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Delta is Threat to Unvaccinated; NFL Threatens Teams; Pelosi Considers Adding Kinzinger to Committee; Mississippi AG Asks to Overturn Roe v. Wade; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 09:00   ET



ED ALONZO, ACTOR, PLAYED "MAX" ON "SAVED BY THE BELL": But, wow, it was an amazing tour to be on. We went all over the world. And I did a number, as you saw there, just with her that I had put together where she was the magician's assistant and I was the magician.


ALONZO: And, wow, it was just incredible. It was an amazing time. And she was so fun and easy to work with.


ALONZO: So, yes, just -- just crazy.


KEILAR: I love -- I love talking to you. This is such a treat to get to talk with you on air today. Ed Alonzo.

ALONZO: Is that it? Am I done?

KEILAR: Yes, we -- sorry? Oh, we are -- sorry, Ed.

ALONZO: That's it?

KEILAR: That -- Ed, that is it.

AVLON: It is. But thank you so much for joining us.

KEILAR: There's a new show that started 20 seconds ago.

Ed, thank you so much for being with us.

There's a new episode of "History of the Sitcom." That is going to be Sunday night at 9:00 only on CNN.

And CNN's coverage continues right now.

That was very cool.

AVLON: That was fun.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Happy Friday. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim Sciutto is on assignment today.

And we are in the midst of a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Health experts say recent surges in COVID-19 cases are a direct result of people choosing not to get vaccinated. The delta variant of COVID is sending more people to the hospital who are unvaccinated. But, again, this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Remember the science is clear, vaccines are safe and vaccines work. But efforts to convince people to get the shot have fallen short, particularly in some Republican-led states. In fact, all but one of the ten states with the lowest vaccination rates have Republican governors. Mississippi and Alabama are the only states that have yet to vaccinate even 35 percent of their population, and Alabama's Republican governor says it's time to point fingers at those who refuse to follow the science.

Listen to Kay Ivey.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): These folks are choosing horrible life-style of self-inflicted pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it going to take to get people to get shots in arms?

IVEY: I don't know. You tell me. Folks supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.


HARLOW: The unvaccinated folks letting us down. That from the Republican governor of Alabama.

And caught in the middle are these children, unvaccinated children under the age of 12 who aren't yet authorized to get the shot. Several major school districts are now mandating masks for in-person learning.

And a big development in the professional sports world overnight. The NFL is threatening teams they may have to forfeit games or pay pretty big fines, financial penalties, if they're responsible for a COVID outbreak.

A lot to talk about with our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, good morning to you.

Talk about this in the most clear terms. That map just showed, et cetera, that this has really now become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It has because these vaccines that have been so miraculous, they work. So if you are choosing not to get vaccinated, you are choosing to possibly get sick and die. You're choosing to infect people around you who are not vaccinated. And you're choosing to make life, frankly, a mess for the rest of us. If you're vaccinated and you get a breakthrough infection and you have to quarantine or miss work, you can blame the unvaccinated. These folks are making life a mess for the rest of us. And, frankly, they're killing people.

Let's take a look at that same map that you just used, Poppy. The ten states that have the lowest vaccination rates, not shockingly, are among the states that have the highest COVID transmission rates. We can't say this any more simply, the white states there, those are states with higher vaccination rates.

They tend to have lower COVID rates. When you don't vaccinate, you get more COVID. When you get more COVID, you have a higher chance of having more variants. And we have seen what these variants do. This delta variant is so incredibly transmissible, much more transmissible than previous strains, and that's because the unvaccinated people allowed the virus to spread and spread and spread, and learn and learn and learn.

So let's take a look at hospitalizations and deaths. This is the number that I would think would convince tens of millions of people to get vaccinated, but apparently not. But we'll say it again, 97 percent of the COVID hospitalizations in this country are among unvaccinated people, 99.5 percent of the deaths in this country are in unvaccinated people. Why in the world you would choose -- choose death is beyond me.


COHEN: Poppy.

HARLOW: I mean when you look at a state like Alabama, which has the lowest vaccination rate, Elizabeth, our numbers show that their COVID case rate is double what it was just a week ago.


And, by the way, you are putting young people in this country at risk because if they can't get vaccinated before 12 yet, they don't have other protection than you.

COHEN: Exactly. And you're failing them. You're failing your children. You're failing your friends' children. You're also failing people who have immune problems. People who have immune issues who have gotten vaccinated, there's an excellent chance that vaccine didn't work, and they're relying on you to protect them. That's the meaning of herd immunity.

HARLOW: Yes. COHEN: When the herd turns its back on vulnerable people, on little children, on organ transplant recipients, on people who need to take drugs to suppress their immune systems, when -- when the herd turns their back, that's unvaccinated people again choosing death.

