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CNN NEWSROOM

Tokyo Olympics 2020; Delta Variant Fueling Rise in U.S. Infections; Greece Protests over Required Vaccinations; Japan's Underground Skateboarding Goes Mainstream; Arkansas Has Third Lowest Vaccination Rate in the U.S.; Global Climate Crisis. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 25, 2021 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Alison Kosik in New York.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, competitions at the 2020 Tokyo games are in full swing. Team USA gets its first gold as COVID knocks out another top name in one sport.

Plus COVID cases are up and vaccination rates are down here in the U.S. I'll discuss with my guest the mistrust taking place in getting the vaccine.

Major cities around the world are seeing protests like this over COVID restrictions. We'll take you to France on what the protesters are demanding.

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KOSIK: The U.S. has racked up its first medals at Summer Olympics in Tokyo but not the only country adding to its tally. And a positive COVID test taking out more big names from the competition all together.

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KOSIK: COVID cases are rising sharply in the U.S., up nearly 60 percent from last week.

[04:05:00]

KOSIK: And the dangerous Delta variant driving the surge is targeting the unvaccinated. Just three states account for 40 percent of all new cases, Missouri, Texas and Florida. Florida alone accounts for one in five of new infections nationally, with a stunning 73,000 reported in just the past week.

Governor Ron DeSantis refused to put stricter protocols in place so the numbers are likely to climb. For those who think the worst of the pandemic is behind us, this

alarming visual may change your mind.

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KOSIK (voice-over): Louisiana's spike in new cases is rising to levels not seen since the winter surge. The state now has the nation's highest rate of new infections per capita and hospitalizations have quadrupled in the last three weeks. Making matters worse, Louisiana is among the least vaccinated states in the U.S. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports.

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SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: It is a dire situation in the state of Louisiana as it leads in the number of new-COVID cases per capita. More than any, other state in the country, at this time.

There are pop-up vaccination sites trying to address this crisis situation. But if you just take a look at the numbers, alone, 208 percent increase in number of COVID cases over the last couple of weeks; 80 percent -- more than 80 percent -- coming from the Delta variant; 40 percent of those in Louisiana residents receiving one -- at least one out of two doses of the vaccine.

That is much too low, according to the governor, who says that Louisiana has a long way to go. Despite the fact that there are some- 1,400 vaccination sites, throughout the state, where folks can get it for free, there is, still, a sense of urgency here.

Take a look at these numbers. It is extreme here. Of those people who are testing positive for COVID, 92 percent, not fully vaccinated; of those hospitalized, 90 percent, not fully vaccinated; of those who have recently died, 91 percent, not fully vaccinated.

Healthcare professionals, who are monitoring and who are running this vaccination site as well as the global outreach, say that these are the main factors. These are the things to be concerned about, what is driving this, now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at vaccine and the barriers to vaccination, there are four, major factors that impact that. And the way that I categorize them is, number one, is the issue of mistrust. The second one is misinformation. The third is complacency. And that alludes to that fact. And the fourth is convenience.

MALVEAUX: Health officials are using a program called Faces in Spaces. That is going to where people are to reach them and try to convince them to get vaccinated, whether it's at a crawfish boil or a fish fry or the Laundromat or here, at the mall, to stress the sense of urgency in getting that vaccination -- Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KOSIK: The Delta variant is also behind a surge of coronavirus cases in California. On Friday, Los Angeles County reported over 3,000 new cases for the first time since February. There's also a comparatively sharp rise in hospitalizations since mid-July.

This despite L.A. County being one of the only places in the country with an indoor mask mandate, even for people who are fully vaccinated.

California is one of the states where more than half the population is fully vaccinated, although many are choosing to skip the shot. CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Los Angeles and spoke with the county public health director to find out why some people are hesitant to get the vaccine.

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PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another disturbing amount of new COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the public health director, telling us, while the number of new cases has slightly dropped, there are 688 hospitalizations and 10 deaths, a dramatic rise.

Here in Los Angeles today, public health officials went out and they were trying to find out why some people were still vaccine reluctant and tried to get them in here to a gymnasium in Watts to get a shot in their arm. They had some successes. Dr. Ferrer herself was there and explained what some people said to her about why they were hesitant.

