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CDC Says, 48.6 Percent Of U.S. Population Is Fully Vaccinated; GOP Congressman Pitches Vaccine To Republican Skeptics; Chaos Erupts After Shots Fired Outside MLB Game Saturday; Interview With L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva About Mask Mandate; Jeff Bezos Set To Rocket Into Space Tuesday. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 18, 2021 - 18:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world on this Sunday. You are live in the CNN Newsroom.

As more and more places try to emerge from this coronavirus cocoon, the delta variant may have other plans. The day before the U.K. lifts its restrictions, the prime minister needs to self-isolate. And right here in the United States, more than half the country is at risk of catching this powerful strain.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: And this virus is so contagious, this variant is so contagious, that it's going to infect the majority, that most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously vaccinated or they will get this delta variant. And for most people who'd get this delta variant, it's going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of risk of putting them in the hospital.


BROWN: Your risk of catching the delta variant is especially high in these 12 states that haven't reached a 40 percent vaccination rate. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

More now on Alabama, where about 34 percent of the population is vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins, and there are more than 48 hundred new cases reported just last week. Now, everyone, from church pastors to high school cheerleaders, are being asked to share the pro- vaccine message. It's still a tough sell though.

CNN's Natasha Chen has more, from Birmingham.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take it from me. I'm 15 years old. Go get the vaccine.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The effort to get COVID-19 vaccines into arms in Alabama is an uphill battle.

PASTOR CEDRIC HRABOWSKI, GALILEE BAPTIST CHURCH IN FAITFIELD, ALABAMA: If you had not had your vaccination, then you are part of the problem.

CHEN: Pastor Cedric Hrabowski has passed out fliers in his community, but sometimes he meets pushback from people who bring up the infamous Tuskegee experiment. But this pastor tells us it's not a good comparison and he warns --

HRABOWSKI: You can't get your news from social media.

CHEN: But the rampant spread of misinformation on social media is the biggest hurdle, according to health officials. Some are buying into false narratives, including people under 30, who are the least vaccinated in Alabama.

Birmingham City schools have been hosting vaccine clinics at their high schools, getting the band to play and cheerleaders to perform.

But some members of this pep squad still need a pep talk. Half of these girls told CNN they are too scared to get vaccinated, saying they don't want the actual virus injected into them, which is not how COVID-19 vaccines work. Instead the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a tiny piece of the virus's genetic sequence to send the body a message to create a specialized protein to prompt our immune system to create antibodies to protect itself against the virus. And just like Snapchat, then message disappears.

Still, mistrust in some African-American communities looms.

DAAGYE HENDRICKS, PRESIDENT, BIRMINGHAM BOARD OF EDUCATION: What I'm hearing is, you know, I'm just not sure. I want to wait a little longer. I want to see how it affects my family and my friends.

CHEN: Kennedi Brown and her mother both became infected with the coronavirus, and experience powerful enough to motivate them to get their first vaccine shots on Saturday.

KENNEDI BROWN, RISING SOHPOMORE: Most of my friends, their parents don't make them do anything, so it's really their choice. But my mom made me come get it.

CHEN: Since April 1st, 529 people have died of COVID-19 in Alabama. More than 96 percent of them were unvaccinated. Around 34 percent of people in the state are fully vaccinated. And since peaking in March and April, the number of doses administered has been dropping dramatically.

Now, the state has seen another surge, with more than double the new case numbers last week compared to the week before.


In Mobile --

STEVE NORMAND, HEAD COACH, BAKER HIGH SCHOOL: I was cutting the hopes that this was -- it was over with.

CHEN: The entire Baker High School football team is quarantined.

NORMAND: I think the variants that are out and about are kind of poking around.

CHEN: And the first Baptist Church in Spanish Fort announced it would be postponing events and all in-person services are cancelled for the rest of July. People commented on the post asking for prayers for loved ones who have gotten COVID-19.

NATHONY GARDNER, CEO, ALABAMA REGIONAL MEDICAL SERVICES: Just yesterday, I got a call from my father about my uncle who did not get the vaccine. And guess what? He is in the hospital now.

