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Delta Variant of Coronavirus Spreading Rapidly in U.S. Particularly among Unvaccinated; Department of Justice Announces It Will Not Investigate Some State Orders Mandating Nursing Homes Allow COVID-19 Positive Residents Admission; Resurgence of Coronavirus Cases Causing Some School Districts to Mandate Masks for Students and Staff; Massive Wildfire Burning Across U.S. Western States. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 24, 2021 - 10:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the Newsroom.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're not vaccinated, you are not protected.

SANCHEZ: Coronavirus cases surging across the country, prompting some cities to reissue indoor mask mandates. With millions of kids heading back to school in a few weeks, the fight over masking playing out in districts across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We parents should have the right to choose whether or not our kids are suffocated by these masks all day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are masks political theater? Seriously, I'm mad.

SANCHEZ: Out of control wildfires are raging across parts of the west.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just hoping to see our house still standing.

SANCHEZ: Firefighters battling through walls of flames, trying to bring those fires under control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have fear of this, this isn't the job for you.

SANCHEZ: We'll talk to one local mayor who watched his entire town burn to the ground. He's now facing the danger of yet another fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are much better prepared.

SANCHEZ: The new U.S. Capitol police chief sitting down with CNN on his first day on the job, sharing whether he's concerned about another Capitol attack.

And better late than never. After a yearlong delay, the Tokyo Olympics officially under way. We're live from the games.

Newsroom starts now.


SANCHEZ (on camera): Good morning. Thanks so much for joining us this Saturday, July 24th. I'm Boris Sanchez.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kaitlan Collins in for Christi Paul.

This morning, communities across the country are bringing back pandemic safety measures as the U.S. deals with a dangerous summer surge of COVID-19. Case rates are climbing, fueled by the spread of the Delta variant, which is highly contagious, while the rate of people getting fully vaccinated is falling.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the rate of new infections is now four times higher than it was just a month ago. Look at all the red on that map. Cases are actually rising faster right now than in the pandemic's first surge last spring. It's hard to believe. Vaccinations are now at their lowest daily rate since the end of January, with only about 250,000 people becoming fully vaccinated per day. In some areas, the Delta variant is leading to significant increases in breakthrough cases, people who are fully vaccinated testing positive for the virus. But the difference between the vaccinated and those who are not is becoming more apparent than ever.


BIDEN: Here's the truth -- if you're fully vaccinated, you're safer with a higher degree of protection. But if you're not vaccinated, you are not protected.

-- of all the COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are today among the unvaccinated people. And I know this has gotten a bit politicized, but I hope it's starting to change. It's not about red states or blue states or guys like that hollering. It's about life, and it's about death.


COLLINS: Strong words from the president there. And we have our CNN team all across the country covering this story. But let's begin with Suzanne Malveaux in New Orleans. Suzanne, Louisiana has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. What are you seeing there, and what concerns are you hearing from health officials?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kaitlan. We are here at Jefferson Parish. This is the Oakwood Center, it's a mall that's going to open in about two hours or so. And the hope is that shoppers will take advantage of a pilot program here, a vaccination center right here in the mall, where they'll be able to get vaccinated. The state of Louisiana has this dubious distinction now of being the state with the most increase in COVID cases per capita than any other state in the country right now. The governor, Governor Edwards, actually issued an emergency warning yesterday to residents to go out and get vaccinated. He called it the perfect storm.

So just check out these figures here. We are talking about a 208 percent increase over the last two weeks regarding COVID cases. Just 40 percent of Louisiana residents have at least one dose of a vaccine for COVID. The governor saying that that is not nearly enough, that that is really a big part of the problem here. And then also, just taking a look, more than 90 percent of those who are hospitalized, COVID positive, or dying, they are all not fully vaccinated.

So, what is the state doing? At the very least, they say they are trying to get people vaccinated. There are 1,400 different locations, free vaccination sites. This pilot program just one of the many they are urging people to go to immediately.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Gary Tuchman in Mobile County, Alabama.