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DR. BARBARA FERRER, DIR., LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We also heard a lot of misinformation, people scared to get the vaccine. The most two dominant themes today were, we don't trust the government's numbers, we think they're not telling us the truth about the vaccine and how safe it is.

And we have heard of people that we think had a bad experience with the vaccine.

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VERCAMMEN: As an example of that, right here, at this vaccine clinic today, a 45-year-old man walked in.

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VERCAMMEN: He said he just did not want to get the vaccine before but he said he's a smoker, he realized he's vulnerable and it was only after weeks and weeks of pleading by a public health nurse and explaining to him the signs and the information, that he said he understood that the vaccine would protect him as the Delta variant rages through Los Angeles County. Reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KOSIK: The daily average of Americans getting fully vaccinated is at its lowest since January. Just 49 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, far from the number needed to reach herd immunity; 30 states have yet to vaccinate at least half their residents and Alabama and Mississippi haven't even cracked 35 percent.

CNN's Gary Tuchman asked residents of Alabama why they were hesitant to get the shot.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of my family has been vaccinated and they've been pushing me and pushing me and I've been putting it off but the Delta variant kind of scares me. So...

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's why you got it today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: How come you waited this long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based off a lot of stuff that I heard off the internet, what people were saying about the COVID shot.

TUCHMAN: Basically rumors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumors, rumors.

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KOSIK: Joining me is Dr. Reed Tuckson, he is the founding member of the Black Coalition against COVID. He is also the former health commissioner in Washington, D.C., during the HIV/AIDS crisis and the former chief of medical affairs at United Health Group and he joins me now on the show.

Great to see you.

DR. REED TUCKSON, BLACK COALITION AGAINST COVID: Thank you so much for the opportunity to be with you.

KOSIK: Of course. I want to start with maybe talking about vaccine hesitancy. I know that the CDC is currently saying that recent patterns suggest a narrowing of racial gaps in vaccinations at the national level for Hispanics and Blacks, Black people.

But we've got a ways to go here when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. You're saying that, for many African Americans and many conservative evangelical Republicans, there's mistrust about getting the vaccine.

TUCKSON: There's a lot going on in our society today and, for African Americans, we have a tradition and a history, unfortunately, of our experience in this country of being mistreated by a variety of the major infrastructure elements of our society.

Clearly the outrage that so many people of color have, from the police departments and criminal justice systems issues, the disenfranchising of Black votes, all of these over a long period of history have led to a great deal of distrust between many members of the Black community and the institutions of our society.

And unfortunately, those seeds of distrust, which are long held, are being watered and nurtured even today. So that becomes a big challenge for many people.

We also see others, particularly evangelical Republicans in rural states, particularly in the South, are being given an extraordinary amount of misinformation and a lot of political pressure that encourages them to distrust the vaccine and not participate.

And so together, these are really frightening trends and we have a lot of work to do to overcome them. I think we all know the consequences of these decisions, of these behaviors, are dire, not only for the individuals and their communities but for the entire nation.

KOSIK: President Biden says this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated and there were some strong words from Alabama's governor about this. I want to you listen and we'll talk on the other side.

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GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): (INAUDIBLE) blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. I've done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something but I can't make you take care of yourself.

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KOSIK: Dr. Tuckson, do you agree with her?

TUCKSON: I think she's right. We've done a lot of things. We still have more work to do but I would say that I can feel the pain of that governor as she begins to realize what the consequences are for the coming weeks and months for her state, indeed for the country.

But I would also say that she needs to do a lot more to gather around other political leaders, including the titular head of her party, who needs to do 180-degree flip on the way that former president Trump has been acting.

There are a lot of people in power, particularly also those at FOX News, who have a major responsibility in all of this. So I hope that her pleas are not just to the people but her pleas are to the leaders of her own party and to the leaders of her own news media.

KOSIK: What specifically has to be done to counter the mistrust in these communities where you've got the vaccine hesitancy?

[04:15:00]

TUCKSON: Well, it's going to take multiple efforts. There's no one single bullet. Let's start with trusted voices.

