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CDC Says, Even Fully Vaccinated People Should Now Wear Masks Indoors; CNN Reports, Biden to Require Vaccine or Test for All Federal Workers; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Says Subpoena Coming Soon from January 6 Committee. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. Good morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with me. Jim is off this week.

As the delta variant surges, and with just half of the country fully vaccinated against COVID, the CDC now is citing new science, they have new data that has led them to reverse course on their mask guidance. The agency now says you should wear your mask inside, vaccinated or not, if you're in an area with a high or substantial transmission rate. We'll show you that map in a moment. You can see if you're part of it.

This guidance also says that everyone in K through 12 schools needs to mask up, again, whether they're vaccinated or not, when the new school year begins. As Dr. Anthony Fauci points out, the virus has evolved to the point where the science needs to as well. Watch.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're not changing the science. The virus changed and the science evolved with the changing virus.


HARLOW: And tomorrow, President Biden is expected to announce federal workers and federal contractors will either have to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

Our John Harwood joins us now from outside the White House. John, good morning to you. Talk about the administration's move here, because that's a big deal and also, obviously, a signal to the private sector.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, every single thing this administration, this president wants to accomplish as a matter of public health, as a matter of economics, politically as well, turns on getting this pandemic under control.

And everyone at the White House is alarmed by this resurgence fueled by the delta variant, the fact that the efforts to vaccinate the country, which we all know is the key to emerging from this nightmare, have stalled because of vaccine resistance for various reasons among groups, in particular many Republicans, conservatives, white evangelicals have been resistant. There's a big political overlay there.

And so you've got to react to that situation, and so following the science, the CDC has offered this new mask guidance, and we expect to see the president tomorrow offer this mandate for federal workers to be vaccinated, and if they don't, they can't show their vaccination status, be subject to testing.

The administration is very cautious about a heavy handed government approach of mandates. They've resisted federal mandates. But they are in their role as an employer hoping to model behavior that other employers that we've seen from universities, we've seen from other private sector companies trying to impress upon people the need to get vaccinated, and the combination of this guidance on masking.

And that effort, we did see in the last couple weeks a slight uptick in the rate of vaccination as people became more and more alarmed by the surge, especially in southern states. We have got to see how much additional progress will result from this new guidance, which also has the potential for provoking a political backlash from some who have resisted vaccination in the first place.

HARLOW: Sure, it already is. Look what McCarthy said. Look at what DeSantis is saying.

But, John, before you go, I bet a lot of people out there don't know, and I certainly don't fully know, what can Biden do? How far can the White House go on this? What do they have the power to federally mandate on this front?

HARWOOD: I think that's untested. The administration, we know they have a political constraint because they don't want to be heavy handed. In terms of what they could try to impose and whether they can make that stick in states that are resistant to it, I don't think that's fully been tested as a legal matter or as a political matter.

HARLOW: We'll see how far they try to go on it. John, thanks pour the reporting at the White House.

Let me bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, good morning.

Very basic question for folks, and hopefully we can show them the map, where this may apply to them or may not. I'm vaccinated. I live in New York City. It's yellowish, orange-ish on that map. Do I need to wear a mask?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think New York City is considered substantial spread right now with regard to viral transmission, that means 50 to 100 per 100,000 people new cases. So, yes, I think it would apply. And it's a little bit of a moving target. So, this is going to be confusing for people. It's kind of like almost checking the weather everyday to figure out if you need to take an umbrella.


The mask is going to be sort of like your umbrella.

But, yes, I mean, Poppy, two-thirds of the country sort of following into this category of high or substantial spread, those are the areas where the CDC says, even if you're vaccinated, you need to wear masks in indoor public spaces. And the thing is, Poppy, going into the cooler, drier weather, just even -- everything else excluded, you'd still see increased viral spread. Viruses tend to spread more in the cooler, drier weather. So, you've got to keep an eye on your local area to find out what's happening there.