The vaccination rate in this country is very low. It's about 36 percent. Now, this isn't a small, rural county, and that's one of the problems. More than 400,000 people live here. Most of the very low rates are rural counties, so it is a big problem. And keep in mind, this state is number 51 when it comes to COVID vaccination rates. So there is a big problem here, and that's why the people at the Mobile County Health Department behind me are thinking out of the box. They're bringing vaccines to where the people are. For example, we attended a food truck festival. There had a pop-up vaccine tent there. People were getting food, getting drinks, and if they wanted to, they could get a vaccine. It was very easy to do, actually easier than going through a drive-through and ordering food, and also cheaper. It was free.

Ultimately, only 12 people got vaccines while we were there. It sounds like a low number, but you combine that with the number of people who go to the health department to get the vaccines, who got to private pharmacies, and we're talking about hundreds of people each day in this county. And we're told the number is trending up. That's good news, but it's because of bad news. It's because of the scares over the Delta variant.



LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Leyla Santiago in Miami, Florida. Florida is still leading the nation in the number of COVID-19 cases. Roughly 48 percent of residents here are fully vaccinated, many of them coming right here to this CVS, saying that they've heard the news, they're concerned about the Delta variant, so they thought now is the time to come and sit right here to get vaccinated. CDC is saying that 20 states have fully vaccinated their residents.

Again, Florida not reaching that yet. The governor is saying he does not want any sort of lockdown in the future or any sort of mask mandate. But we have spoken to a lot of doctors and nurses here in this area, very concerned about the contagious Delta variant and what may be to come for the hospital system here.


COLLINS: Major concerns out of Florida, but now let's get to CNN's Polo Sandoval. Polo, we're in a troubling new phase of the pandemic. Set the scene for us. What is happening nationally, and what do officials fear is to come?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right, Kaitlan, because our colleagues there offering some critical insight about what's actually happening there on the ground. But when you step back and you look at it nationally, you see some of those numbers that are also really quite concerning here. About 43,000 new COVID cases a day nationally. That's something that's certainly concerning to health officials. And when you look at the numbers right now, when you look at the map, you can see right now that about every state at this moment has a seven-day average of new COVID cases that either matched or exceeded the week before.

And then other concerning issue, we're talking about eight months into vaccination efforts here in the U.S., and still less than 50 percent of the population is considered fully protected, fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. We did hear just yesterday from Texas doctor Peter Hotez who addressed not only this strong return of coronavirus cases, especially in the southeast, but also this ongoing hesitation that they continue to see, especially among young people, fueled, in part, by misinformation.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: You're just watching this freight train coming, that Delta is going to sweep across the south, and so many people are going to get infected with this fake narrative out there that if you're young and healthy, and take care of yourself, you're not going to get sick. It is simply not true. And so, seeing all of these young people become hospitalized, knowing it is preventable, it's just absolutely heartbreaking.


SANDOVAL: And already, it seems like it's a return to safety measures that are reminiscent of previous COVID surges in some major American cities, including St. Louis, that will be requiring masks again in public indoor spaces and on public transportation. And already you can see those early signs that this mask debate will likely return with the attorney general in the state of Missouri promising to actually sue to prevent that from being put back in place, Boris and Kaitlan.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and Polo, that debate is likely to heat up on the horizon as schools get back and kids get back into classrooms.


SANCHEZ: I do want to ask you about some news that we are tracking in the last 20 minutes or so. The Department of Justice making a decision on whether to investigate COVID-19 deaths linked to nursing homes across the country. What are you learning?

SANDOVAL: So, Boris, you'll recall the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division actually initially announced that they were requesting COVID statistics as they try to determine whether or not there were some state orders in four states, including here in New York, that may have played a factor in coronavirus deaths at nursing homes. Basically, that these state orders required COVID-positive patients to be admitted into nursing homes. So, the Department of Justice announced that they were going to consider an investigation into that. But then they just announced that they actually would not be launching such an investigation.

We have heard reaction from Republicans, including Steve Scalise, he's actually a member of the select committee on the coronavirus crisis here, calling this outrageous, saying that those kinds of orders unnecessarily and needlessly endangered the lives of some of the most vulnerable. But at the same time, we should also mention, Kaitlan and Boris, that this does not mark the end of separate investigations, specifically into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his handling of the coronavirus crisis, including the alleged undercounting of nursing home deaths. That are two very separate things.