We know that physicians and health professionals, particularly in the Black community, have a lot of weight and power. So we need to continue to use our position voices as a part of the conversations. Our ministers and pastors also reach a lot of people.

And we're doing an intriguing new thing now, working with barber shops and beauty salon owners because so much of Black culture is spent in those environments. The barbershop and the beauty salon are cultural icons for us.

So spending time getting factual information into those centers and even using them as vaccination sites will be important. And then there are some people who will be influenced by celebrities. And so we're going to continue to push forward, having our athletes and entertainers speaking as well.

It's going to take a variety of things. For the white evangelical and Republican folk, it's really going to take people like former president Trump and the people at FOX News. They are the ones who really are on the point. If they don't turn this around, those deaths will be on their hands.

KOSIK: OK, Dr. Reed Tuckson, thank you for joining us.

TUCKSON: Thank you very much.

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KOSIK: Still ahead we'll hear from a front line nurse in Arkansas, who is fighting COVID misinformation in her community. She tells CNN she has suffered a torrent of insults and accusations throughout the pandemic just for doing her job.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard it more than once that we were just fudging the numbers or that we were killing people on purpose to make COVID look like it was worse than it was or to make it look real when it wasn't.

KOSIK (voice-over): But now she's fighting back with truth and facts. Her story is coming up.

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KOSIK (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) is fueling protests but that's not stopping lawmakers looking to extend it. A live report from France, when we come back.

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KOSIK (voice-over): Greek police used tear gas and water cannon in Athens Saturday as major cities around the world see protests over COVID restrictions. The protesters in Greece reportedly used petrol bombs. They want the government to back off requiring vaccines for health care workers.

And Greece isn't alone. This was the scene in Paris on Saturday. Some protests turned into violent clashes with police. But across France, tens of thousands of people rallied. They're rejecting mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and a proposed extension of the country's health pass system.

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KOSIK: For the latest on what's happening in France, Jim Bittermann is live for us outside of Paris.

Jim, what are you seeing?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Alison, that demonstration yesterday was the most recent. There were about 160,000 demonstrators in the streets across France and they had to use, the police had to use a similar sort of tactics as in Athens, with tear gas and water cannons against some of the more unruly protesters.

As large as the numbers might sound and as dramatic as the video might be, it has to be remembered that it's a country of 66 million people and already about half are fully vaccinated.

They completely qualify for the health pass that the government is trying to promulgate. The idea is to encourage people to get vaccinated -- and it certainly seems to have, they have obtained that objective just by talking about it. It hasn't been enacted into law.

We expect that, perhaps by the end of the day, it will be a fact of law. The senate overnight voted approval with some exceptions. And they did modify it somewhat, softened some of the provisions of the law.

But we expect a conference committee will assemble between the national assembly bill and the senate bill and, between the two, they'll work something out that will be finally approved, perhaps as early as the end of today -- Alison.

KOSIK: Is there a realization do you think in those crowds of protesters that this is an attempt to try to keep the country from being actually under lockdown, that restrictions need to be in place to prevent that?

BITTERMANN: I think there is but, just as you find elsewhere around the world, there's a lot of misinformation out there. And as a consequence, some people are willing to follow fake news and other sorts of news that they get off their social websites, that may not be very accurate.

And as a consequence, you see people in the streets protesting. But really, when you come down to it, this health pass will allow people a great deal of freedom. They can then go into places and feel free from being infected by the virus.

It's a kind of a win-win situation as far as a lot of people are concerned here. And in fact when you ask people in polling, the public opinion polls indicate that more than 60 percent of the French basically approve this idea of the health pass -- Alison.

KOSIK: All right, Jim Bittermann, thanks for all the great context.

BITTERMANN: Yes.

KOSIK: Still to come on CNN, a look at which countries lead the overall medal count right now at the Tokyo Olympics.

Plus a newly named tropical storm could impact the Tokyo Olympics. We'll get the latest from the CNN Weather Center, after the break.

