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Amazon Founder Bezos Set to Blast Off in Coming Hours; COVID Cases Rise in Japan with Games Just Three Days Ahead; Hospitalizations and Deaths Rising Among Unvaccinated in U.S.; U.S. Markets Look to Rebound from Monday's Selloff; Biden Touts Economy, Tries to Tackle Inflation Concerns; Rioter Gets 8 Months, Judge Says He Deserves Leniency. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all up in the United States with the delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and misinformation all to blame. We'll hear from a woman who is in hospital with the virus.

Plus, numerous athletes are testing positive for COVID just days before the Tokyo games. What's being done to try to stop the Olympics are turning into a super spreader event.

And the billionaire space race continues as Jeff Bezos prepares for his Blue Origin mission.

Hello and welcome, I'm Isa Soares, welcome to our viewer in the United States and all around the world, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Hello, everyone. We are just five hours away from seeing the world's richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos blasts off into space. The 11 minute flight is the latest attempt to really up the stakes in the race to make commercial space tourism a reality. Bezos will be the latest billionaire to space, Virgin's Richard Branson flew there nine days ago if you remember. Now joining Bezos will be his brother Mark as well as the oldest and youngest people ever to travel into space. 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk who was one of Mercury 13 women, a recent high school graduate 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. And it's no coincidence that the launch is coming on the same day, that's the Apollo landing 52 years ago. CNN's Tom Foreman has a preview of what the newly minted astronauts can expect from the flight.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Blue Origins arid testing ground the 60-foot rocket is slated to take off at 8:00 a.m. Central Time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Command start two, one.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Just as it has already in more than a dozen test flights like the one seen here, a million horsepower blast from the liquid fueled engine will start the journey, the astronauts will be strapped into a ring of futuristic space seats, about a third of the capsule is made of windows and the rocket will steadily rotate, changing the view. Writing will be their only job.

ARIANE CORNELL, DIRECTOR OF ASTRONAUTS AND ORBITAL SALES, BLUE ORIGIN: It's an autonomous vehicle. It's been designed so that the customers, the astronauts themselves can experience the flight.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Over the first two minutes their speed will literally rocket to more than 2,000 miles an hour, G-forces will intensify until each person feels as if they weighed three times as much as normal. But that won't last, at two minutes and 45 seconds, the booster engine will fall away. Fifteen seconds later as the capsule arcs toward the highest point in the flight, the passengers will start to feel much lighter, and at four minutes, 62 miles up, they will be unbuckled.

CORNELL: You'll get to experience about three to four minutes of weightlessness. Again, to gaze out of those big, beautiful windows, maybe do a couple of somersaults.

JEFF BEZOS, BLUE ORIGIN FOUNDER: I don't know how it's going to change me. But I know it's going to and I'm excited to find out how.

FOREMAN (voice-over): He'll have to find out fast, roughly six minutes into the flight, they will return to their seats and start falling back to Earth, eventually going so fast, they'll break the sound barrier just as they did going up, they won't likely see the booster engine land a couple of miles from the launch pad. And once they are close enough to Earth about nine minutes after taking off, parachutes will deploy just slow their descent to 15 miles an hour, then a retro thrust system will fire just before touchdown.

CORNELL: Really by the time the capsule lands it's just at about one or two miles an hour.

FOREMAN: It won't be anything like orbital flight or what truly trained astronauts do, but it should be quite an experience. And considering the going rate is about $2.5 million per minute, it ought to be.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Well if you can imagine CNN will have full coverage of the Blue Origin launch. It's scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. If you are watching us in New York that is 2:00 p.m. if you are watching in London.

Now, the delta variant is causing a deadly surge in COVID-19 infections in the United States and around the world. Let me show you this map.

(04:05:00) All those areas you are looking there in bright red indicate a 10 percent to 50 percent increase in cases. And that includes the United States where COVID cases, hospitalizations as well as deaths are up. With the vast majority of them among people who aren't fully vaccinated.

England just lifted all its COVID rules after more than a year of restrictions, but the Prime Minister Boris Johnson Freedom Day was marred by surging infection and his own forced self-isolation after coming in contact with UK's COVID positive Health Secretary.

Well the spiking COVID numbers took a toll on financial markets. The Dow plunging 725 points on Monday. But European markets have been up today in the last 50 minutes or so. And with just days before the Tokyo Olympics, more than 70 people involved in the games including one U.S. gymnast have tested positive for COVID-19.

