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Pandemic Isolated to Those Who Won't Get Vaccine; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Considers Adding GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to January 6 Panel; A.G. Garland Says New Firearms Trafficking Strike Forces are Part of Larger Package DOJ Using to Combat Violent Crime. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim is on assignment today.

As it stands right now, this has, in fact, become a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Vaccination efforts have fallen short particularly in Republican-led states despite clear evidence that more than one vaccine is safe and very effective. Right now, all but one of the ten states, you see them in red there, with the lowest vaccination rates in the country have Republican governors.

Mississippi and Alabama are the only states that have yet to vaccinate 35 percent of their populations. And in those states cases and hospitalizations are soaring. That orange line right there is Mississippi, Alabama is the red line. And as we learned, where hospitalizations are high, the sad reality is more deaths are expected to follow.

Let's begin this hour with Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, good morning.

This latest spike has a number of Republican leaders feeling the pressure and a number of them now speaking up very vocally about this, including Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, where the vaccination rate is the lowest in the country. What is she saying?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is apparently is what it took for some Republicans, not all, but for some Republicans to say, look, guys, you need to get vaccinated.

So let's take a listen to Governor Ivey. She speaks in very plain language.


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

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

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


COHEN: You can just see how angry she is. It is the governors, really, in many ways, that are bearing the brunt of this. When people don't get vaccinated and end up in the hospital, it cost money. That money comes out, to some extent, from their budgets. There is great stress on doctors and nurses when people don't get vaccinated.

People who don't get vaccinated, not only are they choosing to get very sick, they're also putting stress on doctors and nurses who are just trying to do their best and they're giving them work that they have don't need to be giving them.

Let's take a look at the ten states with the lowest vaccination rates. When you look at them, you might think, I think, I feel like I've seen this map before. That's because for many of these states, they also have some of the highest COVID transmission rates in the country. When people don't get vaccinated, that is where COVID spreads.

Now, let's look at who is hospitalized and who is dying in the United States. 97 percent of hospitalizations are among those who are not vaccinated. 99.5 percent of the deaths are among people who are not vaccinated. Why in the world you would choose to go to the hospital or choose to die? It really just sort of -- it defies logic.

HARLOW: Also this just into CNN, Elizabeth, the Biden administration just announcing a purchase of 200 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Can you explain why?

COHEN: Yes. So, the administration is saying, look, we expect soon for little children to be able to be vaccinated under the age of 12, excuse me, and so they're ordering up new doses so that new shots, so that people can get their children vaccinated so that there will be a large enough supply.

Also there is a possibility that there might be a recommendation for a booster for everyone to get a third shot. That is not happening now. It is not necessary now. But that could happen in the future. The delivery of these doses would be expected between fall of this year and spring of next.

HARLOW: Okay, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for the reporting.

Missouri, as we just talked about, is one of the states being hit hardest by COVID this month. Take a look at this map. You can see the state is one of several in deep red, meaning hospitalizations have jumped more than 50 percent in the last two weeks. And it is especially dire in the southwestern portion of the state.

My next guest are nurses in one of the hot spots in Branson and they say this is really just something that we cannot accept. Listen to one of them.


KAYLA HILLES, ICU NURSE, COX MEDICAL CENTER BRANSON: It's not normal. This is not okay. We can't live this way.


We're -- I'm never going to accept this as our new normal.


HARLOW: That was Kayla Hilles, an ICU nurse at Cox Medical Center in Branson. She joins me now along with Sarah Leal, a critical care nurse at the same hospital. Ladies, thank you so much for doing this.

And, Kayla, when I heard you say that, we played it on show mid-week, I said we need to have her on, right, because these are the people on the front lines dealing with this. So, thank you for saying yes and thank you for coming here.

What is it like treating these patients and some of them dying in your care knowing that it's largely preventable because of available vaccine?

HILLES: Well, it is as if we're continually fighting every day. We go in. We're taking care of these patients. It is emotionally and physically draining for us. We fight to try to keep these people alive. There is a 1 percent to 2 percent death rate, that's because of the work that we're doing, that's because of how hard we work.

HARLOW: Sarah, are they young, the people, young and unvaccinated, many of the people that are now coming in for care for COVID?