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[04:25:00]

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KOSIK: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Alison Kosik and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Competitions at the 2020 Tokyo games are in full swing and China and the U.S. lead the overall medal count right now at 8. China has the most gold medals with four and two-time Olympic champion Andy Murray has given up his chance to defend his gold medal in the men's singles tennis tournament.

He withdrew from the singles competition due to a quad strain. He won the men's singles gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Murray will continue to compete in the men's doubles tournament.

CNN's Blake Essig joins from us Tokyo with more.

We're not just watching the competition. We're not only keeping our eye on COVID cases but I understand the weather is also a factor.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alison. There are a lot of things to keep an eye on here at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games -- COVID, weather, also history being made at these Olympic Games on the second day of official competition.

Both surfing and skateboarding made their Olympic debuts earlier today. And the 22-year-old Yuto Horigome of Japan won the first ever medal in skateboarding. He won the men's street final in skateboarding. The Tokyo born gold medalist grew up skating at plazas and parks with his father, also a street skater.

Other Olympic sports making debuts in Tokyo include karate, speed climbing as well as baseball and softball, which are making their return to the Olympics after 13 years. And the legacy of these Olympic Games will be defined, of course, by the global health crisis, no question about that.

Before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, it was the weather supposed to dominate headlines around the Olympic Games. While cases in Tokyo are surging and Olympic related cases continue to climb, the weather could cause problems for organizers.

[04:30:00]

ESSIG: Especially in the coming days because a tropical storm is approaching Japan and could hit Tokyo on Tuesday. The storm could bring heavy rain, strong winds and high waves with it.

As a result rowing events have been canceled on Tuesday and pushed back to Wednesday or Thursday. While surfers have avoided the tropical storm for now, other athletes have high temperatures to contend with as the threat of heatstroke will be a constant problem throughout the games.

Listen to what people who live here have to say about the heat.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Japan's summer is abnormal. There's humidity and the heat is ridiculous. There are many issues to be considered when holding the games, such as the pandemic. But frankly speaking, even without the virus, I don't think this weather is suitable for the Olympics.

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ESSIG: According to Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, more than 50,000 are hospitalized and hundreds die each year in Japan as a result of the heat. In the past few days, I've personally seen several people on the side of the road being treated by medical personnel for heat- related issues.

And Alison, it is worth pointing out, when the Olympic Games were last held in Tokyo in 1964, they were pushed back several months to avoid high summer temperatures.

KOSIK: Blake Essig live in Tokyo, thanks.

More problems could be on the way for the Olympics, the tropical storm Blake was talking about is bearing down on Japan. It's one of two major storms churning right now in the western Pacific Ocean.

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KOSIK: Follow the games with CNN's instant coverage on our website, go to cnn.com/olympics. A new law in Hungary is being condemned as homophobic in the streets

of the nation's capital.

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KOSIK (voice-over): About 30,000 people joined a pride march in Budapest Saturday. They protested the newly adopted law that prohibits any discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools. It also bans gay and trans characters and certain others from appearing on TV for much of the day.

But prime minister Viktor Orban says the law is about letting parents decide how their kids should be educated. He also announced a referendum on the law likely before the end of the year.

Still ahead, we head to Arkansas, where a front line nurse says she's battling COVID misinformation. Now she's using social media to fight back.

Plus the COVID vaccine culture war has a new battlefield. Coming up, how the issue is now dividing the sports world.

[04:35:00]

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QUESTION: Have you gotten a vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't necessarily think that's exactly important, Clarence. I think that's HIPAA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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KOSIK: COVID-19 cases are rising sharply in the United States, driven by the dangerous and highly transmissible Delta variant. According to Johns Hopkins University, infections this week jumped nearly 60 percent from the week before.

And slowing vaccination rates are only making matters worse; 30 states have less than half of their residents fully vaccinated, including Arkansas. CNN'S Elle Reeve spoke to a nurse there, who is not only fighting to save people's lives but also misinformation about the vaccine. Here's her story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNNY, HEALTH CARE WORKER: You need some help in?

It was extremely difficult to watch so many people die and then have people tell you on Facebook or in Walmart that you're a liar. ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunny worked on a COVID floor of a hospital at the height of the pandemic. Being a nurse was hard but what made it surreal was living in western Arkansas where many people, even some in her own family, said COVID was overblown -- just the flu.

