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Biden's Economic Agenda; Olympic COVID Fears. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 19, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

We're going to start with the continued impact of the coronavirus. First up, we're watching the Dow up very closely. It's down by more than 900 points right now over fears of the highly infectious Delta variant.

The virus is also taking a toll on Team USA in Tokyo, its first case of COVID at the Olympic site now. The Games, remember, are set to start Friday. Alternate U.S. gymnast Kara Eaker has tested positive for COVID. Her father tells CNN that -- affiliate KNBC that she is in isolation and so is another alternate gymnast who reportedly had close contact with her.


MARK EAKER, FATHER OF KARA EAKER: We were talking with her last night. She's had multiple COVID tests come back positive.

She has no symptoms. She's been vaccinated. And because of the tests coming back positive, they went ahead and isolated her by herself in her hotel room, and she's under quarantine.


CAMEROTA: So this news comes just a day after tennis star Coco Gauff tested positive here in the U.S., forcing her to withdraw from the Games.

In Japan, the International Olympic Committee says there are now 61 cases linked to the Tokyo Games, and that includes staffers.

CNN's Selina Wang us now from Tokyo.

So, Selina, let's start with Kara Eaker. How is she doing? And what are officials saying about that case? SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Victor,

it's a huge disappointment for her, after training, preparing for so long, going through all of the COVID restrictions finally, getting to Japan, a big disappointment.

But as you heard her father say there, she was fully vaccinated, thankfully not showing any symptoms. Take a listen to what else he had to say to our CNN affiliate.


EAKER: She will have to go through 10 days of quarantine before they're going to allow her to travel back to United States.

QUESTION: And how's she doing spirits-wise right now?

EAKER: Like I said, I know she's disappointed. But at this point, she's just -- she says she's kind of bored, because she's stuck in a room not able to do anything. She can't practice or anything like that. So she says she's bored and just looking forward to coming home.

I don't think -- I can say the biggest disappointment is that this takes her out of it completely.


WANG: USA gymnastics told me that these alternate athletes and the Olympic competitors have been rooming, training separately, following very strict COVID-19 protocols, and that the Olympic participants are continuing with their preparations.

Now, Alisyn, Victor, this just adds to the growing list of athletes who are having their Olympic dreams dashed because of COVID-19, including Coco Gauff and other Olympic athletes, saying they're staying away from Tokyo 2020 because they're concerned about the COVID-19 restrictions or citing the lack of spectators, with no friends or family to support them, an incredibly challenging Olympics for all of these athletes.

And everybody involved has to go through a long list of COVID-19 restrictions and rules, including myself, even though I am here living in Japan as credentialed media. I'm tested regularly, have to fill out my health conditions in an app every day.

But we are still seeing a growing number of cases linked to these Tokyo Games, now up to 61 athletes, officials, contractors here in Japan testing positive for COVID-19. Officials here are saying, though, that they think the numbers are low and what they expected, but the public here just isn't convinced -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: You have 61 cases, and we're still four days from opening ceremonies there.

Selina Wang for us in Tokyo, thank you.

So, back here stateside, every state, every single one in the U.S. is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases. And for the first time since mid- May, the U.S. is averaging more than 30,000 new cases a day. That's a 66 percent jump from last week, a 145 percent increase from two weeks ago.

Hospitalizations are up 50 percent from two weeks ago, and, tragically, deaths are going up too, averaging about 260 per day. That's up 13 percent from last week.

CAMEROTA: The CDC director says close to 100 percent of deaths and hospitalizations are of unvaccinated people.

Only 48.6 percent of the U.S. population are fully vaccinated.

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci warns what will happen if that number does not increase soon.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If we don't get a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people vaccinated, you're going to be seeing a smoldering of this outbreak in our country for a considerable period of time, which is really unfortunate, because what everybody wants in this country and elsewhere throughout the world is to be able to crush this outbreak.



CAMEROTA: Let's go to CNN's Natasha Chen. She's in the hot spot of Alabama, where only 33 percent of that state is fully vaccinated.

So, Natasha, what's the situation the ground?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's really hard to crush an outbreak when only about a third of your population is vaccinated.

