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Children May Pay Price for Unvaccinated Adults; Miami Hospital's COVID Patients; COVID Surge Among Young and Unvaccinated; Democrats Reach Deal on Budget; Cheney Defends Seat on Committee; Taliban Respond to Execution Claims. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And you can take a look at the charges against the Iranians for trying to put her on a boat, get her to Venezuela and then take her to Iran to do God knows what. Quite a story.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Incredible interview that I would encourage all of our viewers to revisit, John.

BERMAN: CNN's coverage continues right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.


New vaccinations dropping. The delta variant is surging. And misinformation, sadly, on the rise. The nation at a pivotal crossroads as new coronavirus infections jump across the country. In 46 states, the rates of new infections this past week are at least 10 percent higher than the previous week. New cases per day doubling over the past three weeks nationwide. Despite the staggering rise in cases, just over 48 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Daily vaccination rates are down about 50 percent since last week.

HARLOW: It's having a big impact, a real world impact, on our children who are not yet authorized to get the vaccine if they're younger than 12. In Mississippi, seven children across the state are now in intensive care units. Two of those children, we're told, are on ventilators this morning.

And as the school year approaches, a CNN analysis finds that at least seven states are taking steps to ban public schools from requiring vaccinations for children and teens, even the ones that are eligible -- old enough and eligible to get them.

Let's begin here with our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, good morning.

Health experts are worried and they're warning that children are the ones that are paying the price here for adults choosing not to get vaccinated. But also, let's be clear, it's still really rare for children to get seriously ill from COVID, right?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. It is very unusual for a child to get -- to get a terrible complication from COVID. But, you know, I say to you, Poppy, as a mom, I'm a mom, why would you want to risk that with your child? I have pondered this for a very long time and I don't get it. Why would you want to say, ah, it doesn't -- you know, kids hardly ever get sick with COVID. I'm not going to get my child vaccinated. That is -- that's -- I'll be honest, that's just bad parenting. We should be protecting our children.

The vaccine is safe. However, COVID is not safe. Your child could end up in intensive care, like the children you just mentioned in Mississippi. They could end up on a ventilator. They could end up with long-haul COVID and have neurological symptoms for months, if not years. It is happening. It has happened. We can point, unfortunately, to many, many cases, yet people are still choosing not to vaccinate their children ages 12 to 15.

Let's take a look at the number -- at those numbers for childhood vaccinations, for vaccinations of children 12 to 15. Only 25 percent of children 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated. And those numbers are much larger for older groups.

Now let's take a look at results -- if -- so if you take a look there, 25 percent of children 12 to 15, all the way on the left, that's -- that's not much. That's one out of four. That is not enough. The numbers get bigger. It gets up to 81 percent for the 65 to 74-year-old age group. And so what we want is for those younger groups to look more like those older groups.

Now, let's take a look at why this is happening.

So Kaiser Family Foundation asked parents of children, you know, what are you doing with your child ages 12 to 17? So, 34 percent of those children have already gotten one shot. So that's good. About a third of children ages 12 to 17 have already gotten one shot.

Eight percent of those parents -- other parents say that they will get a shot for their child right away. Wait and see is 18 percent, say they'll wait and see. They want to see how other children do. Spoiler alert, they do great.

Only if required is 10 percent. Ten percent of parents say they'll only get the shot for the child if, for example, their school requires it. And definitely not is 25 percent. That's a huge number. One out of four parents of children ages 12 to 17 say they will definitely not get this shot for that -- that child. That is -- that's -- that's just awful. They are putting their child at risk of death. I can't understand why you would do that to your child.

SCIUTTO: Listen, and think of all the other vaccines that children get regularly for measles, for polio, and often required, right, to go to school.

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: And yet this one has been politicized.

COHEN: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: To Florida now where Miami-Dade's Jackson Health System is seeing a surge in COVID patients in particular in their 30s and 40s. Most of those being admitted to the hospital are, we should note, and this is a pattern we're seeing across the country, unvaccinated.

HARLOW: And so young.

Let's go to our Leyla Santiago in Miami with the latest.

