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Maryland Lands On The Top 10 States With Fewest New Infections; Delta Variant Causing COVID Surges In Europe And Asia; Confederate Statues Removed In Charlottesville; Biden Looks For Progress On Russia; Joe Biden To Deliver Major Voting Rights Speech On Tuesday; Record Heat Wave Plagues Western USA; Growing Demand Drives U.S. Gas Prices Past $3.00 A Gallon. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 10, 2021 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: New cases and deaths are rising. Many states are seeing a common thread running them all.

Plus four years after these Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia, were a flashpoint for a violent rally, today they are gone. So what's next?

And heat wave more than 100 record high temperatures could be smashed in the next few days.

I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Great to have you along with us. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world on this Saturday. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM."

Well, this is not a number that anyone wants to see. The United States surpassing 20,000 new COVID-19 cases every day for the fourth day in a row. Wrong direction there. And 27 states say their case counts are on the rise again as the virus' Delta variant spreads across the country. It's now the dominant strain in the U.S., but vaccination rates continue to lag across much of the country.

The head of the CDC pointed to more than nine million people living in counties where's those rates are lower than 40 percent, and where COVID cases are rising. All this as schools prepare to reopen. In some areas, that's just a few weeks away. Yesterday the CDC said in-person learning must be a priority this year and they're calling on schools to promote vaccinations, but also that schools should be very cautious about removing measures meant to protect students.

In Maryland the numbers are better than most. It's one of 10 states with the fewest new infections. 75 percent of adults have at least one dose of the vaccine. And Maryland health officials can now say they have fully vaccinated more than half their residents.

Joining me now is Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader.

Thanks so much for coming on. So, Dennis, low infections doesn't mean no infections. Here's what the state's communications director tweeted about the June data, saying 100 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Maryland occurred in people who were unvaccinated, 95 percent of new COVID-19 cases in Maryland occurred in people who were unvaccinated, 93 percent of new COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland occurred in people who were unvaccinated.

How frustrating is this for health officials like yourself?

DENNIS R. SCHRADER, MARYLAND HEALTH SECRETARY: Well, thanks, Pamela, for having me on tonight. Well, Governor Hogan has been very aggressive, which is how we've met the numbers that you saw. You mentioned earlier 75 percent of our adult population, 18 and over, has received vaccinations. We're focused on getting the job done. In the last seven months we vaccinated 3.7 million people, which is why our numbers are lower. And we felt we still have 1.4 million individuals, 12 and over, to get through. And that's our focus.

And by doing that, we're really encouraging the population, the more people we get vaccinated, the safer we'll be from these variants.

BROWN: Yes, I mean, what is the takeaway for you when you look at these numbers of how COVID is still impacting unvaccinated people?

SCHRADER: It's a grave concern. We have pivoted now to a community- based approach. We're going into communities. We know where we need to be and we are setting up clinics, working with trusted people in the community and that seems to be working. We are still having a very brisk vaccination rate throughout the state.

BROWN: What do you think -- I was just talking to a Republican congressman earlier about, you know, Biden saying we're going to elevate door-to-door efforts and go -- you know, go directly to the people who need this. And there has been this Republican outcry about it.

Do you think the door-to-door grassroots effort is a helpful tactic?

SCHRADER: Well, we're staying out of the partisan issues. Our focus is on people and we're going to go to wherever people are to get them the vaccine. We're going to use whatever technique works. We're finding -- for example, we're working with Hispanic owner of shopping centers in our community, and she and her husband have been offering 10 percent discounts for those who shop there and get a shot for their staff and their shoppers and in the last several weeks they've vaccinated 500 people.

So you'll notice that from an equity basis, our data, according to the Kaiser Foundation, is very high. We're one of the second highest states in the country for vaccinating Hispanics and one of the fourth highest for African-Americans, so we're staying focused and staying out of that debate.

BROWN: What is Maryland doing right that other states could learn from?

SCHRADER: Well, Governor Hogan pushed from the very beginning to be very disciplined and we had our mass vax sites get as many people vaccinated as possible to shut off the spread of the disaster. [19:05:12]

And that's worked wonderfully and we've executed on his orders and gotten that done. And we believe the more people we vaccinate the better it's going to be.

