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Cases Up, Mandates Back as Unvaccinated Americans Hinder Progress; Right now, House Select Committee Meeting to Prepare for First Critical January 6 Hearing; Biden to Announce End of U.S. Combat Mission in Iraq. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: One of the sticking points is qualified immunity, which gives police officers some protection from being sued. Senator Scott says, ending qualified immunity is bad policy and he won't support but those talks continue.

I appreciate your time this week on Inside Politics. I hope to see you back here this tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Unvaccinated Americans sending the country's infection rates in the wrong direction, but all of us are facing consequences. New vaccine and mask mandates aren't just a possibility anymore, they are becoming a reality in some parts of the nation.

And moments, ago a major move by the mayor of New York City, all city employees are now required to get vaccinated.

In Florida, however, the governor is fighting mandates as his state is looking more and more like the new epicenter. Every single county in Florida is now an area of high transmission, according to the CDC. Hospitalizations there trending up. We're going to talk to a Florida doctor facing this surge.

But, first, let's get to CNN's Brynn Gingras with more on the move by New York City's mayor. Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. I mean, the mayor has said they have tried to do everything they can to get people vaccinated in this city where, currently, 71 percent of adults have that first vaccination shot but they've tried to give out basketball tickets, tried to incentivize with money, and they still need to get more people vaccinated.

So, that's partially where this move is coming from. Again, this applies to all city workers. It comes a week though after the mayor mandated those working in the health care system. The city's hospitals get vaccinated fully or have a COVID test weekly. And so now this is also city employees, 340,000 employees roughly. And this is going to include FDNY, NYPD, who we've actually reported only 43 percent of the force is vaccinated currently.

This is talking about the Department of Education, so, inside the schools, again, all city employees. This is an enormous step.

And there are -- there is a timeline of when they have to get these vaccinated completed. So, by August 16th, so just in a couple weeks, those who are working in a congregate setting, like nursing homes, senior centers, shelters, they have to be vaccinated or face, again, COVID tests weekly. And then after that, September 13th is the rest of the city workforce which coincides with the beginning of the New York City school system.

So, again, taking that next step forward, something that, of course, this country is trying to decide how to move forward to get people vaccinated and really suppress this delta variant that's spreading across the country, Ana.

CABRERA: And New York is one of the states currently that has a higher level of vaccinated population when you look at the national average, and yet another step to get more people vaccinated and keep people safe. Brynn Gingras, we'll, of course, be watching the fallout and any response. Thank you for your reporting.

Let's go to CNN's Harry Enten tracking crucial vaccination numbers. Harry, fill us in.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: And here's what essentially is going on is, look, in the last few weeks, we have seen a slight uptick in the number of people, new people who are getting vaccinated. You can see that making it right on the chart. It's actually up about 100,000 on the seven-day daily average but we're still well below where we are, say, two months ago when we're easily topping 800,000, topping a million if you go back to April.

So, look, as news of delta has come out, slightly more people are getting vaccinated but we're not anywhere near the levels that we want to be at this point.

CABRERA: Well, it is good news though to hear that we're going now in the right direction, a little bit more in the right direction. What do we know about these areas where vaccinations are going up?

ENTEN: This, to me, is the most interesting part of all of this. Where are vaccinations going up? It's in the states with the most new weekly cases. So, take a look here, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, all with the exception of Florida were all on the bottom half of the most vaccinations overall.

But look at their rankings within the last week. Look at that, second, third, fourth, fifth, eighth. And so what we're seeing there is essentially the places where the case numbers are highest at this point, that's where the highest number of new vaccinations are coming from. So people are scared. And because they're scared, they're going out and getting vaccinated. CABRERA: We know messaging and just making sure people get the right information can be crucial. We are starting to see some Fox News hosts imploring their audience to get vaccinated more so in recent days, which is obviously important because Republicans have higher vaccine hesitancy rates. What do you make though of this change in tune over there at Fox?

ENTEN: I mean, they're basing it off of the fact that their audience is not as well vaccinated as the audiences at some of the other news networks? So what we see is that a very low percentage of the Fox News audience at this point is vaccinated. And you see this graphic on your screen right now why it's important.


