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Biden Expected to Mandate Vaccines for Federal Workers; Some Companies Requiring Employees to Get Vaccinated; 17 Senate Republicans Vote to Advance Infrastructure Plan; Health Expert: Growing Risk to Those in Olympic Bubble; American Caeleb Dressel Wins 100-Meter Freestyle Gold; Alaska Under Tsunami Warning After 8.2 Earthquake; Brothers Refuse to Evacuate as Dixie Fire Burns in California; U.S., Russia Begin Strategic Stability Talks. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world, I'm Isa Soares in London, and just ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM.

With the delta variant surging coast to coast the U.S. president is getting ready to make his toughest mandate to get more vaccinated. Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is everything, this is all we have. This is what we fight for. I mean, if we don't have this, where are we going to go?


SOARES: Californians forced to evacuate and leave everything behind. State officials are now pleading for wildfire assistance.

And the police that helped defend the U.S. Capitol from the January 6 riots, say they didn't get enough support.

Good morning, everyone. Happy Thursday.

Now at the time of growing division and debate over masking and vaccinations in the United States, there is one thing that is certain. The delta variant is fueling a rapid surge in cases, and it's really forcing officials to push mandates to protect Americans. Now, in the coming hours, U.S. president Biden is set to lay out the next steps in the fight against COVID-19. And that includes boosting vaccinations. A source says that he is expected to announce that all federal workers as well as contractors will be required to get a shot or submit to regular testing. The move comes as the president is urging all Americans to get vaccinated. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pandemic we have now is the pandemic of the unvaccinated. So please, please, please, please if you are not vaccinated, protect yourself and the children out there.


SOARES: Now the urge and pleas may be working. CDC data now shows the daily pace of people getting their first COVID vaccine is the highest it has been in three weeks -- as you can see in those numbers. And some big-name American companies are now requiring their employees to get vaccinated.

Texas Health Care Company which employs nearly 50,000 people says staff have until October to get their shots. A spokesman says 71 percent of the company's workforce is vaccinated so far.

And here are some of the other companies issuing mandates. Facebook, and Google are the first two Silicon Valley giants really to require employees coming back to the office to be vaccinated. Morgan Stanley won't let unvaccinated staff or clients enter its headquarters. And Netflix is reportedly requiring vaccinations for all cast and crew members of its U.S. productions.

Well, the push comes as vaccine hesitancy grows among some Americans, mainly by far-right Republicans. A new survey finds about 46 percent who might trust far right news say this they will refuse a vaccine, that is up from 31 percent in March. While one doctor said some people, you know, are asking to get their shot privately to avoid backlash from family and friends who aren't in favor of vaccination.


DR. PRISCILLA FRASE, OZARKS HEALTHCARE: Even though they were able to make that decision themselves, they didn't want to have to deal with the peer pressure or the outburst from other people about them, quote, giving in to everything. They made a decision for themselves, and they wanted it just to be for themselves. People can call and we try to accommodate what we can through our drive-through window, through walking out to their car, anything that we can do to get people in a place that they are comfortable receiving the vaccine.


SOARES: Well, more than 70 percent of Americans, some 237 million people, live in counties believed to have high substantial COVID transmission. You can see there areas of that map in red and orange. A huge swathe really of the country and that includes the state of Mississippi. Well, one woman there is now pleading with people to get vaccinated after learning about the painful lesson her husband, who had not gotten the shot, is in hospital fighting for his life and can barely breathe.


ALICIA BALL, HUSBAND IN HOSPITAL WITH COVID-19: I just never thought it could be as bad as it is right now. From him going to the hardest working person I know taking care of everybody, his family, his customers, everybody, to it's a good day if he set up on the side of his bed twice for 30 minutes. We have really tried to after this talk to as many of our family and

friends as possible that they should get it. I never realized how bad it would be and how bad this delta variant would be.


And I'm exhausted.