HARLOW: So, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, just earlier this morning told our John Berman that mask guidance changed, that they just gave, was prompted by science, science that is only days' old, but science that shows that vaccinated people that are experiencing these breakthrough infections of the delta variant can pass it on to others. Listen to what she said.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: With the delta variant, we now see in our outbreak investigations that have been occurring over the last couple weeks, in those outbreak investigations, we have been seeing that if you happen to have one of those breakthrough infections, that you can actually now pass it to somebody else.


HARLOW: What is your reaction to that guidance? That's scary for me with unvaccinated little kids.

GUPTA: Sure. I think that's important data to pay attention to. One thing I want to make clear, though, and I think just in terms of clearly stating what the problem is, the problem is that unvaccinated people are spreading this virus to unvaccinated people. That's the primary problem still. You put up that map that we just showed, most of those areas that are red and orange are places where you don't have high vaccinations.

So I just want to state this at the outset, Poppy, because that is the fundamental problem, and we got so close in this country to reducing the amount of viral spread overall in the country to a containable level. We would have gotten there if more people had been vaccinated, but we didn't. And now, the problem is sort of worsening. But it's primarily unvaccinated to unvaccinated.

Having said that, Poppy, the new data that Dr. Walensky is talking about is now this data that shows that if you are a vaccinated person who develops one of these breakthrough infections, you seem to be carrying the same amount of virus, the viral load, so to speak, in your nose and mouth as an unvaccinated infected person.

Now, the vaccinated person not likely to get sick and those are obviously far fewer, these breakthrough infections, but they could potentially be a source of spread. So, if you're vaccinated, you're hanging out with people, if you're hanging out in an area where there's a lot of viral transmission, that's why the guidance is now you should wear a mask in public indoor spaces.

HARLOW: Okay. We also just got data from Pfizer this morning showing in their internal studies that a third dose of their COVID vaccine strongly boosts protection against the delta variant by like five- fold. I asked the U.S. surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, about it this morning to ask, well, what does that mean? Should people at home be running out to get a third shot? Let's listen to what he said and then get your thoughts on the other side.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This data from Pfizer, we've been in talks with them about what they're seeing with regard to their studies with related to boosters. But at this point, I want to be very clear, people do not need to go out and get a booster shot.


HARLOW: No third booster for people, right? Still?

GUPTA: I think still, right. I mean, maybe some people who did not get a good response from the first two shots, people who have weakened immune systems and, therefore, their immune systems didn't create as many antibodies.

I think the question we really have to be asking ourselves is really two questions. One is, how long does the immunity last? If you get a huge spike in antibodies, that may be great. But if it all wears off quickly, that's not really solving the problem.

Right now, the good news is that the protection that you have, that I have from our vaccines, seems to be really good still, even in the face of this delta variant. So, that's the sort of first thing.

But the second thing is, antibodies are important. What I really want to sort of understand, are people becoming -- getting severely ill, requiring hospitalization and death after being vaccinated. If you see those numbers start to go up, then that would make the case that we need to do more boosters.

Protection is complicated with immunity. Antibodies are part of it, but there's lots of other parts in the immune system as well. So, right now, again, the good news is the vaccines seem to work well. There may be a small percentage of people who need boosters but I don't think the evidence is clear right now. I'm not going to go out and get one. I'm not going to run out and get one.

HARLOW: Right. And then there's the whole other question of, well, there's developing countries where they have none, and we're talking about a third here.

[10:10:01] Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

Well, the state of Louisiana reported nearly 6,800 new COVID cases on Tuesday. That is just 85 cases short of that state's one-day record for infections in January. Look at that spike, right? Look at all the progress that has been lost. Hospitalizations are on the rise across the state and less than 37 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Tonya Jagneaux, a Critical Care Physician at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. Good morning and thank you very much for your time.

DR. TONYA JAGNEAUX, CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Good morning. Happy to be here to be able to give the message out to folks to try to get this back under control.

HARLOW: I know you said that what you're seeing makes you want to scream, right? That's how bad it is.