SUNNY: The nurses were really the symbol for this whole pandemic and almost all of the hate has centralized around us. Nurses got PTSD. A lot of us are suffering from it from last year and now we're having people come in and look us in the face and be like no, I didn't get the vaccine and now I'm sick.

REEVE (voice-over): Arkansas has the third-lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country. Just 36 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Like many places with low vaccination rates, it's now seeing a spike in cases.

REEVE: Are you going to get the vaccine?

MIKE CLARK, ARKANSAS RESIDENT: I have not and I will not. I'm not a Guinea pig. There's no change.

[04:40:00]

REEVE: You got COVID?

RONNIE ROGERS, BARBER: I did. That's the reason why I'm getting it. But then after I got over COVID I had a heart attack.

REEVE: So why would you not get the vaccine?

CLARK: I might have a bad reaction to it.

REEVE: I see.

CLARK: Oh, that's good -- that's better.

You know, I believe that it's a freedom issue. And I've worn a mask probably a maximum of one hour in the entire who thing since this COVID came out. If it's so communicable why am I still standing?

SUNNY: We had people accuse us of giving their loved one something else so that they would die and we could report it as COVID. We heard it more than once that we were just fudging the numbers or we were killing people on purpose to make COVID look like it was worse than it was or to make it look real when it wasn't.

For the first majority of the pandemic, we wore the same N95 for like one to two weeks at a time.

REEVE: Tell me what you think about the term "healthcare heroes."

SUNNY: I think it sucks.

REEVE: Why? SUNNY: When they dubbed us healthcare heroes it just -- it gave the public this really wrong impression that we were sacrificial lambs and willing to die for them. We want to help people, you know. I want to save lives. I want people to get better but not at the expense of my family's lives either.

Then you have the public going well, you signed up for this. No, I didn't. When I was 17 and enlisted in the Army I knew that I might die for my country. When I was 22 and went to nursing school that wasn't on the agenda, you know? Like, I didn't volunteer to die for everybody.

And even with the vaccine now, it's still a highly politicized thing for no good reason.

REEVE (voice-over): Last year, Sunny started venting on TikTok.

SUNNY: You're just trying to spread fear. If that's what it takes to get you to listen to me, sure.

I had avoided posting about COVID for a long time because of the negative reactions I got. Like, it hurts my feelings. But just a couple of weeks ago I had people in my inboxes threatening to kill me, calling me a murderer -- saying I helped kill those people.

I get called a crisis actor all the time.

Is my thing now to respond to hate comments with -- for just $10.00 into my Venmo account and I'll tell you the truth about COVID-19 and crisis acting? I've made about $100.00, so --

REEVE: Like, really?

SUNNY: Yes.

REEVE: Wait -- and people like send you $10.00 and you're like yes, I'm not a crisis actor?

SUNNY: Well, I'm just like crisis acting isn't real and COVID is real, so surprise. I said I'd tell you the truth. Not the truth you wanted to hear but you know.

REEVE (voice-over): Sunny says dark jokes bring some relief from a darker reality, like that her own health is at risk.

Her fellow nurse, Hazel Bailey, got COVID last August and was on a ventilator for 42 days.

HAZEL BAILEY, FORMER NURSE WHO GOT COVID-19. It's real. COVID's real. I nearly died from it and will probably have issues from it for the rest of my life.

I have family that -- they believe that it's real but they're not concerned with taking the vaccine. They understand some people get it and it's not bad but I got it and it was bad. And now, we're seeing this new variant hit and it's really hitting Arkansas (crying). I'm sorry -- sorry. My sister doesn't have the vaccine.

[00:50:00]

REEVE (voice-over): Sunny says that recently, COVID patients have been telling her they got it at church. This week, Arkansas had its biggest spike in cases since February and it has the worst case rate in the country.

The state is offering vaccination incentives like free lottery tickets. It hasn't convinced many.

REEVE: Did anyone you know get COVID? JOY STARR, ARKANSAS RESIDENT: My son had COVID.