CHEN: Anthony Gardner is the CEO of Alabama Regional Medical Services and even he can't convince all of his family to get vaccinated. But he says he won't give up.

GARDNER: No it's not uphill battle. It's my mission, it's my purpose for being here.


CHEN (on camera): All these vaccine clinic and church near Birmingham is about to wrap up. But unfortunately, only about ten people have come through here today. It's an example of the ongoing challenge that health providers, local leaders, clergy and schools are having in convincing the larger community to get vaccinated. Pamela?

BROWN: Thanks to Natasha Chen. While the partisan divide on vaccines, namely Republican hesitancy based on polling, based on what we know, is based on misinformation and distrust in large part. COVID, as identity politics, may be most striking in this Kaiser Poll on the level of trust for sources of vaccine information.

The vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans trust their doctors. But GOP supporters have little faith in other information sources. In fact, fewer than half trust the CDC or their state government. Only 30 percent trust Dr. Anthony Fauci and even fewer believe in President Biden.

Our next guest is among 13 members of the House GOP Doctors Caucus who took part in this PSA that puts aside politics to debunk misinformation and tout the science and benefits of getting vaccinated.

Congressman Buddy Carter of Georgia joins me from Savannah. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. You're a pharmacist and you represent one of the states that has one of the lower vaccination rates. Why did you and your colleagues in the medical field feel it was so important to put out this message even though many Republicans may not be open to it? REP. BUDDY CARTER (R-GA): Well, vaccines are the single most life- saving innovation in the history of medicine. And thanks to Operation Warp Speed, we have a number of vaccines to come on the market in less than a year.

And I encourage people to get the vaccine, because it is safe and it is effective. However, I do not think we should be mandating it. This is a decision that should be made by individuals in consultation with their doctor and their families.

Now, I believe in the vaccine and I believe it's safe and effective, so much so that as a health care professional and a member of the doctors' caucus in Congress, I myself went through the clinical trials. I actually went to the clinical trials to set a good example. And I'm glad I did.

And I do believe that it is safe and effective, however I have to stop short of saying that it should be mandated. This is a decision that should be made by people in consultation with their physicians and with their family members.

BROWN: And right now, the only place it's being mandated is in private companies that choose to do so. But, unfortunately, this has become this partisan issue. This recent poll that we just referenced earlier, this Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that 23 percent of Republicans would definitely not receive a vaccine compared to 2 percent of Democrats. Why do you think so many Republicans are vaccine hesitant even though science shows the vaccine is safe?

CARTER: Well, first of all, I think we get caught up in this about the number of Republicans, number of Democrats. It should be how many Americans are not getting vaccinated. And we should do everything we can to encourage them to get vaccinated, because, listen, I'd rather have the vaccine than the virus. There's no question about that. And these vaccines are safe and effective. And I would encourage people to get them and even so, that I went to the clinical trials myself.

However, we have to stop short, we are America. It would be un- American to mandate it. It would be like Big Brother making us have these vaccines. But I think if we do a better job --

BROWN: Who's talking about mandating it? The government -- the White House isn't mandating the vaccines. There's no discussion of that.

CARTER: Right.

BROWN: OK. Just want to make sure.


BROWN: So -- but I need to ask you, because you heard, I'm sure, President Biden when asked what role does Facebook play with all this, what is your message? He said, they're killing people. How much do you think right-wing news outlets that misled the public on the vaccine, suggesting that may not be safe or that the government is weaponizing, that to control people is contributing to vaccine hesitancy? CARTER: Well, certainly we need to be concerned. But this to me shows that the big tech is answering to the socialist left, and they should not be doing that.


Listen, we're a country where the First Amendment is the most important amendment that we have and the most important right that we have. And, yes, there is misinformation out there. We need to make sure we get that cleared up.

However, keep in mind early on the big tech, the platforms were actually suppressing the idea, the possibility of the origin of this vaccine. Now, we know not only is it possible, not only is it probably, but it did indeed originate in the virology labs in Wuhan. And that's the example we're they were trying to --

BROWN: No. No. No. We don't know that. We don't know that, Congressman.

CARTER: -- where they were trying suppress.