SANCHEZ: Yes, still a major decision from the Department of Justice there. Thanks to all of our reporters, Polo Sandoval, Suzanne Malveaux, Gary Tuchman, Leyla Santiago, thank you all so much.

So the surge in COVID cases nationwide is leading to a resurgence of mask mandates in some areas, including the Atlanta public school district, requiring students and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Masks are going to be required in classrooms, on school buses, and during other activities, though they will remain optional in cafeterias and during outdoor activities like recess and sports. The district superintendent saying, quote, "Healthy and safe learning environments for our students is a top priority."

With us now to discuss these measures and more, the superintendent of Atlanta public schools, Lisa Herring. Lisa, we're grateful to have you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us. So, you announced this decision on Thursday, two weeks before the first day of school. Walk us through the factors that you considered. Was there any one thing that made this decision inevitable?

DR. LISA HERRING, SUPERINTENDENT OF ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS: So good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to share our process. So certainly, there was a process to our decision making, and it was not just one isolated factor. So, number one, we took into consideration the percentage of our population that is already vaccinated. We know that only 18 percent of our eligible students who can be vaccinated have been fully vaccinated. Our workforce for Atlanta public schools, our full workforce, that's inclusive of teachers and all, only 58 percent.

That being stated, we understood the importance of the most critical mitigation strategies, and we watched the data and science in terms of how the numbers are gradually increasing. In addition to that, we do have a health advisory task force that also provides additional insight. Those are a number of factors that we believe were critical and still are critical to helping to provide the most safe environment that we can as we prepare to open school on August 5th.

SANCHEZ: So, I want to ask you about the decisions being made statewide, because Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order earlier this year that prohibited schools from using the state's public health emergency order for a basis of mask mandates. It doesn't completely stop schools like yours from having mask requirements, but as we're watching case rates pick up again, what's your message to Governor Kemp on this?

HERRING: Well, as superintendent and having the responsibility for helping to anchor a decision that can ensure as much safety as we can for our students, our families, and our staff, I am certain that our governor continues to watch the data, as well, the data relative to the state of Georgia and how our vaccination population needs to continue to increase, as well. Those are critical indicators. It is my hope and optimism that he will also continue to do the same. As superintendent, I take very seriously the responsibility to be able to do all that we can to ensure the safety during this pandemic for all of those that we serve.

SANCHEZ: And so according to your own data, only 18 percent of eligible students are fully vaccinated. Some 58 percent of district employees are vaccinated, or they plan to be. You're going to be offering onsite vaccination to all eligible students and staff in your middle schools and high schools. So, you're providing access to the vaccine, so that solves that aspect of the problem. How are you approaching the hesitancy aspect of the issue?

HERRING: Yes. So, we are making provisions. We hope that it will help contribute to the solution of the problem. Let me just speak to a couple of other factors. So, we will do a back-to-school bash July 31st, and we will have vaccination opportunities available. But then as soon as school starts August 9th, we will have it throughout our district for all of our clusters.

We recognize that there is some level of anxiety and uncertainty, but we also know that education matters. We continue to aggressively and intentionally educate our families and our employees around the importance of vaccination, putting the data in front of them, as well, and also highlighting our own mitigation strategies. We knew when we released the decision around universal masking that it was important to also share the why in terms of how we came to that decision. But we wanted to be intentional about what we are doing, and part of that what is education. It's high-level mitigation strategies. We're also doing surveillance testing. And then, of course, just making certain that all that we can to keep them informed.

SANCHEZ: Lisa, quickly, I want to ask what your plans might be moving forward, because the trends are not good.


The daily rate of new coronavirus cases up 167 percent over the last two weeks in Georgia. What's your plan if you see a surge in cases at schools? Are you going to consider going back to remote learning?

HERRING: So, here's our reality. We've had a year of remote learning, and we know what that looks like. We did our year with both the option of simultaneous teaching with our classroom teachers as well as the Atlanta Virtual Academy. Atlanta Virtual Academy has been in place since 2012, and so it is for, as of this past year, our elementary and middle school students. If we must pivot, we're prepared to pivot. So, we are very cognizant of that possibility.

In the interim, this is why we're doing all that we can to educate and do as much as possible to help parents and faculty, as well as our children who are eligible get vaccinated, and most importantly, practice those mitigation skills and strategies to safe and healthy engagement.