Let's start with the Tokyo Olympics. CNN's Blake Essig is joining us live from where the games will take place in just a few days. And Blake, good morning to you. I mean, it is not only Olympic dreams really here, but lives on the line, Blake. So what are Olympic organizers saying, how much COVID is too much for them?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know Isa, if you ask medical professionals or the general population, one case stemming from these Olympic games is one too many. But Olympic officials are saying that they feel really good with where the current numbers are. And as of today, 71 people involved with the games have tested positive for COVID-19 here in Japan. Most recently that includes one alternate on the U.S. women's gymnastics team who tested positive while at a pre- Olympic training camp outside of Tokyo. She and another alternate on the team who is considered a close contact are now in isolation.

Now out of the 71 positive cases linked to the games, four have come from inside the Olympic Village. Overall Olympic officials say that out of 22,000 people who have arrived from overseas, only 28 positive cases have come as a result. That's a 0.1 percent positivity rate that basically shows that according to Olympic officials that they're doing really well when it comes to keeping the case count down.

SOARES: So officials say they feel good, although there are 79 positive cases as you said, but what is the mood like for the athletes taking part, how fearful are they?

ESSIG: Well, you know Isa, it's an interesting situation with what we're dealing with COVID-19. You know, the athletes that we've talked to, they're just absolutely thrilled that these games are actually going to happen. But at the same time, they are worried and for good reason, by no fault of their own, after a lifetime of preparation, their Olympic dream could be cut short if they catch COVID-19 or perhaps come into contact with somebody who tests positive and then they are considered a close contact and forced to isolate. So while they are extremely excited that these games are happening after a year's delay, the fear that they might come into contact with COVID weighs heavily.

SOARES: We shall keep an eye on it. Blake Essig like from Tokyo this hour. Thanks very much, Blake, good to see you.

I want to go now to the United States where COVID case counts you counts are up 66 percent from last week and less than 50 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics says all children over the age of two should wear masks regardless of whether they've vaccinated or not. CNN's Erica Hill has more for you this hour.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the street, it's impossible to see the difference. But in the hospital, it's clear.

KATIE TOWNS, ACTING DIRECTOR, SPRINGFIELD GREEN COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Those that are hospitalized are those who are unvaccinated.

HILL (voice-over): Nationwide, 97 percent of COVID patients in the hospital right now are not vaccinated. Nearly every COVID death also unvaccinated.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously infected, or they will get this delta variant. And for most people who get this delta variant, it's going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime.

HILL (voice-over): The delta-fueled spikes getting worse. Average new cases topping 32,000, up 145 percent in just the last two weeks. In that same period, hospitalizations rising 50 percent, deaths 12 percent.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: I am worried about what is to come.

HILL: Less than half the country is fully vaccinated. And the president's goal of one shot for at least 70 percent of adults still not met more than two weeks after the July 4th deadline. In fact, 15 states have yet to hit 60 percent. In Mississippi, it's less than half.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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.

HILL (voice-over): With kids under 12 still not eligible for the vaccine, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending Monday all students two and older and staff should continue to wear masks at school.


The former surgeon general urging the CDC to hit the reset button on its guidance, tweeting the agency should advise Americans to, quote, vax it and mask it in areas with rising cases.

And President Joe Biden Monday seeking to clarify his view on Facebook's role in the spread of misinformation.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, you said last week that companies and platforms like Facebook are killing people.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Facebook isn't killing people, these 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It's killing people. It's bad information. My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I'm saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation.

HILL (voice-over): But with so much misinformation, concern growing that hope may be too little, too late.

HILL: Here in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked again on Monday about possibly bringing back mask mandates, said his focus is on the vaccine. Noting that masks work but they don't get at the root of the problem. As of Monday, 53.5 percent of the city's total population is now fully vaccinated according to the mayor.

In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


Well CNN's Leyla Santiago visited a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida and spoke to a patient who regrets not being vaccinated. Take a listen.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can tell me what you're experiencing in terms of your symptoms and how you feel?

DEBRA WELLS, COVID-19 PATIENT: Well, before I came in, I felt like I was about to die.

SANTIAGO: What would you tell someone who's not vaccinated right now?

WELLS: Get vaccinated as soon as possible. Because as soon as I get out of here and get well, I'm going to get vaccinated.

SANTIAGO: What has been the worst part about this?

WELLS: The worst part?

SANTIAGO: Yes, ma'am.

WELLS: Not being able to breathe.


SOARES: The Johns Hopkins University says there were an average of 258 COVID cases each day over the past week.