BROWN: We do not know that. My reporting is that there are senior Biden administration officials who view it as just as credible as a theory in emerge from nature. But no one knows whether it emerged from a lab or from an animal to a human. So I just want to make sure that that we're clear on that.

But going back to my question, do you think that misinformation on right wing media and on social media sites, that it's killing people?

CARTER: Well, look, the misinformation needs to be straightened out, but at the same time we can't be dictating to these platforms what they are -- what is misinformation and what is not misinformation. That is something that you get into the First Amendment and the suppression of free speech. That is something that the Biden administration is trying to do that they should not be trying to do.

What is misinformation? That's in the eyes of the beholder there. I encourage everyone to get the vaccine. I think it's safe and effective. As a health care professional, I hope everyone will do it. But I'm not going to be suppressing our First Amendment rights in order to make sure that that happens. We have to get the information out there that it is safe and effective, that I'd rather have the vaccine than the virus and that we need people to get the vaccine.

BROWN: OK. I want to share this video with you, Congressman. I think it's really important that you are using your position as someone with a medical background to speak out. This is a video of you attending a GOP event to call for the firing of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

You took the opportunity to encourage Americans to get vaccinated while sharing the stage with other Republicans, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are telling people not get the vaccine. Do you think that mixed messaging adds to the confusion? CARTER: Well, you want to talk about misinformation, keep in mind that Vice President Harris is the one who said she would never take a vaccine that has originated under the Trump administration. I mean, that lead people --

BROWN: But hold on, I'm talking about you with your colleagues right there who are standing there. Yes. That's what I'm asking about.

CARTER: I understand that. It certainly --

BROWN: Does that give mixed messages. And that's been -- we've talked about Kamala Harris and what she said back then a lot. So this is what I'm focused on now.

CARTER: Understood. And, certainly, Representative Greene has every right to her opinion. I respect her opinion. I don't agree with it. I would rather have the vaccine than the virus, as I've said numerous times. The vaccine is safe and effective. I encourage everyone to get it. But it should be a decision made by individuals after consultation with their family and their physicians.

BROWN: Okay. So I want to actually go to what President Trump -- he released a statement today, former President Trump, seeming to defend the mistrust that we're talking about here. And here's what he said. Saying, people that, quote, are refusing to take the vaccine because they don't trust the administration, they don't trust the election results and they certainly don't trust the fake news, which is refusing to tell you the truth.

We should note you did vote to overturn to the results of the presidential election, do you agree with Trump, that there is a connection between not believing the election results on being vaccine hesitant.

CARTER: Well, I think the point that the president was trying to get across, is that there so much mistrust out there, and not just in the vaccines, not just in the election process but in the media as a whole. And that's the point he's trying to make. It's not that, oh, if you didn't trust the election results, then you shouldn't trust the vaccine. No, that's not it at all. I think the greater point he is trying to be made here is the mistrust and the information that we're getting from the media. That's the key here.

BROWN: Okay. So let me just ask you this. So on the vaccines, do you think -- I just want to reiterate this, do you think people should be listening to news hosts and to politicians who don't have a medical background or should they listen to medical professionals, to their doctors, to pharmacists like yourself, on whether they should take the vaccine?

CARTER: No question about it. Look, health care, in general, depends on having confidence in your providers and that is the key. That's why if you like your doctor, if you like your insurance, you can keep it, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. That's why that's so important because confidence in your health care provider, that's half of the win right there. That's half of the victory, making sure you're confident this is going to work. If you go into something thinking it's not going to work, it's probably not going to work.

BROWN: Exactly. So you're saying -- so -- okay, so you're saying, basically, the source of information is very important, where people get their information, in order to know whether they should trust the vaccine is very important.


So I want to apply that on the election. Do you think people should listen to politicians or the nearly 100 judges across the political spectrum, the Republican and Democratic election officials that certified the election and administration officials who agree there's no evidence of widespread fraud in the election? Who should people listen to there?

CARTER: I think you're getting into apples and oranges here. And I think there's a danger there that you're going to come up with bananas. This has nothing to do with the vaccine means safe and effective but --

BROWN: No, this is about the source of information.

CARTER: But to your point, to your point, look, I've always said that the problem in the election certification was that the changes in these states, in the state of Georgia and Arizona and Michigan, were made by the executive branch and made by the judicial branch and not by the legislative branch that they should have been made by.