BROWN: Where do you think Maryland can do better with its vaccinations? You have a high vaccination rate but there are still people who even with all this time, with vaccines being available, they're not getting it.

SCHRADER: Well, we are reaching out to the unvaccinated community and talking to them. We're doing surveys. They're telling us what they want. The one thing that we really need is the FDA to move along getting these vaccines approved. Of course following the science but they need to step it up. And we believe that once that happens we're going to be able to reach a lot more people and our survey -- that's what our survey data is telling us.

BROWN: Yes. That's what I was going to follow up on, what it revealed, the survey data. You know, and as you pointed out the FDA hasn't given formal approval. It's just been emergency authorization. So does that seem to be the biggest issues for the vaccine holdouts right now?

SCHRADER: That's the -- about a third of them are telling us that, and I think I've seen that number in other publications around the country. That about a third of the people are saying they want to wait to see. But I think once that's done of course we want them to do it in a scientific way but we really need to speed it up by whatever means possible.

BROWN: OK, and really quickly, what else do these surveys reveal? I just think it's really important to understand their thinking.

SCHRADER: We also -- we also are finding that physicians are the most trusted. Our physicians throughout the state, we have a primary care model here in Maryland and our primary care physicians have really stepped up nicely. And that's another very trusted source and we're going to continue using that channel and we're also finding that pharmacies are doing a good job.

BROWN: All right. Dennis Schrader, thanks for joining us, making some time for us on this Saturday evening. We appreciate it.

SCHRADER: Thank you, Pamela. Good to be with you.

BROWN: Well, Maryland isn't the only place facing a wave of coronavirus cases. The rapid spread of the Delta variant is causing an uptick worldwide.

CNN has reporters stationed around the world following the latest developments in the global pandemic.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Kristie Lu Stout from Hong Kong. Now across Asia the Delta variant is fueling a growing wave of new COVID-19 cases.

(Voice-over): In Thailand coronavirus deaths are climbing. The country has ordered new restrictions in the capital Bangkok and surrounding provinces starting Monday, including mall closures and limits of travel and social gatherings.

(On-camera): Cases are spiking in Vietnam with the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have tightened restrictions.

(Voice-over): Indonesia has reported a record number of deaths fueled by the Delta variant with portable oxygen supplies running out in six towns. South Korea is raising its pandemic curves to the highest level in and around the capital Seoul from Monday.

(On-camera): The Delta variant is also ravaging the Pacific Island nation of Fiji. The mortuary in Fiji's main hospital is already filled to capacity.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Larry Madowo in Nairobi. The world's largest viral vaccines and the UNICEF has just signed an agreement with the African Union to supply it with 220 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the end of 2022. 35 million will be by the end of this year.

(Voice-over): This is the first direct agreement where UNICEF is acting as the logistics and procurement agency for the African Union. This news coming just after Africa marked its worst pandemic week ever, according to the World Health Organization. Cases were up for seventh consecutive week. The solution is vaccines, but so far less than 2 percent of the continent's population is vaccinated.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Salma Abdelaziz in London where people are gearing up for the final match of the European Championships when England faces off with Italy.

(Voice-over): But a lot of concern that this could turn into a super spreader event. You have two very different visions playing out here right now. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government are touting Freedom Day, July 19th, the day when all restrictions will end including mandatory mask wearing. They are pointing to the country's vaccination rate and say it provides a level of protection from the virus. Over 85 percent of adults have received the first dose of their vaccine.

But doctors and nurses disagree. They are warning about the Delta variant, this highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 that's spreading quickly. According to government data, 1 in 160 people tested positive for the virus in the week ending July 3rd. That's why more than 4,000 doctors and nurses signed a letter to the government calling this reopening on July 19th a dangerous and unethical experiment and urging the authorities to keep the rules in place for longer.


[19:10:10] BROWN: Well, thank you to all of our reporters covering the pandemic across the globe.

Pieces of art that could fetch as much as half a million dollars, but would it be worth that price without the name Biden on it? For the record tonight, a new deal involving the president's son have many crying foul.

Plus, after four years of fighting three confederate statues in Charlottesville have been removed. I'm going to talk to the now college student who led this fight. What will be next for her now that these statues are gone?