Now let me take you to the financial markets. U.S. financial markets you remember looking to rebound from a really sharp selloff. As we mentioned the Dow fell 725 points in its worst day since October. U.S. futures though are pointing toward a positive open later this morning. Investors have been worried about inflation as prices are on the up, in gas, groceries and just about everything else. Some fear of course that the COVID surge and fast spreading delta variant could threaten the U.S. economic recovery.

Let's bring in CNN's Eleni Giokos who joins us now live from Dubai. Eleni, you know, European stocks the last time I looked seem to be shaking it off. Asian stocks not taking quite the thumping we saw on Wall Street. Why are we seeing this pessimism now given that, you know, only a few weeks ago we were seeing record gains on the Dow -- Eleni?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as you said, there's a confluence of issues coming through that are creeping in. And you are right to say that European markets are shaking off this pessimism, this negative news. And usually when you see such a huge selloff in the U.S., we are talking about 2 percent on the Dow Jones, then usually that is a very negative handover for Asia and Europe.

So let's drill into why this happened. Firstly, market participants are looking at the technicals and fundamentals underpinning the huge rise in markets over the past six months and also whether these rises were warranted, whether they priced in too much good news. And the second part is of course the delta variant flaring up in parts of the world, specifically and as you just covered with unvaccinated Americans. That creating a really big worry about what that means for the future in the next six months in the United States and globally as well.

We saw airlines coming under pressure in yesterday's session, a lot of the cyclical stocks as well, and cruise liners took a hit. The energy stocks also came under pressure not only because OPEC plus countries decided that they're going to increase supply, but the fact that demand is not where it should be and really speaks to the fact that COVID is still very much with us and so are the risk factors.

SOARES: Yes, and I suspect, you know, volatility really is the name of the game. At least until it is clear that COVID infections are under control. I mean, take the example of the U.K., finally, you know, measures have been lifted, but there is a rise in infections, there's so much confusion here and we heard as well from businesses who were so worried about losing stock because if they would have to isolate. And that is the concern, isn't it?

GIOKOS: Absolutely. Look, the U.K. is interesting, we've been calling it -- people are saying that this perhaps is just one of those big experiments where you've got double vaccinated people still getting infected. Yes, it's down in terms of hospitalization and deaths, but it's still creating this uncertainty because we just don't know what the variants will look like going forward because just so many people still globally have not been vaccinated.

Right to say the volatility side of things, markets don't go up in a straight line or even down in a straight line. (04:15:00)

Is this a correction, does this mean we're going to see 10 percent wiped off the markets? Perhaps some people are calling for that. The VIX index, the volatility index yesterday which is a gauge of fear, that sprung up to over 25, which is the highest level that we've seen since May.

And another really important barometer is that people are buying into bonds. That's a gauge of fear. There is so much uncertainty right now. Volatility perhaps is going to be with us. But markets are forward looking, Isa, they are a good way to gauge about what is coming through because they are pricing this either good or bad news. Then you've got the issue of inflation. And that central bank, the Federal Reserve is saying it might increase interest rates. Are we ready for that? The global economy perhaps is still perhaps very vulnerable to be considering those kind of moves according to a lot of technical analysts that I've spoken to.

SOARES: Yes, a lot for the market to digest of course with coronavirus and the new variants. Eleni Giokos in Dubai. Great to see you. Thanks very much Eleni.

Now some of the thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. could soon be safe on the American soil. Details on the Army posts the White House wants to move them to, just ahead.

Plus, the first U.S. Capitol rioter convicted with a felony, learns his sentence. Why the judge says he deserves leniency? We'll bring you both their stories after a very short break. You are watching CNN.



SOARES: Now Joe Biden is set to hold his second cabinet meeting today as U.S. President. It comes ahead of a key vote on infrastructure and amid growing concerns about the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. CNN's Phil Mattingly has all the details.


BIDEN: Look, we brought this economy back from the brink.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden now firmly in the midst of a high-stakes critical week of his presidency.

BIDEN: It turns out capitalism is alive and very well. We're making serious progress to ensure that it works the way it's supposed to work.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With Biden's sweeping $4 trillion legislative agenda facing dual deadlines set by Democrats on Capitol Hill and no shortage of hurdles, the president moving Monday to flip a key attack line on his agenda, a persistent tangible rise in inflation on its head.

BIDEN: Some folks have raised worries that this could be a sign of persistent inflation. But that's not our view.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Seeking to counter the GOP push to sink his trillions in new spending on fears that have resonated nationwide.