SOARES: But even some fully vaccinated people may need more protection against the delta variant. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech released new data on their COVID-19 vaccine finding an original two dose vaccination holds up for about six months before it begins to weaken. Some of the remaining highly effective. Pfizer says a third dose can strongly boost protection against the delta variant. Researchers say that their investigations is ongoing.

Now a massive infrastructure deal before Congress is a long way from becoming reality, but a key vote Wednesday cleared the way for it to move forward in the Senate. And in the prevailing paralysis of Washington that bipartisan vote was reason enough for the president to celebrate.


BIDEN: Looks like we reached a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. Fancy word for bridges, roads, transit systems, high speed internet, clean drinking water, cleaning up and capping the orphan wells. And I'm working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done because while there is a lot we don't agree on, I believe that we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on.


SOARES: Well Wednesday's final tally was 67-32 to open Senate debate on the huge spending project currently pegged at about $1 trillion. CNN's Ryan Nobles has more for you now from Capitol Hill.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was a big first step. 17 Senate Republicans joining Democrats in passing a motion to proceed, which advances that $1 trillion infrastructure bill. There is more than $500 billion in new spending in this package, and it includes a number of things, including spending for roads and bridges, also for rail, both passenger and freight rail, broadband technology, also water treatment as well. This is something that Democrats have been clamoring for a long time and Republicans also believe is worth spending the money on.

Now, even though they got to this stage, there's still a long way to go, a number of hurdles to pass just in the Senate. And it also needs to be passed in the House as well. There's a whole other big $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that will ultimately be passed with only Democratic votes. Those two bills have to be moving along dual tracks in order for them to have enough vote this is both the House and Senate to pass.

But nonetheless, both the White House, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, feeling very optimistic that they crossed this important stage. They're hoping to have the bill passed in itself before July ends and before the August recess begins.

Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.


SOARES: Members of the House Select Committee investigate the January 6 insurrection are signaling that they have move quickly to subpoena witnesses. Democrats and Republicans on the panel say they want to obtain all communications at the White House from that day. They don't expect cooperation from former President Trump or his top aides, but the committee has been in touch with former Justice Department officials who have been told they are free to testify.

Now to Japan where a public health expert is warning that the surge in COVID cases in Tokyo is raising the risks to those inside the Olympic bubble. Already today, pole vaulters from the U.S. and Argentina have tested positive ending their Olympic hopes. Members of Australia's track and field team briefly went into isolation but have since received the all-clear.

Meanwhile a wave of Olympic medals in swimming is shaping up the leaderboard at the Tokyo summer games. As you can see there, China with 29 medals. China Japan and the U.S. are all in the contention for the most gold. But team USA has the big lead in total medals with 37. CNN's Blake Essig is standing by live for us in Tokyo. But we'll start with World Sport anchor Patrick Snell in Atlanta. Both these gentlemen have been keeping us up to date every single day with the very latest. Patrick, it's been quite a busy morning in the aquatic center with some golden moments for team USA.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: It certainly has. A very good morning to you, Isa. Yes, straight to the aquatic center. That's where it's all been happening in recent days. U.S. superstar so much focus right on Caeleb Dressel. He won the 100-meter freestyle final earlier with a time of 47.02 seconds. And you know what? That is an Olympic record, Isa. This the 24-year-old's first individual Olympic gold medal as well. He previously earned three relay golds including the men's 4 4 x 100-meter free style relay. That was earlier in these games. Australia's Carol Chalmers taking the silver metal, while the Russian swimmer Kliment Kolesnikov winning bronze.

Now Dressel got really emotional afterwards. And the video is very, very powerful, we'll be bringing you that on later Thursday additions of "WORLD SPORT." It is not to be missed.


Another golden moment for team USA. As Dressel's compatriot Bobby Finke producing a superb performance to win gold. This is another great story. Just 21 years of age, still a senior at the University of Florida here in the U.S. in his first Olympics as well. Powering his way to a win in the 800-meter freestyle. Really impressive late surge from him that caught the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri who led for much of the race by surprise. This is the first time by the way for a men's 800-meter freestyle as an Olympics -- a bit of history there.