But we will be prepared, if necessary, to pivot with the need for virtual learning. Atlanta Virtual Academy will be a part of the opening for the start of this school year, so it will already be in existence.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it is a difficult task, an uphill battle that you're facing, an unenviable one, but we appreciate what you're doing. And we appreciate you sharing part of your Saturday with us. Dr. Lisa Herring, thank you so much.

HERRING: Thank you. Be well.

COLLINS: And coming up, wildfires continue to blaze across the west. I'll talk to one California mayor whose town is bracing for the flames again after it was destroyed by the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history in 2018.

SANCHEZ: Plus, despite coronavirus concerns, the Olympics are underway, and athletes are already claiming medals. We'll take you live to Tokyo later this hour.



COLLINS: Officials in California and Nevada are declaring states of emergency in multiple counties because of wildfires. More than 80 fires have burned more than 1.3 million acres in 13 states across the country. The Dixie fire has burned more than 142,000 acres in northern California. Governor Gavin Newsom declared states of emergency in four counties, including Butte, where Paradise is located. The fire is located about 10 miles north of the city, but that is far too close for comfort for a lot of residents given three years ago, Paradise was destroyed by the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history when 85 people were killed.

Joining me now is the major of Paradise, Steve Crowder, who is also one of the city's residents who lost his home and business to the Camp fire in 2018. Mayor Crowder, Paradise citizens must be worried any time they see smoke. Do you share their concerns this time? And what is the outlook right now?

MAYOR STEVE CROWDER, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA: Oh, absolutely. Any time we see smoke, it brings back all kinds of memories. Right now, Paradise and Magalia are not in danger at the moment, but that can change. The fire is probably 12 miles away and is burning north. It's grown -- last night as of 7:00, it's 167,000 acres with eight structures burned.

COLLINS: And you can see why this is so concerning given it's only been three years since that fire. How much of the city has been rebuilt since then, how much have people invested in getting their homes back?

CROWDER: Well, we're making really good progress. We've got over 1,000 homes that have been rebuilt, which doesn't seem like a lot. But we're averaging about 500 a year at that rate, which is very impressive for us. People are happy to be back. Just things like this, it's tough on people. And you're living within smoke just like we did during the Camp fire. So we're a resilient group, and we will get through this, too.

COLLINS: And this is personal for you, as well. Your family's business was destroyed. How has that comeback been for you, and have you been able to fully rebuild yet? Or where are you at in that process?

CROWDER: My home is fully rebuilt. My business is in a temporary location in Oroville, California, until we get my commercial building rebuilt. But we're operating, and we're home, and that's the best part. I'm looking forward to every resident that wants to come home to get home. It still is a great place to live.

COLLINS: I'm sure. And I'm sure a lot of people feel that way who have been in this process alongside you. You had only been a councilmember for two days when that fire hit, if I'm correct. You're now mayor. What is your game plan, and what do you plan to do differently as this is a consistent problem facing you, unfortunately?

CROWDER: Well, we're putting, as we rebuild, every home will be rebuilt to the new standards, which is hardening of the homes against fire. Defensible space will be -- it's already implemented, at least 100 feet of defensible space. So we're trying to make it as fire safe as we can. We definitely need cooperation from our state and federal partners to keep their land clear as well, so we don't have the fuel that we have that's creating these monstrous fires.

COLLINS: Well, we hope you get that cooperation. But before we go, I do want to talk about a fundraiser that you and your community recently did to help another area that had been ravaged by a wildfire. What can you tell us about that?


CROWDER: Well, this little community, over $10,500 for Lighten (ph) B.C. (ph), which a couple weeks ago suffered the same fate that Paradise did two-and-a-half years ago. And we just want to show them some love and hope that you will get through this and what have you. And it was just -- it really hit home when that happened.

COLLINS: I'm sure it did, and I'm sure they appreciated every dollar that you helped fundraise. Mayor Crowder, thank you for joining us this morning.

CROWDER: Thank you for having me.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, the U.S. Capitol Police Department got a new chief yesterday. CNN's Josh Campbell sat down with him to discuss the threat of future attacks and the fallout from the January 6th insurrection. An important conversation ahead after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: There is a new leader at the helm of the U.S. Capitol police. Tom Manger became the chief of Capitol police just yesterday.