REEVE: How old is he?

STARR: Eight.

REEVE: Wow. So that's like pretty rare for like --

STARR: Yes.

REEVE: -- a young kid. What was that like?

STARR: He was sick a lot. He's been sick a lot for a while and he's still sick. So I'm going to have to go get him looked at and see if there's further damage. I don't know. I mean, his -- he got real sick.

REEVE: Yes.

STARR: Fever every day for weeks.

REEVE: Are you guys going to get the vaccine?

STARR: No, no vaccine.

REEVE: How come?

STARR: I just don't trust the government.

REEVE: Are you going to get the vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. Our kids are not going to get it. None of us.

REEVE: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I figure I'll just let the world work its natural ways.

REEVE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have taken other vaccines, ever, so -- REEVE: Yes. Are you able to get like religious exemption at school for your kids? Is that how --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I mean, we take the stuff that you have to.

REEVE: So what do you mean when you say you don't usually get vaccines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't do the pig flu swine thing or whatever that was. We didn't do any of the -- any of the four (ph). It's something that I don't -- I don't believe in. You know, I mean, I haven't ever. It seems it only comes about every presidency and it seems like it's either crowd control or whatever you want to call it.

But I don't want my family to have nothing to do with it. We've always been healthy and it just seems to work better that way.

REEVE (voice-over): Not everyone around here feels this way.

TERRY "COWBOY": I think you need to get it because it's not only helping you, it's going to help your whole family -- everybody around you. It's better to take a chance on the shot than it is to take a chance on the COVID. Cowboy up and go in there and get a shot and come out of there like a grownup, you know?

SUNNY: Come here. Come here.

[04:45:00]

SUNNY: One of my biggest fears is like this new wave of COVID. We're seeing a lot of nurses with compassion fatigue and I am really scared how that's going to play out because a lot of the cases that we're seeing are in non-vaccinated individuals.

If I had a patient come in that wasn't vaccinated, with COVID, like I have -- like I'm obviously still going to treat them to the best of my ability. But I do know some nurses that had to quit because they just don't have it in them to do that.

A lot of Arkansans would give you the shirt off their back to help you out -- for a stranger, really. I think that a lot of people being anti-COVID and anti-vaccine is just a product of the way that we were raised here. But they're not bad people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: Divisions over the COVID vaccine are also playing out in the locker room. While the National Football League has been pushing players and staff to get the shot, on Friday, we learned a Minnesota Vikings coach may be seeking an exemption to the league's vaccine requirement.

It's just one example of how the issue is creating divisions in the sports world. CNN's Omar Jimenez has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As professional sports returned to full capacity, so do fresh concerns over COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jonathan Bornstein is playing the drums in there.

JIMENEZ: Jonathan Bornstein is the defender for the Chicago Fire, the city's major league soccer team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has double points right there.

JIMENEZ: He has played all over the world, even stints in the World Cup for Team USA. He could not wait to get the vaccine.

JONATHAN BORNSTEIN, DEFENDER, CHICAGO FIRE: I wanted it for myself to be able to protect myself and protect the people around me. I was one of those very open people to follow what was going on and when I got the opportunity, to take advantage of it.

JIMENEZ (on camera): Not everyone feels that way, as I'm sure you know, even within the professional sports world. (Voice-over): Some have been reluctant to share where they stand.

LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Me being available to my teammates on the floor is me taking care of my body. You know, me doing everything I can do to make sure I'm available mentally, physically and spiritually as well.

JIMENEZ: And do you mind me asking if that -- if you're confirming that you did get the vaccine?

JAMES: It's not a big deal.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): And as the Olympics begin in Tokyo, notably, without fans, several American athletes won't be there either after testing positive for COVID-19, raising suspicions over whether they were vaccinated.

Swimmer Michael Andrew says he wasn't.

MICHAEL ANDREW, SWIMMER: I didn't want to put anything in my body that I did know how I would potentially react to. I didn't want to risk any days out.