BROWN: Well, this morning in Charlottesville, Virginia, two towering symbols of racial division came down. Bronze statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were trucked away and vanished to storage. Less than four years ago, white nationalists commandeered the debate over the city's effort to remove Confederate statues.


Their "Unite the Right" rally turned violent and ultimately deadly as Neo-Nazis fought with counter protesters.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in Charlottesville.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three hours on a Saturday morning Charlottesville has wanted for years. A monument to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson on its way to storage. The notorious statue of General Robert E. Lee which overlooked the park that held the deadly "Unite the Right" rally also hoisted away.

ZYAHNA BRYANT, STUDENT ACTIVIST: It's only a moment for people who aren't affected.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: For Zyahna Bryant, who kicked off the effort to remove these statues with a petition drive back in 2016 when she was in 9th grade, it was the end of an effort that brought the world to her doorstep.

(On-camera): Looking back to that horrible day in August 2017 when people were on this very park where we are right now, fighting over these statues, someone eventually died, at a moment like that did you think we'd ever see a day like today when the statues actually came down?

BRYANT: No, I wasn't going to believe it until I saw it. So when it was finally lifted off of its pedestal today, that's when I was able to have my moment and fully processed that it was happening.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Bryant convinced Charlottesville, the outside the city took longer. In early 2017 the city council voted to remove the monuments but groups who defend the Confederate legacy took Charlottesville to court. They succeeded in getting the removal delayed.

RICHARD SPENCER, WHITE NATIONALIST: We are a people. We will not be replaced.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Then white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and other groups joined the cause. On August 2017 a woman was killed and several other people injured as white supremacists and other far-right groups fought with counter protesters at a rally about the statues. That made the monuments a national cause and the driver of a dark moment in recent American political history.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That created a national movement.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No president, sitting president, has ever said anything like that. And I realized that things weren't going to change very much with this president.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But in Charlottesville the statues still stood. The removal is still tied up in court, the city council voted to shroud them in black just days after the August protest. In October 2017 a judge ruled again that they couldn't remove the statues. And in 2018 a judge ordered that those coverings be removed. But Charlottesville never changed its mind. The city kept fighting in court. This April the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in its favor. Then came Saturday.

MAYOR NIKUYAH WALKER, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: What happened, we have the ability to remove the statues today. It has stood for 104 years and it doesn't need to stay a moment longer.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The end of a long and bloody battle for one city grappling with how to tell our nation's story.

BRYANT: There's a lot of work left to do but I'm trying to find a way as a black woman who has been on the forefront of this issue to celebrate the small wins, as they come. And that is important, and I think this work is long and hard. It's not the end, it's not the beginning, but it is a win.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, Charlottesville, Virginia.


BROWN: And we want to continue this conversation. Zyahna Bryant joins me now from Charlottesville. You just saw her in the piece there. She has been leading this effort starting about five years ago, right, Zyahna?

What was your reaction to seeing these monuments come down after years of fighting and even bloodshed?

BRYANT: So I think it was a moment of triumph. I was honored to join the mayor this morning for her press conference. And I felt like it was a perfect moment for the statue to come down under the tenure of Charlottesville's very first black woman mayor. And so the moment that it was lifted off of its pedestal. I was sitting on the edge of the park talking with some friends. And everyone said, look, turn around, and I saw my nana running across the street.

And so I said, come on, V, and we walked up the stairs and we saw it come down together and be placed on the flat bed. So it was a very powerful moment. I was happy to be surrounded by people who were there for the entire fight and who have seen how brutal it has been to be on the frontlines with this issue.

BROWN: Right, because you had told my colleague that you wouldn't believe it until you actually saw the statue being taken down, and that seems to indicate that you really fought a tough battle these last several years, getting to this point where it was hoisted off of the platform.

Tell us about that journey.

BRYANT: Right. So this petition started off as a school paper about something I could change and eventually I turned it into a petition and posted it on my social media. From there it caught wind and it's been going ever since. The conversation hasn't stopped in the city, at the university, on the state level, as we had to get a law change in order for us to have localities be able to decide the fate of their statues and monuments.


And so it's been a very long fight. You know, in 2017 as it was stated that the statues were voted to be removed for the first time, so even then I was like, yay, you know, it's coming down. But there has been a long legal fight and there has been a lot that's happened in Charlottesville since then, such as the August 11th and 12th rallies and attacks. The KKK rallies and another organized by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.

