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CNN NEWSROOM

L.A. County Officials Say Delta Variant is Game-Changer as Cases Rise Among Vaccinated; CIA Inspector General Reviewing Havana Syndrome Cases; Opening Ceremony Underway in Tokyo Amid COVID Spike. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 10:30   ET

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


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POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Health officials in Los Angeles County are calling the delta variant a game-changer as an increasing number of vaccinated people there are still testing positive for COVID-19 breakthrough cases that are about 20 percent of the new infections last month. But, remember, those people are not dying, they're not getting critically ill, they're not going to the hospital. This is a pandemic largely of the unvaccinated, those who have not gotten a vaccine.

Nick Watt is live in Los Angeles this morning. And, Nick, I think that is just very important, yes, there are breakthrough cases and we should report on them but these are not people that are going to the hospital or getting very sick. It is the unvaccinated who are.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Poppy. Listen, the headline sounds very scary, more than 800 fully vaccinated people here in Los Angeles testing positive during the month of June. But when you dive into the detail, it is not quite so frightening. The vast majority of those people suffered mild symptoms or no symptoms, whatsoever. Very few of them were sent to the hospital.

Now, the delta variant is clearly the issue here. Last week in L.A., 84 percent of positive tests were that delta variant. It is more contagious. We know that now. Rochelle Walensky from the CDC says probably the most contagious respiratory virus she's seen in 20 years. So that is the issue, this delta variant.

So, here in L.A., they say that July, the numbers could get worse. The numbers are rising. So what are they doing? Well, like everywhere else in the country, they are encouraging people to get vaccinated. And also, Angelinos now, vaccinated or not, are supposed to wear masks indoors again.

Now, they are using a pretty good analogy here in L.A. and elsewhere about this. It is, they say, pretend that the pandemic is like a weather event, heavy rain. Your umbrella is your vaccine. But if the rain gets monsoon heavy and the winds whip up, which they say is happening with delta, then you put on a raincoat as well, and that is your mask.

Now, similar situation probably happening elsewhere in the country, we just don't know the numbers, L.A., doing pretty well, vaccination- wise, other states, Alabama, Mississippi, in the low 30s. As you say the real issue now is the delta variant and the unvaccinated. Back to you.

HARLOW: Nick Watt, thank you for that reporting from Los Angeles for us.

Well, beginning August 9th, Canada will lift its travel restrictions from the United States, allowing fully vaccinated citizens to enter the country with no quarantine required, but the U.S. is not doing the same on the same timeline, at least. The Biden administration extending nonessential travel restrictions through August 21st.

And this comes with some big implications, specifically for one town in Washington State, Point Roberts, it sits, take a look, you'll see, we'll zoom in. It sits right there and it doesn't any part of the United States. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it is been cut off from nearly everything, isolating its residences, forcing small businesses to close.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need the Canadians to be able to cross, to come to their homes, bring business back to the Point Roberts. 95 percent of my business, again, is Canadian-driven.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close the border coast to coast when the situation is not the same everywhere doesn't make much sense.

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It is like cutting off your whole foot because you stubbed your big toe.

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HARLOW: Well, you can hear the frustration. Among the most frustrated is this man, my next guest, Brian Calder, the president for the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce. Brian, thank you and good morning.

BRIAN CALDER, PRESIDENT, POINT ROBERTS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Thank you, Poppy, and thank you for finding us. The government doesn't seem to be able to.

HARLOW: All right. Well, tell me now about how you feel. Because 19 percent of your commerce, as I understand, comes from Canada, so much of the tourism comes from the Canada. What does this all mean for you guys?

CALDER: Economic devastation, which is what we're experiencing now. We're a ghost town. Last summer, we lost -- normally, we would have, at this time of the year, 4,000 Canadians here at their homes. 75 percent of our properties are owned by Canadians, 75 percent. HARLOW: Wow.

CALDER: I mean, imagine your own subdivision and you would say, well, Canadians own 75 percent of my area of New York or whatever. You would go, what? Well that is the dynamic here and it has been for four centuries.

We get our water, we get our power from Canada, from British Columbia. We are joined to Canada, not to mainland USA. We're more -- half of our people here are dual, they're Canadian and American. It's basically a Canadian town more than it is an actual American town.

