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New Coronavirus Cases, Vaccinations And Dangerous Vaccine Misinformation All Trending In The Wrong Direction; Senate Democrats Say They Have Struck a Preliminary Deal on a $3.5 Trillion Budget. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. This morning, across the nation, new coronavirus cases, vaccinations and dangerous vaccine misinformation all trending in the wrong direction.


HARLOW: 46 states are seeing at least 10 percent increase in new cases since last week, and across all states new cases have doubled over the past three weeks. And as new cases surge, new vaccination rates are plummeting. Daily vaccinations are down nearly 50 percent since last week.

SCIUTTO: Get it, guys. It's free and it's safe. Health experts are warning this could have dire implications, and particularly for America's children. A CNN analysis finds at least seven states are now taking steps to ban public schools from requiring vaccinations for COVID for children and teens who are eligible to get them. Keep in mind there are requirements for a whole host of other vaccines, measles, polio, et cetera. More on that in a moment.

Let's begin, though, with CNN's Miguel Marquez. He is in Louisiana, a state now going through a potential fourth COVID wave. I mean, the pattern, Miguel, here is low-vaccination-rate states seeing higher - bigger increases in new infections. Is that what's happening where you are?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, incredibly low vaccination rates in Louisiana, and in particular certain areas, rural areas of the state. The state's health officer, main health officer, says that the state is now in its fourth surge of coronavirus cases. They had a big one early on after Mardi Gras, and then they had one last summer around this time, and then it really took off last fall, and that's what they're concerned about now. The numbers are not huge right now, but they are climbing and they're

climbing very, very precipitously, and they know that that Delta variant is out there. This is a region of the country that has about 60 percent of the cases now are Delta variant.

We were just up in Ouachita County in - or Ouachita Parish, excuse me, in Monroe, Louisiana, where 99 percent of the patients coming through St. Francis hospital there in the last couple of months were unvaccinated, those with coronavirus.

It is so absolutely clear that they need to get the shot right now, but people are resistant. We went to one of the vaccine clinics there. They're putting about 25 shots into arms today at their height. They were doing about 300. You know, they talk about how difficult it is to get people to believe and to get the shot when they buy into conspiracy theories.

The mayor's office down New Orleans, and they're seeing a big spike in the area around New Orleans, says it is time to forget whatever politics you are following and get that shot.


BEAU TIDWELL, SPOKESPERSON, NEW ORLEANS MAYOR'S OFFICE: Delta is here, Delta is dangerous, and Delta is killing people. This should scare the hell out of you. The message from the mayor is that this is very serious and you need to get your shot. We can't be more clear or more stark than that.


MARQUEZ: Here is the concern, if those vaccination rates don't go up, and in some parishes here in Louisiana they're in the 20 percent range, maybe 30 percent or so, if they don't go up, there's going to be enough virus out there in the summer and then it's going to linger until the fall, and then it's going to take off.

Rural areas being hit very hard now, and then larger metropolitan hospitals are starting to ramp up their COVID units again because they expect an influx. Back to you guys.

HARLOW: It's really, really sad to see. Miguel, thank you for your reporting there in Louisiana.

Well, this morning, as many schools across the country are now just weeks from reopening for the fall semester, new data from the CDC show only a quarter of children between 12 and 15 years old are actually fully vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. I mean, it's disappointing, right, particularly given the surge we're seeing and among young people. I mean, was there kind of an initial surge of vaccinations among 12 to 15 and now that's fallen off?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's exactly what's happened, Jim, is that there was a surge and it's fallen off. And, you know, it's one thing to not get vaccinated for yourself as an adult. You're putting yourself at risk and the people around you. The choice to not vaccinate a child between 12 and 17 is really hard to comprehend.

Why would you put your child at risk of dying? Children do die of COVID. Yes, it is unusual, but there have been hundreds of children in the U.S. who have died of COVID. There are children right now, as we speak, who are dying of COVID, who are on respirators, who are on ventilators.

Why in the world would you want to put your child in a position to have that happen, not to mention in a position where they could get long-haul symptoms and have neurological issues for months, if not years?


Why in the world would you want to hurt your child? It doesn't make sense. Let's take a look at these numbers.

