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CDC Director Says, Delta Variant Now Over 80 Percent of Cases in U.S.; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Selects Five GOP Members for House Select Committee; Stocks Rebounding after Worst Day in Nine Months. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 20, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, this just into CNN, really alarming new details about how rapidly the delta variant of COVID is expanding in the United States. In the last week, we have seen the daily average of new cases up 66 percent, 44 states now reporting a rise in infections.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: It has move so quickly. Just a few weeks ago, it was single-digits, the delta variant, in terms of percentage of cases. Now it is 80 percent.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, as you know, the CDC director just shared how many of those cases attributed to the delta variant, 80 percent. I mean, it is only going in one direction. What does it mean crucially for hospitalizations and deaths from the delta variant?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This variant we have seen, Jim, spreads so quickly, really, in just a matter of a few short -- hardly even months, really weeks, it went from being sort of a big nothing to being, as Dr. Walensky just told us, more than 80 percent.

Lets a take a listen to what she said today.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase, up from 50 percent from the week of July 3rd. In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates.


COHEN: All right. Now, to take off from what Dr. Walensky just said about areas of low vaccination, so what we know about this delta variant is that it spreads very, very fast and that it does -- actually people who are vaccinated do have really good protection. It really keeps you from getting very sick or from dying from this variant.

So let's take a look at folks who are in the hospital or have died from this delta variant, or I should say from all coronavirus variants, most of which are delta at this point. 97 percent of the people who are in the hospital at this point are unvaccinated. 99.5 percent of people who have died are unvaccinated.

Just those two numbers, you would think, would be enough to convince the tens of millions of people who have chosen not to be vaccinated to get vaccinated. That shows you how well the vaccine works and how vulnerable you are if you're not vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: The numbers are so clear. We hope that message gets through for the people themselves who remain unvaccinated and for their children and for older members of their family, maybe in the same household.

COHEN: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for making that clear.

Well, it is just three days to the start of the Olympics in Tokyo. One public health expert says that the bubble around the games is, in his words, kind of broken.

HARLOW: That is a big problem. The number of cases linked to the games has risen to 71 now. The city of Tokyo reported more than 1,300 new COVID infections today. It's the second highest daily increase since the end of January.

Our Selina Wang is live in Tokyo. This is exactly what everyone was praying would not happen and I would assume on the ground there, you're seeing them try to deal with an unprecedented challenge.

SELINA WENG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Poppy, the problems only continue to mount. Tokyo is still under a state of emergency. People here are anxious about those growing COVID cases linked to the games. And today at a press conference, the head of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee said he is not ruling out a last-minute cancelation of the games, saying he's watching these infection numbers and the organizers will discuss accordingly, depending on how this situation changes.


WENG (voice over): Three days before the opening ceremony, Tokyo is trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as cases creep up among athletes and those connected to the Olympics. That includes Kara Eaker, an alternate for the U.S. gymnastics team. Eaker will return to the U.S. after ten days isolation. Her unvaccinated teammate, 17-year- old Leanne Wong is in isolation as a close contact, according to her coach.

The so-called bubble of the Olympic Village has also been punctured with several positive COVID cases detected among the South African soccer team. Tokyo officials insist the village is still safe. MASA TAKAYA, TOKYO 2020 SPOKESMAN: -- at the IOC in Tokyo 2020 are. Obviously, it is clear that the Olympic Village is a safe place to stay.

WENG: But health experts say the wider strategy of keeping foreign visitors away from locals is failing.

DR. KENJI SHIBUYA, PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT: It is obviously that the bubble system is kind of broken. And so there seems to be some sort of interaction between guest and visitors and also local people.

WENG: Tokyo officials insist they are containing the situation with only a few dozen cases among some 22,000 foreigners who have arrived for the games so far.


DR. BRIAN MCCLOSKEY, CHAIR, INDEPENDENT EXPERT PANEL FOR INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: If I thought all of the tests that we did were going to be negative, then I wouldn't bother doing the test in the first place. And the numbers we're seeing are extremely low. They were probably lower than we expected to see, if anything.

WENG: And the advanced testing requirement is filtering out positive cases before people even fly into Japan, including 17-year-old American tennis star Coco Gauff who tested positive in the U.S. before flying, and Katie Lou Samuelson from the U.S. Women's Basketball Team, who tested positive despite being vaccinated.