Because if you look at the number of -- if you look at the average age of the Fox News audience, it's 55, it's higher than the all adults. And what that essentially means is, if you look at the proportion of June COVID deaths at this point, what we see is that a higher percentage are among the older folks.

So, it's important for the Fox News audience to get vaccinated because they are older folks at this particular point who are getting the most sick and the Fox News audience is unfortunately older as well. So, I say keep going, Fox News. Those hosts who are saying you should get vaccinated, you should, because at this point the Fox News audience is lagging behind, and even lagging behind more versus the other news networks.

CABRERA: Yes, we can see the correlation there in the numbers. Harry Enten, thank you for all that good information.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Let's head to Florida now where every county in the state is listed as having high transmission for COVID. Just last week, Florida alone saw over 73,000 new cases, daily case totals now tripling from just two weeks ago.

With us now is the Dr. Hany Atallah, he's the chief medical officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Doctor, thanks for being with us.

These case numbers are alarming. I mean, add in the positivity rate that is also jumping to over 15 percent right now. Any signs of the dam breaking in your hospital?

DR. HANY ATALLAH, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: You know, we are fairly busy, Ana, and as many of our neighboring hospitals are as well, we're so far okay and able to take care of anyone who comes here for care, but the volume has definitely picked up quite a bit.

CABRERA: And what can you tell us about those COVID cases you're treating, ages, how critical are they? How many are vaccinated?

ATALLAH: Yes. So we -- probably three to four weeks ago, we went from about a total of 52 patients in our health system who had COVID, and today, we went over 200. So it's about four times more than it was. Most of the patients who are being admitted are unvaccinated. So, more than 90 percent of the patients who are being admitted to the hospital are unvaccinated.

The age group is largely in that 50 percent to 64 age group. We've seen sort of a disproportionate increase in that group of patients. But we certainly have seen increases in every group of patients.

I do want to add that the group of patients who are being admitted who are vaccinated, they have other medical problems and are on certain medications, like immunosuppressants, that make them more vulnerable, even though they have been vaccinated. And then the group of patients who have been vaccinated who are not on immunosuppressants, that's only a couple of percent of our patients.

So, again, it just goes to show that the vaccine is helpful and safe and keeps people out of the hospital.

CABRERA: What do you see as the root problem causing this surge?

ATALLAH: You know, I think, obviously, the more people that were vaccinated, the better. I think that there's still a large group of people with vaccine hesitancy for multiple different reasons. And when the plan became for everyone that it was okay to unmask, I think whether people were vaccinated or not, they unmasked. And we've seen sort of the natural progression, is that people who aren't vaccinated aren't protected. And they wound up getting COVID and that's why we're seeing this surge.

So, I think that that's the root cause, and I think we can prevent it or stop it short if we can really start to push the vaccines more.

CABRERA: And you talked about masks. Should the Governor DeSantis mandate masks? Again, would that help?

ATALLAH: I mean, you know, there are things that we know that work, right? We did this before sort of a before a lot of people were vaccinated. We had people wear masks. We washed our hands. We socially distanced. We know that those things work.

I think it's a good idea if we were to follow the science and say we should probably start to mask again. That will help shorten or decrease the number of infections in the community. And it will ultimately help get us out of this situation we're in at the moment.

CABRERA: We've done a lot of reporting about the impact of misinformation and the New York Times just profiled a doctor from Florida who they call the most influential spreader of COVID misinformation online. It's Dr. Joseph Mercola. He's a physician in Cape Coral. He's published over 600 articles casting doubt on COVID-19 vaccines. Hundreds of thousands of people are reading them.

What's your reaction to this? This is a medical doctor doing this.

ATALLAH: Yes. I mean, it's unfortunate. I think we should follow science from reliable organizations or from reliable people. And I think when I need information on COVID, I go to the CDC website. I look at published articles in reputable journals, you know? And so those are the places we should be getting all of our information.


Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion but we have to look at the quality of that information. What does the true science show? And what does the example we're living at the moment, which is that 90 percent of people who are in a hospital are unvaccinated. So that right there is pretty good evidence that getting your vaccine helps.

So follow the good science. Look at the websites of organizations that are reputable and have good data and follow the science.

CABRERA: Dr. Hany Atallah, thank you very much for your time. Best of luck to you as you continue to battle the pandemic.

ATALLAH: Thanks so much.

CABRERA: Now to the origins of COVID. Tensions building as China issues a new warning to the U.S., stop investigating.

CNN's David Culver is live in Shanghai with more on this warning. David, what can you tell us?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we know the origins of COVID here in China, in particular, one of the most sensitive issues. And that played out today in high level talks between the deputy secretary of state for the U.S., Wendy Sherman, speaking with her counterparts, including the foreign minister, Wang Yi, here in China. Their response to U.S. officials, stop playing with fire.

There are three big issues that they covered among several others, including human rights, particularly with the allegations of genocide made by the U.S. with regards to the abuses and, really, what we have covered extensively as to the harsh treatment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the far western region.

They also spoke about, as we mentioned, the origins of COVID-19 in allowing a WHO team to come in here and investigate. China has pushed back on that second phase, recently saying they essentially have shut the door to allowing more international scientists to come in here to investigate and cyberattacks, targeting U.S. organizations and institutions, something we likewise have covered extensively. China is saying that those are not something that they're behind in, not something that they have supported in any way.

But what we ultimately look at is a major geopolitical issue that is only mounting with pressure. And the two sides, having these discussions is crucial. It is incredibly important to look at any sort of opportunity for communication, especially at such a high level, because what we have seen in the past is that the really any misstep, any miscommunication, any miscalculation could lead to conflict. That's a reality between the U.S. and China right now, Ana. CABRERA: It just doesn't make sense that they don't want to be transparent. They continue to throw up roadblocks when it comes to getting to what happened, how this all began. David Culver, thank you, thank you for your ongoing reporting.

Meantime, tensions flaring ahead of the first key hearing for the bipartisan committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. And Republicans are actively plotting to counterprogram. What are they trying to hide?

Plus, a new setback in the effort to fix the nation's crumbling roads and bridges. Republicans rejecting a new infrastructure offer from Democrats. So is a bipartisan deal dead?

And stunned in Tokyo, the U.S. basketball team suffers major upset. Plus a 13-year-old wins gold. The latest on the medal race just ahead.



CABRERA: It is getting ugly as the January 6th House select committee meets ahead of tomorrow's first critical hearing on the violent insurrection. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is taking aim at his own, calling any Republicans committee Pelosi Republicans.

GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney's response?


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Here we have important work to do and I think that's pretty childish.


CABRERA: Pretty childish, she says.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill. Melanie, walk us through this feud and what's going on.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, the already rocky relationship between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy really started to deteriorate over these negotiations on a bipartisan commission, which Kevin McCarthy ultimately opposed even though a deal was cut by one of his own deputies.

But things really started to escalate last week when Speaker Pelosi announced that she would be rejecting two of McCarthy's pick for the January 6th panel. He, of course, responded by yanking all of his members from that committee, and Pelosi pulled yet another power move on Sunday by appointing Adam Kinzinger to the committee. He's an Illinois Republican.

So, McCarthy has been increasingly lashing out at both the speaker and at Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. He confirmed our reporting at CNN that they had a very contentious phone call last week. And here's what else he had to say at a White House event today about the speaker.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If she wants to make an argument on the basis of vote on the Electoral College, her own chair of this committee objected to President Bush's electoral vote, is suing the president currently, believes that Republican senators are equal to terrorists. I don't see how the basis of this report would ever come back that anyone would give it credibility.


ZANONA: So, bottom line there is that tensions are at an absolute boiling point with no signs of cooling any time soon. And it's probably only going to get worse in the weeks and months ahead as this investigation really heats up on Capitol Hill.

CABRERA: So, how does this then impact tomorrow's critical hearing?

