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Expert Warns U.S. Could See Surprising Amount of COVID Deaths as Cases Surge in U.S. Hot Spots; Trump's Lies, Conspiracies in Spotlight at CPAC. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 12, 2021 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're so glad you're with us this Monday.

Right now, COVID cases are up, vaccinations are down. All of this is leading health experts to believe the U.S. will soon see a, quote, surprising amount of COVID deaths. Virtually, all of those deaths can be prevented by getting vaccinated. Nearly 99 percent of all cases of COVID right now are in people who are not vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: It is a problem with an easy solution. Get vaccinated. It works.

But, while the country still tries to get more shots in arms, there is a new question over when the people who have already been vaccinated might need boosters. Today, Pfizer will brief U.S. officials on the possibility of a COVID-19 booster shot. They say that there is waning immunity among people who got their vaccine.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci makes clear that the data shows a third shot is not yet necessary. That's an important distinction.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen following all this. And, Elizabeth, I know this is confusing for folks at home, but help clear it up somewhat here, because the current vaccine still provides an enormous amount of protections. So how far down the line are we talking about booster shots?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not any time very soon, Jim. I mean, I think it is clear that a booster will likely be needed at some point in the future but when Pfizer came out last week and said, hey, we see immunity waning already and so we're going to ask the FDA for an emergency use authorization for a third shot, so just a third shot, the same as the other two people have already gotten.

Everybody said, what? Where is the data that shows that this is necessary? They pointed so some Israeli data but that data ironically and sort of oddly actually shows that the shot is just two shots is terrific at preventing people from getting very sick with COVID. So it is sort of a bit of a mystery why they think one is necessary right now.

Anthony Fauci has talked about this. He said that he actually got an apology from the CEO of Pfizer because they surprised everyone with this announcement. And he basically said a few hours ago that Pfizer does not get to decide who gets shots and when. Let's take a listen.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What Pfizer did, understandably, they looked at what their data and they say, hey, based on what we see, we think people should get vaccinated with a boost. Well, that is fine, except they're not the official recommending organization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So here is the bottom line, if you are immune-compromised, and you would know if you were, for example, if you've received an organ transplant, talk to your doctor. Maybe you should get a third shot. That is worth discussing. But that is a relatively small number of people. For the vast majority of us, we do not need to be getting boosters right now.

As a matter of fact, the CDC and the FDA came out and said this very plainly last week, it is worth repeating, Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. And let me tell you, I can count on one hand and probably have some fingers left for the number of times that the CDC and the FDA come out and say something together. So pay attention.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: We will. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

Let's talk about this more with Dr. Ali Khan, Dean at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Public Health. Dr. Khan, it is good to have you. Good morning.

DR. ALI KHAN, DEAN, COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you, Jim and Poppy, always a pleasure.

HARLOW: The numbers appear pretty strong in the state of Nebraska, over 48 percent fully vaccinated, 52 percent with one dose. Obviously, you would like them higher, 70-plus percent, as there are some in some states. But are you concerned that all of this talk and back and forth about boosters is confusing the conversation, especially for folks who need to start getting their shots, who may have not been vaccinated first?

KHAN: Oh, absolutely, a booster is the wrong solution to the problem.

HARLOW: Right. KHAN: If you look at who is getting severe disease in the United States, it is invariably people who have not been vaccinated. So the solution isn't to give a booster to people who have already been vaccinated, it is to get the initial doses to people who have been unvaccinated. And in the words of Juvi the Great, vax that thing up.

SCIUTTO: Well quoted. Dr. Ali Khan, you get a prize.

Listen, the fact is the real source of this problem here seems to be that large parts of the country are inside of a massive disinformation bubble, right?

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I mean, you have sitting lawmakers, Republicans, just a fact, not all of them, just some of them, and right-wing media distributing false information, often people who themselves are vaccinated, like sitting members of Congress distributing false information about the dangers of the vaccine, Marjorie Taylor Greene did it this weekend.

As a doctor where you are, how do you pierce that bubble?

KHAN: So, from a science standpoint, we have over 3 billion people who have been vaccinated at this point globally. We know the vaccines are safe. We know the vaccines are effective. We're down to 200, 250 deaths a day in the United States. And here in the United States, it is free and it is available everywhere. So, please, get vaccinated. Protect yourself, protect your family, protect your community.

HARLOW: Dr. Fauci said this to Jake Tapper yesterday when he was asked about where he falls on the debate over whether states, municipalities, private businesses should mandate vaccination. Listen to this.

