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Growing Alarm as Cases Surge in Low-Vaccination Areas; Cubans Demand Freedom, Protests Regime amid Economic Crisis; Trump's Big Lie Takes Center Stage at Conservative Conference. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 12, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Jerusalem, City of Faith and Fury, premieres Sunday, 10:00 P.M., only right here on CNN.

I appreciate your time today on Inside Politics. I hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, a busy day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us.

More proof the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction with the pandemic after months of progress. Coronavirus cases are now climbing as the delta variant surges among unvaccinated Americans. 36 states seen here in the red and orange are seeing cases jump, 36 states. Now, if that doesn't worry you, this might. More than 99 percent of COVID deaths in June were among unvaccinated people.

So why isn't the push to get shots in arms working? And what can be done? Those questions as officials from Pfizer are at the White House today talking about the potential need for booster shots. The company raised concern about waning immunity last week.

Let's begin with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, first, what is the significance of today's meeting?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, what happened last week, Ana, it was that Pfizer surprised everyone, even Dr. Anthony Fauci, by coming out and saying, guess what, vaccine efficacy is going down.

We can see it. We think that people need a third shot, that third shot being a booster. And that surprised everybody because there's been all sorts of data saying that vaccine efficacy is doing great. And so it was unclear why Pfizer came out and said this.

So, first, I think they're going to clarify that. Hopefully, they will point to data that shows that because they haven't really done that yet. And I sort of wonder whether the administration officials in the room, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Rochelle Walensky, the surgeon general, if those folks will say, hey, come on, guys, read the room.

We're trying to convince a third of the United States to get vaccinated because a third of the United States has chosen not to. And so by telling them, oh, get vaccinated because it's going to wane, doesn't really make any sense, that's not great messaging.

So, you can follow the back and forth or not, it doesn't really matter. Here's the bottom line. The CDC and the FDA last week put out a joint statement that says Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.

So, you do not need a booster shot at this time. The one exception is if you, let's say, are an organ transplant recipient and you're immune-compromised. And you, of course, would know if you are, talk to your doctor. A third shot might be helpful for you. But for the vast, vast majority of Americans it is not time yet. Ana?

CABRERA: What we do know, because so many Americans have chosen not to get vaccinated, cases are on the rise again. Put some perspective on that.

COHEN: Ana, this is so sad. I remember you and I talking back in December when the vaccines were approved and the rollout started, it was such an exciting time. Who would have thought that, again, one- third of Americans would choose not to get vaccinated? And so this is what we're seeing. You can see it in very graphic form that cases are going up, up, up. That is a problem. See that all the way on the far right-hand side of that graph? They're going up instead of down.

Now, let's look at the raw numbers behind that. So, vaccine -- number of vaccine doses administered has gone down by 34 percent over the past four weeks, down, and the number of new daily cases up, 63 percent. Those two are obviously very related to one another, if vaccinations went up, we'd see cases go down. Ana?

CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

CABRERA: With us now is Dr. Peter Hotez, Professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, Elizabeth just laid it out. How bad could this get?

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, I think Elizabeth described it nicely. This is no mystery here. We know exactly what's happening. Wherever vaccination rates are low, and you have a high percentage of the virus isolates are delta variant, which is twice as transmissible as the original lineage, you're going to have lots and lots of COVID cases and lots and lots of hospitalizations. And that's what we're seeing now in Missouri and Arkansas.

But the thing I'm really worried about now, if you look at the heat map, the heat map, you're starting to see the gulf coast light up in a bad way, Louisiana cases, Mississippi, Alabama into North Florida, Jacksonville looks very worrisome. So, a number of us have been talking about a summer surge and we've been called alarmists but it wasn't any mystery. We know what happens when you have delta and low vaccination coverage. And now we're seeing this also in Nevada and Wyoming and parts -- Utah and parts of the mountain west.

So, this is going to be what we're going to be facing for the next few weeks unless we can get more people vaccinated.

CABRERA: And what's extra scary is we're talking about a summer surge, not a fall surge, which we have been bracing for, but supposed to be much better during the warmer months if we remember what happened last go-around.