So the latest numbers show that 25 percent of children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated, and you can see those numbers go up as you age so that you get to 81 percent for the 65 to 74 group, so we want the younger numbers to look more like the older numbers.

Now, why aren't people vaccinating their children? Let's take a look at what the Kaiser Family Foundation when they asked parents of children age 12 to 17. So first of all, 34 percent have received at least one dose when you look at children ages 12 to 17, 34 percent, so one-third of them are on their way.

18 percent of the parents said I want to wait and see, maybe wait and see what happens to other children. Spoiler alert, children who get vaccinated get protected against COVID-19 and won't die of COVID-19, so sounds good to me. Definitely not, 25 percent, one out of four parents of children ages 12 to 17 say they will definitely not be getting this vaccine for their child.


COHEN: It is hard to fathom why they are choosing to listen not to their pediatrician, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they lay it all out there on their website, instead of listening to their pediatrician, they're looking to - listening to the twit they went to high school with on Facebook who's spouting lies. Why would you do that?

SCIUTTO: Yes, and major right wing media outlets, right.

COHEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: I mean, disinformation works, sadly. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks you very much.

New this morning, a sincere message from CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the importance of getting vaccinated, and, as we're just talking about, the real dangers of vaccine disinformation.

HARLOW: He writes this in a new essay "It may be that some parts of the country really haven't gotten the memo on the importance of vaccines - or even worse, they are receiving another far more insidious message: that it's the vaccines themselves that are the problem."

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us now. Sanjay, I haven't even had a - you just came out this morning so people can read your essay on I haven't even had a chance to read all of it yet, but I would assume that you came at this both from - both as a doctor, but also as a parent?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that, you know, having covered this now for a year and a half, we've always framed this as a race, you know, the vaccines, they would come one day, it would be this race between the vaccines and the virus, now the vaccines and the variants.

And, frankly, the race was pretty neck and neck. You know, they even had a finish line number on this race, which was if we dropped below 10,000 cases per day, we could say, as a country, we would go into containment mode, we could now finally get our arms and our hands around this virus. We didn't get there. We got tantalizingly close, 11,299 cases per day. That was our lowest that we got, but now the numbers are starting to creep up.

And I, you know, I kept wondering is this going to be sort of, you know, these blips on the radar, or are we going to see disturbing trends. And as Miguel and Elizabeth just talked about, these are becoming disturbing trends. This is the best time of the year right now in terms of viral transmission. It's summer. The virus doesn't like to be outside, people are increasingly outside, all those things.

As we go into fall, some of these trends that we're seeing are going to be amplified, and that's a real concern. What really inspired me to write the essay was something that Barney Graham, he was Deputy Director at the NIH, told me.

He said, and I mentioned this before, that it's no longer a country of vaccinated and unvaccinated, it will be become a country of vaccinated and infected. And this Delta variant is unforgiving in this regard, and people really need to pay attention.

SCIUTTO: The numbers are remarkable in that - I mean, CNN for instance, the numbers for June, 99.2 percent of COVID deaths were unvaccinated people. In the state of Maryland, it was 100 percent of COVID deaths were unvaccinated people.

You say the only people who should really be concerned about for COVID now are those who are not vaccinated, and I wonder can you explain that to folks at home here that there's almost an odd, I don't want to say if it's justice, but there's a pathogenic reality here that if you're vaccinated, you're safe, if you're not, you're, you know, you're really playing with fire? GUPTA: Yes. I mean, we knew from the initial clinical trials that these vaccines were likely to be protective, but that was in tens of thousands of people. Now there's, you know, maybe a billion of these doses that have been administered around the world, hundreds of - 185 million in the United States, and you get lots and lots of data just like the ones that you're talking about.

So as the data has accumulated, and science is always evolving, but as that science has evolved, it has amplified this point about just how protective these vaccines are, but we're also seeing something else that I think is really important. There has been this, I think, misconception that this is primarily an older person's disease.


And maybe the initial variants were more of an older person's disease, but now we're sort of seeing the majority of people who are hospitalized in many of these places around the country are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, so it's changing. The vaccines work, everyone needs to get them because with these variants, everyone is really at risk.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, listen, and it's a message you're hearing from smart folks like you, but it -even senior Republican politicians, right, Mitch McConnell and others, trying to break through those bubbles. Let's hope it works. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Yes. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, Senate Democrats on the Budget Committee have reached a new deal overnight to advance a key piece of President Biden's agenda. Will all Democrats get on board? A lot of hurdles here, we're going to talk about it.