BROWN: So this is obviously one huge step. But how much work is ahead in your view?

BRYANT: So I think that taking down statues is great, right? And I absolutely am for it. But I think it is an empty gesture if it is not -- if it does not happen along with systematic and institutional change. And so in the case of Charlottesville I think that there's still conversations that need to take place about policing and the long legacy of bad interactions with black people here in Charlottesville.

There needs to be conversations about educational equity, affordable housing, sustainability, because all those issues very much so are racial justice issues and these statues only reflect larger and deeper systems that exist in this place and beyond. So I think in order for us to have true progress it has to come with the redistribution of resources and a full reconsideration and shifting of systems.

BROWN: And we have to ask, the platform is still there. They haven't removed that yet. What would you like to see replacing these statues?

BRYANT: I would like to see some art from some local artist of color but I really want the community to be able to weigh in on what happens next. I think, you know, the park and the statue were dedicated with the intention of being a white-only space, and so now as we progress forward as a community, I hope that the park and the way that we decide to transform it reflect our community values.

BROWN: All right, Zyahna Bryant, great to have you on the show, and wow, your hard work paid off as we see what happened there in Charlottesville today. Thank you so much for coming on.

BRYANT: Thank you.

BROWN: In Surfside, Florida, the death toll ticks higher with more bodies recovered today. The latest tally 86 confirmed dead and 43 people still unaccounted for. The grim job of recovering bodies is moving on a faster pace after Sunday's demolition of the remaining tower. Crews are working tirelessly but also can see the personal toll that's weighing on them.


CHIEF NICHOLE NOTTE, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2: I feel like I'm physically digging but I'm also emotionally digging for more strength to continue. I think the first time it really hit me was when I found a passport with a baby in it, and then I found the entire family of passports in there as well. Those are the moments that I -- I take a deep breath and kind of -- I'm very in my head in that moment.


BROWN: Passport with a baby in it. My gosh.

(Voice-over): But here is some new video with a glimmer of good news. We can all use that especially with this story. Binx the cat that lived on the 9th floor of Champlain Tower South has been reunited with his family. A volunteer found Binx living near the wreckage. The woman holding Binx is the daughter and sister of two people who lived in the building and in a video call they confirmed that he is indeed their beloved feline.

(On-camera): Well, up next, a test of leadership is on full display on Capitol Hill as House minority leader Kevin McCarthy tries to keep the more extreme members of his party in check.



BROWN: A busy political week ahead and the Biden White House tries to confront cyber terror from abroad. With me now, Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor from "National Review," also CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers.

Great to see you both. I'm going to start with you, Ramesh. Let's start with President Biden's call with Vladimir Putin. Biden says that he expects Putin to act on the ransomware attacks, yet Russia suggested the U.S. hasn't made any formal appeals.

Do you think Putin is taking Biden seriously?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think that there is a long history now of Vladimir Putin not being compliant with requests or demands from the United States under presidents of different parties, and I'm not sure that there's anything here that Biden has done that is going to change that point of view on his part.

BROWN: And Kirsten, Biden also reiterated that there will be consequences for Russia. Does he lose some of his ground, though, in this battle if he keeps saying there will be consequences and there aren't? I mean, he said the same thing after the summit and then ransomware attacks happened and then he said it again.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think yes. I think if you draw too many red lines and you don't adhere to those red lines then people don't take it seriously but it is an extremely complicated relationship and so I think that there is a fine line that any leader sort of has to walk with Vladimir Putin because he's not the easiest person to deal with, obviously.

But I assume that, you know, Joe Biden is very much of the school of using diplomacy first and sort of going down that track as far as you can. And then at that point then you'll have to start having retaliation. So I think that he will do that, I just think it's a question of timing.

BROWN: And then on the Republican side, Ramesh, you have House minority leader Kevin McCarthy appearing to lose control of his caucus as extremists like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz create new controversies.


Is McCarthy's low-key approach paying off or -- what do you think? What do you think it is doing for him?

PONNURU: Well, I think we have to remember, Kevin McCarthy has now been around through several cycles of Republican leadership in the House. He was there when John Boehner basically was kicked out as Leader because it was such a fractious group of Republicans, and he was going to be the next Leader of the House Republicans, but then there were too many Republicans who had doubts about him.