BIDEN: If your primary concern right now is inflation, you should be even more enthusiastic about this plan.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): All as bipartisan negotiators continue to press for a final agreement on an infrastructure deal that serves as the lynchpin to his agenda.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): We don't have a product yet and we won't have a product until we can finish the negotiations properly. Again, this is a complex bill. It involves several committees. It involves, you know, a lot of very tough issues because we've got to resolve them between us first.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And Democrats face their own deadline to coalesce around a $3.5 trillion budget proposal, which would massively increase the government's role in education, home-care, and paid leave, all as his administration continues to grapple with concerns about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with diplomatic missions releasing an urgent call to halt the Taliban's ongoing offensive. Which, quote, thwarts efforts to arrive at a negotiated solution to the conflict.

With the top U.S. official in Afghanistan Ross Wilson tweeting that the Taliban, quote, committed possible war crimes with the murder of 22 surrendering members of the Afghan Special Forces.

CNN the first to broadcast the video of what Wilson called a savage crime, all underscoring the urgency to evacuate Afghans who have worked for the U.S. The administration informing Congress it plans to relocate a small group of Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas to Fort Lee, the U.S. Army post in Virginia.

MATTINGLY: And the reality is that the group of Afghans being moved to the United States is just a small portion of what is expected to be more than 20,000 that have entered into the special immigrant visa process. That small group, the group that's been most extensively vetted and what is expected and has long been known to be a very long process.

And it's that latter point, the long process, that has unsettled so many lawmakers Republican and Democrat who've really pressed the administration to move faster not just for those already in the pipeline, not just those through the vetting process, but for those who have just applied over the course of the last several months. That's the group right now that individuals are most worried about, given the Taliban offensive. And that lawmaker in particular want answers on as of now. And we do know the administration plans to move at least some of that group to a third country, non-U.S. country, in order to have them go through the remainder of the process. But still as things continue to dissolve to some degree inside the

country, reaching those individuals, ensuring they actually have access out of the country even if they're not through the entire process, it's one of the many questions that still needs to be answered by the Biden administration as the U.S. continues and almost completes its drawdown from a war they have been participating in for 20 years.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


SOARES: Now the first person convicted of a felony in the United States Capitol riot will spend the next eight months in prison. Paul Hodgkin's says he's truly remorseful for his part in the insurrection. But prosecutors wanted a tougher sentence. CNN's Jessica Schneider has the details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This could be a bellwether case for the hundreds of other defendants who were charged in connection to the Capitol attack especially those who don't have criminal records and who weren't violent or destructive that day. 38- year-old Paul Hodgkins who pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, which is a felony, he will serve eight months in prison and 24 months supervised release. Plus pay $2,000 in restitution. That will go toward fixing the damage at the Capitol from that day.

Now Hodgkins admitted that he took a bus from Tampa, Florida and stormed into the Capitol on January 6 taking selfies on the Senate floor. He also carried a giant red Trump 2020 flag and carried a bag with goggles, gloves and a rope. The judge in this case really wrestled with an appropriate sentence. The Justice Department prosecutors wanted Hodgkins to serve 18 months for several reasons.


They say he came prepared for conflict and they say he had numerous chances to turn back and not participate in the riot crowd.

Plus prosecutors wanted this sentence to set a precedent. So they told the judge that it would send a loud and clear message to other would- be rioters that if and when they are caught, they would be held accountable. And people who might be contemplating a sequel to January 6 will stand down and there won't be a next time.

But the judge here really struck a middle ground putting it this way. Saying, he was staking a claim on the floor of the United States Senate not with the American flag but with the flag declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the entire nation. But I don't consider him to be a threat or see him as an evil person.

Now Hodgkins spoke on his own behalf for ten minutes. He acknowledged that Joe Biden is the rightful president and he said that he had only come to D.C. with the intention of supporting a president he loves -- which was of course ex-President Donald Trump. There are still more than 500 defendants charged in connection to the Capitol attack and this will serve as a possible standard when other defendants get sentenced.

Jessica schneider, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: We now know the five Republicans picked by the House minority leader who will serve on the committee investigation of the January 6 riot. Three of them including ranking member Jim Banks voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy says he wanted a mix of Republicans with relevant experience. Ohio's Jim Jordan is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump. And he has a history of clashing with Democrats.

Still to come right here on CNN, Canada gets ready to reopen its borders as it hits a vaccine milestone, but so far the U.S. isn't interested in doing the same.

Plus, caught off guard and Europe's deadly flood. Why tough questions are being asked about warning systems in Belgium and Germany.