The recent ruling in the Arizona case is a perfect example of where even President Carter, at one time, said that the biggest problem, the biggest potential for cheating in elections is through absentee ballots.


CARTER: And even he said that. You know, that was part of the reasoning for the Arizona decision there.

BROWN: OK, let me just -- if you're going to apply that principle, I'm a big fan of just applying the same principle across the board, then that same principle would have to apply in the other states that Trump won, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and also wasn't in the state law, the executives went around that.

But if you look at the voter fraud and so forth and the amount of it, if you look at that, it's less than 0.001 percent, meaning that the election itself, from what we know, all the evidence, everything that is being forward was 99.99 percent successful with eligible voters having their voices heard through their vote. That's pretty good, is it not?

CARTER: What I know is this, is that the changes that were made to the election process in the state of Georgia were made by the executive branch without the approval of the legislative branch. And our Constitution is perfectly clear that it should be made by the legislative branch. That's why I applaud the Georgia state legislature for the Election

Integrity Act that makes voting easier and cheating harder. What happened in Arizona, what happened in Pennsylvania, those were made by the judicial branch, not by the legislative branch. I think that's the whole key here.

BROWN: Okay. And I understand, you know, and there's -- I'm not going to sit here with you and go into the weeds on all this, but, of course, the law in Georgia, it does give the secretary of state leeway. You argue though that he shouldn't have signed the memorandum and so forth. I get what you're saying. But the bottom line here is that all these judges, you know, all of these election administration officials, Republican, Democrat, they all said this election was safe and secure. And so should people listen to that versus politicians who may have an interest in staying in power?

CARTER: People have the right to listen to who they want to listen to. And, you know, you're trying to demonize politicians here. We're making a point --

BROWN: I'm not trying to demonize politicians. No, I'm not demonizing politician. I'm not. I'm just saying as sources of information on important issues like the vaccine. You said they should listen to their doctors, not what politicians who have no medical background are saying.

CARTER: Absolutely.

BROWN: Okay.

CARTER: Absolutely, there's no question about that. They should listen to their doctors. And, again, I think we're getting to apples and oranges here, the point of objecting to the election integrity to the election certification was that the changes that were made led to the potential for cheating in the state of Georgia. The changes that were made were not made by the legislative branch, as our Constitutions says they should be. The changes that were made were made by the judicial branch and the executive branches. And that's not the way our Constitution has us.

BROWN: Okay, we could talk a lot more about this, Congressman Buddy Carter, but you can't divorce from the context as well. When you voted to decertify those results in the two states, that was against the backdrop of the sitting president saying the election was stolen, that the people's voices weren't counting, that they're vote did not count. So it was against that backdrop, which is different.

And also, I mean, doesn't it raise into question all the Republicans who won in these states, like your state of Georgia, does it not call into question whether you won legitimately then based on that logic?

CARTER: And I would present to you if that's the case, why are we even doing the certification in Congress? So, if we're not supposed to object, why not basically --

BROWN: It's basically pro forma. CARTER: -- accept it by an unanimous consent. I mean, that's what we are supposed to be doing. And that what I was doing. And if I had to do it over 100 times again, I'd do it the same way, because the people of the state of Georgia felt like there was cheating and that results were not correct. So, I stand by my decision. If I had to do it over again, I'd do it just the way I did it.

BROWN: Okay. Congressman Buddy Carter, thanks for coming on the show, really important discussion there.

CARTER: Thank you for having me.

BROWN: I do appreciate, and you're welcome back any time.


CARTER: Thank you.

BROWN: And up next, baseball fans return to the ballpark in Washington, D.C., after a shooting outside the stadium last night sent fans scrambling.


BROWN: Well, police have stepped up patrols outside Nationals Park, the baseball stadium here in Washington, D.C. Chaos erupted last night in the six inning of the game between the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals after shots rang out nearby.