So, he understands he is not in command of this group of people, and he has to watch what he is doing. It's not a question of whether he should be cracking the whip, it is whether he can.

BROWN: What do you think, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I think that's exactly right. He doesn't -- he doesn't really have a choice. It's not -- and that is no way to defend his behavior. I mean, I guess we always have a choice, right? He doesn't have a

choice if he wants to stay in power. And so, he obviously wants to stay in power and he just doesn't have any control over the people, you know, that are creating the problems particularly because one of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene is beloved by Donald Trump. And so that's where the power lays in the Republican Party.

And so, from Kevin McCarthy's perspective, what can I do? Right? I can't really stop her from saying the things that she says. I can't stop Matt Gaetz from doing what he does, because they are aligned with the part of the party that has the most energy and so it's a pure calculated political decision.

That doesn't make it ethical or moral, but that's what's going on. It's a calculated political decision that he has decided that this is the way he maintains power and hopefully wins back Congress and becomes, you know, the top dog.

BROWN: Right. I mean, because he is looking at the midterms. I mean, the midterm campaign has all but started. Amid this, you have CPAC this weekend in Dallas. Trump is expected to talk.

Is this as unified though, as the G.O.P. gets? You know, MAGA mindset or bust essentially, is that where we are?

PONNURU: I think, obviously, if you're somebody like Kevin McCarthy, you want unified Republicans, you want differences papered over, and you want all of the attacks to be on the Democrats. That's just Politics 101.

You see the same thing, by the way, on the Democratic side, where there's a lot of intra-Democratic tension over figures like Ilhan Omar, for example, that Pelosi doesn't have complete control of and would like to paper over.

I think that that is just not going to be something that is totally in the control of party leaders, because activists and different party actors like the Matt Gaetz's, of the world are still going to do what they want to do.

BROWN: And then, you know, you look at the Biden agenda amid all of this with the midterms coming up and so forth, and one of the biggest issues is, of course, voting rights or voting restriction. We are seeing that take place across the country, in states like Texas. They have just reintroduced new voting restriction bill.

So Kirsten, as we know, President Biden is set to give a major voting rights speech, Tuesday, but when it comes after his big defeat on S.1, the sweeping voting rights bill, can he really expect to change minds? Or can he even get enough support for something smaller, like the John Lewis Act?

POWERS: I think it's very unlikely. I do wanted to just say quickly, though, there is no comparison to Ilhan Omar and Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz. So yes, the parties always have people that sometimes do things that make -- that upset the leadership, but I just want to be clear that they are not -- those are not comparisons.

BROWN: They are very different.


BROWN: But just to the larger point of trying to keep them in line part.

POWERS: But in terms of this, the answer is no, I don't think so. I think at this point, he needs to get rid of the filibuster. And, you know, I think that James Clyburn has put forth an idea of maybe having a carve-out with the filibuster, where it's only used when something applies to the Constitution.

So, finding some sort of way around maybe with Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema you know, who are against getting rid of the filibuster, could we just do it in this case where there is such a crisis in the country, and if they don't deal with this, it's -- you know, we're not going to have elections that we can, you know -- people are not able to have trust in the electoral process, which is basically the end of democracy, which we've already been seeing it eroding.

So he can give as many speeches as he wants, but unless he can figure out the way to pass that bill, then there's no way to protect voting rights.

BROWN: So, then do you basically see this speech as an exercise in futility given that? I mean, how much could a speech Biden gives actually changed the dynamic on this? Democrats and he also has been speaking out about this for quite some time, Kirsten.


POWERS: Well, I think -- yes, well, I think that there's no harm in giving the speech and probably the idea of it is to try to sway people just if you can sway the average person's opinion on this and convince them and try to build support, then you can also sort of build support for whatever steps that you need to take.

You know, you basically say, I tried everything, and now I'm convincing people that we're in a crisis, here I am fighting a crisis, and if I have to go ahead and support abolishing the filibuster, I was sort of pushed into this and this is so important.

So it's more an act of trying to convince people, so there's no harm in it. It's just not in itself, it is not going to solve the problem.