I also can't help but think about the people who are still dying, because even though deaths are down, we're still seeing more than 200 deaths a day and more than 99 percent of COVID deaths in June were among unvaccinated people.

If that won't change minds of people who aren't vaccinated, what will?

HOTEZ: I know it. And so, basically, everyone who dies from COVID-19 is a preventable death. This is what's so heartbreaking. And we have the fact that it's not only deaths. Now, we have new studies coming out of Oxford University showing that people who have long haul COVID, a significant percentage of them have gray brain matter degeneration, which is linked to memory, which is linked to performance and speech.

And so all of these young people who think they're impervious, even if they don't die because the death numbers are low among young people, they're still going to have a lot of debilitating symptoms that could go on for a long time, an unknown period of time.

So this is the message we have to get across, because we are seeing better vaccination rates among older Americans, it's all the young people who have gotten this disinformation that they don't need to get vaccinated and remind them what long-haul COVID could do to their ability to function at a high level for months or maybe even years to come.

CABRERA: Yes, quality of life could be severely impacted.

On Friday, you told my colleague, Anderson Cooper, that boosters will be needed eventually, but we don't need it urgently. So, what would tell you now is the time? What is that threshold or trigger point?

HOTEZ: Yes. The reason is, Ana, because as good a job as we're doing in the U.S. and some parts of the country, the rest of the world is mostly unvaccinated, Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia. So, more variants are going to come in. And by giving a third immunization, what that's going to do is really increase our levels of virus- neutralizing antibody and T and B-cell to make us more resistance to these new variants. I think the confusion is Pfizer has felt we need it now because of the delta variant, and that is less convincing, at least in the publicly available data. So, right now, we know that Pfizer is meeting with the leadership of HHS and possibly they're going to show us some additional data that none of us have seen before to convince us to move up the timeframe.

So, the bottom line is we've known for a while a third immunization is going to be likely. It's just a question of whether it's later in the year next year or whether it's something that's recommended now. I would also add, and as Elizabeth alos pointed out, that for immunocompromised individuals, those who are getting immune- suppressive therapy, they may benefit for a third immunization right now.

CABRERA: So you would recommend being proactive, at least with some of the most vulnerable population and say, go get your extra boost?

HOTEZ: I would. I'm a little reluctant to get too far ahead of my skis with CDC and FDA recommendations, but I think we're heading in that direction.

CABRERA: Dr. Peter Hotez, it's always great to have your expertise and your time. Thank you.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

CABRERA: To a developing situation in Cuba, where people are running out of food, medicine and patience. Thousands took to the streets this weekend demanding freedom and an end to the communist regime they blame for six decades of oppression.

Keep in mind, protests are banned in Cuba and they are extremely rare. President Biden voicing support for those protesters saying, the demonstrations are a clarion call for freedom and relief.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann joins us now from Havana. Patrick, you've covered Cuba for years. Have you ever seen anything like this? And what are you hearing from Cuba's president?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we have not. I don't think anyone has seen anything like this. There have been protests over the years, some of them quite large after the fall of the Soviet Union. But yesterday, when we saw just a rolling protest going across this country, town after town of violent protests here in Havana, both protesters throwing rocks at police and police arresting them very aggressively with great violence, and then pictures being upload immediately.

Cubans have never seen anything like this. I have certainly never seen anything like this, and that's perhaps why the internet has been out most of the day. We've had trouble throughout the day reporting because the internet, even on our phones to make a simple phone call, has been out.

It appears the government has taken down the internet because this is part of what sparked these protests on Sunday. People uploading the images, something people have never seen here, whole towns going out, thousands of people in certain areas, hundreds of people that I saw here in Havana are going out to protest.

And the government is saying that this has been caused by U.S. sanctions, by increased U.S. sanctions that make it harder for Cubans abroad to send money home, and then all these people are either puppets of the U.S. or traitors.


But many of the people that we've spoken with say they are neither. They just want to live and they want to have access to food and a better life, and right now, they do not have that.

CABRERA: And as we look at the images from over the weekend, I wonder what's happening there today. Any indication that these protests will continue?