JAGNEAUX: We are in a discussion with a reporter just referencing a Politico article, and it's one of those where we have a solution to a problem that is inundating our health care system and we're not taking advantage of it. It is frustrating for physicians to know that we could have a fix for this but we're having difficulty getting that message across to folks who are resistant to the vaccine.

HARLOW: Well, given this resistance, especially in your state that has been pervasive to vaccination for many, given what the CDC just said overnight in terms of reversing their mask guidance, what do you think would be most beneficial to the health of people in Louisiana? Statewide mask mandate?

JAGNEAUX: Well, I think people are adverse to the term mandate, whether you say it's a mask or vaccine. Our message -- I work inside the hospital, and it's a scenario that I don't think people get to see because we protect patient's privacy, obviously. But we were at full capacity for everything, and we've had to stop doing elective surgeries that put people in the hospital overnight because we don't have room due to the rapid, essentially doubling almost every week since June, of cases.

And so what that means is people in interpret vaccination as I don't think I'm going to get sick personally, I don't need it, but your community is impacted in such a way that, if you have to go to the hospital for anything else, we may be at a shortage of giving you the standard of care you expect, and your community is now back in lockdown, back in pandemic mode.

So I think the message really needs to be, the vaccine is about the people you care about not getting infected. We know that some people have breakthrough infections, and those are rather cases. But most of the people, I'd say 90 percent or greater at all of our hospitals in our community are unvaccinated, and they're consuming our health care resources. And we have our teams there on the frontline that are exhausted, they're burned out, and we're looking at just is fourth phase where we just can't wrap our arms around it and there's a simple solution.

HARLOW: It is so significant what you just said. I mean, you just said, we as a hospital system are tapped out, and if you come here with a need for care -- not just for COVID, for something else, we may not be able to provide you the standard of care. I mean, that's startling in an age where there is more than enough vaccine.

JAGNEAUX: Right. I mean, people don't have an image of what was happening in India, where there was essentially no oxygen for people, and they were dying outside the hospital. We protect that because we have essentially a phenomenal workforce and an infrastructure.

But we have had situations where we've had to do some diverting and construction because of the demand of need for oxygen. And these people come in and the care that we have to provide is very individualized and is very intense. And it's -- that had been a thought for us to have a problem with oxygen flow to our ICUs because we've never seen numbers like this before.


And so it kind of puts you in a perspective of, we're at the edge of a crisis where, if we push any further, we will not be able to deliver the care that we would want for our loved ones, and we know they should get because we don't have the resource to do that.

And that's not visible to the folks that are saying, vaccination, for me, is a personal choice, and I agree with that, but it's a community impact and it also can come back to you, not in the way of COVID infection but in the way of staying in pandemic mode and crisis mode.

HARLOW: Wow, so everyone needs to hear your message. We will post what you just said so more people can hear it. Doctor, thank you for your urgent call for action and for what you and your team are doing every day in the hospital there.


JAGNEAUX: Thank you. And I want to say thanks to all our team members out there who are working hard every day to keep people safe and healthy.

HARLOW: Our thanks to them as well. Thank you.

Still to come, four Capitol officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on January 6th told their personal stories of violent hand-to-hand combat on the day of the insurrection, but some Republican lawmakers say they were too busy to even watch.

Also, Simone Biles is taking a stand for her own mental health and putting it at the forefront while she pulls out of a major Olympic event. The importance of this moment in sports, ahead. The U.K. just announced that it will allow fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and the E.U. to avoid quarantine. We'll tell you when that starts, next.



HARLOW: Well, a move to try to waste no time, January 6th Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson says the panel will soon send subpoenas. This comes after an emotional day of testimony at the committee's first public hearing, police officers at the Capitol recounting the horrific violence they faced defending it that day.

Joining me now to talk about all of this is Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar. He is a member of the Select Committee investigating the insurrection. Congressman, thank you for your time this morning.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Thanks for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: So, let's start with the subpoenas, Bennie Thompson, Congresswoman Cheney explained why they want to do it, gets things done a lot more quickly. My question to you is when then should we expect the first round of subpoenas to go out and can you give us some insight into who they'll be going to?