And that's why today at the city of Birmingham's Rocket Docket event here, where they have got a line of people out the door, trying to actually resolve just traffic tickets, they decided to invite a health provider to open a vaccine clinic over here.

But you can see there are zero people sitting over there. They have actually only convinced two people today, out of all of these people coming through for court proceedings, to actually get a shot.

I talked to a couple of the pharmacists who have been walking down the line outside this building talking to people, trying to convince them. Here's what one of them told me about the conversations she's having.


JENNIFER CAMPBELL, CO-OWNER, MEDSPLUS CONSULTING: The craziest thing that was heard today was they were afraid they will become a part of the zombie apocalypse. I won't say I'm at the point of exhaustion yet. I would say that I am

disappointed with the numbers. I understand the hesitation. And that's why I want to be the face that you can talk to and ask those questions and be a listening ear. Let's talk it out.


CHEN: She said that, of course, that person who mentioned a zombie apocalypse, probably, he was kidding. It's a way of deflecting, right, when you don't have an actual question about the vaccine.

She did talk to other people who are concerned with other misinformation that they have heard online. And what she really hopes people will do is, if you have an actual question about how the vaccine works, go to a doctor, go to a pharmacist, a trusted medical professional to have them answer those questions for you, because, right now, Alabama is having a hard time convincing the remaining population to get vaccinated.

And, unfortunately, people under 30 are among the least vaccinated in this state -- Alisyn and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, go to a medical professional, instead of your friends on Facebook. The doctors have the accurate information.

Natasha Chen for us there in Alabama, thank you.

Let's bring in now a medical expert from Rhode Island, Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, co-founder of

Dr. Ranney, welcome back.

Let's start here with what was really a startling statement when I heard it from Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner. He says that the majority of people who have not been vaccinated and have not had COVID-19 already, will get the Delta variant, they will be infected with this. Do you think that's the reality that we're headed toward?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I, unfortunately, do think that's where we are heading.

Listen, this Delta variant is so much more transmissible than the prior variants of COVID-19 that we have seen. It takes less time being around someone to be infected. And once you are infected, you are more likely to spread it to others.

It is just going to decimate people who have not been vaccinated yet. It's what we're seeing already in Missouri, Arkansas, Nevada and elsewhere. The states where vaccination rates are so low, the portions of the state with low vaccination rates, their hospitals are getting filled up with the unvaccinated. And I expect that to be true across the country over the weeks and months to come.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Ranney, I want to ask you about something that caught my attention as a parent. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending in person learning for all students coming this new school semester, school year, which is great news. Bad news, they are recommending universal masking for all students 2 years old and up.

Why do vaccinated kids need to wear a mask this school year?

RANNEY: So I wouldn't say that's bad news. I would actually say that's good news for protecting all of our kids.

First of all, we know that the minority of youth in this country have been vaccinated. The vaccines have only been approved for age 12 and up.And even among them, less than a third have gotten both doses of the vaccine.

So we only have to look at what's happening across the country. We told people, hey, you only have to wear a mask if you're vaccinated. But if you go into a grocery store, you know that just about nobody is wearing a mask. And in most of this country, that means that people are unmasked despite being unvaccinated.

The only way to make sure that those kids protected for now is, unfortunately, to insist on universal masking. We know that universal masking works to stop the spread of this virus. And we need to protect our kids.


If we want them back in person school, masking seems like the least of the worries in terms of getting them back.

BLACKWELL: When it comes to the breaking news we have discussed during the day of this member of Team USA who has tested positive for COVID, they're at the Olympic site, she has been vaccinated.

Other members of the MLB we know who have tested positive, they were vaccinated. On the question of these breakthrough cases, what do vaccinated people need to know about protecting themselves, the Delta variant and what it means for them?

RANNEY: You know, it's a great question.

Obviously, the Delta variant has only been around for a little while. The data that we're seeing still suggests that both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer or that single dose of Johnson & Johnson is quite protective. It's not 100 percent against infection.

