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Fauci on Variant Surge, We're Going in the Wrong Direction; Today, House Select Committee Expected to Meet to Continue Preparations for First January 6 Hearing. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. So glad you're with us this Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim is off this week.

It is a place many believe -- believed we would be able to avoid once vaccines began rolling out, yet here we are more than seven months after the first vaccine received emergency approval, we are facing many of the same problems as the beginning of this pandemic. Listen to this from Dr. Fauci.



We have the tools to do this. This is an unnecessary predicament we're putting ourselves in.


HARLOW: Unnecessary predicament. This morning, 34 states are seeing cases of COVID spike, more than 54 percent from the week before. Cases and hospitalizations among unvaccinated Americans are surging as the highly contagious delta variant spreads across the country.

As it stands, three states, Missouri, Texas and Florida, account for 40 percent of the new cases in the U.S.

So let's begin in Florida, where the state uncovered more than 73,000 new cases last week. Our Leyla Santiago joins me again in Miami.

Leyla, I think the story there is the same as many of these hot spots around the country, and that is young people, unvaccinated people being hospitalized and dying, some from COVID?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is what doctors are telling me. And it is so hard to hear that, Poppy. This morning, we're at a vaccination and testing site. And since the last time I spoke to you about an hour ago, we have seen the line for vaccinations increase. So that is a good thing if you ask any doctor or nurse. That is what they're really pushing for right now.

But let me show you a pretty scary map that really makes the point as so where we are in the state of Florida. You can see a bunch of red over the entire state, Florida being one of two states where every single county is listed as having COVID as very highly transmissible. It is also, according to John Hopkins, in terms of the new average cases, more than triple since two weeks ago. So that makes the point as to where it is right now.

You made the point that this is really hitting the younger populations when it comes to hospitalizations. That is what doctors are telling us. I spoke to one pediatrician who said he is busier now than he was about a year ago and is really encouraging parents to create a cocoon of vaccinated people around their unvaccinated kids.

And here is his other concern, Poppy.


DR. MOBEEN RATHORE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA HEALTH, JACKSONVILLE: One of things I worry about is there are going to be outbreaks in the schools. We've already seen outbreaks in the camps, right? So there could be outbreaks in the school.

And if less than 40 percent of people in Northeast Florida are not immunized, much less in some parts of Northeast Florida, then there is a good chance that they're going to be people who will get infected and there are going to be outbreaks and the schools may close down, which is not going to be good for children.


SANTIAGO: And, Poppy, here in Miami-Dade, the mayor extended hours and opened new COVID testing and vaccination sites but mayors I'm speaking to expressing a sense of frustration because in May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a legislation that kind of ties their hands and limits what they can do in terms of mask and vaccine restrictions.

HARLOW: What is that actually mean, Leyla? Because, last hour, you played us some sound from a local leader who is like all I can do is tell people what the science is and hope they get vaccinated and wear masks. Does that mean that it is illegal for mayors across Florida to mandate, was it masks?

SANTIAGO: Right. So, in May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed that legislation, which he says limits overreach by local municipalities. That is what he calls it. But if you talk to the local municipalities now dealing with that increase in case, they cannot legally mandate masks or any sort of lockdown.

And the governor himself has said that that is not something you should expect from him. He has no intention of bringing in any lockdowns or mask mandates in the state of Florida any time soon.

HARLOW: Leyla, thank you for the reporting down there. We appreciate it.

Well, right now, cases in the state of Arizona are also on the rise. Despite that, though, some 5,000 maskless people gathered at a Trump rally in Phoenix over the weekend, several of them cheering against vaccines and mask mandates.

Kyung Lah was there. And we see the pictures from it, Kyung Lah. I understand some of those who attended at the rally were yelling at you to take off your mask?


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was really quite stunning, Poppy, especially when you consider these numbers. In Maricopa County, just 36 percent of the population is vaccinated. Case rates here have more than doubled in just the past two weeks. Yet that did not stop all of these people from holding an indoor rally for Donald Trump. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No mask. Take off your mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breathe.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: How about the vaccine? I came up with the vaccine. They said to t would take three to five years, going to save the world. I recommend you take it but I also believe if your freedoms 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one should be forced to take a vaccine against their will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mothers, don't let them mask our children again.


