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CNN NEWSROOM

COVID Is Making A Resurgence Here In The United States; A New Study Estimated That As Many As 10 Time More People Have Died In India Than What The Official Death Tolls Says; The Senate Will Vote On Whether To Move Ahead With The Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan; Sen. Chris Coons Is Interviewed On Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2021 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, NEW DAY: They're not getting that experience but they've trained for this, they're going to deliver for people who are watching them even though a lot of folks can't be right there to see them. Very cool.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS CUOMO, NEW DAY: (Inaudible) be cheering them on.

CAMEROTA: CNN's coverage will continue right now. He was awesome.

CUOMO: Yes.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning everyone, I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow. Well the numbers do not lie. Just when we thought we were turning a corner the unfortunately truth is that COVID is making a resurgence here in the United States mainly among the unvaccinated. Right now the CDC says that more that 91 million people, almost 30 percent of this country live in a county considered to have high COVID-19 transmission. The Delta variant now counted for 83 percent - 83 percent of new cases.

SCIUTTO: Yes and it's the unvaccinated really -

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- that have died from this, sadly. One of those areas seeing these jumps is Branson, Missouri. And ICU nurse there says, in her view what she is seeing it's critical.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLA HILLES, ICU NURSE, COX MEDICAL CENTER BRANSON: It's not normal. This is not OK, we can't live this way. We're - I'm never going to accept this as our new normal. We've had lots of very sick young patients that normally we, you know, with the first couple of rounds of COVID we didn't see or wouldn't have necessarily been ICU level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Yes, here are some those numbers. Last week more than 23,000 children caught COVID-19. That is nearly double what was reported at the end of June. It comes as children in some major school district are now heading back to class this month or in a couple of weeks. Let's begin with CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Listen, the data doesn't lie, right. I mean it's clearly coming back principally in unvaccinated areas. Tell us what the numbers tell you.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, you know, we thought we were done with this and now here we are and there are two reasons for this. One this Delta variant, which has been called the variant on steroids. And also that so many, half the country is still not fully vaccinated allowing this variant to do its thing which is does so well.

So let's take a look at the growth of the Delta variant. If you look at this graph, on the far left, that was where we were in late May, 3 percent of the COVID out there was the Delta variant. Now look, less than two months, this Delta variant went from being 3 percent of the COVID that's out there to being 83 percent of the COVID that's out there. It just shows you how fast it took over.

And why was it so fast? Well number one it replicates fast in the body. It just knows how to do what viruses are supposed to do. It gets in there and just makes copies and copies and copies of itself very quickly. So in one study they took nasal swabs and they looked at the viral load, for Delta the viral load in the nose was 1,000 times higher than when they looked in the noses of people who had the original strains. So that just tells you right there that it is so much more transmissible.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: You got, Elizabeth, an increasing number of Americans living in these areas that the CDC now has deemed a high level of transmission of COVID. That is a lot, what did we say 91 million Americans in that situation right now.

COHEN: Right, that's a lot of people and it's a lot more people than it was just weeks ago.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: Let's take a look at a map that shows that, those 91 million people. So these red areas are areas of high transmission. That is a fair chunk of the United States, about 27 percent. However when you look back at the beginning of June it was only 2.4 percent. So we went from 2.4 percent about a month and a half ago living in areas of high transmission to nearly 30 percent. I mean that is a huge difference in a short time. SCIUTTO: Let's talk about children here and with context. We are seeing it - cases increase among children. We're also seeing children go to the hospital, get very sick from this. How though widespread is that, right? I mean the percentage of children who contract this that go to the hospital, how does it, for instance, compare to season flu? I mean is it getting to the point where it is well beyond that or do we still have a ways to go?

COHEN: It is well beyond that, unfortunately. You know, people unfortunately think of COVID, it's not a big deal for children. It actually is a big deal for children. And Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Head of the CDC, told Senators yesterday; look, children aren't supposed to die. Right this isn't happening to 90-year olds this is happening to children.

So let's take a look at how much worse this is for children really than the flu. So in your average flu season you get about 100 children dying, that's in an average flu season. But for COVID in about the same period of time, we've had 400 children die. That is a huge difference. So, you know, we worry about children dying from the flu so we should really worry about children dying from COVID.

And that's why, you know, if 12 and up, get your child vaccinated and soon in a matter of -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COHEN: -- months we should have shots -

[09:05:00]

COHEN: -- for younger children as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's a key marker there because with the original strains I believe the death rate from COVID was comparable or lower than seasonal flu. To see it jump above that it's notable. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well the first place this Delta variant was detected, you may remember, was in India and the scenes we saw there just a few months ago; hospitals overwhelmed, people fighting to find their own oxygen as their loved ones languished in COVID wards that had run out of it.