Two players from Mexico's Olympic baseball team also tested positive and won't travel to Japan. But with more transmissible variants, like the delta and over 11,000 athletes descending on Japan for more than 200 countries, fears are growing about the risk to those visiting Tokyo and the local population.


WENG (on camera): Public Health Expert Kenji Shibuya tells me he is worried about these cases among Olympic participants spilling into the local population here. Just 20 percent of people in Japan are fully vaccinated. He says it is a concern that participants are not required to quarantine for a full 14 days and that their movements would not be completely tracked.

And, Poppy, Jim, as we know, vaccines are not 100 percent effective and they are not required for Olympic participants.

SCIUTTO: Though I understand, I suppose, about 80, 85 percent been vaccinated. Selina Wang, thank you so much.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has announced his five members for the January 6 select committee, among them one of former President Trump's chief public defenders, Congressman Jim Jordan. How will Speaker Pelosi, who has veto power, respond?


HARLOW: Welcome back. In just a few minutes, we're going to hear directly from Jeff Bezos and the other new astronauts of the New Shepard after safely landing back on Earth. There are four chairs set up there for Jeff Bezos, his brother, Mark Bezos, Pilot Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, you'll see it live right here.

SCIUTTO: Well, back here on gravity bound Earth, we now know the names of the Republicans chosen to be on the House's select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made his five picks, which include firebrand Congressman Jim Jordan. It is still unclear if they will actually sit on the committee. Nancy Pelosi has to give the okay.

HARLOW: Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill this morning. Manu, good morning to you. So, Pelosi, and this was one of the big Republican gripes about how this was set up, does have, I guess, the right to yay or nay on those five picks.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and she has not said yes. She would not answer reporter questions about that this morning if she would actually allow these picks to go forward. Kevin McCarthy believes that they should.

Of course, those five picks, members who represent different aspects of the Republican conference, but three of those members voted to overturn the electoral results. You see them on your screen right there, Jim Banks, who is going to be the top Republican on the committee, Jim Jordan, a big Trump defender on this, served as someone who defended the president undoubtedly, assuming he is allowed to serve going forward. There is also Troy Nehls, who also voted to overturn the electoral results for Arizona and Pennsylvania after what would happen on January 6.

And I just caught up with both Jordan and Nehls and they made very clear to me where they see things going. Nehls wants a deep dive and Jim Jordan also who had conversations with Donald Trump on the run-up to January 6, and he also has been suggested that he should testify about those conversations, told me he's willing to do so.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I mean, I don't know why.

RAJU: But that is why, you had conversations with him run-up to him on January 6.

JORDAN: I have a conversation with the president all of the time.

RAJU: But if they asked to you come, you would say --

JORDAN: If they call me. I have got nothing to hide.

REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): Again, what we have to do is we have to get the community to have a hearing next week and we start to get through the process and take a deep dive into January 6th and then form some conclusions and make sure that we take action.


RAJU: So, one of the things that the Republicans are suggesting that they want to look into is why wasn't the Capitol secured that day, looking into Nancy Pelosi's decision-making about this.

I asked several of them about looking in Donald Trump, his role as well, his role in promoting the rally and everything that he did in the run-up and his speech that day. That is, of course, what Democrats want to look into. But they are pushing back on that idea or not saying they're willing to do that.

So, you're seeing this divide play out. It will take place starting next week when they hear testimony from police officers, but expect a partisan battle over this committee in the months ahead. Guys?

HARLOW: It will be that. Manu Raju, thanks a lot.

The opposition leader of Belarus says she's optimistic after her meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And, Jim, you just spoke with her.

SCIUTTO: That's right. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who you may remember on our broadcast yesterday, asked not just the U.S. government but the American people to stand with Belarus. She was forced into exile from her own country with her two young children after she says winning an election against strongman President Alexander Lukashenko last year. He's a friend of Vladimir Putin.

There have has mass protests in their country, thousands of protesters and others arrested there, including one of them sitting in jail is Sviatlana's husband.