SARAH LEAL, CRITICAL CARE NURSE, COX MEDICAL CENTER: It seems with this delta variant that there is younger people that are getting sicker. They're in their 20s, 30s, 40s. They don't have many comorbidities. Some just have like high blood pressure. Some have no medical history and they are coming in, they're on a ventilator, we're talking to their families, we're working so hard, and it just seems like we're just fighting a losing battle here.

HARLOW: How young are some of the folks you've had to put on ventilators?

LEAL: Well, we see adults in our ICU, and so the youngest we've seen is in the 30s.

HARLOW: That is very -- I mean, that is incredibly young, especially for COVID.

Sarah, just to be clear here, is everyone that you are treating for severe COVID unvaccinated?

LEAL: 97 percent of the people that we are treating that are hospitalized with the COVID pneumonia are unvaccinated, yes. HARLOW: What are they --

LEAL: I mean, it's -- sorry.

HARLOW: No, go ahead.

LEAL: It seems like that the ones that are vaccinated, they have comorbidities that caused them to be immunocompromised. So --

HARLOW: Right.

HILLES: Probably when they got their vaccine, it wasn't effective.

HARLOW: So, healthy people generally who got vaccinated are not come into the ICU at all, is what you're saying, which is a very important message.

Can I ask you, Kayla, I wonder what the patients say to you, if they do, if they talk about not being vaccinated and why they made that choice?

HILLES: None of them tell us, especially some of them, I didn't have time to go get vaccinated. I didn't have a chance -- I work through the day, there are these pop-up clinics, I was planning on going after work but I didn't feel like it that way or I wish I would have, or a lot of families calling in, saying, hey, when can I get vaccinated, where can I go to get vaccinated? I see what this is doing to my family and it is not worth the risk.

And I'm glad that people are seeing that but it is taking a lot of pushing and a lot of them seeing their family suffering for them to decide to make this decision.

HARLOW: Sarah, what do you think would help the most? I mean, sadly there is rampant misinformation and disinformation online, on social media, coming from even some people in power. What do you think it would take to get more Branson vaccinated?

LEAL: I mean, we're trying our best. They always say nurses are America's most trusted profession. And it seems like we're putting the information out there, we're trying to explain as best we can and people are just misinformed and set in their ideas. And so we're speaking and we're trying and we're pushing, but, again, we're just fighting a losing battle.

HARLOW: Kayla, what is it like for you, personally, to go in each day and treat such young people, put such young people on ventilators and watch people continue to die from a virus that is now preventable because of available vaccine? I wonder just the personal toll for you.

HILLES: It's very emotional. We both care a lot about our patients. I think all of our staff does. And we know a lot of them, as we get these patients while their stale able to talk to us a little bit in between trying to breathe, of course. So we get to know these people, we know about their lives, we know about their family, their jobs, their hobbies, their small children a lot of times. And then we watch them as they get worse and worse.

And we go home, we still think about them. We check on them on our days off. We come back in to see how they're doing and sometimes they're not there anymore.


Sometimes they've passed while we are gone or we fight -- we're all fighting together. But we fight to try to keep them alive as long as we can and hopefully their families will get to see them again.

But it is very emotionally draining on us. We're the only person who is talking to their family. The doctors call the families as well. But we're the only person in between the patient and their family. They don't get to see their family. The family doesn't get to see their loved one as their suffering and dying because of the isolation requirements.

And a lot of these people have been exposed to COVID with their family member having COVID, so, of course, we don't want to let them come in and out of the hospital to see their family member.

So it is just -- it is really hard on us to be that person who is maybe saying they're doing worse today.

HARLOW: Of course.

HILLES: They're (INAUDIBLE) today, you know?

HARLOW: Look, you guys, and I don't say this lightly, you are our heroes. I'm so grateful. I'll never forget the nurses that have helped my family in the worst of scenarios. So, thank you, Kayla, and thank you, Sarah, very, very much and we hope, we hope things turn a major corner there in Branson.

Well, after a delay of a year, more than a year, it is finally here. Watch.

The Tokyo Summer Olympics now officially underway. The opening ceremony kicking off this morning, a moment many thought might not happen after the pandemic postponed the games a year. Our Selina Wang and Coy Wire are in Tokyo covering the games. Good morning -- good evening.