HARLOW: Can you talk to me about the COVID numbers there? Because at last check, and correct me if I'm wrong, 85 percent of Point Robert has been vaccinated. Is that fully vaccinated? And also is it still -- yes, go ahead.

CALDER: Poppy, we have -- thank you for bringing that up. The best record in North America thanks to -- that is U.S. and Canada, thanks to our Fire Chief Carlton. He started off -- I was vaccinated in February, both vaccinations. That is the only advantage of being old, by the way, is I get ahead of the line. But he went through the whole town. And I think it is 87 percent right now and he's working, I think it is next week, he will be vaccinating the 12 and up.

And we've also got -- had two -- two COVID events in the past 17 months.

HARLOW: Two cases?

CALDER: Two families, sorry, which total of six people in total, two families.

HARLOW: Okay.

CALDER: And he immediately got onto it, locked it down. It came from Bellingham, not from here. They had to go to the doctor and they got it somewhere in Bellingham, it is 50 miles away through Canada to get here. And immediately locked it down, tested everyone they've been in touch with, no other transmission, locked down done. That is our record.

And we --

HARLOW: Yes, well it is a stellar record both on keeping infections down and vaccinations up. And good for your fire chief. We should have him on the show next week.

CALDER: You should. You should.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about the economic impact, because that is your -- that is your wheelhouse. I mean, I know a number of these small businesses have had to close, obviously, that means a lot of layoffs. Are you at the point where you think -- and now that restrictions are extended, that some of these jobs just will not come back? CALDER: I guarantee they won't. Unfortunately, I have to say that. They moved away. Our labor force, in large part, has had to find work elsewhere over, we call it, to the mainland, which is mainland USA, or back to Canada because they're dual citizens, they come work in Canada as well.

And that is going to be, if and when this -- they finally discover us an allow us to open the border on the U.S. side, which is critical to us, absolutely critical, then we won't have a labor force to open our gas stations and our shops and our businesses. That is going to be our next dilemma.

We're looking forward to that in a way, because, right now, we are a ghost town. We are shut down. 90 percent of our economy is gone, our Boat Marina, has gone from 850 boats to 165. That is huge, golf courses closed. It is devastation.

And here we have a government that is crying about Cuba and Russia and all the bad things happening over there and criticizing them. They deserve criticism for how they're treating us. Look in their own backyard and clean that up.

HARLOW: Well, I'm sure there are government officials watching, Brian. So we'll see what the response is to you guys. But thank you for coming on. I certainly didn't know a lot about this story until our team brought it to my attention. And we appreciate your voice and wish everyone the best there.

[10:40:00] CALDER: Thank you very much, Poppy, and thank you for covering us.

HARLOW: Of course. Thank you.

And ahead a growing number of U.S. diplomats falling victim to Havana Syndrome-like attacks. Now, the inspector general for the CIA is stepping in.

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HARLOW: New this morning to CNN, CNN has learned the CIA inspector general is now reviewing the department's handling of Havana Syndrome cases. Sources say there have been a ballooning number of incidents of the mysterious health symptoms that appear to have been targeting Americans and American diplomats and spies in recent months.

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Let's go to our Katie Bo Williams for more on this. Katie Bo, good morning to you.

So, there is concern about how the investigation into these cases has been handled?

KATIE BO WILLIAMS, CNN REPORTER: Yes. So what the inspector general is looking at is essentially how the CIA handled officers who were coming to them and reporting this sort of strange array of symptoms that we know to be the -- that we now call sort of collectively the Havana Syndrome. So, this is everything, from headaches to nausea, to vertigo, to some officers who reported even hearing a piercing directional noise or experiencing head pressure.

So what the inspector general is reviewing, and I should note that this is a review to determine if a full investigation is needed, not a full investigation at this moment, what the I.G. is reviewing is what kind of care those officers got when they came to the agency and said this thing, this mysterious thing is happening to me, what kind of health care, what kind of benefits.