Today, a new study estimates that as many as 10 times more people may have died in India than what the official death toll states. I mean that is quite a difference. We should not of course vaccines were scarce in India.

HARLOW: Right and here in the United States the problem is that people are reluctant or just not getting vaccinated even when they are available to them. Two women in Missouri are urging people to listen to the experts. Marlene Thomas has two family members in the hospital and two have already died including her sister. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARLENE THOMAS: She didn't know what the long term affects of the vaccine would be. Well COVID was her long term and she's gone and I may lose her daughter and husband -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That is remarkable to hear that. Those are real people suffering through this. Kimberle Jones, grieving the death of her 37- year old daughter who died from COVID on the Fourth of July. And she leaves behind three sons, the youngest just 8-years old.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLE JONES: I really do believe - I really do believe that had she been vaccinated that she would still be here with me, today. Trust the medicine, don't be selfish about it. Do it for your loved one, do it for your children, you know, do it for your grandchildren. Don't let this be you story because it could be avoided -- it could be avoided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Such an important message. Let's bring in Dr. William Schaffner, Professor for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Schaffner, good morning and let's start with the issue of children, that we were just talking about with Elizabeth Cohen. Let me play this sound from the CDC Director and then get your thoughts on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL: I think we have fallen to this flawed thinking of saying that only 400 of these 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been in children. Children are not supposed to die. And so 400 is a huge amount for a season - a respiratory season.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: What messages do those numbers send? What do they tell you?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECIOUS DISEASES VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Poppy, first my heart goes out to Ms. Thomas and Ms. Jones, who just spoke so eloquently about the importance of vaccination and I'm so sad that they lost family members.

Dr. Walensky was very eloquent. She said clearly, yes, children are at lower risk but it's not zero. You know, COVID has become within one year one of the 10 leading causes of death in children in this country.

HARLOW: Wow. SCHAFFNER: As Elizabeth said, 400 children have died of COVID since this virus hit our shores. That's serious business. You know you can talk about lower risks but if it's your child it's 100 percent. These vaccines are safe, they are effective. We should be vaccinating every child 12-years of age and older and of course all the adults in school.

In addition, other thing that could be done in order to make schools safe is if our communities were safer. If everyone currently unvaccinated would please go to a vaccination sight and vaccine in them that would reduce the transmission of this virus in our communities and schools would be much safer when they open up just starting two weeks from now.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Right. Dr. Schaffner, help us here, right. Because folks are bombarded with information, right, and there have been frankly confusing messages about risks to children, right. Because for months we had been told that the risk to children is far less than it is to adults. And the data backed that up.

There's clearly something different with Delta, as you Elizabeth Cohen's numbers there, comparing it, for instance, to seasonal flu - deaths from seasonal flu. By the way, 400 children, you know, I've got my own. Any child losing their life is too much but in a country this size - just help us understand the risks because the parents have judgments to make. They're going to send them back to school in a couple of weeks time, right.

I mean are you saying that the risk is so great that they got to be considering doing what we did last year, remote learning? Or are you saying that this is more incentive to get vaccinations? You know, how do people use this information because it's easy --

[09:10:00]

SCIUTTO: - it's easily misunderstood?

SCHAFFNER: So, Jim, I think and most people think - The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks it's time to open up our schools again. And we can do that at very, very low risk. We have to do a whole series of things. Most importantly vaccinate all the adults in the school -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SCHAFFNER: -- and all those children 12 and older. And then do the usual things; masks, good hand hygiene, good ventilation and all those things for children under 12-years of age. We can do this, it's just a matter of our getting together and doing it.

HARLOW: What's the danger in - you've got at least seven states where Republican Governors have enacted legislation that will ban school districts from mandating vaccination for students. What's the danger of this?

SCHAFFNER: Well, Poppy, I'm not sure we have to mandate it. That would get an awful lot of pushback from many people. We need to do this on a voluntary basis. And if we can get a -

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: But, Dr. Schaffner, respectfully there are a lot of vaccines that are mandated in every single state for our kids to go to school. Like MMR, and like Polio, like Tetanus, Diphtheria.

SCHAFFNER: I understand that and I believe in those mandates. Believe me they have to be enacted state by state, there's usually a fairly elaborate political and administrative process that you have to go through. It can take several months with hearings so that people can come and speak on both sides of the issue. We haven't got time for that by mid-August and early September when schools start.