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FAUCI: I have been of this opinion and I remain of that opinion that I do believe that at the local level, Jake, there should be more mandates. There really should be. We're talking about life and death situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: What do you think in your own state, for example? I mean, you had Nebraska shut down its COVID-19 response dashboard and their state of emergency. Yes, you know, you do have cases down from where we were at the height of the crisis but they are going up because of the delta variant. I mean, do things need to turn around and do vaccines need to be mandated locally?

KHAN: Absolutely. So what is happening in Nebraska mirrors the United States. And we have states, such as Arkansas and Missouri, that have cases that are two to three times higher than the national average, they've got pressure on their hospitals and they've got more deaths. And the solution is straightforward. It is get vaccinated. And there is no doubt that in certain settings we should mandating vaccination. health care settings, long-term care systems, prisons, other large settings with lots of people, we should mandating vaccination. And I would like to see that extended to other settings, obviously. And, hopefully, the FDA is going to help us by fully approving this vaccine.

SCIUTTO: But, Dr. Khan, the facts of the politics in this country is it is hard to imagine mandates holding in a lot of places. I mean, after all, you have, again, sitting lawmakers who are straight up attacking the vaccine at all right now, let alone mandating it.

So, given those politics, do you think the Biden administration has come up with the solutions to -- I mean, they're trying a lot of stuff. They're trying to go through people's G.P.s. They're trying to ask workplaces to give people time off to get vaccines. What works?

KHAN: So, let's not forget that we already mandate vaccination for children to go to school. So this is not a new concept, right?

SCIUTTO: I know. But you know the politics, the military, by the way. Yes, I mean, they require --

KHAN: The military, and as a clinician, I can't work in a hospital unless somebody ask me what my hepatitis status is, right?

So, the mandates already existed. It just depends on what setting and how we use them. And it is one strategy as part of a whole host of strategies, including wonderful work across the nation, across political parties within incentives to get people vaccinated, mobile clinics. We need to do whatever we can, because at the end of the day, 200 to 300 deaths a day is approaching 100,000 unnecessary deaths a year that can be prevented with vaccination.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Dr. Khan, thank you, and thanks for the quote of the day to start us off there.

KHAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: We appreciate you.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Khan gets the prize.

HARLOW: Totally.

All right, well, Tokyo entered its fourth coronavirus state of emergency today. Why? Because of this rise in COVID cases. That state of emergency will last through the end of the Olympics, and that means virtually no fans at Olympic venues.

SCIUTTO: So, CNN's Will Ripley joins us now from Tokyo. Well, the original plan was to allow half capacity with local fans. So what is been the reaction there to no fans? WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that people overwhelmingly in the Japanese public don't think the Olympics should be happening at all. And when you look at the case numbers, it is probably not warranted to hold the Olympics given that they're seeing some of the highest levels of cases since May. The cases have been going up for the last three weeks.

There is the delta variant emerging. It is not the time that a country would normally welcome thousands of people from hundreds of countries, which is exactly what is going to be happening in the coming days.

But the Japanese government is pushing ahead with these games with a stunning, unprecedented 97 percent of events, including all of the events held in the host city of Tokyo without spectators.

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So these multibillion-dollar venues paid for by Japanese tax dollars will not have any Japanese citizens in them aside of a handful of Olympics officials and other VIPs, as well as some staff members and journalists. Basically, when they applaud, they're going to hear their own echo in these massive, empty venues.

Even the torch relay has been moved off of public streets for the first eight days. Only family and close friends of the torchbearers and a handful of officials allowed to attend. So people can't even line the streets and participate in any way in the games. Restaurants are forbidden from serving alcohol so people cannot gather at restaurants and watch the events in any sort of social way.

It is certainly surreal. It is an Olympics unlike any that we've seen before and it is really an open question whether the safety measures are going to be enough to stop the Olympics from turning into a super- spreader event, which, of course, is the nightmare scenario from the view of public health experts and, frankly, Olympics organizers who don't want the legacy of Tokyo 2020 to be that, it created some new even more contagious more deadly strain of COVID, even worse than the delta variant.

So it is certainly not the Olympics that anybody was planning on when Japan postponed the games by a year and promised that this would be a sporting event to declare to the world victory over COVID. COVID is still very much in the game here and they're doing everything they can, even tightening their restrictions on us as journalists and other visitors coming into the country to try to prevent us from mixing with members of the general public. But it seems highly disorganized, a bit chaotic and, frankly, nobody really knows what is going to happen.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, a big risk. Will Ripley in Tokyo, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Will, thank you.

Meantime former President Trump over the weekend returned to the literal stage. Again, he pushed election lies at CPAC. Ahead, the other dangerous conspiracy theories on display at that conference.

SCIUTTO: There is more than one.