Eventually, police determine three people had been shot in the street and that there was no threat inside. The two teams finished the game earlier today, picking up where they were interrupted.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is at the stadium and filed this report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please, the action is outside of the stadium. At this time, we ask that you remain in the stadium.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Gunfire sending fans and players scrambling during a game at Nationals Park Stadium in Washington D.C., a fan, one of the three wounded in a shooting near the part Saturday night, according to D.C. Metro Police.


CNN journalists inside the stadium reported hearing multiple loud bangs.

SAM FEIST, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ATTENDED GAME: And we were not on the lower level. We were just in the middle section so we could look down. And we saw people beginning to duck and then run for the gates. And we had heard thunder during the night, so we weren't sure if it was thunder, or now we know it was actually gunshots. But what we saw was a crowd that was in full panic. On the first baseline, that's the Nationals' side, people ran over the fence onto the field into the dugout because they were trying to escape whatever they thought might be out there. And they ran into the tunnel to get away.

On the third base side, that's where the gunshots were heard from. That was the San Diego Padres' side. People went both out the gate, this gate that we are at right now, the center field gate, and also in and around the Padres' dugout the same way.

MALVEAUX: The nationals were playing the San Diego Padres when the shooting began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, the news report coming out from the security guards is that there was a victim that was shot outside the stadium. He ran into the stadium covered in blood, which freaked out a lot of individuals, which caused a lot of the chaos and panic. And people have rushed back into their seats because they didn't know what was happening.

MALVEAUX: Play was interrupted in the bottom of the sixth inning. A message on the scoreboard initially told fans to remain inside the baseball park, but it was updated later to say it is safer funs to leave the stadium.

At a press conference Saturday night, officials tried to reassure the public.

CHRIS GELDART, DEPUTY MAYOR FOR PUBLIC SAFETY AND JUSTICE: But we believe this was an isolated incident, again, had nothing to do with the game itself. And that it is safe to come down here, for folks to come down here for tomorrow night's game.

MALVEAUX: Police have recovered one of the vehicles but the others remain at large. The two other people wounded in the shooting were associated with a recovered vehicle and are now in the hospital being questioned by police.

It's unclear what their exact involvement was in the incident. An official said those individuals were known to law enforcement. The fan who was shot, a female, is expected to recover.

San Diego Padres Star Fernando Tatis Jr. thanked everyone that helped after the shooting outside Nationals Park. Tatis said on Twitter, hope everyone is safe. Just keep the prayers up. Thank you everyone that helped on the front line. God bless.


MALVEAUX (on camera): The Nationals were able to complete their game with the Padres. They are now onto game three. They're almost wrapped up with that. A lot of people I spoke to were excited, enthusiastic saying they're not going to let this isolated incident get in the way of being out in crowds and having a good time, but also acknowledging that there is a new normal. And, Pam as you mentioned, D.C. Police presence has been increased.

We just got this statement. I want to read it to you. This is from the Mayor of D.C., D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, as well as the Nationals team, saying, we stand together against senseless acts of gun violence in the city we love. Gun violence, no matter where it occurs in our city, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and, again, the D.C. officials offering $10,000 for any information leading to an arrest when it comes to this shooting. Pam?

BROWN: Okay, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

And overnight in Los Angeles, a new mask mandate went into effect after a 500 percent jump in COVID-19 cases. When we come back I'll speak to the sheriff. He says he won't to enforce the mandate and claims it's not backed by science.



BROWN: Well, there's a new indoor mask mandate in L.A. County. And in response to that, the top law enforcement official in the county, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, said this. "Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science. The underfunded, defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance."

Public health officials reinstated the mandate as a defense against the aggressive Delta variant. L.A. County has seen a 500 percent jump in COVID cases since California fully reopened on June 15th.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva joins me now.

Thank you so much for being with us here, Sheriff.


BROWN: You say that forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science. Why are you choosing -- help us understand a little bit more about why you're choosing to go against public health guidance from medical professionals in your county?

VILLANUEVA: Well, one, the person who issued this was not a medical professional. It's the director of the Department of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer, is not a medical doctor nor is she an epidemiologist. Number one. And number two, these are not guidelines consistent with the CDC. And probably the most important, number three, we want to reward good behavior.