HARLOW: Also, the Taliban now responding to an - to this critically important new CNN reporting, and video, by the way, showing Taliban fighters executing 22 unarmed Afghan soldiers. We'll take you live to Afghanistan for more on that.

And Sir Richard Branson still walking on air, if you will, after this historic space flight. In just a few moments, he will join us live along with a pioneering member of his crew. She will join us about the research she did in space. Stay close.



HARLOW: Developing this morning, Senate Democrats say they have struck a preliminary deal on a $3.5 trillion budget, helping pave the way for what would be their own Democrat-only infrastructure plan.

SCIUTTO: To be clear, this effort is separate from a bipartisan package still being negotiated, focused on roads and bridges. Both bills are key to meeting the Biden administration's broad infrastructure goals. Today, the president begins the tough task of pitching his agenda, getting it over the finish line. We have team coverage, John Harwood at the White House. Let's begin

with Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. So tell us where this one stands and also where the bipartisan infrastructure deal stands?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are two tracks right now. This is one effort along party lines, straight party lines. Democrats say they have agreement among themselves over the top line number, as well as some of the details but there are a lot of details to sort out.

$3.5 trillion, a staggering number that would fulfill a lot of Joe Biden's domestic agenda. Then there's a separate track that would go along bipartisan lines. It needs 60 votes in the Senate to do that. That infrastructure package still being negotiated, it's still an open question about whether they can get a deal, and still an open question if ten Republican senators would break ranks, join all 50 Democrats, that they all united to get that through, so a lot still needs to be negotiated.

But, the first task among Democrats to get the larger bill through is to keep their caucus united, including key moderates, people like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, someone who has raised concerns about a price tag as high as $3.5 trillion. But just moments ago, we talked to Joe Manchin, he made clear that he is open to the idea and going as high as $3.5 trillion and even suggested that he could support it assuming it's fully paid for.


RAJU: You - I mean, yes, you said pretty clearly that $2 trillion was probably the max you can go.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, I'm just -

RAJU: Are you even open to the idea of going to $3.5 trillion?

MANCHIN: Well, I'm open to looking at everything they provided. Dental is a very important part of a person's health, and all eye care, all these things are very important, but we have to pay for all this.


RAJU: So that last part was important because one of the key provisions in this proposal is do an expansion of Medicare that includes dental, vision and hearing. Manchin signaled he said could be open to that. He also wants to look at how it's paid for or fully paid for. Democrats are saying that it would be fully paid for in part by raising taxes on corporations.

But again, this still is a process. They have reached a general agreement among themselves about what this would look like. Then they have to actually draft the legislation, then to sell it to their members, and people like Joe Manchin will have their say in the end of how this is all going to be shaped. But a key signal about - a positive signal for Democrats that at least one of their key voices on this, Joe Manchin, at least is open to the idea of spending that much money.

HARLOW: Yes. It's not a no, that's for sure. Manu, thanks. Great reporting as always. John Harwood, to you, can you tell us about the meeting today, what's going to happen? I know Republicans, Democrats, mayors, governors on infrastructure. What's the goal?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the goal, Poppy, is to drive the public message behind the infrastructure proposal the president has made. You know, what Manu was just reporting on, the negotiations that led to that top-line number on the reconciliation package, which White House officials were very deeply involved in, that's the closed-door, behind-the-scenes negotiations part.

But there's also a conveying to the public what the administration is seeking. Infrastructure improvements are very popular with the public. There's a reason why President Biden has made this his initial agenda item, and so he's going to try to drive that point home in this meeting with mayors and governors, including the Republican governor of Vermont, including Republican mayors from Oklahoma and Alabama.

The president's gotten a list of several hundred mayors and the bipartisan National Governor's Association to embrace the elements of this bipartisan infrastructure proposal. So, publicly, you try to make the case that we're doing something that people want. Privately, you try to convince your members to hang together behind the more difficult stuff that you're going to try to do later on.