It still is very, very good, almost 100 percent, against severe disease, hospitalization or death. But I am increasingly -- as more of my friends are vaccinated and more of us are exposed to Delta, I'm also hearing about friends and colleagues who've gotten sick, despite being fully vaccinated.

So this is my advice. If I am indoors in a public location, and I am not sure that everyone around me is vaccinated, particularly if I'm in an area where cases are rising, I'm going to wear a mask. So, if I'm in a grocery store, if I'm in a train, or in a taxi, I'm wearing a mask, unless I'm 100 percent sure that the people around me have gotten their vaccine.

And for those folks that are in areas where rates of vaccination are low, I also would say I would not be going to restaurants or bars where, by definition, you're going to have your mask off.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting, Dr. Ranney.

So, basically, the advice that you're giving to our viewers who have been fully vaccinated is be aware of your surroundings and adjust your behavior accordingly?

RANNEY: That's exactly right. Be aware of your surroundings. Be a little bit of an armchair epidemiologist, know what your local infection rates are, know what your local vaccination rates are.

And when you're around people who you know are fully vaccinated, you're mostly going to be safe. If you're in settings where there's a high chance that there's someone who's infected, particularly if you live with kids who are not vaccinated or if you have friends and family members who are high risk. I would go that extra step and wear a mask.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Megan Ranney, we really appreciate it. Thanks so much for all of your medical expertise.

OK, this just into CNN. The wait will soon be over for foreigners who have been banned from entering Canada for nearly 16 months at this point. Starting August 9, we're learning, fully vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to our neighbor to the north. International travelers may also be allowed to enter Canada beginning September 7.

But the White House is not quick to reciprocate and declined to commit to reopening the U.S.' northern border to Canadians after Canada's announcement.

BLACKWELL: All right, we are continuing to watch the Dow, you can see there on the bottom right of your screen, now in the center of your screen.

Dow earlier today was down more than 900 points, down about 870 now. President Biden is confronting concerns about inflation, as his economic agenda faces a key test in Congress this week.

CAMEROTA: And cyber warfare is heating up. It's not just Russia launching ransomware attacks against American companies.



BLACKWELL: It is a crucial week for President Biden's economic agenda.

Today, he laid out his plans for financial recovery and confronted some concerns that his sweeping stimulus program will accelerate inflation.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also know that, as our economy has come roaring back, we see some price increases. Some folks have raised worries that this could be a sign of persistent inflation.

But that's not our view. Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we have seen are -- were expected and expected to be temporary.


CAMEROTA: The president is also ramping up his pitch for that bipartisan infrastructure plan, which is expected to face its first votes this week.

That's in addition to the $3.5 trillion budget resolution the Democrats are working on. So there are a lot of moving parts to follow.

Joining us now to help us sorted out, we have CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

So, Manu, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer seems to be running out of patience for ongoing negotiations with the infrastructure plan, and he's imposing some deadlines. But Republicans are saying that that's premature when they don't even know exactly what's in the plan. Is that where we are?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really is, because we don't know yet if those Republican negotiators who are working on that bipartisan proposal, if they're going to vote yes on Wednesday.

That's this procedural vote that Chuck Schumer plans to set up. That vote would require 60 votes to overcome any filibuster attempt. That means 50 Democrats, if they all join hands, would need 10 then Republicans to break ranks.

But five of those Republicans who have negotiated this are saying that they're not ready to commit to vote yes, because they're still in the middle of those discussions. One of the big questions remains the same question that's been remaining for weeks, how to pay for this plan.

They have not sorted out the final details of that. They're still negotiating. They plan to do that through the course of this evening and into tomorrow. Can they get there by Wednesday? An open question. That proposal, about $600 billion of new spending over the next five years.


That is separate from the larger $3.5 trillion plan that the Democrats are trying to advance along their own to advance much of Joe Biden's agenda to expand the social safety net. Schumer has set also a Wednesday deadline for all 50 Democrats to essentially agree to move forward with the budget process, not necessarily commit to vote yes, but at least to agree to move forward.

That's even not there yet at the moment, because a lot of moderate Democrats, they want to hear more details. They have some concerns about elements of this plan. So a lot needs to happen over the next two days for Joe Biden to get at least that bipartisan bill through the first hurdle, to get Democrats to indicate they're willing to support the larger agenda, and then the key votes will take place.