And China ceiling a gold medal finish, this in the women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay finishing with a time of 7:40.33. That also breaking the world mark today. China with a leading 14th gold medal now, frustrations though for the United States of America, anchored by their superstar Katie Ledecky. The U.S. almost catching their rivals but falling short in the end. They take the silver and Australia bronze, Isa. Another very, very significant day in the pool.

SOARES: Yes, I was on the edge of my seat watching that freestyle relay. It was very, very good to watch. But let's talk gymnastics. I mean, we've now been hearing from Simone Biles of course, everyone's attention has been on her. Lots of people wishing her all the support. But what has she been saying, how is she coping -- Patrick?

SNELL: Yes, she's been taking to social media earlier today Thursday. And it's been refreshing, really heartening, Isa, to see the really support -- the way that the community, fellow athletes, really embracing her, giving her that support. And the wait though is still on though, isn't it, to see if she will compete again at these games after withdrawing from the individual all-around competition later on today. She's focusing on her mental health right now.

And she did take to social media to say let's tap into that message of thanks. It was very powerfully worded I felt. So here we go.

The outpouring of love and support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.

Those are really powerful -- that really resonated with me, Isa. On Wednesday, just to reset for viewers worldwide, Biles appearing in person showing her support of America's the men's gymnastics team, who were in action at that time. Her withdrawal though coming after she stepped away. Remember from team competition, that was earlier in the week saying she wants to protect both her body and her mind. It goes without saying, Isa, that we do of course wish her all the very best at this difficult and challenging time. No question. Back to you.

SOARES: Absolutely, she's incredibly brave, courageous, as that statement you put out shows, very gracious as well. Patrick Snell, thank you very much. Patrick Snell for us there in Atlanta.

Let's get more though on the COVID threat that I mentioned to you in the early show. CNN's Blake Essig is live this hour in Tokyo. And Blake, you know, athletes have so much to contend with. Don't they. They have the heat, they have the humidity, they have to focus on their fitness and making sure that they do well. And then on top of all of this, they have the rise in COVID infections. How bad is it right now?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Isa, just a few things to worry about. As far as how bad it is right now, outside of the Olympic bubble, COVID cases are really bad. Just today, more than 3,800 cases reported in Tokyo, that is highest number that has ever been reported sense the pandemic began in Tokyo.

But as you mentioned, there are a lot of things for the athletes to worry about, one of them being COVID-19. Some good news on that front. Not too long ago we learned that three members of Australia's track and field team entered isolation after being considered brief contacts with someone from USA track and field team who tested positive. Out of precaution the Australian athletes isolated immediately and underwent testing procedures. Within the last two hours, those PCR tests have come back negative, and all members of Australia's athletics team have been given the all-clear and are now allowed to resume normal activities.

It's a good example of the COVID-19 countermeasures put in place to quickly address any potential issues. And while it is still early at this point, daily testing, contact tracing and strict COVID-19 countermeasures put in place by Olympic organizers have proven effective in limiting the spread of infection.

Now since the beginning of July, 198 games related infections have been reported while Olympic related cases remain low, the same cannot be said for Tokyo. Today as I said, more than 3,800 cases were reported in Tokyo. That is the highest daily total for the capital ever recorded. A statement we've now said three days in a row. Despite a fourth state of emergency order being put in place, the infection rate continues to climb and there's serious concern for a medical system that's already strained.

Japan's top coronavirus adviser has urged the government to send out a strong message to people warning about the potential strain on the health care system.


Isa, he said the greatest danger is the fact that the general public does not share a sense of crisis.


MASA TAKAYA, TOKYO 2020 SPOKESMAN (through translator): As a city resident myself and as an organizer, my heart hurts that case numbers are rising.


ESSIG (on camera): Well last month as cases strained to increase the government's experts, they said that they believe that the potential fifth wave of infection could be Japan's worst yet here in Tokyo and across the country, that concern has already become a reality -- Isa.

SOARES: Blake, thank you very much. Blake Essig there for us in Tokyo.

