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CDC Says The Vaccinated Can Spread Delta Variant; U.S. Averaging 67,000 New COVID-19 Cases Per Day; Caeleb Dressel Breaks World Record, Wins Gold; U.S. Businesses Take Hard Line on Vaccines; Asian Nations Tighten Restrictions against Delta Variant; Israel, U.S. Accuse Iran of Attacking Tanker; Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney over Streaming "Black Widow"; NASA's InSight Lander Reveals New Data about Mars. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 31, 2021 - 04:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Robyn Curnow live in Atlanta.

Coming up, the pandemic takes a terrible new turn as the Delta variant surges in the U.S. Some hospitals are running out of space again.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Creating (ph) to see that people aren't thinking of themselves getting vaccinated as something that's responsible to do as a member of a community.

CURNOW (voice-over): Pushback against the unvaccinated. Some people say those who refuse the vaccine need to do their part.


CURNOW (voice-over): Plus Simone Biles, perhaps the world's greatest gymnast, is withdrawing from more Olympic events.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Great to have you along. Thanks for joining us this hour.

So the strain of the Delta variant on America's health care system is already being felt in hospitals, a grim reminder of the darkest days of the pandemic. An average of 77,000 new cases are turning up daily and trending higher.

A year ago, new cases were about the same level but trending down. The Centers for Disease Control says Delta is as contagious as chicken pox and can cause severe illness. Unlike earlier variants, a single case of Delta has the potential to infect many more people.

Health experts say unvaccinated are at most risk. And right now that's about half of the U.S. The head of the CDC says people need to adjust their behavior, as we learn more about the disease.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The science continues to change. And while that is neither simple nor easy to convey, it's my responsibility to keep the American people safe.

And as that science evolves, I evolve with the CDC, the guidance. What I will say is I continue to be humbled by this virus. I have no interest in continuing mask guidance. And the best way to stop a new variant from spreading is to have less virus out there. And the best way it do that is to get people vaccinated and to mask up until they are.


CURNOW: Global health officials labeled the Delta variant a concern, when it was first detected back in February in India, and now we're finding out how serious it really is. Here is Athena Jones with that story.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A pivotal moment in the pandemic. Internal CDC data warning the war against COVID has changed.

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, FORMER PROFESSOR, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: We have underestimated this. And it's time to consider this as a very long haul.

JONES: The new data showing the Delta variant of the coronavirus appears to spread as easily as the chickenpox, with one infected person, on average, infecting eight or nine other people as opposed to two or three others with the original COVID strain.

The stunning new document raising the stakes for everyone, including the fully vaccinated, who appear to be able to spread the Delta variant to others at the same rate the unvaccinated can.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): The more we learn about it, the more sobering it is, frankly.

JONES: Today, the CDC also publishing a study that helped drive the decision to revive their mask guidance this week, urging everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission to mask up indoors regardless of vaccination status. It looks at an outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts with 469 people were infected in July.

ALEX MORSE, TOWN MANAGER, PROVINCETOWN: 74 percent of the overall cases are among fully vaccinated individuals. And I think that came as a surprise to many folks. JONES: The latest data coming as the U.S. average is now 67,000 new cases a day. Hospitalizations up in 35 states, deaths in many states rising, too, echoes of last year.

DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, ASSOCIATE CHEF MEDICAL OFFICER, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: What the hospital feels like right now is really like we're back in March of 2020 or July of 2020.


JONES: The CDC estimating there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans. Still, the vaccinated are much safer. Vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease or death at least tenfold.

THOMAS: You cannot avoid Delta.


THOMAS: It is not possible. So you have a decision. And the decision is get vaccinated or not. And the results you are telling us, if you are not vaccinated, you have a really poor outcome.

JONES: In the case of Provincetown, only four vaccinated people required hospitalization, two of whom had underlying health conditions. No one died. Measures like mask mandates and social distancing now more urgent than ever. And some are predicting --

JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I'm predicting closures in the future because we are not going to be able to rein this variant back in.

JONES (on camera): Some are already heeding the new warnings. All 41 Broadway theaters will require vaccination for audiences, performers and staff with some exceptions for all performances through October and proof of vaccination required for entry.

Masks will be required except when eating or drinking -- Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


CURNOW: Athena, thanks for that.

And since Athena filed that report, Johns Hopkins University has updated its data. The U.S. is now averaging nearly 78,000 new cases per day, 10,000 more per day than the previous seven-day average.

Getting enough Americans vaccinated to reach so-called herd immunity will be an uphill struggle but there are signs the message is starting to get through. Right now more than 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

That's slightly less than half the country but there has been at uptick over the past week. Each day, more than 400,000 people are getting their first shot, the highest it's been since July 5th.

As the U.S. tries to convince vaccine skeptics to get their first shot, Israel is kicking off a campaign to offer booster shots. The president of Israel received his third vaccine dose on Friday, booster shots will be given to people over 60. He received two vaccine doses at least five months ago.