COLLINS: On his first day on the job, Manger said he would be, quote, a fool to not be concerned about the threat of more attacks on the Capitol, especially given the chatter that they have seen on extremist forums about possible action next month. Our CNN security correspondent, Josh Campbell, joins us now. Josh, Chief Manger came out of retirement to take this job, didn't he?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And he also came out of the gate on day one in this job as the new Capitol police chief. He sat down with CNN. We talked about a number of topics, including the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection. We talked about how the department is reforming, as well as future threats that loom on the horizon. Now, I asked him specifically for his view on those politicians who continue to downplay the severity of the January 6th insurrection. Take a listen to what he said.


CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I cannot waste my time worrying about how somebody interprets a tape. I know what the men and women of this agency went through. I know the challenges that they faced. I also know the courage that they displayed that day. And it was a horrific time. And I believe that in my heart.

CAMPBELL: But what's your view when people say, well, this was tourism, or this was a lovefest? We all saw that video of your officers on the receiving end of so much violence. As the leader of the department, what do you think when you hear it characterized that way? MANGER: I don't agree with it. That's not how I saw it. But again,

everyone is entitled to their opinion. And frankly, as the chief of this police department now, I'm in a position to do things to ensure that wouldn't happen again.


CAMPBELL: So, a lot to work with there, obviously, as people continue to downplay the severity, as he is trying to increase morale and trying to ensure the public understand the seriousness of what his officers endured on that day.

SANCHEZ: It is aggravating to hear that gaslighting about January 6th being a lovefest, but it also highlights what could happen in the future and the ongoing threat of political violence stemming from the former president lying about the 2020 election, along with many of his acolytes. What did the chief have to say about that?

CAMPBELL: It's such a key point, because obviously, we focus on the attack that happened, but the chief is also looking ahead and trying to ensure that there isn't additional violence at the Capitol. I know in talking to law enforcement sources, they are concerned about this chatter that Donald Trump might be reinstated, this chatter among extremists. And I asked the chief about how concerned he is about potential future violence. Here's what he said.


CAMPBELL: Does that concern you we may see a repeat of January 6th?

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I'd be a fool to not be concerned about that. That, obviously, the safety and security of the U.S. Capitol, the Congress, that legislative process, those are top priorities. And I'm absolutely concerned about all of those things.


CAMPBELL: So, he joins the chorus of law enforcement officials, again, who are concerned about this ongoing threat, about this big lie and the violence that might come in the future.

COLLINS: Especially after there were so many questions about whether or not they were properly monitoring the intelligence of those threats before. Josh, did he say whether or not he thinks these officers should be able to speak out about what they've seen and what they think needs to change?

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Yes. If you look at since the January 6th insurrection, we've only heard from a very small number of officers about what they endured on that day. And I asked him specifically whether he supports the public hearing the stories about what happened. We know on Tuesday, we'll hear from a small group testifying on Capitol Hill, but I asked him if more of his officers should be able to speak out and whether he will give them the latitude to do so. Here's what he said.


CAMPBELL: Should officers be given more freedom to speak out about what they endured on January 6th?

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Look, we need to hear their stories.

CAMPBELL: Will you allow them to speak out?

MANGER: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. They need to be heard.


CAMPBELL: So, again, this new chief taking the helm of a department that has obviously been under the microscope. It's interest, if you look at January 6th and the aftermath, the Capitol police essentially went radio silent from a leadership perspective. Weeks went by without us hearing them step to the microphones and take questions from the press. Compare this with the new chief on day one sitting down with us. I asked him if this is perhaps a signal of a new culture of openness and transparency.


He told, Kaitlan and Boris, that in his 40 years, his watchword has been transparency, and that is what he is looking forward to under his reign as the new chief of the Capitol police.

SANCHEZ: An important message, especially with so much misinformation and nonsense out there, a great voice to have. Josh Campbell, thank you so much.