And this is important because we've heard some complaints from victims and former officers who have claimed that, essentially, that officers who came forward were gas lit by CIA leadership who were maybe a little bit skeptical of this sort of unusual, let's say, set of symptoms that didn't have an obvious cause. Because, at this point, the intelligence community still hasn't really attributed what is causing these strange incidents.

There is a working theory that Russia might be using some kind of directed energy or microwave device to either collect intelligence on officers or potentially even harm them. But at this point, the intelligence is very circumstantial and they just don't have a solid attribution yet.

HARLOW: Wow. Katie Bo Williams, thank you for that important reporting.

Ahead for us, the opening ceremony of the Olympics is happening right now. But is it the global unifier it once was? We'll take a look, next.

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HARLOW: The 2020 Olympics are now underway in Tokyo and these summer games are sure to be unlike any other. Fans have been barred from most of the events amid a spike in COVID cases there in Tokyo and the parade of nations and athletes is also been scaled down due to COVID preparations.

Joining me now is Amy Bass, a sports studies professor focuses on the intersection of sports, culture and politics, certainly relevant right now, Amy, also the author of this great book, Not the Triumph But the Struggle, The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete. It is good to have you, Amy. thanks for your time this morning, especially on a morning like this.

AMY BASS, AUTHOR, ONE GOAL, A COACH, A TEAM AND THE GAME THAT BROUGHT DIVIDED TOWN TOGETHER: Thanks for having. Yes, it is been a busy morning.

HARLOW: Right. You explain the games as, as important as they are damaged. That is a quote from you. Explain why. BASS: Well, I think we see the worst of us in the Olympic Games in terms of some of the structures, the silencing of voices, the inequities that they expose, but it's also one of our few truly global coming together moments every two to four years, five years in this case.

So, I think that we CAN see both the bad that we create when we come together and the good that we create when we come together. There is a lot to criticize about the Olympics but there is also a lot to herald.

HARLOW: So, looking specifically at this, you wrote a piece for cnn.com about a month ago, and you've listed several reasons to be excited about the games this year. And also you noted, quote, all of this desire and joy exists intention with the sober reality of this moment in history framed by COVID as well as by reckoning with the questions of health care, racism and global equity.

How do you think, now that we're just past the opening ceremony, how do you think that will be, all of those things, reflected in these games?

BASS: Well, I don't think these games even waited for opening ceremony to get some of that out of the way. We saw with the beginning on Wednesday of the women's soccer competition, four squads take a knee before the game began, before the ref blew the whistle, and that is a change, that that is now allowed, that the IOC has relaxed some of the ways that athletes can use their platforms to make statements.

We saw Sue Bird carrying the United States flag at opening ceremony this morning and she has been an incredibly outspoken advocate as a WNBA player in terms of issues of racial equity in the United States. And so these are moments in which these things are showcased.

But I think that one of the big differences for Tokyo is that the opening ceremony is supposed to create sort of this line of demarcation between our everyday lives and our Olympic lives for the next two weeks and viruses don't obey a lot of demarcations. So COVID is something that's going to saturate these games whether the opening ceremony has said it is different now or not.

HARLOW: This is true. Let me in on this. 1968 medalist Tommie Smith, obviously relevant to your book, and John Carlos, have signed on to a letter urging the International Olympic Committee to change rules that threaten to punish athletes for protesting or demonstrating on the medal podiums at the Olympics. I wonder what your read on that is as someone who spends so much time studying this intersection.

BASS: I think there are two ways to look at it. Rule 50 is to prevent commercialism and politics from sort of invading this space that sees itself as being an apolitical space. But the Olympics aren't apolitical.

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We just watched over 200 delegations enter into an Olympic stadium holding flags. That is inherently political. So we have a tension there between what is and isn't allowed within this space of sport. And I think that athletes worked really hard to create their platforms, to create this rare spotlight that they have and that they want to use it as they see fit.

On the other hand, if there is no consequence for doing that, if there's no punishment for doing that within the Olympic rules, is it a protest, if it is allowed or does it have the same meaning?

HARLOW: Yes, that is an interesting point. Amy Bass, thank you so much for being with us and enjoy the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to watching.

BASS: Thanks.

HARLOW: All right. Thanks to all of you for joining us today. Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan is next.

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