After two decades of war in Afghanistan, U.S. troops are nearly gone. Now the Taliban quickly regaining territory across the country. Today the top U.S. general is stepping down from his post as command there. Are Afghans ready to stand on their own?

And police in Denver have found dozens of weapons inside a hotel room near where the Major League Baseball all-star game will be held, dozens of weapons. We're going to have the latest on that investigation coming up.

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SCIUTTO: It is a big week for President Biden as he looks to take on two of his administration's key legislative agenda items. In a few hours, he's going to meet with Attorney General Merrick Garland and local leaders, such as New York City Democratic Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams, to discuss the administration's plan to reduce gun violence.

HARLOW: And then tomorrow, the president will deliver a major speech on voting rights in Philadelphia as some Republican-led state legislatures are continuing to pass voting restrictions across the nation.

Let's go to John Harwood, who joins us at the White House. This is a big, consequential week and there is infrastructure, and there is police reform. What is top of mind at the White House this morning?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, as you know, other than dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and you were just talking a few minutes ago about the attempt to boost the levels of vaccination, the top priority for the president is the massive investment he's proposed in physical infrastructure and in struggling families to help them economically.

But while that runs along in the background in Congress, that process is churning on this week and throughout the rest of the month of July. The president is trying to draw attention to and make some headway where he can on other issues. And in particular voting rights and crime, difficult to legislate on either one, very tough in a divided Congress, you don't have the reconciliation process of Democrats only available to you.

So, in both cases, what they're trying to do is combine federal executive action using the Justice Department and other federal agencies, as well as working with state and local governments. So, on voting rights, it's challenging, say, some of the restrictions on voting access in the states, and trying to rally local officials and voters to resist changes that are happening.

And on crime, it is about using federal agencies to try to crack down on unlawful gun dealers and also use some of the state and federal funds that are available for interventions to reduce violence, to help people who formally have been incarcerated, reintegrate into communities and also hire more police officers.

One of the reasons why the administration had such a large initial American rescue plan, the $1.9 trillion rescue plan, people said, oh, well that is too big. Well, the administration wanted to build a cushion into that plan and part of that cushion usefully for the administration right now is being used to hire more police and for some of these community-based interventions.

So, there is a reason why they have got the extra money for state and local governments and they'll see in conversation with Eric Adams, who is the Democratic nominee for mayor in New York, representatives from Chicago and Memphis and Wilmington and Newark and other cities to try to figure out how to make headway on violent crime, which is rising on all of the lists of Americans' top concerns as we move out of the pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Let's set aside voting rights and gun legislation for a moment because really no bipartisan effort there. But on infrastructure and police reform, for weeks, months, we've heard about bipartisan negotiations, seems there is a plan, maybe a plan. Handicap those two things for us.

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Is it infrastructure plan going to pass? Is a police reform plan going to pass?

HARWOOD: Well, I do think it was telling, Jim, last week that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said he thought there was a decent chance that plan would come together. Remember, a couple of weeks ago, they were seizing on comments made by Speaker Pelosi and President Biden to try to peel off Republicans from that bipartisan $1.2 trillion deal that was negotiated before the July 4th break. That looks to have some staying power.

We all know that infrastructure projects, roads and bridges and ports and broadband are very popular with the American public. So, Mitch McConnell may have been sending a message that he won't be able to stop that. We don't know for sure. We're going to have to see it come up in legislation. Then, of course, you have in tandem the Democratic- only plan for struggling families. That is difficult on its own right.

On police reform, that is also a case where it is been unusually resilient. It is a protracted process, they haven't gotten to the finish line. But when you listen to people like Tim Scott and Karen Bass, who are negotiating it, they seem to be hopeful they can get a product.

So I think in both cases, at least 50/50, you have got to say, their chances for bipartisan deals on both of those issues.

SCIUTTO: All right. We'll hold you to that, John. Although, a safe bet to, say, 50/50. John Harwood at the White House.

HARLOW: Thanks, John. Former President Trump back at CPAC over the weekend on the literal stage and also back to pushing the big lie. The former president used that time on the stage to repeat false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent even though there is no widespread evidence of any widespread voter fraud in last year's contest.

Still, the former president's baseless claims were a big hit to that crowd in Dallas. The former president left no doubt about the popularity that he still holds in his party. He easily won the CPAC 2024 presidential nominee straw poll.

With me now, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and also Mia Love, former Republican Congresswoman of Utah. Good morning, ladies. Thank you for being here.

Dana, what does it tell you? He takes 70 percent of the vote in the straw poll for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, up from 55 percent in February.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is just another data point to tell us about the grip that he has on that particular sector of the Republican Party. And that sector of the party is the most powerful when it comes to primary voters in some of these key races, not necessarily general election voters, but in the short-term, it is the primary voters that matter the most.