Selina, let's start with you. What are people saying to you about these Olympics going forward despite COVID cases rising across Japan?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, there was a large crowd of protesters outside of the national stadium that, for hours, were chanting to cancel the Olympics. We also saw this big drone light display and fireworks but overshadowing that is this feeling of frustration that these games are still being held as COVID cases are surging. Tokyo is in a state of emergency and just around 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

I've attended several of these protests leading up to these games and they really feel that these games are putting money, sports, politics ahead of people's lives. I also spoke to several bystanders who have mixed feelings. Some said they hoped it would be a success, they were excited to watch the games on T.V. They were standing outside of the national stadium just to get as close to the action as they could. But others said this just isn't the right time to have a celebration and that these games should postponed again.

We now have more than 100 COVID-19 cases in Japan linked to these games and now at least 20 athletes who are now out of the Olympics because of COVID. These heartbreaking stories, Poppy, about the entire their dreams and hopes being derailed even after coming all the way to Tokyo because of COVID, Poppy.

HARLOW: Coy, it's been a long time coming but they're here. The games are finally here a year-plus later. And they will be like nothing we've ever seen before. You were at the Rio Olympics. Compare all of it to what we're looking at right now.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, there are some similarities, Poppy. Even the last Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, we know, had its issues and concerns a bit, and then, as you mentioned, 2016 Rio. Remember, there were the algae-filled green swimming pools, there were mosquitoes and Zika to think about and worry about.

But those two Olympic games still have the energy and atmosphere of an Olympics that came in like a tidal wave once those games actually got underway. It was a carnival atmosphere in Rio. People from all over the world coming together to celebrate these athletes and watching them compete. And that finally now we're getting to that point here in Tokyo.

And with COVID, this has been just creating an Olympics like never before. U.S. track star Allyson Felix told me that she had at one point to run down her neighborhood street to train. Swimming sensation Katie Ledecky told me that she was swimming in a backyard pool just to make it here.

And now, that they are here in those empty venues, even their families who have sacrificed so much right there along with them aren't here to be able to celebrate these moments and will certainly go down as one of the most peculiar, unique and weirdest Olympic Games we've ever seen.

HARLOW: For sure. Coy, let me switch gears here for you for a moment and put your other expert hat on, and that is as a former NFL player, just to talk about what the NFL and Roger Goodell announced overnight, and that is that unvaccinated players or teams that have to not play or reschedule because of a COVID outbreak, will pay a big price for that, whether it is forfeiting game, a lot of lost pay. What do you make of this? How significant?


WIRE: Yes. Well, this is a massive deal, Poppy, for a lot of these players who say that they see this almost as a mandate, many pointing to negotiations with the league just a few months ago about this very issue and they agreed players would not be required to get vaccinated.

In a memo yesterday obtained by CNN, the NFL telling teams that any game postponed and ultimately canceled due to an outbreak from unvaccinated players, it would count as a forfeit and players from both teams would have to give up their paychecks, Poppy.

So you have stars speaking out, like Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys. He said that he is vaccinated. He wanted to put his team in the best chance to win. But he completely understands those who don't want to be told what they need to with their bodies.

So we'll see with the season opener just around the corner how the players and how the league kind of respond as this moves forward.

HARLOW: Yes, for sure, it is a big deal. Coy, thanks so much. Selina Wang, thank you both and enjoy it in Tokyo. I know it is different this year but probably pretty spectacular thing to be a part of.

Well just in, a big change for Major League Baseball. The Cleveland Indians have just announced they will be changing their name to the Cleveland Guardians, and that they got Tom Hanks to be the voice of their announcement. Listen to this.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR (voice over): Together, we stand with all who understand what it means to be born and built from the land, because this is a city we love and the game we believe in. And together, we are all Cleveland Guardians.


HARLOW: The team is holding a news conference this afternoon to discuss the change.

All right, still to come, trapped at the U.S./Canadian border, some people in Washington State could only access the rest of the U.S. by driving across the northern border into Canada. But the Biden administration is extending travel restrictions that looks like will leave them trapped there for about another month.

Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighing new ways to potentially beef up the bipartisan credibility of that House select committee into the insurrection after the Republican leader pulled out their members.