BROWN: I'm going to ask Ramesh from a conservative perspective what we're seeing play out in a state like Texas, one of 14 states, at least 14 states that's putting in these more restrictive voting laws. How much of it do you think is about the fact they see writing on the wall with the numbers in Texas, Donald Trump won by a pretty narrow margin comparatively, I think it was the most second narrow margin and a quarter of a century.

How much of this do you think is about giving them more of an advantage, Republicans more of an advantage and Democrats a disadvantage?

PONNURU: Well, I think there is a long-standing belief in Republican circles, not just among Texas Republicans, but Republicans everywhere; states they won, states they won big, states they lost, that it is too easy to vote, that there's too much fraud, that this has to be tightened up, that high turnout is harmful to Republicans.

And among everything, you know, you can think of all kinds of things to say about those views. But one interesting thing is the fact is this was a very high turnout election, and Republicans actually did pretty well. They came with a 90,000 votes of winning everything nationally, and yet they still have this myth that high turnout is really bad for them and it's something that they have to stop.

BROWN: All right, I wish we could carry on this discussion. It's a great one. Ramesh Ponnuru, Kirsten Powers, thank you so much. I look forward to having you both back on.

POWERS: Thank you.

BROWN: And up next, record heat scorching the West with some regions reaching 130 degrees. We are live in Las Vegas, up next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to stay hydrated with margaritas and IPAs.



BROWN: Tens of millions of Americans in the West are under heat alerts this weekend, including nearly all of California. Temperature records are likely to be smashed and there are big concerns the power grid won't be able to keep up with the demand. This comes just days after the hottest June on record.

CNN's Camila Bernal is in Las Vegas. It could hit an all-time high this weekend. Is that right, Camila?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pam, it's 115 at the moment, but we can get to 117. That's the record high here in Las Vegas. So, I can tell you that a lot of the people here, they're going to take a picture and then they're headed back to a pool or casino really anywhere with air conditioning.

The National Weather Service also telling people, look, don't gamble with these dangerous conditions. A lot of the people who live here, they know how to handle this heat. They're used to living in the desert. But a lot of the tourists, they are not. There's a number of people here for this big UFC fight, for concerts, or just to have a good time and authorities are worried about the tourists who just may not know what to do in these conditions.

I talked to some of them, and here is what they told me. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to stay cool. It is definitely hot. You need water and you need to stay hydrated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like an oven is in my face, and it's going okay, it's my first time here. It's her millionth time here. So, she's just showing me around, and I think it's a good time so far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We left 68 degrees and we came here today, basically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, scorching hot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, my eyes are burning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one is wilting. She's from Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had 52 when I left, 52 degrees, that's a low and only 61 is a high.

BERNAL: So, for people who don't know what it feels like here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me just explain to you when she said -- sorry, when she said hot, I didn't realize how hot. This is like walking into an oven and wondering if you're going to make it out.


BERNAL: And Vegas is always fun, but this weekend, it really is dangerous. In addition to all of that, the temperatures right now are only making the drought in the western part of the United States even worse.

Water levels are at record lows in so many of the reservoirs, the fire danger is extremely high, and then you have the possibility of power outages. Both energy providers here in this state and in California, telling people to conserve power, especially during the peak hours because imagine being 115 degrees without power. That could be deadly, Pam, and that's what authorities here are trying to avoid.

BROWN: Yes, understandably. All right, Camila Bernal, live in Las Vegas, thanks so much.

Well, after a long pandemic hibernation, Americans are hitting the road in droves this summer and seeing much higher prices at the pump. One gallon of gas is now well above $3.00, the highest in seven years.

CNN's Pete Muntean with more.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The national average for a gallon of gas now $3.14, but it is so much higher in so many places across the country. $3.49 here at this station in Bethesda, Maryland. That average has just been ticking up and up.

Remember only a year ago, it was about $2.18, a lot of factors at play here. There is brisk demand for driving according to GasBuddy. It says that this past Tuesday was the busiest Tuesday for fill ups since 2019, back before the pandemic.


MUNTEAN: Also a bit of a supply issue here, OPEC failed to secure a deal that would have increased crude oil supply, crude necessary for gasoline production. Also Tropical Storm Elsa is impacting crude deliveries, also impacting gas production in the southeast.