LAH: We showed this video to an E.R. doctor here and he said, given all that hostility he saw on that video, he seriously doubts, Poppy, that anyone in that room was vaccinated. Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. Kyung, there has been an ongoing conversation about whether or how effective it might be for the former President Trump to go around the country to hot spots where it is particularly bad and the vaccination rates are particularly low and encourage people to get vaccinated.

We just heard him say, I think you should get vaccinated, but in the same breath, I also believe in your freedom. Did you get the sense talking to people on the ground there that if they had an emphatic message from former President Trump to get vaccinated that would sway them to? LAH: It is awfully baked in at this stage. And, yes, we heard the president say that, that sort of double-edged double speak that he often likes to do, but then all of the people around him, all of the speakers said, you know, you heard right there, that it is clearly a message to not restrict their freedoms and get the vaccine. And that is a public health messaging problem. And it is very, very baked in among those people.

HARLOW: Just -- there is so much he could do, the former president, and say. And, look, Operation Warp Speed was underneath -- began under his administration, So I wish there was a clear message there. Kyung, thank you very much.

Let's bring in Dr. Joseph Kanter, he is the assistant state health officer at the Louisiana Department of Health. Dr. Kanter, good morning, and thank you.

Sadly, it is on bad news for your state that now has the nation's second highest growth rate of new COVID cases in the country. It is among the five least vaccinated states in the U.S. Why has it continued to be such a challenge there to get more people vaccinated?

DR. JOSEPH KANTER, ASSISTANT STATE HEALTH OFFICER, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Thanks, Poppy. It is really nice to be with you. We faced the same challenges a lot of the American south and rural states are facing. There is a lot of mistrust out there, a lot of very pervasive myths out there and I think probably, you know, a dearth of good spokespeople here. We continue to try myth with fact, doubt with confidence, and empower trusted messengers.

I do think we're making progress. Our cases are out of control right now. We have quadrupled the number of hospitalized patients with COVID over the past three weeks, but last week, we also doubled new number of new vaccine administrations and we got some data last night that suggests it is going up even farther now. You just really hate to see it have to come to this, to families realize that protecting them self is the right thing to doo right now.

HARLOW: You have said that your state has lost six months of progress on the vaccination front in two weeks. That is tragic. We just saw St. Louis today, it was L.A. County last week, reverse course and mandate masks indoors. Is it time for the same where you are?

KANTER: We made a very strong recommendation with the governor last Friday to advise everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask when they are indoors and unable to distance. We recognize we're out in front of the CDC a little bit on this. But, look, the transmission dynamics of the delta variant are clearly different and more aggressive.


There is data being collected now that surely will inform recommendations down the road. But here in Louisiana, there is absolutely no time to wait on that. HARLOW: Some of the most tragic accounts I've heard have actually come from you. You talked to my colleague, Jake Tapper, about a 24- year-old E.R. nurse dying from COVID, a 30-year-old clergy member both unvaccinated.

And I know you cannot get into the specifics of their cases for privacy reasons, but we just, moments ago, heard more than 50 big health organizations, like the American Medical Association, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, say it is time to mandate all hospital employees be vaccinated across the country. Do you agree with that?

KANTER: Yes, I think that is the right thing to do. I mean, both from protecting the very front line and vulnerable people that work there, they deserve to be protected. And from a patient's perspective, when you go into a hospital, you want the assurance that you're not going to be given a disease you didn't come there to get. And a lot of very vulnerable, immunosuppressed patients are there.

So I do think it is the right thing. I think more hospitals are going to do it certainly once full FDA approval comes. I think we'll see many more institutions moves in that direction.

HARLOW: Do you believe -- I mean, you've seen the resistance from many within your state. What do you think that would look like if all hospitals in Louisiana were to mandate that?