A big question still about whether or not those votes will come and then eventually this could up on Joe Biden's desk.

BLACKWELL: Kaitlan, to you over these concerns of inflation.

Give us an idea of the degree of concern inside the White House about the increase in prices we're seeing. Is there a consensus around the president's statement that this is predicted, expected and short- lived?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they seem to be more concerned about the perception that inflation is happening and what could be projected down the road.

And so I think that's why you saw President Biden today as he was making this pitch for his domestic agenda really take that head on and talk about it and say, yes, we have seen the increase in prices. We are convinced still that it is temporary from the data that he and his top economic aides have looked at.

And so he said they feel pretty good about where it's headed, despite the criticisms that you have seen from some outside people, some Republicans of the spending plan going forward. And so he did add the caveat, saying that they do believe, if there was unchecked inflation over the long term, it would be a major concern.

And so he said they're going to stay vigilant about it. But right now, it does not seem to be a major concern for them beyond what the perception is and what economists believe is going forward. He was saying no serious economist really thinks this is going to be, in his opinion, talking about where we are on unchecked inflation, if that's where we are right now.

I'm sure some Republicans would maybe frame it that way. But he was saying -- arguing that essentially where they are right now, they feel good about the outlook, but they are still taking a note of caution as to look into what's expected to come down the road ahead.

CAMEROTA: Manu, can we go back to infrastructure for a second?

If good faith efforts are still ongoing about coming up with pay-fors, for instance, on infrastructure, why is Senator Schumer rushing it?

RAJU: Well, there's just not a whole lot of time left, because we're running into what is precious around here, a recess. And August is summer vacation for members to go back home, to campaign, to also go on official trips overseas.

That is scheduled to occur in August. There's some talk about cutting into that August recess. And then they come back in September. And September is going to be a crucial time to get that last dose of legislating done before we head into the real thick of the midterm election season in 2022.

That's when things are going to get noticeably harder to get any legislation through. So this is viewed as the key window to get legislation accomplished. And what Schumer would argue is that these bipartisan talks have happened for weeks and months. And they have suggested they're making good progress.

And he's saying this first vote is simply a process vote to begin the debate. They don't have to finish the negotiations then. But they have to allow to agree to the floor debate to occur. But a lot of the Republicans say it's just even too premature to go that far, because they need more time to negotiate to finalize these very, very complex details about a bill that would deal with a wider range of infrastructure needs across this country.

So this is really going to come to a key moment here in the next couple of days. Can they get it through? Can both sides agree? Can they get the process moving? Or will that part collapse, leading the Democrats to try to pass things along their own on this separate effort?

But they need their cooperation on their own side. And they don't have that quite yet either.

BLACKWELL: Kaitlan, what is the White House doing to try to meet that deadline?

COLLINS: Well, you heard President Biden say earlier talking about how, on the bipartisan infrastructure deal, he said, we had an agreement and we shook hands.

That seemed to be an allusion, obviously, a reference to what we have been seeing happening on Capitol Hill, where there have been some Republicans who were initially part of that group that Manu reported on talking about that they did have a deal with the White House who are now saying, well, we're waiting to see what exactly this text is going to look like, and now that we have some concerns over what the pay-fors are going to be, we're waiting to see this.

President Biden was saying, no, we had an agreement, we shook hands. And remember when they announced that deal, he said he did trust them and he took them at their word, and that they had given him their word that they were in agreement on what that was ultimately going to look like.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan Collins, Manu Raju, thank you for all the reporting. Really helpful.

And be sure to watch as President Joe Biden joins Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN presidential town hall. That's live Wednesday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

All right, so President Biden walked back his attack on Facebook after saying this social media giant was killing people.


But he is keeping up his demand to stop the misinformation.


CAMEROTA: The Biden administration is opening a new front in the battle against cyberattacks, accusing China of state-sponsored cyberattacks.

BLACKWELL: The White House is joining allies in Europe and Asia blaming China for criminal -- or using criminal contract hackers in attempts to extort money through ransomware attacks.