And Attorney General Garland unveiled a new way to track firearms in an effort to combat violent crime. We're going to telling the details of this significant announcement, next.



HARLOW: So, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering adding a second Republican to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. The first one she has in mind is Republican Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger. The hope here, adding another Republican will help bolster the bipartisan credibility.

Lauren Fox joins us from Capitol Hill. You have got some new reporting on this. What can you tell us?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is right. One source is telling me that it sure seems like Kinzinger could be added to the select committee and this briefly came up yesterday during a closed door meeting with other members of the select committee, none of whom seemed opposed in that meeting to adding Kinzinger. It was a very brief discussion.

But, essentially, all signs are pointing to the fact that Democrats perhaps would like to add Kinzinger in part, like you said, to bolster that bipartisan credibility to this select committee.

Now, that is not the only way that Democrats are eyeing sort of adding a more air of bipartisanship to this. They're also potentially going to add a committee staffer that is also a Republican. And the view there is that if you have someone potentially who is asking questions or looking into information with a Republican background, perhaps that also gives you a more well-rounded select committee.

We know that Denver Wriggleman, a former Republican congressman from the state of Virginia, was up on Capitol Hill yesterday talking to people about that potential role. So I think that that is another area to keep an eye on.

But, look, there is just not that much time to really settle who the members of this committee should be given the fact that there is a hearing already scheduled for next week with Capitol Hill and Metropolitan Police officers. We're going to talk about their experience on January 6, so not a whole lot of time.

But as we heard from the chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, yesterday, who said he wasn't opposed to adding Kinzinger, I think that a lot of Democrats are open to the idea feeling like Kinzinger has the credentials given his voting record, given the fact he voted to impeach the former president, Donald Trump, this last time around, that Kinzinger has those credentials needed to really be serious and really be a partner in investigating what happened on January 6th. Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay. We'll see what happens. Lauren, thank you for the reporting.

As the Biden administration faces growing pressure to deal with the spikes we've seen, especially in gun crime across the nation, Attorney General Merrick Garland traveled to Chicago yesterday, one of five cities where the Department of Justice will launch their new anti-gun trafficking strike force.

Our Security Correspondent Josh Campbell joins me. Josh, good morning to you.

I think the big question here is what is going to be different, right, how do they think this will be different and more effective than all that is already done on that front?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. Yes, we know that this is a nation awash with guns. We've seen homicides up in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, so many other parts of the country. And what we're seeing a concerted effort by the Justice Department to try to reverse that trend.

As you mentioned, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is in Chicago at this hour. He's rolling out these gun trafficking task forces in several cities that have serve as the hubs for gun trafficking.

Now, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco spoke to CNN, she talked about the threat and what specifically they're doing to try to stop it.



LISA MONACO, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: So, we obviously always want to go after the individual who is pulling the trigger that is costing lives in our communities but we also need to go after the networks, the very illegal trafficking networks that are putting those guns in the hands of those criminals in the first place.

What we found in the intelligence is the time to crime, that is what we call it, from the sale of a firearm to the way it travels and then is used in a particular jurisdiction is actually shortening. So we want to understand where those guns are coming from and go after both the sources well as the markets where they're being used.


CAMPBELL: And that is specifically to your question, Poppy, what they're doing differently. They're trying to go after these gun traffickers, not just the one-off shootings but those who are supplying the weapons.

And just to show you, some of the ATF data really demonstrate how widespread a problem this is. Here in the city of Washington, for example, authorities say that last year, 25 percent of firearms recovered at scenes that were analyzed by the ATF were discovered to be used at other crime scenes. If you look at shell casings that they found at crime scenes, 60 percent of shell casings were similar to those used at other incidents.

So it's showing that these aren't one-offs, these are happening again and again, they're trying to go after those pulling the trigger, they're trying to go after those who were supplying the weapons in the first place. Poppy?

HARLOW: Josh Campbell, thank you for the reporting. Let's hope it is successful, because, you're right, it is awash with guns. Thank you.

CAMPBELL: Absolutely. HARLOW: Outrage in one town in Washington State, people not happy after the Biden administration extends travel restrictions from Canada. That is because the only way to get to the mainland U.S. from this place is through Canada. We'll talk to a leader in the city about what this means for them and their economy, ahead.