OPPMANN: You know, what's so interesting about this is there's really no organization, no leadership. This was not something that had been called for by the country's small opposition ahead of time. It was Cubans who were simply fed up for the most part, reacting. And because today, there's such a blackout going on throughout Cuba, not just here in Nevada but throughout the island, it really is difficult to know if there are more protests or if things are peaceful, as the government says.

CABRERA: Patrick Oppmann, thank you for your ongoing reporting there in Havana, Cuba.

No, it wasn't love in the air. It was pepper spray, flying glass, the screens of officers under attack. Republicans moving further from the truth on the January 6th insurrection. The tape doesn't lie, so why?

And crisis in the west, 18 million Americans under heat alerts. 59 large fires are burning across the country. When will the regency relief?

Plus, think you're the adventurous type? Well, now, you can really prove it. But I hope you have deep pockets.



CABRERA: Give the people what they want. It's a basic rule of entertainment. And this weekend at the nation's biggest gathering of conservatives, the people apparently wanted more lies about 2020.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Every time the media references the election hoax, they say the fraud is unproven. And while there is no evidence -- no evidence? No evidence. There's so much evidence.

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): They attack our republic by engaging in unparalleled voter fraud and election theft activities.


CABRERA: And conservatives at CPAC wanted to cheer against life- saving measures to fight COVID, even then they were implemented by Republicans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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's a -- younger people --

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): We've got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn't shut down their states, that they didn't close their beaches, that they didn't mandate masks, that they didn't issue shelter many places. Now, I'm not picking fights with Republican governors. All I'm saying that we need leaders with grit.


CABRERA: Grit? Now, those dangerous ideas were at the center of this conference that is essential to determining the GOP agenda. And here to discuss this former Ohio Governor and CNN Senior Political Commentator John Kasich.

Governor, ripping Republican governors for trying to save lives and cheers for the U.S. not meeting the vaccination goal? I mean, people are dying because of this. I thought conservatives were pro-life.

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, the big message out of this, and all our points are very true, very well- taken, the biggest message out of this is they're cheering for all these negative stuff. How come they're not cheering for any ideas?

There's not one single idea that anybody is advancing that they're getting excited about. It's all about these falsehoods, the election was stolen. I mean, come on. Everybody has been through this. The courts have been through it. We know that.

But we live in a country today, Ana, we're all silos. And there's actually an article that came out several weeks ago that I referred to on CNN here, is that people will actually forward thing that they know is not -- they know are not true to people just to kind of be in this group. There is this strange thing that human beings want to be connected to a group whenever they feel threatened. And they're willing to absorb all kinds of things that doesn't even make any sense.

And to hear the cheers about all this negativity, about our country, about the way it's run without one positive thing being sent that elicits response, you know, and I've been through this myself, Ana, where I was running for reelection here and people said, well, you need to start talking Obama, we're not getting anybody excited. I said no, no, no, we're going to do this with ideas. And what I found is when I had ideas that affected their life, their life, their family's life, they listened intently. And I won a sweeping election.

But it's so easy to cater to people who want to hear these falsehoods. It's easy to do it. It's just wrong.

CABRERA: Yes. And now, they're changing their stance on the Capitol attack. I mean, it's not just that they're staying silent about it, they're basically reverse engineering it into a twisted patriotic event. I want to run through the evolution here. Here was the former president on Fox just yesterday.


TRUMP (voice over): There was such love at that rally. You had over 1 million people there. They were there for one reason, the rigged election. They felt the election was rigged. That's why they were there. And they were peaceful people. These were great people. But there was also a love fest between the police, the Capitol Police and the people that walked down to the Capitol.



CABRERA: A love fest?

KASICH: You know, Ana, what Trump does is that he takes grievances. And I don't mean about this. That's just nonsense. A love fest as they're stomping the Capitol? That's a horrific day for our country.

CABRERA: Hold your thought, Governor. I just want to play it again for our viewers. You cannot call this a love fest. Let's watch.

KASICH: No, it's a love fest? It's insane.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.

SANDRA GARZA, OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK'S LIFE PARTNER: To know that Brian was there that day and experiencing what the officers were experiencing as well as seeing this, and to know his last moments on Earth were, you know, experiencing all of this, it's just horrible.

MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I experienced first-hand an insurrection inspired by the head of our executive branch, the president at the time, Donald Trump, and his co-workers.


CABRERA: And Officer Fanone, he is still suffering from injuries he received that day. The GOP wasn't always living in denial though about January 6th. There was a time during the actual attack when Republicans saw it for what it was. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (voice over): First of all, this is so un- American. I condemn any of this violence that's happening at the Capitol right now. I could not be sadder or more disappointed with the way our country looks at this very moment. This is not the American way. This is not protected by the First Amendment. This must stop now.


CABRERA: Governor, how do you explain the Republican dissent into this fabricated narrative about that day?

KASICH: Well, let's, first of all, not say all Republicans believe it because there are many Republicans that don't believe it at all. I was on a call this morning with a friend of mine from New Hampshire who says he's seen so many people who are Republicans turn away from the party because of these claims on January the 6th. He says that he sees --

CABRERA: And yet, they kicked out Liz Cheney from leadership because she wanted to get the truth out there.

KASICH: Yes. But as he says, the party is shrinking, and it is shrinking. There are fewer and fewer people in this party.

But, Ana, we have to ask the question, why would somebody who sees this actually say it never happened? I mean, that's the fundamental question. What's the psychological situation that exists with people who say never happened or this was the Democrats that did this and all that? It's a denial. It's being part of a group. It's being part of a siloed situation where people want to feel connected to other people who share their grievances. That's what a part of it is.

I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist that can analyze all that but that's fundamentally what's happening, that I'm in a group, I'm going to agree with my group, I don't care what comes, I'm going to continue to believe no matter what the true narrative is. And that's dangerous for our country. It's dangerous -- well, the party, if it keeps going down this track, it's going to implode.

What is helping some people, the Republican Party, is that the Democrats have an agenda sometime, you know, whether it's the issue of open borders or defunding police, I'm not saying that's what they all say, but there is this attitude out there that they're not in touch with mainstream America and, frankly, neither party right now is in touch with mainstream America.

And so what you have here is -- Ana, let me just put it to you this way. You can't believe it and I can't believe it, but it's happening. It's happening, and it's -- it's like something you couldn't even figure. I just hope that's not where the vast majority of Americans are or even the vast majority -- the vast majority of Republicans, not just those at CPAC. I went to CPAC a couple times back when we were talking about issues.

So my hope is in the future. My hope is with young people. My hope is with those people who know what can separate reality from fiction. That's kind of where I live.

CABRERA: And we're going to keep speaking the truth and giving our viewers --

KASICH: Absolutely.

CABRERA: -- the facts so they can be the judge. Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for the conversation today.

KASICH: Thanks, Ana. Thank you very much.

CABRERA: Breaking news out of Texas. State House Democrats are now planning to leave the state today, we are learning. This is to stop further action on controversial election bills that Republicans are pushing right now.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Dean at the Capitol with the details. Jessica, what do you know?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we are learning this afternoon that these House Democrats from the state of Texas will plan to leave the state to deny state Republicans their quorum. They are focused on these bills that they say are restricting voting rights in Texas, and this takes us back to where they were.


This is a special session that they're in right now, that the Texas governor has called, specifically to address these voting bills and some other things.

So these House Democrats or Texas Democrats are going to effectively try to walk out. It's something they did earlier this summer in an attempt to stop further progress on these bills, which they see as restricting voting rights in Texas. Some of the things that these bills propose to do would be to make mail-in voting harder, banning drive-through voting, limiting early voting.

One other thing that Democrats are particularly incensed about is that it would curb any early voting until 1:00 P.M., Ana, on Sundays. That's generally when the Souls to the Polls where black churches will go and vote en masse. So they felt like this is very much targeting specific groups of people. We'll continue to keep an eye on this and where exactly they're headed to and if this will work. We will find out. Ana?

CABRERA: Okay. This is a new attempt to delay the election bill in Texas. Thank you so much, Jessica Dean.

Dozens of large fires, record heat and drought are gripping parts of the western part of the country. Stephanie Elam is on it.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. When you talk about the fires, how devastating they are, the drought, and on top of it, this extreme heat, all of this happening and it's not just in California. I'll explain, coming up.