What it also said is that I'm old enough to remember when CPAC really did mean conservative, and the C stood for conservative. And, unfortunately, it now stands for conspiracy. Because that is what that the former president was pushing to the wild applause and adulation of the crowd. And it is frightening.

Everybody in America should look and see what he did and understand the fact that he got so much, you know, support for the lies and the conspiracy theories that he pushed and be very, very concerned.

HARLOW: Mia Love, to you. This is one of the most striking, I thought, moments of CPAC, and dangerous from a health perspective. You're going to hear cheering when someone talks about the Biden administration falling short of their 70 percent vaccination goal date. Let's play it.

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ALEX BERENSON, CONSERVATIVE AUTHOR: Clearly, they were hoping, the government was hoping, that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated and it isn't happening, right? there is a --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That cut off a little bit early but there were loud cheers after. And this even after it was former President Trump who kept claiming and correctly so some credit for the vaccine, I remember, when he said, remember, it is the Trump administration that produced the vaccine in less than nine months. What does it tell you that there is cheering to missing a vaccination goal?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it is unfortunate. I certainly -- look, when Frank Luntz was on talking to Jake Tapper, he talked about the fact that people were -- they didn't want to be bullied into getting a vaccination. And the goal is for all of us to be able to get vaccinated and there is this mistrust. And, unfortunately, CPAC actually fed into that bullying.

What they're saying is that the United States, the government, is bullying everybody and so you shouldn't get vaccinated.

[10:25:00]

They're not talking about health concerns. They're not talking about safety. They're not talking about the voters that they're going to need, they need to keep them alive.

So they're not talking about the health benefits of being vaccinated. They're pushing on this fear and pushing on the fact that people are not -- they're not supportive and they're not trusting of the government. And so it is unfortunate that they're feeding on this fear and everybody is cheering. It is quite disheartening.

HARLOW: And really dangerous to people, I mean, a question of life or death at this point for folks.

Dana, let's switch gears here completely and talk about the Democratic Party and Eric Adams, who today is going to meet with the president and the attorney general to talk about guns, and the fact that he won the Democratic mayoral primary here in New York City, saying we need the police, right? We need reform but we need the police.

I just wonder what you think of that big picture for the Democratic Party. I mean, the way Axios put is the rise of the anti-woke Democrat. Is that here in New York or is that a sign of what is to come across the country leading into the midterms?

BASH: Well, I'm going to kind of quote our colleague, David Chalian, to remind everybody that it is certainly New York and now we have, since last week, have had the firm results of Eric Adams winning there, but not just New York. It is also Virginia. And those -- we don't always know in these off-year elections, whether it's primary or general election, whether or not the results are a harbinger for things to come, but it could be. It very well could be.

And the it is in Virginia, Terry McAuliffe won the Democratic primary for governor there. He is definitely not a progressive. He is an old, what they used to called DLC Democrats, a Bill Clinton middle of the road Democrat, and same, as you mentioned, goes for Eric Adams. There were a lot of other candidates in that race, particularly one that who was endorsed by AOC and other very well-known progressives, they did not win.

So it is a long way of saying we don't know the answer to your very good question yet but it certainly is a potential telltale sign that the party, which had -- we have thought was sort of taken over by the progressives because they are the most active and the loudest and they have a lot of force, may not be there yet. And probably the biggest example is that Joe Biden is in the White House.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, there you go. What do you think, Mia, the way that Peggy Noonan put it her column a few days, Democrats have become more extreme on the social issues, they aren't prepared for the backlash. If you are a Republican, as you are, running against of these more progressive liberals, how do you run against and are they making it easier for you?

LOVE: Well, could I just tell you, I love the fact that Eric Adams is out there talking about a little bit of moderation, talking about how these communities need police officers. The defund police is not going to work in any party because, frankly, black families, they want police officers in their neighborhoods. They just don't want black police officers killing their children.

So this is -- this is something that I think is going to be a good shake-up for the political -- the political field. You're going to have some good contrast between very left Democrats and someone like Eric Adams, and also Republicans. Republicans are going to have a hard time also because they don't have that comparison to that far-left. And they're going to have to be held accountable too, to move a little bit further towards the center.

So I think it is a really good shake-up. I'm glad that we have somebody talking about some real issues, who says that it is not that he's not woke, he just never went to sleep. So I think it is good that he's out there and he's talking about some of the issues that I think we need to have a conversation about.

HARLOW: Thank you both, Dana Bash and Mia Love, great to have you. We'll have you back soon.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

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