

When he was in the White House, when they were in the White House, their partnership was very important to the country. They were very toned down. They didn't live in a very pompous lifestyle.

That was important for a country reeling from Watergate and Vietnam and distrust in government.

So that moment certainly was important for the nation, not just for their own family.

WHITFIELD: That whole down-to-earth kind of thread, we are seeing that at a celebration at their high school taking place in Plains, Georgia.

Then we are looking at images right now.

This couple has attended the same church in Plains, Georgia, since 1981. President Carter even teaches Sunday school there.

So let's talk about the role religion has played in their lives.

ZELIZER: It's very important. When Jimmy Carter ran in 1976, many evangelical Christians supported him. He was very open about his religious faith and the role it played and how he thought of different issues.

And right through today, it's difficult to separate the church from who they are. He's always seen a convergence between the civic good and the role of religion in society.

And so I think it's fitting that the institution is a part of the story.

WHITFIELD: OK. Aside from their amazing marriage, another part of their legacy, particularly President Carter, you know, putting in place safety regulations while he was in office for all Americans that are still in place today. I am talking about things like seatbelts and airbags in cars.

Do you see a parallel to what President Biden is trying to do, by encouraging everyone to get vaccinated?

ZELIZER: Absolutely. I think there are different safety issues that every president faces.

But there's a commonality in trying to think of, how do you elevate civic obligation, the obligation that all of us have to the common good.

And that can be requiring people to wear seatbelts. And it can also be figuring out how to spread vaccines so that we are all safe as a nation.

WHITFIELD: OK. I ask you that because you did write about it on, "The Blunt Truth About Vaccinations." So thank you so much for writing about that.

Julian Zelizer, always good to see you. I appreciate it.

ZELIZER: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Hunter Biden's debut in the art world, well, it's raising a few ethical eyebrows. The issue, conflict of interest. His first pieces will reportedly go on sale for up to a half million dollars.

The White House says it's on top of any ethics concerns. Some say it's still not a good look. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty reports.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These paintings by President Biden's son, Hunter, are sparking ethics concerns for the White House.


SERFATY: Hunter's artwork is set to be displayed in Seoul this fall at private and invite-only showings in Los Angeles and New York City, priced between $75,000 to half a million per piece.

Some ethics experts are crying foul.

WALTER SHAUB JR, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: It just is impossible that this art from an unknown artist would be selling at this price if it didn't have the Biden name attached to it.

The cache that comes with buying this art is getting to say that you own art created by the president's son.

SERFATY: Sources tell CNN the White House has been involved in forming a deal between a Soho, New York, gallery owner, George Burgess and H. Biden to attempt to address any ethics concerns.

Two sources familiar with the arrangement say neither Hunter Biden or the administration will have any knowledge of who has big or purchased the artwork. It will be kept anonymous.

And if there is any unusual behavior, like the offer price is too high, the gallery is expected to turn down the offer.

SHAUB: Now they've created opportunities for people to try to get preferential treatment without even having to pay the price. This is just really an amateur mistake.


SERFATY: At the start of this administration, President Biden vowed to avoid even the perception of conflicts of interest.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's how I looked at it. It said, the foul line is 15-feet away from the basket. Never get any closer than 17-feet. Because it really is a matter of the public trust.

SERFATY: In response to concerns over the sale of Hunter's art, the White House, in a statement to CNN, says, "The president has established the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history. And his family's commitment to rigorous processes like this is a prime example."


On the gallery Web site, Hunter's biography does not mention he is the son of the president.

Instead, detailing his art style and describing him as someone who has devoted his artistic career to the individual arts.

In the past, Hunter has been open with his battle addiction and has suggested that art helps.

Telling the "New York Times," that "Painting puts my energy towards something positive. It keeps me away from people and places where I shouldn't be."

(on camera): And the president has faced scrutiny over his son's actions before, namely Hunter's business dealings, which was a big issue during the presidential campaign.

And Hunter Biden still also faces a federal tax investigation.

Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, South Africa experiences its worst week of the pandemic. Some coronavirus patients are waiting as long as nine hours for a hospital bed. We'll have an exclusive report next.



WHITFIELD: All right, now to a CNN exclusive. South Africa is reaching a breaking point in the coronavirus pandemic, all caused by a surge of the Delta variant.

Some patients are being forced to wait nine hours for a hospital bed. Ambulances carrying sick patients are being turned away from hospitals.

And with the critical shortage of vaccine, South African's third wave of COVID is showing no signs of slowing.

Here's CNN's David McKenzie.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They hoped it would be better, hoped that COVID-19 had done its worst. But 16 months in, and Mohammed Patel and his paramedic team are in a new more dangerous fight.

(on camera): What has the Delta variant done to COVID-19 here?

MOHAMMED PATEL, PARAMEDIC: It has caused a lot of chaos. There's a whole lot of patients that are suffering. Their oxygen levels are dropping drastically daily.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): South African scientists tracking Delta saw it dominate new infections in just weeks.

Patel takes us into a home south of the city --

PATEL: Hello, good morning.

MCKENZIE: -- where Delta is tearing through families, ripping through the country's largely unvaccinated population. Less than 1 percent of South Africans have been fully vaccinated.

The 67-year-old patient has critically low oxygen levels.

PATEL: We're going to get you through, OK?

There's patients that are suffering at home because they aren't able to get hospital beds. There is no spaces in hospital. There's no ventilators available. It's completely a chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third wave has really been far more devastating and far more overwhelming.

MCKENZIE: For months now, CNN has requested access to hospitals, but we were denied. So the true impact of this brutal Delta wave has been largely hidden from view.

But CNN obtained this disturbing video from the emergency room at a Johannesburg hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patients are awaiting on stretchers. They're in cubicles. Doctors are overwhelmed. Nurses are overwhelmed.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Not enough beds. And what does that result in, in these waiting areas of the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- it's chaos.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The senior doctor wanted to speak out, reveal what they call war zone-like conditions.

We agreed to hide their identity because they were afraid of reprisals from the government.

In recent days, they said, the bodies couldn't be wrapped fast enough to make space for the sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are patients who are dying while they're awaiting to be seen, while they're awaiting to go to the ward because the resources are just being overwhelmed by the onslaught of patients.

MCKENZIE (on camera): How does that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sense of helplessness. But then also almost a blunting, a desensitization that we're doing everything we can, but it's still not enough.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Patel's team is often diverted from hospitals with critically ill patients. They search for hours to find a bed. So a charity called Gift of the Givers constructed this 20-bed field

clinic staffed with volunteer doctors and nurses in less than five days.

Every single bed could give a sick patient a chance.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with new concerns about surging coronavirus cases in parts of the U.S.

The CDC announcing new guidance as schools prepare to reopen for the fall term. Some in just a matter of weeks. Health officials are now saying in-person learning is the priority.

They're calling on schools to promote vaccinations. But they also say schools should be very cautious about removing the measures meant to protect students.

It comes as the Delta variant is spreading across the country. It's now the dominant strain in the U.S.

And 27 states are now seeing a rise in COVID cases over the previous week. And many are in areas that have low vaccination rates.

And the Delta variant is in all 50 states.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live for us now out of Little Rock, Arkansas, one of the states seeing a surge.


So, Polo, what are you hearing and seeing there? And are people showing up to get their vaccines at the location where you are?