SANCHEZ: Let's discuss the January 6th commission and more with CNN political commentator and mi (ph) amana (ph) Ana Navarro. Ana, good morning, great to see you. The hearing on Tuesday is likely to begin -- the Tuesday hearing is likely going to start with very emotional testimony from police officers who were at the Capitol on January 6th. What are you going to be watching for that day?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm going to be watching for -- actually, I think I'm going to be watching more public reaction, because look, I think one of the things that can get this back on track is all of us in America remembering how terrible January 6th was, and how horrified we all felt. At that time, I think for most of us, we weren't Republican or Democrats, we were Americans watching the bastion of democracy get attacked. And we were all apoplectic and shocked and grieved at the images we saw.

We've seen since, six months and more have passed, that people have begun to forget. And some people have tried to make us forget what we saw. But it's all on video. And I think the idea of hearing the police officers, the Capitol police is incredibly powerful, because I'm old enough to remember a time when the Republican Party called itself the law enforcement party and when they were pro law enforcement. And so, I think it's hard to turn your back and turn a deaf ear on the calls for justice from police.

SANCHEZ: It feels hypocritical to say you back the blue and then sort of weasel your way out of conversations with some of these Capitol police officers. I also want to talk to you about COVID. Florida has seen coronavirus cases explode in July, almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. Governor Ron DeSantis has maintained a hands-off approach throughout the pandemic. He's vowed that there will be no mask mandates in schools, no lockdowns this fall. So far, Florida has done relatively well in comparison to some other areas during the pandemic. What's your take on DeSantis' approach?

NAVARRO: Look, I think it's not just DeSantis. I think DeSantis' approach, as we are now in the second wave of this Delta variant that is so serious, as our ICUs are full all over Florida, particularly here in south Florida where I live, I think his approach has not been good. He's demonized Fauci. He is selling campaign swag demonizing Fauci and minimizing the pain of COVID. He has banned businesses from asking for proof of vaccination. He sued the CDC. He's banned cruise ships from asking for proof of vaccination.

But it's not just DeSantis, right? It's FOX News. It's CPAC and people cheering when you say we're not going to get vaccinated. It's that crazy woman from Georgia comparing it to holocaust-era measures. It's one thing after the other. It's Republican congresspeople not wanting to admit that they've gotten vaccinated. It has led to all of this noise that has really affected Republican perception. They have irresponsibly turned it into a source of outrage and a wedge issue that's going to be used to drive people to the polls.

The problem is that in the midst of doing that, we've got a Delta variant that is killing people again. And the problem is that while they remain unvaccinated, they're holding the rest of America hostage. And so if you don't want to wear masks on a plane, get vaccinated, because the rest of us are having to do it, because you're not vaccinated. If you don't want your kids to have to wear masks to school, get vaccinated, because the rest of America's kids whose parents are vaccinated are going to have to wear the mask because you're not vaccinated.

And so, I don't know what it is going to take for people to understand that we are all in this together and to be responsible about their rhetoric. And Boris, every time I talk about this, I like to highlight the fact this does not have to be this way. And look at Asa Hutchinson, the governor of Arkansas, or the governor of Alabama now. Jim Justice, the Republican governor of West Virginia. Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio. Their attitudes have been completely different, completely different, and it's been about putting the constituents over partisan politics. Of course, they're not seeking the Republican nomination in 2024, so that might be the difference.


SANCHEZ: Yes, that's a really good point. Ana Navarro, always great to see you. Send Al a hug for me, as well.

NAVARRO: OK. Good to see you. COLLINS: And coming up next, mysterious symptoms are causing a growing

number of U.S. diplomats to get sick. Now a CIA watchdog is stepping in after complaints of illnesses similar to Havana syndrome. That's next.



COLLINS: The CIA inspector general is looking into cases of the so- called Havana syndrome, as the number of reports of the illness continues to rise. Hundreds of U.S. diplomats, spies, and troops around the globe have been sickened, some so badly they had to retire.

SANCHEZ: Yes, CNN reporter Katie Bo Williams has been covering the story for us. Katie Bo, what can you tell us about this CIA inspector general's review? How aggressive is this going to be?