Yesterday, she spoke to us on this program about how critical it is for the Biden administration to publicly show their support for her, but also impose strong economic sanctions on Belarusian leaders and others involved.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now. Kylie, do we know what is next after her meeting with the U.S. secretary of state? Were any promises made by the Biden administration?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, when she left the State Department yesterday, she told my colleague, Jennifer Hansler, that the meeting with Secretary of State Tony Blinken was warm, that it was friendly and that they also discussed actions in the nearest future regarding Belarus.

So what that indicates to us is that, yes, there were actual, tangible, further actions that the United States could take with regard to Belarus that were discussed. We don't know the precise nature of any commitments or any promises made. But she is here in Washington and she's seeing a number of folks. She's up on Capitol Hill this week. She's also visiting the White House. She will be seeing National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. And there are some questions about if she would see President Biden. The White House has not committed to her actually seeing him.

And she was asked about that yesterday also. Would it be something that she would want, to see the president. And she said, of course, it would be. But, ultimately, she is essentially extremely happy that she's been able to see such a number of senior officials in the Biden administration and she is clearly getting her voice out here in Washington.

I mean, she spoke to CNN yesterday, she's talked to a number of other media outlets, she's speaking with think tanks here in Washington. So she is making a full-court press to make sure that the American people understand what she is saying as the leader of the Belarus opposition and what the United States could be doing to support her more. Jim?

SCIUTTO: And she faces real risk, right? We know how Russia and others that align with Russia treat dissidents in and outside the country. I mean, it is a dangerous territory. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for covering.

Coming up next, eyes on stock market this after yesterday, the worst day for the Dow in nine months. Looking today, different story, things rebounding at least after the opening bell. We're going to keep watching it closely. Stay with us.



HARLOW: All right. Take a look at the market here, a lot of focus on market this morning. The Dow rebounding a bit in this first hour of trading after a significant decline yesterday, the biggest daily decline in nine months.

Resurgence of COVID has obviously sent stocks tumbling, more than 700 points in the Dow Jones Industrial average. Investors are very worried about what that all means for the economic recovery.

SCIUTTO: Well, this is a big chunk of the market drop yesterday, now going back in the other direction.

CNN's Lead Writer Business Matt Egan joins us now live. I mean, is there a sense on folks that you speak to that the market overshot this a bit yesterday?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Yes, Jim and Poppy. The mood on Wall Street is definitely a lot better than it was 24 hours ago. The Dow has recovered more than half of those losses from yesterday, which, as you pointed out, was the worst day of the year. It was actually the worst day of the Biden era. The big concern, of course, the delta variant. The worry was that, basically, that this variant would actually slow the recovery. Rising case loads have reminded investors that the pandemic is not over.

But most of the investors and economists that I'm talking to, are not worried not just that the recovery is going to be slow by the delta variant, and that is because there really isn't much of an appetite for new lockdowns, and also because the vaccines have thus far been effective against the delta variant. In fact, most of the hospitalizations and deaths, the vast majority are from people who are not vaccinated. One business leader even told me this morning that he hopes that the emergence of the delta variant could actually improve some of the vaccination rates.

But, still, clearly, the pandemic is on the radar of investors once again. We are seeing that in the bond market, when people feel good, they pile into stocks, and when they're worried, they buy government bonds, driving yields lower. And that is, again, what we're seeing with treasury yields touching levels that we haven't seen since early this year. Clearly, investors are still a bit nervous here.

HARLOW: There was a recent survey, Matt, quickly that showed inflation is the number one concern for Americans now on the economy. Biden says he's not too worried about inflation, so we'll have to see, as you said, how this will play out. Thank you for the reporting.

EGAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for joining us on what has been a spectacular and joyful morning, right, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Fun to watch, right? We have to cover a lot of serious news and it is still out there. But here is a moment, 11 minutes to enjoy the spectacle. We are just minutes away from a news conference where Jeff Bezos will speak about the successful launch of his New Shepard rocket, as it is known, and our live special coverage continues, next.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of the flight of Blue Origin, the Blue Origin flight and Jeff Bezos landing about an hour ago here.

Now, we're anticipating a press conference very shortly. I want to bring in Myles O'Brien, who has been watching this launch with us.

Miles, when you saw New Shepard, which is what this launch vehicle is called, when you saw the capsule coming down, what does this mean for the future of space exploration?


MILE O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well I think it opens the door to greater.