Now the U.S. Justice Department is going after the former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. He's serving a decades long sentence for child pornography and sexual abuse. Nassar's prison bank accounts swelled to more than $12,000 but he's only making the minimum payment to his victims about $8 a month. Nassar owes more than $62,000 in restitution and fees. And among the funds deposited into his account, a pair of $2,000 government stimulus checks.

Now, an important step for diabetics in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration officially designated the first generic version of insulin. The move allows the product to be marketed as identical to widely used long-acting insulin. Semglee has been selling for about a third of the price of Lantus. And FDA calls it is safe, high quality and potentially cost-effective option for diabetics.

Now the U.S. and Russia talk about one thing they can still agree on. Next, two negotiator exchange elbow bumps as new talks get off to a good start. We'll explain.

And some wildfires in the United States are gaining ground. Coming up, the evacuations under way the fire communities in ruins.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When they come back in a week or two, this is what they're going to find. If you look at this home here, the only thing left standing is the staircase.



SOARES: Now a tsunami warning is in place for parts of Alaska after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. Now police in the coastal city of Kodiak advising residents to evacuate. A tsunami watch was up for parts of Hawaii. It's now been canceled. Let's bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, bring us up to date with the very latest if you could.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, Isa, when you look at this part of the world, this arc of the Aleutian Islands here is among most seismically active on our planet. We know millions of earthquakes rock our planet every single year. In this particular region home to tens of thousands of these quakes. And when you take it to this magnitude of 8.2, it is as impressive as it gets. And we often say it is not earthquakes that kill people, it is buildings, it is structures that do so.

And this quake happened at 2:16 a.m. eastern time. So, a lot of people across this region -- even in Alaska -- late into the evening and overnight hours there, people asleep and it makes it kind of a dangerous scope. As a shallow quake, 20 miles deep and about 500 miles south/southwest of Anchorage. All of these are important variables. But the quake was in an isolated area. Far away from Anchorage, far away from high population zones.

So, the tsunami becomes the prior area concern not the shaking, especially since it was overwater not overland. But you take a look, a quake of this magnitude historically produces at least one aftershock with a 7.2 magnitude. Impressive in its own, right. And then you notice magnitudes of 6.2, 5.2, you can get into the hundreds. And we've already dozens of 5 plus aftershocks occur across this region in the last couple of hours since the initial quake occurred.

But take a look at this, the largest quakes on our planet, Chile, number one, 9.5. Alaska, 1964, 9.2. Come all the way back to 2010, 8.8, again, speaks to the significance potential of this. But the USGS says based on the location, the movement of the plates here, we don't expect any damage or significant damage with this particular quake. But the tsunami concern remains high.

Now on our planet, only one quake on average exceeds 8.0 or greater every single year. This could be the one here for 2021. Notice 15 of them get up to 7.0 or greater and then then you kind of see how the numbers break down. But looking at this strong tsunami, the strong quake here, and the tsunami wave propagation models, kind of see where they end up. Right there. The tsunami warnings are right along the Aleutian chains, the islands, the peninsula. That's where we think water has been displaced as much as 4, maybe even 5 feet in spots.

But also noting that the advisories across places such as the Hawaiian Islands, the watches there have been expired and allowed to cancel because we don't think much in the way of any strong waves will make it there over the next couple of hours. So again, it could have been far worse. But at this point a scary morning and night there for folks across parts of Alaska.

SOARES: Yes, glad to hear that at least it happened in isolated areas. Thank you very much, Pedram Javaheri there with the very latest.

Meanwhile in the United States, 81 large fires are burning across 12 states, tens of thousands of firefighters as well as the support personnel are fighting the flames. Still some locals are determined to stand their ground against the blaze. More now from CNN's Camila Bernal.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the flames from the Dixie Fire burn out of control --

POLICE OFFICER: They picked up some heat signals here a few days ago.

BERNAL (voice-over): -- authorities issue evacuation orders.

POLICE OFFICER: That's why they evacuated 147.

BERNAL (voice-over): But while many of the more than 16,000 under these orders have left, others like Jason Ackley are choosing to stay.