KANTER: Well, I think if people did it together, there would be a strength in numbers situation. Having the American Hospital Association come out in favor was a strong message. But it I think you're right, Poppy, it is tough, it's being superimposed right now on a very acute nursing shortage across the country. And we feel it here. That is the biggest limiting factor for hospitals right now, it is not physical space, it is the qualified staff that are available to treat.

So I think hospitals are weighing that. But at the end of the day, you have got to do what is right for patient safety, I think.

HARLOW: Quickly, before we go, there is a lot of people that think you can't get re-infected with COVID if you've had it, but we just saw Louisiana Representative Clay Higgins say he's tested positive again after contracting in January 2020. Golfer Jon Rahm had to drop out the Olympics after testing positive for a second time. What is your message, your clear medical message to people who have had COVID?

KANTER: Yes. We are seeing some re-infections. It is fairly rare. It's less than 25 percent of total infections. It does happen. Usually they are a little bit more mild the second time.

It is clear that protection you get from the vaccine is more robust and more durable than the protection you get from natural infection. So that really is the message, even if you have had COVID already, hopefully, you recover. But we do recommend that you get the vaccine and don't delay on that.

HARLOW: Dr. Kanter, thanks so much and good luck to all of your teams on ground. KANTER: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Still to come, two Republicans will sit on the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, but will Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney face political repercussions because of it from inside their own party?

And in some areas, the new school year begins in just a week, there is still no uniform message on mask and the debate over wearing masks at school. That is coming up.

And later, team USA goes head-to-head in France with its the first match at the Olympic Games. We're live in Tokyo with the latest.



HARLOW: Less than two hours from now, sources tell CNN the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on U.S. Capitol will meet. They are finalizing questions and also the new video footage from the officers' perspective that will be played at the first hearing that comes tomorrow morning.

It comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday the addition of Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the panel. He now joins fellow Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney. They are the only two GOP members of panel so for.

Let's go to Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill. Lauren, good morning. Today's meeting comes amid this growing pressure on Republican leadership from we hear some rank and file Republicans in the House to punish Kinzinger and Cheney just for saying yes.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is exactly right, Poppy. I mean, look, this push is coming from conservatives, members of the House Freedom Caucus, but it spread a little further than that, according to our latest reporting.

And what is important and notable about this is the fact that these are the two Republicans who accepted an appointment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And, of course, all of this came after McCarthy had to pull back his five members he had selected for this committee because he argued Pelosi was pulling punches by saying that two of those members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, were not appropriate choices for the committee, so just said, fine, I'm not going to appoint anyone at all.

That had put Democrats in a position of whether or not they were going to fill those empty spaces. And yesterday, House Speaker Pelosi made it official that she was going to add Kinzinger along with Liz Cheney, another Republican on that committee, to this select panel.

And I think that one of the underlying features here is that you have members arguing that, yes, they should be punished. Kinzinger and Cheney, they are not following with the Republican Party, they are not following McCarthy's guidance here.

But there are others who are arguing that is more trouble than it is worth because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could just put them back on their other committees and that obviously would just be a major waste of time and a distraction for Republicans who want to spend their time just calling out the select panel as bias, as too Democratic, it's not going to be representative of the entire party.


And I think that that is really the push and pull here. McCarthy wanting to make sure he has the ability to make those conservatives happy because he may want to be speaker if they take back the House in 2022. Poppy?

HARLOW: It always politics at play. Lauren, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent and former Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy. Good morning.

My team tells me you want me to call you Charlie and Joe, so I'm going to do even though it feels a little weird.

So, Charlie, Kinzinger says, this is about my duty and my oath to the Constitution above everything else. McCarthy says that Pelosi is doing this and structuring the committee to, quote, satisfy her political objectives. What do you see?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Kinzinger is serving for all the right reasons. He wants accountability. He wants answers to the big questions. He wants to find facts. He wants to know why thousands of our fellow citizens decided to storm the Capitol and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. He's doing it for all the right reasons.