KATIE BO WILLIAMS, CNN REPORTER: Yes, so what the inspector general is looking at is how officers who experienced this sort of weird constellation of symptoms that we now know to be Havana syndrome, how they were treated when they reported to the agency, and in particular what health care they received. This is important because one of the things we have heard from victims and some former officers is that when they came forward to report, particularly in the early days of this, before there was a real consensus about, wait a minute, which is a real thing and there's something going on here, there were some -- these victims claim there were skeptical leaders of the CIA who essentially didn't believe them, kind of gaslit them. And as a result, they didn't get the care they should have in a timely fashion. Now, it is important to note this isn't a full-blown inspector general investigation yet. This is a review to determine if a full investigation is needed.

COLLINS: It's kind of hard to see how they won't get there, but it remains to be seen. These first cases, Katie, were reported in Havana, but that is not the only place they have seen them. Where else are they popping up?

WILLIAMS: The short answer is all over the globe. Sources tell us they have been struck by the number of different countries where there are officers who are reporting symptoms. We've seen dozens of cases reported in Vienna just over the last few months, which is this well- known hot spot for spies. We've also seen cases reported in Africa, Tajikistan, and obviously going back over the course of years, China and Russia, as well.

SANCHEZ: Katie Bo, I've spoken to victims who've suffered Havana syndrome, and the symptoms they describe are frightening. Sudden vertigo, splitting headaches that go on for months at a time. Especially knowing that there isn't a clear source that's causing this, what's the latest on the effort to try to pinpoint that source, that cause of the attacks?

WILLIAMS: Yes, so there is a task force inside the CIA that is specifically trying to sort out what happens happening to these officers. But a lot of the intelligence here is very, very circumstantial. And so they still are not even ready to definitively say this is an attack. And so right now, where they are, is they do have a working theory, which is that it is possible that Russia is wielding some kind of directed energy device, possibly to collect intelligence on officers or possibly even to harm them. But again, I stress, very circumstantial right now. They really don't have an answer yet.

SANCHEZ: Hopefully we will get some soon. We know you'll stay on top of the story for us. Katie Bo Williams, thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: Thanks so much.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Coming up, the Olympics kicking off in Tokyo. We have highlights from all the games coming up next. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: There was some uncertainty over whether they would even happen, but the games have begun. The Tokyo Olympics finally underway despite the ongoing COVID crisis. Twenty-three different competitions in action today.

COLLINS: Let's get an update on that action. Selina Wang joins us life from Tokyo. So Selina, if you've been working like Boris and I have this morning, what have we missed so far?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, day one already started out with a bang, 11 gold medals already won, including China taking home that first gold medal in air rifle, also taking the home the most total so far, three in total. Japan also winning its first medal in Judo. But also, Kaitlan, a major loss for Japan. Kohei Uchimura missed his chance to get to the finals, losing out on a medal. He is widely considered one of the world's best gymnasts ever. And during his qualifying routine, his hand slipped, and he fell on the mat. And it was just surreal to see that arena with no crowds, no reaction. And just a few gasps from the few people allowed in the stands.

Some VIPs now are allowed at these venues, including Jill Biden. She attended swimming and basketball. But really, these games are a TV- made event, but just surreal and bizarre to see all of these games being played out with hardly anybody there, including at the opening ceremony yesterday. Just around 950 VIPs there in a stadium that seats 68,000 people.

And I was outside of the national stadium all day yesterday. I got to see the fireworks and the incredible drone light display. But overall, the tone is incredibly subdued for the opening ceremony. They also had a moment of silence to remember all of those whose lives have been lost because of COVID-19, which continues to cast a shadow over these games. Organizers have announced there are now 127 COVID-19 cases in Japan linked to these games. More than a dozen athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Olympic Village, and more and more Olympic journeys are being cut short because of COVID-19. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: That's unfortunate. But thank you for that report, Selina Wang.

And thank you for watching, and for Boris and the team for letting this rookie sit in the anchor chair this morning. It has been a lot of fun.


SANCHEZ: Yes, a gallon of coffee, but you made it, Kaitlan. Great to have you. Hope we get to do it again sometime soon. You're always welcome.


There is still much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield picks it up after a quick break.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Stopping the spread, officials across the U.S. now working overtime to try to slow the latest coronavirus surge as the Delta variant continues to push new cases in the wrong direction. And it's largely being blamed on people who have yet to get vaccination shots. New cases are now spreading upward in 49 states.

And this just into CNN, the state of Florida reported more than 73,000 new cases this past week alone.