A government expert suggests the move after data showed that vaccine efficiency can wane over time. Israel is among the first countries to offer boosters, which might impact decisions else where.

I want to go to Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is a family physician and an international consultant for COVID testing and joins me from San Francisco.

Doctor, hi, lovely to have you on the show. Thank you very, very much for joining me. I do want to get your take on what Athena was laying out, the new study, and what came out of Provincetown.

And how does this tell you how the virus is mutating and also just how dangerous this Delta variant is?

DR. SCOTT MISCOVICH, FAMILY PHYSICIAN AND NATIONAL CONSULTANT: Well, it really is one of those things that's really shaken us in the medical world right now. Again, that data shows that there was a big group of parties and get-togethers and events up in Provincetown that had people over a two-week period, over 800, become positive.

And we ended up having 74 percent of those individuals were vaccinated. That has really, really shaken us in the medical world.

Now is it that surprising?

No. I think we've talked about it before. The virus has mutated so that it becomes so much more sticky. Those little spikes are so much more solid, that it only a few will jump on and be able to spread the disease. So we're very, very concerned about what's happening. And the CDC has adapted to the mask guidance, which the report has shown.

CURNOW: Because there is this indication that those of us who have been vaccinated could also have a very high viral load and could spread the virus as well.

But at the same time, what we're seeing is that the vaccines are working, despite the study, perhaps indicating concern. The main point is that those who got sick didn't -- those who got infected didn't get as sick as those who weren't vaccinated.

MISCOVICH: Oh, yes, we can't stop emphasizing that. Your chances of dying if you've been vaccinated is just so slim. It is very, very slim. So we want to not have that as something that changes your thoughts to say, well, why get vaccinated.

No, you need to get vaccinated because the people universally that are dying are the individuals who are not vaccinated. So, yes, I think that's very important to notify everyone that, please, please, the answer is to get vaccinated.

Now one of the things that just has really jumped up is that the study that just came out of Ontario, Canada, is very important to us. And it shows that those who were now infected are having twice the chance of dying.

So this is one of the first times since COVID has been with us now, the mutation and the variant, is now more lethal and that is very important now.


We now know that every little droplet that's coming out has over 1,000 times the amount of virus present.


MISCOVICH: Which also could be the reason why it is just so infective right now.

CURNOW: And what do you make of Pfizer and the suggestion that boosters are necessary?

It shouldn't be any surprises there, should there?

MISCOVICH: No. I concur with that. And I think if you look back at my time over the last probably eight months that I've been speaking to you all, I've been saying that I believe that all of the data shows that boosters will be necessary.

And I have come back and said also that we need to get used to more than likely boosters will be with us for years to come. We may be having our flu shot and our COVID booster as time goes on, which may also try to be tweaked a little bit to identify what is changing as the virus changes across the planet.

Now I know "Nature" (ph) came out today with a standup and saying, is it really fair to the rest of the world that the wealthy nations are going to begin a third vaccine, when we have, what, 2 percent of the underserved countries that haven't had even one vaccine?

Well, that's a decision that we all have to stand up to do. And that is get the world vaccinated. So there's no doubt the world needs to be vaccinated for this to be stopped across our planet.

CURNOW: When we talk about vaccinations again, there's been a callout across the world for pregnant women to get vaccinated. That's also very, very significant.

MISCOVICH: Another, this has been an Earth-shattering week for us in medicine. And that's another thing that's come out, where the American College of Gynecologists came out and supported the data now, showing it is safe and recommended for pregnant women to get vaccinated.

And that is also on the tail of -- I believe it was April, when the American College of Pediatrics also came out and said that the children being born to mothers who were vaccinated were coming with no problems so far. They were being born with no problems.

But children being born to unvaccinated mothers were starting to have lower birth weights and other issues. So all indications are -- and I indicate to my patients, friends, family, relatives -- if you're pregnant, please go ahead and get vaccinated.

CURNOW: Doctor, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks so much for all of the work you're doing.

MISCOVICH: Thank you, Robyn.


CURNOW: It is day eight of the Tokyo Olympics. Competitions are ongoing but the woman who is arguably the world's greatest gymnast is taking a pause.

Simone Biles has withdrawn from two more event, the vault and the uneven bars, those finals will be held on Sunday. USA Gymnastics says she may compete in the floor exercise and balance beam events early next week.

Biles says she is suffering from what gymnasts call the twisties. That's the name for a dangerous mental block, where athletes lose their sense of positioning in air. It could lead to dangerous injuries. We want to get the details from Blake Essig, who joins us from Tokyo. Andy Scholes is here in Atlanta.

Good to see you. Andy, how surprising is it that Biles has pulled out of more events?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORT CORRESPONDENT: We certainly knew it was a possibility after what Biles has been saying on Instagram the last few days, as you mentioned, she is suffering from a case of the twisties, which is a term used by gymnasts when they just feel like they get lost in the air, doing the same movements that they have done thousands and thousands of times.