Thirty -- I mean 30s and 40s, this shouldn't be happening.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, young, unvaccinated, that is the issue. Where we are right now, the Jackson Health System, says over the weekend they saw at least twice the number of COVID-19 patients than they had earlier in the month.

So I went straight to an infectious disease expert who works with the World Health Organization and collaborates with CDC and she said what I just mentioned, the issue is that many of the unvaccinated people are following the CDC guidelines for vaccinated people. And that is why we are seeing an increase in the number of cases compared to June.

But she also was quick to say that the U.S. and Florida jumped the gun, she said, wanting to believe that the pandemic is over. But, of course, you guys know it, it's not over.


DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASES EXPERT, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: If we don't heed the fact that they -- that people need to be more cautious than what they're being right now, we're going to see more deaths. We're going to see more cases. And we're going to see a lot more long COVID, which is what's really, really troubling for the younger population.


SANTIAGO: Now, in the state of Florida, roughly 40 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. I did check in with the governor's office to see if there's any plan to change any of the strategy moving forward to combat the rise in cases. And they told us that there is no plan for any future closures. In fact, the governor has ruled out any possible lockdowns.

HARLOW: Wow. Leyla, thank you for that reporting.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now to talk more about this, Dr. Chris Pernell, public health physician, fellow at the American College of Preventative Medicine.

Doctor, good to have you back.


SCIUTTO: You have called this the pandemic of the unvaccinated. And that's in the data, right, because you -- where you're seeing these spikes are in places with lower vaccination rates.

Explain that and explain the consequence of that. Are we headed for a tale of two countries here, right, in terms of the outbreak?

PERNELL: Unfortunately, the American story has far too often been a tale of two Americas, two different countries. And now we're seeing that fault line along vaccination.

Look, it's very concerning for me. It's concerning that these deaths are all preventable, the nearly 200 deaths that are still occurring. These cases are all preventable. The nearly 20,000 new cases that are occurring. Those children that are hospitalized, those children that are ventilated, it's preventable. We've got to do a better job and we actually have to hold our elected officials accountable for not spreading misinformation or disinformation for folks to feel safe to get vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: Does the delta variant, Doctor, put children more at risk when we're, you know, six weeks away for some from the start of school, and there are seven states that are, you know, working to ban mandating vaccines for kids in schools? Are they more at risk now because of delta?

PERNELL: I want to make this very clear for everyone. Anyone who is unvaccinated is more at risk because of delta. The delta variant is more contagious. It spreads more easily. Because that is true, whenever you are indoors or whenever you are in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces where you can't appropriately physically distance, the delta variant has a leg up. It has an advantage on you.

So I didn't agree with states who said that, you know, we wouldn't require masking indoors. We'd leave it up to the choices of district. And we're too often falling back onto human behavior thinking that people will do what's in the best interest of the most. But that hasn't been proven to be true so far.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Pernell, one relative constant of this pandemic has been that children by and large are safe from severe disease. I don't want to discount the cases where they have gotten severely ill, but statistically as low or perhaps lower even than a typical flu season. Is the delta variant fundamentally different in terms of the threat it

poses to young people?

PERNELL: I would say this. Whenever a variant is more contagious, that means you're going to get more cases. Whenever anyone has an increased risk or susceptibility to getting a case, their incidence for being hospitalized goes up. Then their chance of having severe disease goes up. And, unfortunately, deaths can follow.

So we don't want to take that chance. We don't want to play that game of Russian roulette with our children or with anyone.

We don't -- and we should just remind our audience, you lost your father to COVID-19.

PERNELL: Yes, ma'am.


HARLOW: I am so sorry. And for you to watch this and people willingly not getting vaccinated when they can, it must be impossible to see.


PERNELL: Yes, it's -- it's difficult, Poppy, while I will point to a bright light. The Kaiser Family Foundation just recently released data that showed that those back in January who said they were very eager to get vaccinated, well over 9 in 10 of those persons went ahead and got vaccinated.