We want to incentivize people to get vaccinated, but if we're telling people to get vaccinated but by the way you still got to wear a mask is not going to help us to get that 60 percent become 70 percent or 80 percent, not at all. All we're doing is breeding resentment and creating conflict in the businesses which is not going to further our goals.

BROWN: And of course, and I've interviewed who you just mentioned. And she said this is about the unvaccinated, not the vaccinated.

I want to point out the CDC guidelines. It is true that the CDC said fully vaccinated people can go without masks indoors, but it does add an exception for places where it's required by federal, state, local laws and businesses.


What do you say to critics who say you're a sheriff, not a scientist. Why are you calling the shots here and be the one to say the science doesn't back up this mandate?

VILLANUEVA: Well, I have a raging problem with homelessness. We're the epicenter of the entire nation's homeless crisis. I have crimes of violence, homicides, up almost 60 percent. I have an out-of-control illegal marijuana grows in the high desert and illegal dispensaries in the basin. Those three things represent existential threats. And I have -- at the same time I'm being defunded by the Board of Supervisors, so what few resources I have available are going to be devoted to those three existential threats.

On the medical side, well, the Department of Public Health, they can enforce it all they want. But we're not going to be called to stretch ourself even further than we already are. We have to have some common sense here.

BROWN: So you're saying this is a resource issue. And it is true that more was taken from your department last year than more money was put in this year, so it has even out what it was, but, you know, I just want to go back to what we were talking about here. How much is this about, for you, calling attention to a lack of funding for your department and the need for more resources or actually, you know, caring about whether this is backed by science?

VILLANUEVA: Well, remember, I was -- I lost $145 million last year. This year I'm losing an additional $143 million. I had 1400 positions removed by the CEO's office. The job didn't go away. I just lost the number of people to get the job done. So I have deputies working two jobs at once to make up for the difference, and then on the practical side, enforcement, I have a district attorney who has not filed 5,932 cases that are criminal cases, let alone a health order case.

He's not going to file a single one. So again, it does not make sense. From common sense and for practical purpose, we have neither the resources, neither the prosecutorial side of the equation is going to do anything with it. So we are not going to put our personnel into these conflicts unnecessarily.

BROWN: Will you comply with the mask mandate?

VILLANUEVA: As a vaccinated person, I will go with whatever the establishment wants. I'm fine with that. That'll be up to each individual establishment. BROWN: OK. So you're not going to comply by the L.A. County mask

mandate, you'll only comply depending on what the establishment wants. Is that what you're saying?

VILLANUEVA: Yes. We're looking for voluntary compliance. And for -- obviously when I'm working, but all of my employees will go by the guidelines from the county and the public health officers.

BROWN: I just want to ask you, because when I interviewed the health official there who imposed this mask mandate that you had mentioned earlier, a lot of this was about the unvaccinated, including children, children that can't get vaccinated yet. And as we've seen, there is a big explosion of cases there in L.A. County.

Do you see this also -- I mean, couldn't you argue that enforcing a mask mandate is part of your role in protecting these kids, Sheriff?

VILLANUEVA: That, you know, you may be trying to tug at heartstrings, but your argument falls apart when 99.9 percent of everyone who's in the hospital right now, in the ERs and the ICUs, they are the unvaccinated. We try -- we have to get the unvaccinated --

BROWN: Right. So that's what I'm --


BROWN: Right. That's what I'm saying. I'm not trying to pull the heartstrings. I'm just looking at the facts here that kids under the age of 12 can't get vaccinated. And so doctors say they --

VILLANUEVA: That's something --

BROWN: It's about protecting them as well.

VILLANUEVA: Well, just like any population is vulnerable, you've got to pick and choose where you're going to expose yourself. So if kids under 12 who are not vaccinated, well, then their parents really need to pick and choose exactly where they're going to expose them publicly. And that's going to be up to the individual family member to understand that and make those risk assessments on an individual basis.

But the department as a whole will comply when we're working, of course. And we're going to rely on voluntary compliance of each business owner. But ultimately all we're doing is it's actually backfiring on us because we're creating more resentment, more anger and more mistrust. The county DPH, they did not consult with law enforcement, the board of supervisors. They did this all on their own without ever considering what the consequences are and our ability to enforce it.