AGUILAR: Well, I'll let the chairman speak for our plan and our agenda. The members will likely be huddling soon to talk about that. But the chairman has been very clear that this is something that's going to happen. We're going to be guided by the truth.

First, we're going to continue to review the testimony of the four officers, as you mentioned, incredibly compelling and emotional testimony. But they laid the groundwork and they told us exactly what they wanted us to focus on, and that was on justice and accountability.

HARLOW: Yes, they did. So, let's let people who may not have seen the whole hearing, listen to that part specifically, what some of those officers asked of you guys. Here they were.


OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role in this, if anyone in power coordinated, aided or abetted or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of this terrorist attack because we can't do it.

OFFICER HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: It was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.


HARLOW: Who do you believe, Congressman, you need to hear from, to hear testify to at least help answer those questions? I'm not asking who you're going to subpoena but I am asking who you believe, since you're a part of the committee, you want to ask questions of to answer those questions for those officers.

AGUILAR: Well, it's important that we seek out and find that justice and accountability that they wanted us to. I think we'll hear from a variety of witnesses. There's been public testimony from a number of law enforcement individuals, including the sergeant at arms for both chambers, the Capitol Police chief. Those are all important components on what led up to January 6th and why we weren't prepared enough.

But from the election until January 6th, there's a lot of unanswered questions. And I think Congresswoman Cheney spoke for the group when she said, herself, that we need to find out exactly who knew what at the White House and what that communication and coordination looked like.

So there's plenty of questions that we need to get to the bottom of, and the committee is going to seek to find the truth throughout all this.

HARLOW: Do you believe former President Trump is an important person for you to be able to ask questions of to answer at least part of their questions?

AGUILAR: Well, I'm not going to get ahead of where we're going to go but, clearly --

HARLOW: I understand that, but I'm just asking you, since you're part of the committee. Do you have key questions from -- you just brought up the White House.

AGUILAR: There's a lot of unanswered questions. And it's our responsibility, it's our charge and our mandate within the resolution that we passed to get to the bottom of it. And so individuals who have information pertaining to January 6th, our response, our lack of a response, those are questions that we need answered on behalf of the officers that protect this place, those who sacrificed on January 6th and the American public who deserve to know the truth.

HARLOW: Let me get your response to this from Republican Congressman Kelly Armstrong. This is earlier this week in his interview with our Jake Tapper. And I should note, he was appointed to the committee by McCarthy, then ultimately pulled after Pelosi rejected some of the other appointees. But listen to what he said is a concern of his regarding the committee.


REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-SD): When you serve on the committee at the call of the speaker, and minority members aren't allowed to put their own members on the committee, you just completely make this thing partisan and move it forward in a way that just -- I'm just telling you, 50 percent of the country is not going to take anything going on with it with any credibility, whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: I'm not asking you about his opinion on how the committee was made up, but I am interested in your read on his assertion that half the country isn't going to believe whatever you guys come up with.


AGUILAR: Well, let's be clear that we would have welcomed the seating of Kelly Armstrong to this committee. And I agree that a bipartisan commission -- that was our objective, that was our focus. But guess what? Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell asked their caucuses in conference to do them a favor.

Mitch McConnell asked his colleagues to do him a personal favor and to vote against a bipartisan 9/11-style commission composition that would have been outside individuals. And so this is what we are left with.

And the minority leader has chosen to take his ball and go home, and that includes pulling the nominations of Kelly Armstrong and other colleagues who would have been, I think, value added to the commission.

But we will move forward with what we have and we will carry on the duties. And we'll be guided by the truth and we will make sure that our efforts are not just bipartisan with Democrats and Republicans but nonpartisan. That's what the public expects and I think that's what the country wants to see.

HARLOW: Congressman Pete Aguilar, thank you for your time this morning.

AGUILAR: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, an outpouring of support to see this morning for gymnast Simone Biles as she pulls out of the women's all-around final. Why? Because she wants to and needs to focus on her mental health. Will we see her compete again maybe before the end of the games? We'll take you live to Tokyo after the break.