Those who were in that wait and see category, about 54 percent of those got vaccinated. And those who were in that definitely not or only if required, about 24 percent of people are vaccinated six months later. We can make progress, but we can only make that progress if we speak with a singular voice and politics does not interfere with the science and the data.

HARLOW: We can do hard things. That's what those numbers show us.

Dr. Pernell, thank you.

PERNELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: Still to come, a CNN exclusive. Congresswoman Liz Cheney speaks out in her first interview since becoming the only Republican so far at least on the January 6th special committee. That's next.

SCIUTTO: Plus, an alleged international kidnapping plot here on U.S. soil. Four Iranian nationals charged with planning to abduct an Iranian-American journalist in New York and take her all the way back to Iran. The details of the case stunning, alarming. The journalist is speaking out this morning.

Also, the group behind many of the recent ransomware attacks on the U.S. has suddenly disappeared from the Internet. Why exactly? And who's responsible? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HARLOW: Well, developing this morning, a key first step for Democrats to try to pass their own infrastructure plan through reconciliation later this year. Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee say they reached the deal last night on a $3.5 trillion proposal. It is separate from that bipartisan infrastructure agreement that focused a lot on traditional infrastructure, like roads and bridges.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, again, this is only Democrats. Schumer says when you add in the bipartisan one you get to $4.1 trillion. He says it ticks all of Biden's boxes. Is it -- is it a done deal or where does this leave us?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hardly a done deal, Poppy. Look, this is just the beginning, like you said. Democrats on the committee coming up with this agreement for not just a top line number, but also really a broad and far-reaching infrastructure bill or a re-imagination, really, of what infrastructure can be.

We expect that Democrats are going to move forward with the proposal that expands the child tax credit. You can also expect that Democrats may try to make changes to the immigration system. This bill will also include changes to the U.S. tax code. And there is an expansion of Medicare so that for the first time ever seniors would be able to get dental and vision care with Medicare. So, obviously, a lot of big changes coming down the pipe.

But this is an effort at this point to try to sell this to the broader Democratic caucus. This agreement that was reached is among Democrats who are on the Budget Committee. And while there is a diverse group of Democrats on that committee, it doesn't include people like Senator Joe Manchin or Senator Kyrsten Sinema, key votes.

That's why you should expect that today's lunch, when the president is expected to meet with Democrats, is a big deal because that is going to signal to all the Democrats in that room that Joe Biden is supporting this plan, the White House is backing this plan and everybody needs to get in line.


HARLOW: Easier said than done, even in your own party.

Lauren Fox, thank you.


SCIUTTO: This morning, a CNN exclusive with Congresswoman Liz Cheney. The Wyoming Republican representative sounding off in her first interview since becoming the only Republican named to the select committee investigating the January 6th violent insurrection. Melanie Zanona, you reported -- she's with me now. She -- you reported

Cheney not even on speaking terms with Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy still hasn't made a decision on who he's going to appoint to the committee as the -- I think the ability to appoint five. What does Cheney think he'll do?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Liz Cheney doesn't know. As I said, she is not on speaking terms with the minority leader.


ZANONA: But she has some very strong thoughts about who she thinks should and should not serve on the committee.

And I want to read a portion of her interview. She said, quote, it's very important that we have members who are committed to upholding the rule of law and members who are committed to their oaths to the constitution. And I would certainly hope that the minority leader will be guided by that as he makes his choices.

So, in other words, she does not think Republicans who are continuing to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election or downplaying and whitewashing January 6th should serve on that committee, which, of course, applies to a very wide swath of her House GOP colleagues.


ZANONA: And she also said she would be willing to issue subpoenas and call Trump and McCarthy to testify if they determine that testimony is warranted.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, listen, two-thirds of her colleagues voted not to certify the election result. I mean it shows you where the sway of the party is.

So she's taking a big risk here. It seems like she's sort of settled with that, right?

Tell us what her selection of the committee by the Democratic House speaker, what does that mean for her own political chances back home? Of course she's, like every -- like every other member of Congress, she'll be up for election in the next cycle.