JIMENEZ: It's still possible to get COVID post-vaccine but the effects are less likely to be severe, according to the CDC. But some still prefer the freedom of choice over a threat of health.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver, Cole Beasley, made that clear in June, tweeting, "If you are scared of me, then steer clear or get vaccinated. Point blank. Period. I may die of COVID but I'd rather die actually living."

The NFL's policy is vaccinated players get tested once every two weeks, while unvaccinated players get tested every day. The league also told teams any COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players would lead to the team's forfeit and loss, if the game cannot be made up.

MIGUEL CABRERA, FIRST BASEMAN, DETROIT TIGERS: Hi. I am Miguel Cabrera with the Detroit Tigers.

JIMENEZ: Across leagues, vaccination rates have climbed in recent months.

CABRERA: COVID-19 vaccine.

JIMENEZ: The WNBA has led the way, announcing in late June, 99 percent of its athletes were fully vaccinated. And Major League Soccer hopes to follow the trend.

BORNSTEIN: I think the most important thing was always education. Our team doctors were always available for any types of questions that we had for them.

JIMENEZ (on camera): Do you worry at all, in any way, that somehow, because someone else is unvaccinated, that it would be affect your health in any way?

BORNSTEIN: A lot of guys are taking care of themselves both on and off the field. So it hasn't been something that has been in my mind a lot lately.

But the more that you hear about the Delta variant and other variants that have been going around, it starts to creep in a little bit, just because a lot more people are starting to get sick again.

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KOSIK: Coming up, scientists say rising temperatures are causing massive flooding and it's only going to get worse. We'll talk about the state of the climate crisis next.

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KOSIK (voice-over): You're looking at the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, it has burned more than 400,000 acres since early July and is just 46 percent contained. It's burning so hot, it's creating its own weather. Meteorologists have confirmed it even spawned a tornado last weekend.

Here you can see not only trees burned but trees snapped and ripped apart by the tornado. The Bootleg Fire is one of at least 88 wildfires raging across the

United States right now, mostly in the West. California and Nevada have declared states of emergency as firefighters struggle to contain the flames.

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KOSIK: Wildfires are one consequence of climate change. Another is torrential rain and devastating floods that we've been seeing in China, India and Germany. Scientists say it's only going to get worse, as Allison Chinchar reports.

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ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): By raft, by bulldozer, even on the backs of rescuers, people are ferried to safety from the floods that submerged parts of China this week.

The waterlogged area is now recovering from the equivalent of a year's worth of rain dumped on it in just a few days. But there is more rain in the forecast, compounding the misery of some of the residents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I would never have thought that my home would have been completely destroyed. All of my belongings were damaged by water.

CHINCHAR (voice-over): It's the latest nexus of extreme weather that has been unleashed across the globe in recent weeks. Monsoon rains continue to deluge parts of India, downpours lasting for days, washing away houses and bursting river banks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I cannot see anything here.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My house, my people and my neighbors, I cannot find anyone.

CHINCHAR (voice-over): Studies show that monsoons in India are getting stronger and more erratic and powered by climate change. The World Meteorological Organization say that water related hazards dominate a list of global disasters over the last 50 years.

One expert explains how warmer air allows for more water to be evaporated into the atmosphere and what goes up eventually comes down.

JOHNNY CHAN, PROFESSOR OF ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE, CITY UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: When you have a wet towel, you squeeze so much water out of it. But if you have a much wetter towel, you squeeze a lot more water out.

So therefore when you have more moisture in the atmosphere and if you can squeeze out the water, which then becomes rain, then you have a lot more water to be squeezed out.

CHINCHAR (voice-over): Scientists say climate change is likely to increase the intensity and the frequency of large flooding events, like the kinds seen in Germany recently. Germany's transport minister estimates the flooding caused more than $2 billion worth of damage to infrastructure in the affected areas.

Many roads, buildings and bridges just not equipped to weather such conditions. Subways particularly vulnerable to flooding, like these scenes in New York City earlier this month. A summer of rain soakers and a warning that the waters will continue to rise if climate change continues to go unchecked -- I'm meteorologist Allison Chinchar, CNN.

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KOSIK: I'm Alison Kosik in New York. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I'll be back in a more with more CNN NEWSROOM.

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