And you also are trying to keep the heat on those ten Republicans that Manu mentioned that they need to pass the bipartisan proposal. It's all a complicated equation, but make no mistake about it, that agreement last night that the president's going to try to reinforce with this meeting today is a very significant step forward for the Biden White house and a signal that they may be, in fact, able to achieve this year a very large proportion of the improvements they have proposed for infrastructure, climate, health, education, help for struggling families.


HARLOW: We'll see what comes of the meeting. Thank you, John Harwood. Manu, thank you as well.

Coming up next for us, a turn here. Sir Richard Branson has now conquered one of his lifelong dreams, blasting off to space. His goal, democratize space travel. But when will that really be achievable for more than just the wealthiest. He and his fellow astronaut, Sirisha Bandla, they are both here live next.



HARLOW: Well, Sir Richard Branson has achieved a lifelong dream, soaring to heights few civilians have ever reached, in a quest to potentially, one day, democratize space travel. He and five others blasting off to the edge of space in a supersonic plane that the team at Virgin Galactic has spent nearly two decades building, hoping to inspire the next generation of space explorers.


RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GALACTIC: To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults looking down to our beautiful, beautiful earth. To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do. Yay.


HARLOW: And look at this. This is Sirisha Bandla of Virgin Galactic after their spaceship riding on Branson's shoulders as the team celebrated. She moved to the United States from India at 4 years old, always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and she made it with her grandfather watching the whole thing live via telecast from India. And they are here, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic's Vice President of Government Affairs and Research. Thank you for being here.

BRANSON: Thank you.


BRANSON: And her parents flew in and her sister from India as well, so.

HARLOW: Wow. Wow. So I watched at - Sunday at home with my 3 and 5- year-old, and it was amazing for them to see. And, I mean, we've talked for more than a decade as you've been building this and hoping for this to happen.

BRANSON: Next year, next year.

HARLOW: Next year. You kept telling me six months, six months, but it happened. I know it was the thrill of a lifetime. But beyond that, what do you hope this does for all of us, for humanity?

BRANSON: Space is so important for us. And, I mean, for instance, Sirisha was doing tests onboard the spaceship which would - which was - wouldn't not have been possible unless spaceships actually went into the area of space that we went to. I mean, she can tell you more about them.

I think that, you know, there are just - there is - in the last week, we had launched Virgin Orbit from a 747, putting satellites into space. Now we've launched another craft from another vehicle, putting people into space. And I think that over the years to come, there will be thousands of people who we will put into space and will become astronauts and hopefully will come back and realize just, you know, how - what a special world we live in. HARLOW: Yes, the overview effect and the impact it has on you. So for

people who don't know, Sirisha, you wanted to be an astronaut. You didn't have perfect eyesight, so you couldn't become a NASA astronaut. And in high school, that's how young you are, you watched what Richard was building and said that is how I'm going to get to space?

BANDLA: Yes, absolutely. So I saw that - I actually skipped physics class, which is kind of ironic, to go watch the (inaudible). And, you know, I saw the spaceship 1, at that point, land and I saw Richard say I'm going to build this company to make space accessible for everyone. And I said that's how I'm going to get to space.

HARLOW: This picture of you, if we can pull it up in the control room, was really striking to me. This is you looking down - I think we have it. There's a picture of - yes, there. It's a little bit dark, but that's you looking out the window. And you were actually doing a science experiment on plants while you were up there, so this wasn't just like a fun, exhilarating trip.

BANDLA: Yes. It was fun and exhilarating -


BANDLA: - but I did - so my role for this - for Unity 22 was to test the human tended (ph) capability, so the ability for researchers, while in space, to conduct research and science experiments. And that's - so that's what I was doing.

I had these tubes called Kennedy fixation tubes that held a plant that would express certain genes in different high G's and low G situation -


BANDLA: - so we can study how plants adapt to extreme environments. So, this is a capability that's not available right now. So researchers are now going to be able to conduct field research in space, something that they haven't been able to do. It's going to be amazing.

HARLOW: Richard, you said this is for your kids and your grandkids, and then you told Stephen Colbert last night this is for like young kids to look forward, not look back at landing on the moon but to look forward to what we can do and what maybe they can do.