KEILAR: There's also new CNN analysis, Elizabeth, by your team that shows stunningly low vaccination numbers for young people between 12 and 17. Those are people approved to take the vaccine. And we're just a few weeks away from school starting in some states.

COHEN: That's right. So, speaking of the herd, if you can picture a school system, the older children need to protect the younger children because under 12s can't get vaccinated. But -- and the hope was, was that when 12 to 15-year-olds got approved back in May, that was plenty of time for them to get vaccinated for the start of school in August or September and we'd have a lot -- we'd have, you know, well over half of those children vaccinated. That is not what has happened.

Let's take a look at those numbers. So, when we look currently at U.S. adolescents, only 27 percent of ages 12 to 15 are vaccinated. It's higher, 39 percent, for 16 to 17, who have been able to be vaccinated for months and months now. Still, those are not great numbers. People are choosing not to get their children vaccinated.

I mean you might choose to, you know, put yourself in danger. Choosing to put your own teenager in danger is beyond me. Talk about bad parenting.

Now let's talk about what this will look like. This is where the CNN analysis comes in. The start of school is, you know, just a few weeks away in parts of U.S. Like Georgia and other places like that, it's a little bit further away. But by the start of school, in about two weeks, we project that about 30 percent of children ages 12 to 17 will be vaccinated. Just one-third. We were given this huge opportunity, God or Mother Nature, or whoever you want to name --

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: Gave us this amazing opportunity to protect our children, and about two-thirds of Americans are saying, eh, no, I don't care enough about my child to protect them. I can't imagine a parent doing that, but two-thirds of parents are doing that.

HARLOW: Oh, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for the reporting. Let's hope we turn a big corner here. Thank you.

COHEN: Let's hope.

HARLOW: All right, I'm joined now by Dr. Tanya Altmann. She's a pediatrician, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a mom of three.

Doctor, thank you very much.

DR. TANYA ALTMANN, PEDIATRICIAN: Hi, Poppy. HARLOW: Well, what does this all tell you, you know, about -- about

where we are right now? I know one of your children is too young to get vaccinated. Both of mine are. And I'm -- I am, you know, as a journalist, but mainly as a mom, really, really concerned about this.

ALTMANN: Yes, you know, Poppy, I'm concerned as well. And as you and Elizabeth, you know, were discussing, we have a very effective vaccine for everyone age 12 and up. And this is really the best thing you can do for your family to protect your younger kids, to make sure that everybody caring for your kids is vaccinated.

And then after that it's all the other public health measures that we have been talking about. The masking, the hand washing, the distancing. And there's a reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that all kids age two and up will in school wear a mask, it's because we know that this is really the best way to decrease spread amongst kids.

And the kids are getting so much COVID right now. In fact, the CDC just made an exception to their quarantine guidance that if kids are masked in schools, and schools are follow other mitigation properties, we actually do not need to quarantine the kids when exposed because we know that masks are so effective. And the goal this school year is to get kids in school and keep them in school where they belong.

HARLOW: Wow, that's a big difference. I mean I remember my children's schools getting open and closed and opened and closed a lot last year because of cases. Even not within their own class.

What is your best advice for parents right now who have not chosen to get their children 12 and up vaccinated? And I ask this, you know, in a way that I think it's important to be empathetic and understanding rather than shaming people, right, because I do generally believe every parent wants what's best for their child. But clearly there are a lot who have decided not to vaccinate their child. Maybe they're scared. What do they need to know about the science?

ALTMANN: Yes, you know, well I think from early on we were so fortunate that kids weren't getting as sick as adults that people kept hearing that.

HARLOW: Right.


ALTMANN: But now, a year and a half into the pandemic, we have 4 million cases, 700,000 hospitalizations, 4,000 cases of MISC (ph) and more than 300 deaths in kids.

And this is tragic. And we are only now beginning to understand the long hauler syndrome in kids and teens. And I have to tell you, my teens who had COVID in my practice, they are now getting recurrent infections. They're having chronic fatigue. They're saying they can't focus and concentrate.

So I think parents really need to understand that this is something huge they're protecting against, and that the vaccine isn't new. It's very well studied. It's very safe. I vaccinated both of my teenage boys. And I'm recommending for all of my parents.

And it's an easy thing to do to really protect not only your own kids, your family, but also your community. And, yes, there are some breakthrough infections. I've seen them in my practice, but it's mild illness then.

HARLOW: Right.

ALTMANN: And so that's a huge difference. And that's what vaccines do. They are made to protect against serious illness and death.

HARLOW: Right. Right. Exactly.