So we're going to have to do this on a voluntary basis and we can. In the meantime, I would think that all adults associated with schools should by now be vaccinated. If not, shame on them, quickly get yourself vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: And you have the states banning even mask mandates, right, which is now the recommendation. That's where we are. Dr. William Schaffner, thanks so much for helping us. It's difficult to navigate all this information.

This afternoon, the Senate will vote on whether to move ahead with the bipartisan infrastructure plan. But, well I said bipartisan, Republicans are expected to block that vote. Democratic Senator, Chris Coons will join me live, next.

HARLOW: Also wildfires raging across 13 western states fueled by extreme heat and drought. The smoke is so intense some of it is carrying all the way to the East Coast. More on that ahead and here are some live pictures of what you'll see on CNN Tonight. This is our Presidential Town Hall with President Joe Biden. And our Don Lemon moderating. A preview of what you'll see ahead.

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[09:15:00]

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SCIUTTO: Bipartisanship, well Republicans are expected to block a vote today that would start debate on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The White House reached a deal with the bipartisan team back in June, you may remember, that moment outside the West Wing. It includes $570 billion in new spending. Joining me now to discuss where this all stands, where it goes, Senator Chris Coons. He's a Democrat from Delaware who's a member of that group of 22 Democratic and Republican Senators working on this.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time this morning. SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thanks, Jim, great to be on with you this morning.

SCIUTTO: All right so here we are, there's a deadline today set by the Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer. Republicans are going to be unified in voting against beginning debate n it. Was this deadline counterproductive?

COONS: Well, Jim, we have made great progress and I think we are very close to finalizing every detail today. I'll just say generally that if you look back a year at the process that produced the unanimous vote the Senate for the CARES Act. There were two motion to proceed votes, just like we're going to have today, that failed before we finally got the unanimous bipartisan vote that produced the CARES Act.

I think it was helpful to have a clear forcing mechanism. And whether or not everybody's going to join in voting for this motion to proceed vote today, I think we are continuing to make real and solid progress, final bill text I would expect by this weekend.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: OK.

COONS: And I'm very optimistic that it will be ready for Floor action next week.

SCIUTTO: But you have been on the record saying, it would be better to give the two sides time to work this out. Is it a mistake to push this Floor vote if the outcome is preordained?

COONS: Well, Jim, up until we have the vote I'm not going to pass judgment on the timing of it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Mitch McConnell says - (CROSSTALK)

COONS: There has been some discussion back and forth -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: -- all 50 Republicans are voting against it.

(CROSSTALK)

COONS: -- on whether it should be today or tomorrow or Monday. At the end of the day it's a forcing mechanism and I respect that the Majority Leader realizes we have a very short amount of time left -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- this summer to get several big things done. SCIUTTO: OK, fair enough. Listen, and I know the Republicans as well

as Democrats have said, OK, set this vote aside, we are actually very close to agreement. But, to be fair, you and I and everybody watching right now has heard that before.

COONS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Explain why they should be confident that this time they're going to bring it all together and before you guys go on recess next month?

COONS: Well we're not going on recess for several more weeks. I think we have the time to finish this bipartisan bill. And, Jim, all I'm going to say in conclusion on this point is, I have been a part of bipartisan negotiating teams in the past where it really felt like the folks in the room didn't want to get to yes -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- and were finding excuses for the group to blow up. And I've been a part -

[09:20:00]

COONS: -- of groups where it felt like everyone was determined to pass something significant and we held together and bore down and got the group done and got the legislation done. To me this very much feels like the latter. The core group of 10 Senators who have been at this for weeks and weeks have a great and positive dynamic. They're working well with the White House and they are clearing difficult final issues before we text released. So I'm optimistic this will get done.

SCIUTTO: All right, from your -

(CROSSTALK)

COONS: I also frankly think, Jim, it matters to our country. I had a dinner with a Foreign Head of State last night here in Washington who reminded us that the rest of the world, after January 6, is left wondering -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- whether or not the United States and our democracy can still function. Passing $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill will help -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- answer that question at home and abroad. SCIUTTO: We'll see. I mean you wrote about that, you know, in your op- ed just earlier this week, making exactly that same point. I do want to ask you about voting because the focus first on COVID relief, now very much on infrastructure. You know that there are members of your party who say listen, the real threat to this country is not bipartisan agreement on infrastructure it's protecting the vote.

And you have laws already being passed, no just about voter access but the key is about even certification of votes, right, allowing partisans to just say, hey, I don't like these results, forget about it. What's the urgency? And should there be more urgency from the President and Democrats to act on voting?