ZANONA: Right, and she is facing an already packed primary field. I asked her about this and she said, look, I can't be concerned about the potential political consequence. When I agreed to accept this choice to serve on the committee, it was a decision based on the fact that it is such a dangerous and dire situation with the president, former president, still out there making these false claims about the election, that incited violence, that she felt it was just important and she had to put those political calculations aside.


ZANONA: But the reality, Jim, of course, is that this could be an issue in her primary race. This is likely going to spill into next year. You can just imagine these high-profile hearings with her opponents seizing on clips of her, you know, with -- sitting with the Democrats on this investigation.


So it could very well be an issue for her.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You know, it's interesting, her, Kinzinger, you know, others who have stood up to the Republican kind of party line on this, that's the one commonality. They say they've sort of settled with it.

ZANONA: Right.

SCIUTTO: It's like, damn the consequence, which means that, you know, at some degree they may see what the consequences are, right?

ZANONA: Right.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure they're hearing it.

Melanie Zanona, thanks very much.

ZANONA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the Taliban now responding to CNN's disturbing report that showed militants, Taliban militants, executing Afghan soldiers as they were surrendering. We're going to take you live to the region.

HARLOW: We are also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Take a look here. Futures all pointing higher in the major indices this morning. Investors watching closely. Testimony that is about to begin today from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

In his prepared remarks it says that he will say, quote, inflation has increased notably and will likely remain elevated in the coming months before moderating. That's a big deal. We'll see if it puts pressure on markets. Obviously the delta variant also concerning investors. Stay with us.



SCIUTTO: Former President George W. Bush is now openly criticizing the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

HARLOW: He says he is sad and very concerned about the consequence, especially when it comes to Afghan women and girls.

Here is what he just told a German news outlet earlier today.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Sadly, I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a mistake, the withdrawal?

BUSH: You know, I think it is, yes, I think -- because I think the consequence are going to be unbelievably bad. And I'm sad. And we -- I spent -- Laura and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women and they're scared. And I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only U.S. troops, but NATO troops, and they're just -- it seems like they're just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. And it breaks my heart.


HARLOW: Former President Bush launched the war in Afghanistan, America's longest running war now, when he sent those U.S. troops into Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks.

SCIUTTO: This morning, for what it's worth, the Taliban is denying the alleged executions of 22 unarmed Afghan commandos as they tried to surrender in June. This denial comes as CNN obtained video of those killings as they happened. The Taliban claims the video is fake.

We want to warn you, it's alarming to watch.

Have a look.


HARLOW: Our Anna Coren joins us now from Kabul.

And, Anna, your team was in touch, you were able to get into communication with the Taliban. What did they say about this?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, look, it's really important that we address this because the Taliban is on a PR offensive to discredit our story. They say that the footage is fake, that this is government propaganda. They published a statement in multiple languages after the story went to air, saying that this was false, that they have never executed commandos who were surrendering.

So for the record we need to let everyone know that we interviewed five eyewitnesses in that district where that massacre took place. These were interviews on video. These people spoke to us, saying that they -- they saw what the Taliban did. They saw these commandos surrender. They saw them with their arms in the air. They saw the Taliban shoot them in front of them.

So this is not a fabrication. We have five people who have told us that they witnessed exactly the same thing.

The ministry of defense has called this war crimes. They said this is not the first time that the Taliban has executed the military or innocent civilians for that matter. Amnesty International has weighed in, also describing this as war crimes and cold blooded murder.

Let me read you what Amnesty International said. This evidence suggests that the Taliban's persistent claims to have changed their ways are predicated on a lie and completely undermines their claims that they will respect human rights in the peace process.

Now, for the Taliban that is about to engage in peace talks with a high-level delegation from the Afghan government in the coming days in Doha, Qatar, I mean this is a PR disaster. They are trying to portray themselves as this legitimate alternate governing body that has modernized and evolved, when clearly from this video you can see that they are still the same brutal violent prime evil group that they've always been.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Anna, to your credit, you spoke to eyewitnesses. This is yet one more of these, don't believe what your eyes show you. In that video you see this happening.


Is there anything that gives you question about what that video shows there, the video itself, in addition to the witnesses you spoke to?