And I think if Nancy Pelosi is smart about this, she will invite back the three who Kevin McCarthy removed from the committee. And if they don't join, then she should seek three more Republicans, like Peter Meijer, Fred Upton or others, Jaime Herrera Beutler. That's what I would do.

Finally, the thing I would do, Poppy, is to make sure this is fairly balanced, I would give Kinzinger and the Cheney all of the time of the Republicans. So, if there are only two, give them the time of the other three, so this looks more balanced. So I think this is smart (INAUDIBLE) Kinzinger and Cheney, and I think that this will hopefully give this committee a better feeling of credibility to the American public.

HARLOW: Joe, what do you think about both of those ideas? First, that -- especially Charlie says Pelosi should re-invite those three committee members that McCarthy pulled to the committee, and if she doesn't name three more, give the two equal time?

JOE KENNEDY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Poppy, I think they are certainly worth consideration. The idea that somehow in investigation into why thousands of people stormed the United States Capitol and injured hundreds of police officers, the idea that that is somehow partisan, is laughable. The idea that somehow by appointing Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger to die in the world of Republicans is somehow going to make them a tool of Nancy Pelosi is absurd, right?

I disagree with Liz Cheney on almost everything political. Adam Kinzinger and I, our offices were across the hall at one point. He and I got along well. We disagreed on a bunch of stuff too. We served on the same committees in Congress. The idea that they're going to take their orders from anybody is just nuts.

And so what we're actually seeing a deep partisan effort by Republicans to try discredit this panel before they call their first witness today.

HARLOW: Let me get your reaction, Joe, to this concern from Republican Senator Pat Toomey. Here is what he told Jake Tapper yesterday.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): I would favor a truly bipartisan commission. But I think that we should be candid about the fact that it is politically to the advantage of Democrats to try to keep this issue in the forefront.

It is very clear that Democrats have an incentive to try to drive a political message here and a purely partisan commission in the House is probably going to do that.


HARLOW: How do you respond to that criticism? Because we all remember what McCarthy said about the Benghazi select committee and the impact on Hillary Clinton in the election.

KENNEDY: I'd say look at what Speaker Pelosi has tried to do. We tried to get the past by legislation. It didn't work. She's then tried to come up with the select committee. She gave Minority Leader McCarthy an opportunity to put real, credible, dedicated -- folks that are dedicated to finding the facts as to what happened on this committee, he put some people that I think objectively are and some that are not given their statements and their actions in the fast.

And what she's done is now tried to continue to do that. This is a bipartisan committee with subpoena authority to try to actually get at the truth. So I think what she's done actually lines up exactly with what the senator has said. And I would hope that Republican leadership takes heed of Senator Toomey's comments as well.

HARLOW: What do you think, Charlie, of that and also of the unfounded criticism by some of your former colleagues, Republican colleagues in the House, who have just directly blamed Pelosi and said it was her failures that led to the security failures on multiple fronts at the Capitol on the 1st of January when we know those entities, they report directly to the Capitol Police board? [10:25:01]

DENT: Well, I think it is a bit unfair. Republicans certainly have many reasons to be critical of Nancy Pelosi but January 6 is not one of them. That is neither fair nor credible. It is like blaming George Bush for 9/11, again not fair, not credible. Republicans should refrain from that.

I think what is really tragic here is we need to establish a historical record of what happened on January 6th. Clearly, an independent commission would have been preferable. But we are where we are. It is a bipartisan commission. Two outstanding Republicans are on it, fair-minded people who no one is going to call liberal squishes (ph) or RINOs, these are real Republicans.

And I think that it is time that Republicans accept the fact that we must investigate this. Yes, there will be political considerations to be sure that we're going to be talking about the former president's conduct, but so what? This is too important to ignore.

HARLOW: Charlie Dent, Joe Kennedy, thank you very much, an important setup to what we're going to see tomorrow in this first hearing that will air live right here as well. Thanks very much.

KENNEDY: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Well, a big White House meeting expected today to lay out changes for the U.S. military on the ground in Iraq. What to expect from the Iraqi prime minister's visit to Washington, next.