They just assume that they're going to come down the mountain with the tablets like Moses and say this is the law of the land, deal with it. It doesn't work that way. We got to work together.

BROWN: All right. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, thanks so much for joining us here on the show to explain your reasoning for not enforcing this mask mandate there on L.A. County.

VILLANUEVA: You got it, Pamela.

BROWN: Doctor Megan Ranney has been on the front lines of this pandemic since the very beginning.


We're going to speak to her next about what she just heard from the L.A. County sheriff. Be sure to stay with us.


BROWN: Before the break I spoke with L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Despite a 500 percent rise in his county's COVID cases since June 15th, he won't enforce the county's new indoor mask mandate, saying it's not based in science.

I want to impact conversation and the latest on COVID with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency physician at Brown University.


Great to see you. So I want you to respond to what you heard from Sheriff Villanueva. His department won't enforce the new indoor mask mandate in L.A. County saying that forcing the vaccinated to wear masks isn't backed by science. What do you think?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: So let's be honest about what's happening in L.A. right now. Talking to my colleagues and friends who live there, they say there's virtually no one who's masked in public settings right now. We know that only about half of folks in L.A. are vaccinated. That means a lot of people who aren't vaccinated are going unmasked as well.

We're not talking about shutdowns. We're talking about putting masks back on faces. And we know that masks stop transmission of COVID. If I were running the Department of Health, I sure would think about putting a mask mandate back in place to help slow the spread of this super transmissible Delta variant until I can get more vaccines in arms.

If I trusted that everyone who was unvaccinated was wearing a mask, I might not need it. But that's not what's happening. So this is backed by science and is a worthwhile thing to do.

BROWN: All right. Well, that sums it up right there, from a doctor who was dealing with COVID day in and day out in the E.R. I also want to talk about something that the Republican congressman from Georgia Buddy Carter said to me earlier in the show. He's a pharmacist. He thinks people should take the vaccine. He actually was part of a PSA to push that. But he also made clear he believes taking the vaccine is a personal choice.

And I want to remind our viewers of what Dr. Fauci said yesterday. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we had had the pushback for vaccines the way we're seeing on certain media, I don't think it would have been possible at all to not only eradicate smallpox, we probably would still have smallpox and we probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that's being spread now. If we had that back decades ago, I would be certain that we'd still have polio in this country.


BROWN: So how much do those personal choices of not taking the vaccine impact the rest of us in light of that?

RANNEY: Well, you just have to look at Arkansas and Missouri to see how much it impacts the rest of us. These vaccines are great, but they're not 100 percent effective. And so as cases rise, particularly, again, this new Delta variant, which is so much more transmissible, it puts at risk not just those who are unvaccinated but also those who have gotten both doses of the vaccine and maybe are immunosuppressed or have multiple illnesses or other chronic conditions.

It's putting others at risk as well. All that said, right now it is up to individual businesses, employers or schools to make that decision as to whether or not to mandate a vaccine. So for now, the congressman is right, it is a personal choice. I just hope that people make the choice that protects not just themselves but also their friends and family.

BROWN: Right. I think that's key. It's not just about what's best for your personally. It's about what's best for others. And including those who can't get vaccinated like children.

I want to look at Canada. This is so interesting. Because Canada, as we know, also has social media. Right? Canada has less access to vaccines. Yet it is surpassing the U.S. And our correspondent there said the only difference there is that it's just not as politically divisive. What do you make of that?

RANNEY: I agree completely. You know, on my shifts in the ER, I sit there and talk to patients who have chosen not to be vaccinated yet. And the things that they tell me, the misinformation and the lies that they've heard generally accord honestly with some of their other political beliefs. They're hearing things on social media or from friends and family that go in a certain direction, that make people feel like it's part of who they are as a person, as getting vaccinated or wearing masks, when in fact it should be driven by science, not by politics.

This virus doesn't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat. It's going to get you sick either way if you're not vaccinated and happen to be in contact with it.

BROWN: I think it also just really crystalizes how politically divisive this country is. I mean, you look at Canada -- you know, comparing that, and then you look at polio and measles, how this country came together to eradicate that and look where we are now.