COONS: Jim, we've got a number of urgent and important issues right in front of us. One of them, as you're pointing out, is that if you look back at the 2020 election we came very, very close to having election results overturned through partisan interference. President Trump - Former President Trump, refused to accept the results of the election -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes,

COONS: -- and pressured local political officials to take actions that they weren't empowered to do. And now in several states laws are being change so that there would have been a different outcome in 2020.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: That is alarming. So, too, is climate change, Jim. I think we should all have a sense of urgency about climate change as we see forest fires across the West and -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- tornados and hurricanes recently in the center and Southeast of our country. That's why I just introduced a border carbon adjustment bill that would take us a big step forward toward harmonizing having the same approach toward international trade and climate change as our neighbors in Canada, as our partners and friends in the U.K. and E.U. I think that's another urgent issue we need to address.

Frankly, immigration is another.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: So, Jim, we've got a lot on our menu. That's why Leader Schumer has been pushing this bipartisan group to get to a final deal - (CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: I get it.

COONS: -- and why I'm optimistic we will to create time to deal with issues like voting that are urgent.

SCIUTTO: I did want to ask you about climate change because it does seem like the plane is sending us signals on this. Part of this is a Civilian Climate Corps. Why do you believe that needs to be included in budget reconciliation in the next step of this kind of two track plan? Make your case for it.

COONS: Well, Jim, I'm a big believer in AmeriCorps, in national service. A 25-year old program that allows 75,00 young Americans to give a year or two of their lives in service to our communities and our country. And to earn an opportunity to go to college -- money for college as a result. To learn skills and to engage with their communities.

President Biden campaigned on a Civilian Climate Corps -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- that would put a new generation of young people into America's forest and national lands and public lands to help with climate resiliency. To help with preparation. To make sure, whether it's in my low lying state of Delaware -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COONS: -- that our marshlands are better maintained. Or in the forested highlands of states like New Mexico and Colorado that their forest are better maintained so they're less vulnerable to forest fires.

SCIUTTO: Right.

COONS: I think this is a great idea to revive the CCC from the 1930's as a modern, updated, diverse, inclusive, strong, 21st Century -

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: OK.

COONS: -- Civilian Climate Corps.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching where that goes. We'll watch infrastructure first. Senator Chris Coons, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

COONS: Thank you, Jim. SCIUTTO: Well just hours from now President Biden is set to join CNN for a Town Hall in Ohio as his administration faces a number of Congressional hurdles including that infrastructure hurdle.

HARLOW: Right, our Jeff Zeleny joins us from Cincinnati. Good morning, Jeff, what are we going to see tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Poppy and Jim. There's no question that President Biden wants to sort of focus the country on the particulars of the infrastructure and jobs plan. Never mind the, you know, how the deal is getting done or not done in Washington. But on this infrastructure plan; building bridges, building roads, expanding broadband.

So look for a focus and a lot of questions on infrastructure, of course, and COVID-19. You can just feel the level -

[09:25:00]

ZELENY: -- of concern rising among the, you know, those who are unvaccinated and vaccinated, of course. The economic fallout from this, the health fallout from this. So always interesting at these town halls are the, you know, the real questions from real people. These are not, you know, Washington ease like questions. These are question on the minds of actual citizens and voters.

So and I have been here for the last several days talking to people and there are real questions about schools. There's - certainly really questions about voting rights protection, about police reform, about, you know, just the economic health overall. So those are some of the central issues. But it is on infrastructure that President Biden wants to talk about.

He'll be delivering a speech before the Town Hall here this afternoon, in Cincinnati at a union hall, talking about jobs. And always in Cincinnati there is a bridge, the Brent Spence Bridge, it spans from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky. President Obama planned to fix it, President Trump planned to fix it. Their transportation and infrastructure plans always fizzled. So look for questions to be asked on that specific bridge and the broader infrastructure plan again here tonight. Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: We will. It will be a great one. Thank you, Jeff, appreciate the reporting.

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: You bet.

HARLOW: Be sure to watch it tonight. Our Presidential Town Hall, live, 8 o'clock eastern moderated by our friend, Don Lemon.

SCIUTTO: It is less than one week until the first hearing of the January 6 select committee. CNN is learning more about the GOP Strategy to stand in the way of it. HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell here on Wall

Street. The future is a bit mixed this morning. Stocks did rally yesterday rebounding from a miserable start to the week. This volatile stretch of trading sparked by, of course, concerns over the Delta variant. Investors drawing some comfort though on a strong start to earnings season.

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