Briefly, before you go, there are a number of vaccines that are mandated for children to be able to attend school in every state. You know, whether it's diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, polio, chicken pox, et cetera. Do -- is it your assessment that COVID vaccines should be added to that -- to that list? I mean I -- why isn't it vaccine -- why isn't it mandated?

ALTMANN: Well, I think we're headed that way. It takes a while to get a vaccine mandated.


ALTMANN: Even though we have a lot of scientific evidence and data that vaccines are safe, you know, it needs to be out a certain amount of time. It has to have the full FDA approval. And then it can be on the list to be mandated. And it's actually up to each state.

So in the state of California, we have a lot of very important vaccine mandates to keep our kids safe in school. Not all states do that for their kids. You can see what's going on right now. I'm in Los Angeles County. We're having kids mask in school because we know that is the safest way to keep them in school all year.

So I think this is something we have to keep talking about and I hope the FDA, you know, can put out a statement and authorize it soon. And then we're also waiting for the vaccine to get an EUA for the kids younger than 12. I have a six-year-old. And as soon as I know the dose, I'm going to give it to them.

HARLOW: I can't wait for that day as well. And, by the way, neither can my kids.

Thank you, Dr. Altmann, very much.

ALTMANN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, this is a big development overnight. The NFL just announced a new policy warning players who are not yet vaccinated for COVID-19, if an outbreak happens among unvaccinated players, the whole team could forfeit their games and lose millions of dollars in pay.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has more.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the first pre-season game less than two weeks away, the National Football League is sending a warning to unvaccinated players. CNN obtaining this memo sent league wide on Thursday saying if a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule and is canceled due to a COVID outbreak among non-vaccinated players, the club with the outbreak will forfeit the contest.

The threat comes with financial consequence, too. According to the memo, if a postponed game can't be rescheduled, players from neither team will receive their scheduled salary and the team with the outbreak will be responsible for all additional expenses incurred by the opposing team.

RICH EISEN, REPORTER, NFL NETWORK: Last year when we did not have a vaccine to help out, the NFL held a game on every day of the week. The NFL does not want to do that again, nor should they do that again if there is science that can be relied on to make things potentially easier and safer.

GUPTA: Some current players, like DeAndre Hopkins, turning to Twitter to complain about the new rules. The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver tweeting and deleting, never thought I would say this, but being put in a position to hurt my team because I don't want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL.

And Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley, who tweeted in June, I may die of COVID, but I'd rather die actually living. Writing last night, nothing has changed. I'm still living freely.

But according to the NFL, most players are choosing to get the vaccine, saying at least 78 percent have received at least one dose, and 14 of the 32 teams have reached above the 85 percent vaccination threshold. In 2020, the league experienced several postponed games due to coronavirus outbreaks.

DR. ALLEN SILLS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, NFL: We had an outbreak in Tennessee. And when we went in and really dug into that and tried to understand, how did transmission occur despite our protocols, that's when we began to realize it wasn't just six feet and 15 minutes.

GUPTA: I spoke to the NFL's chief medical officer throughout the season about navigating the sport during the pandemic.

GUPTA (on camera): How hard would it be to replicate what you were able to do at the NFL?


SILLS: What prevented transmission was mask usage, avoiding in-person meetings, staying in the open air environments, not eating together, prompt symptom reporting, isolation of anybody that's exposed. GUPTA: Now while the nation faces a summer surge fueled by the delta

variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he thinks the NFL's move could encourage others to enforce similar vaccine protocols to help slow the spread of the virus.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think the NFL is sending a very strong signal that it's very important to get vaccinated. If you want to play football and you want to do it in a way that you feel unrestricted and not worry about any penalties, you just get vaccinated.


HARLOW: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting. Thank you, Sanjay, very much.

Still to come, the Supreme Court takes up one of the most significant abortion cases in a long time. The Mississippi attorney general arguing the justices should completely overturn Roe v. Wade. Much more on that ahead.

Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seriously considering adding another Republican to the committee, the select committee to investigate the insurrection.

And CNN is on the ground with crews battling the largest wildfire in Oregon. Look at this. We talked with an expert on the ground about this yesterday. What you need to know as firefighters continue to fight this blaze.



HARLOW: As soon as today we are going to see potentially a second Republican named to the House Select Committee on investigating the insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering adding Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the panel as Democrats look to strengthen the bipartisan credibility of this investigation.

Lauren Fox is with us on Capitol Hill.

How's the news being received, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far it sounds like the Democrats who are already selected for this committee are feeling good about the fact that another Republican could potentially be added. We heard yesterday from Bennie Thompson, who's the chair of the select committee, who said that he thought that Kinzinger could be a positive addition.