Even still, AAA says people are undaunted and want to get out even though it anticipates the national average will be $3.25 later on this summer.


ANDREW GROSS, AAA SPOKESPERSON: Well, gasoline prices are going to stubbornly stay above $3.00 and in probably the $3.10 and $3.20 range throughout the rest of the summer. But we also know people don't let that get in the way of going on a vacation. They'll figure out another way of budgeting, you know, maybe eat out less or do more free activities, but they're taking the vacation this year.


MUNTEAN: Prices are so much higher in other parts of the country, GasBuddy reports the average in California at $4.30.

The White House says it is keeping an eye on this situation, but pins the blame on oil prices rather than politics.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.

BROWN: And up next, Hunter Biden's debut in the art world is raising some ethical eyebrows. At issue, the White House's involvement and more.

Plus, the conflict in Jerusalem has been centuries in the making. A new CNN original series takes you back 3,000 years for the most coveted city in the world, "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury" premieres Sunday, July 18 at 10:00 p.m. only on CNN.



BROWN: Hunter Biden, the President's son has been accused more than once of questionable behavior in the past, some of the claims were either unproven, false, or notoriously exaggerated, often by a certain former President who loves to lie.

Well, this right here on your screen is some of Hunter Biden's artwork and he is selling it for the first time. He has written about how painting helps him with his recovery from addiction, which no one would fault. But for the record, whatever you think of his talent, he is about to

cash in on it, for what will likely be big bucks. We're talking pieces that could go from anywhere from $75,000.00 to half a million dollars each.


SCOTT INDRISEK, FORMER EDITOR AT MODERN PAINTERS & ARTSY: For a first- time artist, it's a little bit out of scale with normal pricing. They're fairly generic paintings. You know, they may be technically skilled in a certain way, but they don't really have any insight behind them or life behind them.


BROWN: And here's where things get stranger, the Biden White House knew enough to see an ethics cloud forming, but its answer is worth a closer viewing, too.

Sources tell CNN the administration entered into an ethics agreement with the New York gallery selling Hunter's works. The buyer will be kept anonymous, Hunter Biden nor the public will know the owner or even who else bids on it.

If the gallery spots unusual behavior like a super high bid or a collector who doesn't seem interested, they are expected to turn down the offer. But there are no clear ways that any of this will be enforced. You could buy the painting then post it on social media, suddenly, we would all know who that person is. They would no longer be anonymous, and that's going to form our government watcher, painting a disturbing picture.


WALTER SHAUB, JR., SENIOR ETHICS FELLOW, THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: It just is implausible 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 cachet that comes with buying this art is getting to say that you own art created by the President's son.


BROWN: And it's important to remember that this President considers himself a leader who embraces a high ethical standard.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A foul line is 15-feet away from the basket. Never get me closer than 17 feet because it really is a matter of the public trust.


BROWN: It certainly is a matter of public trust. Could the secret buyer be a Democratic mega donor who happens to have a taste for art? A foreign tycoon with space on their wall and business to do in this country?

The Biden White House isn't the first to deal with family ethics questions as we know whether it was Jimmy Carter's brother Billy and his famous beer or Donald Trump's best-known White House senior advisers, his daughter and son-in-law, a daughter who was part of the administration and who got more than a dozen patents from China, while the U.S. negotiated a trade deal.

For the record, profiting off the presidency when you're a member of the First Family is always risky business. The White House Press Secretary says Hunter Biden quote, "has the right to pursue a new career." But it is fair to ask would this art fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars if the name Biden wasn't attached to it?

It doesn't take an art critic to know when something can come off as a bad look.

Just ahead, the C.D.C. says it is back to school in the fall, but are students adequately protected if vaccines aren't mandatory?



BROWN: The number one women's tennis player in the world held on for her first ever Wimbledon title today.

Australia's Ashleigh Barty showing off her trophy after defeating the Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova. Neither woman had ever been to a Wimbledon final before and it's been nearly 45 years since that happened.

Barty is also the first Australian woman to take home a Wimbledon title since 1980.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Right now, people have gotten the doses of Pfizer, the prime and the boost, as well as the prime and the boost of Moderna or a single dose of J&J do not need to get a boost right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not unusual for immune responses after vaccination to wane over time. Does it remain above a level which we need to protect people?