ZANONA: Yes, I would argue probably not a lot. One of the reasons is McCarthy doesn't have a presence on the panel anymore after he pulled his members from that committee. And the committee members who are still on the panel are meeting right now to try to prep for the first hearing tomorrow, which is going to feature testimony from four police officers who responded to the attack on January 6th.


We've heard some of their accounts publicly. Michael Fanone was a D.C. police officer who was beaten and dragged into the crowd and suffered a heart attack. Daniel Hodges was crushed between a set of doorways as he was trying to hold the line and prevent the building from being overrun.

But sources tell our Lauren Fox that there's actually going to be new previously unseen footage aired at that hearing. So we are expecting just a very emotional day on Capitol Hill tomorrow as investigators try to paint a firsthand account of what happened on that day.

CABRERA: And that hearing expected to get underway at around 9:30 tomorrow morning. CNN, of course, will have special coverage. Melanie Zanona, thank you for being with us.

A major shift in mission for U.S. troops in Iraq. The president is meeting with the nation's prime minister next hour. And we are standing by for an announcement on this. Stay with us.



CABRERA: A major announcement on the way from President Biden. We are told he's meeting with the Iraqi prime minister. They're about to unveil a formal agreement to conclude the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, U.S. troops are making their final withdrawals. But America's longest war is not over yet. A top general says American airstrikes targeting the Taliban will continue after the U.S. has left.

Let's bring in CNN's Pentagon Reporter Barbara Starr. So, Barbara, just fill us in on both of these major developments.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, different developments in both theaters, Ana. In Iraq, the president today at the White House in a short while will meet with the Iraqi prime minister, and we do expect an announcement that the 2,500 U.S. troops who were there will shift by the end of the year to an advisory mission rather than combat.

Now, to be candid, that's mainly what they had been doing anyhow but this will formalize it to some extent. No word on what will happen to the 900 U.S. troops across border in Eastern Syria. But in Iraq, they will move to this advisory role, something the U.S. and the Iraqi government are in agreement on, the Iraqi government under some pressure to reduce the U.S. visible presence because of, in part, Iranian-backed militias exerting their influence in the country.

Now, moving over to Afghanistan, U.S. airstrikes, in fact, are now increasing in advance of the August 31st withdrawal date. The top U.S. commander was in the country talking about it.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: So we will continue to support the Afghan forces even after that 31 August date. It will generally be from over the horizon and that will be a significant change. And then it will be time for Afghan forces to fight and carry on the battle themselves.

We spent a lot of time training them. Now is their moment. Now is the time for that very stern test that I noted earlier they're going to face. I think they have the resources and the capability to actually conduct that fight and win it.


STARR: But will they be able to win against the Taliban, which are still on the march, now control about half the district centers in Afghanistan? Afghan forces regrouping, trying to defend major population centers cities as the U.S. conducts these increased airstrikes against the Taliban, trying to push them back. Ana?

CABRERA: Barbara Starr, thank you, as always, for your reporting.

Let's bring in the Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She's on the Armed Services Committee, among others. Senator, first, let's get your reaction, your thoughts on this announcement that is expected within the next hour, this plan to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq in the coming months. SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): That is good news as far, as I'm concerned, because it's pretty clear that we shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the first place. So any news that we are ending our presence in Iraq is, as far as I'm concerned, good news.

CABRERA: We'll wait for details on that. Meantime in Afghanistan, you've been vocal about ensuring women there are protected after the U.S. leaves that country. Do you think a continued air support role will help do that?

HIRONO: Regardless of whether -- I think we're going to need to do a lot more is what I was starting to say, but the airstrikes are due to a status force agreement that we have to provide that kind of support to the central Afghanistan government.

As for women and children, yes, I and others have major concerns about what is going to happen to them when the Taliban continues to move in. So, clearly, we need to have a much more of a whole government approach, diplomatic presence and that kind of an approach to pay attention to what is going to happen, sadly, we think, to the Afghan women and girls.

It's one of the reasons that we'd like to see a person, a very senior person in this administration have the responsibility for addressing the needs of the Afghan women and girls.

CABRERA: I think anybody would agree that that's important. And I just want to be clear here, can airstrikes keep the Taliban at bay?