But I want to ask you a personal question that I've sort of noticed and I wonder what advice you would have because I imagine I'm not the only one. So as we return to the office and social gatherings, the question is, are handshakes and hugs acceptable? Because I personally have been in some really awkward situations like do I shake the hand, do I do like a side hug? What should we do?

RANNEY: So I always say ask permission. If you and the other person are both vaccinated, honestly, Pamela, I'm giving people hugs and handshakes at this point, but I ask first. Some people are not comfortable with that, and that's OK, too. Think of it as yet another level of consent in society right now.

BROWN: OK. Great. Yes, it's funny, I just have this reaction. I don't want to shake hands. I think it's just so ingrained in me from being -- going through this pandemic.


Dr. Megan Ranney, thanks so much. Great to see you as always.

We'll be right back.


BROWN: T-2 days and counting until the next launch in the billionaire space race. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will walk into the edge of space and will be back on Tuesday with his company Blue Origin. Also on board will be 18-year-old Oliver Daemon and 82-year-old Wally Funk, the youngest and the oldest people ever to travel into space.

So what else sets Bezos' Blue Origin mission apart? Let's bring in CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien and retired NASA astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. Dottie sits on the board of the Challenger Learning Center which has received money from the Blue Origins Club for the Future.

Thank you both for coming on.

Miles, look, we know this isn't the first time a billionaire will travel to space. We just covered this recently. But what makes this trip different from Richard Branson's trip to space?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's a little different way to get to space, Pamela. It is a single stage rocket all the way up. Instead of flying for several minutes on board a carrier aircraft, as they did in the case of Sir Richard Branson. So it will be a lot quicker. It took a long time to get that aircraft to altitude, 40,000, 50,000 feet before they release the rocket and it went to space.

In this case, the rocket begins firing on the ground. Takes them up to space. They get a few minutes of weightlessness. They see the curvature of the earth, the sky gets black and then down they come. Eleven minutes. Done.

BROWN: So, Dottie, what goes through your mind as you see these back- to-back billionaire space trips? Does this make you excited about the future of space travel?

DOTTIE METCALF-LINDENBURGER, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Absolutely. Something I was thinking about is, you know, the own journey that each of us as astronauts have.


And even though these are different vehicles, there will be a unique experience for each person. And the stories that they will then go on to tell. I would love to

hear their perspectives as well because, you know, I have my own story but I love to hear from other astronauts, what inspired them in the beginning that led them on this journey to the trip that they're taking, the work that they've put in.

And for the perspective of an 18-year-old and an 82-year-old, and for Wally Funk, it's just a wonderful story, too, of a woman who had this shot, you know, but then it didn't happen when she was younger. And now she's going to get it. I just -- I can't wait to hear these stories.

BROWN: And I want to know what would you say to those watching right now and see this and you're, oh, this is Jeff Bezos' dream, he's got billions of dollars. He's going to space, you know, but there are children here on earth who are starving and there's a pandemic going on, and children dying of cancer and so forth. All of these problems here on earth.

Why does this matter? Why should we be paying attention to it? What would you say, Dottie?

METCALF-LINDENBURGER: Yes. There are definitely problems here on earth. I think when you understand what your earth is, I don't think you cannot be changed by it. So as you cite Jeff Bezos did donate to the Challenger Learning Center and other nonprofits. I mean, people are definitely aware of the things they want to make a difference with. And I think when anyone sees their home planet, when they see that thin atmosphere, and the deep darkness of space and they know the only things that keep us alive are back there on earth, you cannot help but be changed.

Our problems are big. It's not up to just one person to solve all of them. It really does take the teamwork of the world. And so I think this will give opportunities for more people to think about the impacts and changes that they want to make back here on their home planet.

BROWN: I think that's such an important point. Everyone we've heard from who's been to space said it's been -- it was a transformative experience for them. They look at earth differently. They had a different philosophy towards life.

All right, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Miles O'Brien, thank you both. We'll be looking forward to the launch coming up in a couple of days.


BROWN: The rising coronavirus cases across the country are once again putting tremendous pressure on hospitals and hotspots. When we come back, I'll speak to an Arkansas medical official and he warns that hospitals are getting close to their limit and on staff and beds. We'll be right back.