Remember that this is also about bolstering the bipartisan credibility of this committee. Kevin McCarthy walked away with his five members saying he wasn't going to appoint any of them because the speaker had rejected two of his selections. And there's a sense up here on Capitol Hill that there needs to be more Republicans brought into the fold. You also have someone like Liz Cheney, who's already serving on this

committee, arguing that she'd like to see a Republican adviser, a staffer, added in the ranks as well on the committee to bolster that bipartisan credibility. We saw former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman on Capitol Hill yesterday as a potential person to fill that role in a staffing capacity.

But, look, Kinzinger is seen as somebody who has the credibility, that he voted, you know, for the election certification. He voted to create a select commission. And I think that all of that is part of the reason why he's seen as a potential positive force on this committee.

Now, we still expect that a hearing is going to begin next week, and that doesn't give them much time to bring Kinzinger into the fold here. But, look, I think that Democrats feel like this is a possibility. The speaker told me yesterday during her press conference, we'll see, when I asked specifically about adding more Republicans into this committee.

HARLOW: It's a good question.

Lauren Fox, thank you. We'll watch what happens.

The Supreme Court is about to take up a very significant abortion case, one that poses the most direct challenge in Roe v. Wade in nearly 30 years. This case centers on a controversial Mississippi law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks. And now the Mississippi attorney general, you're looking at her there, has filed this brief with the U.S. Supreme Court calling Roe v. Wade, that decision, egregiously wrong and urging the justices to allowing Mississippi's restrictive new law to stand.

Our Ariane de Vogue is following all of this.

Ariane, this is a big deal, right, because the lower courts had not let it stand. So they've taken it all the way up to the highest court.

What's notable here, Arianne, is that they are going all the way here. They're saying completely overturn Roe v. Wade.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, Poppy, you're absolutely right. Mississippi takes this big step. It could have asked the court to curb precedent, but instead it's asking it to overturn Roe v. Wade, that landmark opinion almost 50 years old that established the right to abortion.

And, of course, this is going to thrust these justices into the center of the political hot spot. They're going to hear this case next term. They will decide it by the end of June. And that's right before the midterm elections.

And as you said, this law, this controversial law, it barred most abortions after 15 weeks, no exceptions for rape or for incest. And lower courts, they said -- they struck it down because they said, look at Roe v. Wade. In fact, a conservative judge, a Trump appointee in the lower court, said, look, my hands are tied here. And that's why Mississippi asked the court this big step to overturn Roe v. Wade.

And all eyes are going to be on the conservative justices. Think of Chief Justice John Roberts, just back in 2020, he sided with the liberals to block a Louisiana law, but he did leave some room for restrictions. And on the other end of the spectrum you've got Justice Clarence Thomas. He wants and has said for years that he thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

And then that leaves the liberals. Justice Stephen Breyer, who is under some pressure to retire, he's going to be working with the other two liberals, trying to preserve Roe as much as possible, trying to contain the damage, Poppy, from his perspective.


HARLOW: Yes. I mean it is -- it is fascinating and significantly important.

What I do want to talk a little about, Ariane, is the fact, most notable, that this decision by the high court to hear this case comes nearly eight months to the day of Justice Ginsburg's death. And it was Justice Ginsburg who warned, if you overturn Roe, you -- you -- you -- it affects poor women much more than others in this country. And it was an explicit warning that she issued a number of times. Can you explain to people why that is?

DE VOGUE: Right. In her interviews and -- with you, when she gave appearances -- and, remember, she often spoke in front of these young liberal audience, she saw the writing on the wall. Maybe that -- not that Roe would be overturned, but it would be restricted. And she said, look, even if Roe is overturned, that means that the issue goes back to the states.

But her concern wasn't for women with means, women who could travel across state lines. She was worried about poor women. Poor women without the means. Poor women living in states hostile to Roe who wouldn't be able to travel, buy a bus ticket, buy a plane ticket to another state. That was her concern.

And, of course, now she's been replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett. And Barrett was grilled on her views on abortion during her congressional hearings. She really didn't reveal much. But, remember, way back, before she was ever on the bench, she was a Notre Dame law professor, and at that time she did make clear a pro-life position.

So all eyes are going to be on this court looking at the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no longer there. She's been replaced, of course, by Amy Coney Barrett, who's more conservative on the issue.

HARLOW: And it will all come down right in the midst of the midterms.

Ariane, thank you very much.

DE VOGUE: Exactly. Thank you.

HARLOW: The Olympics opening ceremonies underway this morning. And a beautiful sight they were in Tokyo. Coronavirus concerns still, though, hanging over the pageantry of this unprecedented set of games. We'll take you there next.