BERNAL (voice-over): His wife and son have already evacuated. But instead, he and his brother are working on their own fire line.

ACKLEY: We're really trying to take the fuel down so we can't get it up into the crown of the trees and stuff. BERNAL (voice-over): The fire getting within about a quarter mile of the property.

ACKLEY: It was a big scare, but this is everything. This is all we have. This is what we fight for. I mean, if we don't have this, where are we going to go?

BERNAL (voice-over): The almost 218,000-acre fire has already destroyed almost 40 structures and over 10,000 others are at risk.



BERNAL: People here in Indian falls had enough time to evacuate. But when they come back in a week or two, this is what they're going to find. If you look at this home here, the only thing left standing is the staircase. Two of the cars were left here in the driveway. Of course, they are completely destroyed. If you look here, it's just a piece of what used to be the rim of this car. Firefighters telling me they were here until the very end trying to save as many homes as possible, but it just became too dangerous.

BERNAL (voice-over): The Dixie Fire is California's largest wildfire this year, and the 14th largest in state history. With severe drought conditions continuing across the Western U.S., wildfires becoming larger and more frequent.

BAKER: We are seeing that wild land fires in California are growing in size, complexity, and frequency.

BERNAL (voice-over): It's something that Ackley acknowledges. He knows he's putting his life on the line. But instead points to managing the forest and says it's what he will do until the very end.

ACKLEY: When we see them red lights and them guys getting ready to go, I mean, we'll turn the sprinklers on, and we'll make our last-minute prayer and see what we can do. But at that point, I mean we're going to stand here together. We've already decided that from day one.

BERNAL (on camera): And these firefighters, brave men and women are spending about 12 hours here at base camp in the tents that you see here behind me, and then they're spending another 12 hours in the middle of the smoke, in the middle of flames doing anything they can to stop this fire. The Dixie Fire is being described to me as a sleepy stubborn fire, but they are expecting it on essentially with a wake up as weather conditions change. It's making it more dangerous not just for the firefighters but of course, for the people who are under evacuation orders and are still choosing to stay.

Camila Bernal, CNN, Quincy California.


SOARES: At least one person has died in southern Turkey from wildflowers raging along its southern coast. Residents have been forced to leave their homes as firefighters use water trucks, planes and anything they can to get the hands on to hold back the flames.

It is the same situation unfortunately in Lebanon, but the Army has been mobilized to stop forest fires there. One volunteer firefighter reportedly died trying to battle the blazes. The country has called on Cypress to send specialized aircraft to help the firefighting support.

Diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Russia got under way in Switzerland on Wednesday. Avoiding war and laying groundwork for future arms control were just a couple of issues where they apparently see eye to eye. As Kylie Atwood reports now, the talks got off at least to a good start.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Now the State Department called the U.S. talks with Russia other strategic civility both professional and substantive. And frankly, this is one of those rare topics that the U.S. and Russia both see as in their interests to discuss with the other country. Because both countries are working on things that the other one feels threatened by.

On the Russian side, they are building up their military might in the Arctic. They're also working on an unmanned torpedo powered by a nuclear reactor. That's something that the U.S. is a looking at.

On the U.S. side, they're also working on nuclear projects that Russia has their eyes on. So, there is a certain level of interest in terms of sitting down, putting their cards on the table and seeing if they can come to any broad ranging agreements in terms of reigning it in and bringing controls onto these programs. There are still questions however, if the strategic stability talks will also include other topics potentially in the space arena, the space race or when it comes to cyber and potential attacks on nuclear command and control in the cyberspace. That is yet to be determined. The State Department said that the working groups in these strategic stability talks will be defined and laid out in their next meeting.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Now the mask debate is intensifying in Florida as the state becomes a hot spot for new COVID cases. Coming up, the dire message from one parent in the risk facing children.

And England makes a change in COVID rules to entice some tourists to come back.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I'm Salma Abdelaziz in London, I'll bring you the latest on easing travel restrictions from the EU and U.S. to the U.K. will be back after the break.