She posted the videos of her practicing on Instagram, struggling, saying her mind and body are not in sync. USA Gymnastics releasing a statement earlier.

"Today after further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars. She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for the floor exercise and balance beam."

Now the floor final is on Monday. The beam final is on Tuesday. We'll wait to see if she decides to compete in those. And, Robyn, Biles also firing back at people, who think she quit, saying on Instagram, "Those people just don't realize how dangerous it is to try to land these moves on that hard competition surface."


[04:15:00] CURNOW: And, Blake, over to you now. Certainly we have seen a busy few days for you as a reporter but for the athletes. I mean some real moments of highs and lows.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean look, the Olympics are an exciting time. And you know, I actually had the chance to go to the track and field event last night and it was a real surreal experience, a 68,000 seat stadium with no one in it.

But at the same time, watching these athletes compete was incredible. And they still maintained that level of performance and excitement that would have existed if there were tens of thousands of fans in the stands. Very exciting.

And to be expected, this is the Olympics. It is exciting. But on the flip side, the COVID situation here in Japan is not exciting. Japan's prime minister says infections are increasing and spreading faster than ever before.

Over the past several days, record daily case counts have been recorded nationally. And right here in Tokyo, it's showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, just moments ago, more than 4,000 cases were reported in Tokyo. That is the highest daily total since the pandemic began.

And it's the fourth time that I have said those exact words this week. Now as a result, a state of emergency order was declared for Osaka and several other prefectures near Tokyo.

And the prime minister extended the current state of emergency order in the capital until the end of August. And as of yesterday, the vaccination rate remains relatively low, only 28 percent of the population has been vaccinated. And for now the prime minister is urging people to watch the Olympics from home and stay vigilant. Tase a take a listen.


YOSHIHIDE SUGA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Vaccinations have had a noticeable effect. But there are still some things that are very worrying. One of them is the rapid increase in the number of infections among the younger generation.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course I think the rise in COVID cases is related to the Olympics. The IOC said it's a parallel universe and it is not related. But I of course, think it is related.


ESSIG: The most recent Tokyo state of emergency order has been put in place for about two weeks and has shown little to no success in slowing down the surge in cases. Japan's top coronavirus adviser says there is a great sense of danger that there is any barely any prospect the current outbreak can be reduced.

And that's because the general public does not share a sense of crisis while infectious disease experts say the Delta variant is fueling the latest spike in cases. Some people are saying that the Olympics are also playing a role.

And I've personally seen tens of thousands of people outside of the national stadium, you know, during the opening ceremony; also just last night, there were some people kind of gathering in areas to take pictures with the Olympic rings and experience the Olympics in any way they can, which is a concern for medical professionals, as that just leads to the possibility that there's more of a spread of infection that could take place here in the next week or two.

Japan Medical Association also fears that if the surge of infection continues, the medical system will collapse and according to the head of Japan's doctors' union, who I spoke with just the other night, cases could more than triple in the next two weeks if stricter measures aren't put in place.

CURNOW: Thanks for keeping an eye on that, live in Tokyo, Blake Essig, good to see you. Thank you.

Still to come here on CNN, we are learning much more about why the CDC wants vaccinated people to mask up. The outbreak sparking the change is ahead.

Plus, frustration is growing among vaccinated Americans as COVID restrictions return across the country. They say they did their part. They got their shot. Well, we head to Los Angeles, for more on that next.





CURNOW: Stricter COVID rules and mandates are returning across the U.S. as the Delta variant fuels a surge in cases. In California, you can see where infections dramatically dropped off after January but now, they're once again on the rise.

And with new restrictions comes frustration, especially among the vaccinated, who say they did their part. Here's Dan Simon, reporting from Los Angeles.


MICHAEL BURNS, EDUCATIONAL SHOW HOST: The stakes of this seems so different to different people. DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty-six-year-old Michael Burns is angry, not because he contracted COVID but how and why he got it.

BURNS: But before we get into it, we --

SIMON (voice-over): The Los Angeles YouTube host lives in a state with one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. At least 75 percent of Californians have had a single dose.

But like much of the country, health officials say vaccine holdouts are causing a spike here with the highly transmissible Delta variant. And that has led to widespread frustration among those who have gotten their shots.

BURNS: You know, there are people who have been flaunting not being vaccinated or not wanting to be vaccinated in both Los Angeles and Southern California more generally and it's extremely frustrating.

SIMON (voice-over): Michael says he'd been cautious during the whole pandemic. In April, he got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But two weeks ago, he had at least three friends came down with the virus after attending a crowded maskless concert which became a super spreader event.

SIMON: You were thinking, I got vaccinated, I can go everywhere without a mask, things are fine.

BURNS: It was kind of our first big, you know, social outing since we'd all been vaccinated. First concert, you know, any of us had been to in a 1.5 years. And definitely the point where I think we were all feeling like things were getting slightly more safe and normal.

SIMON (voice-over): A few days later, he came down with minor symptoms. First, testing negative, then the symptoms worsened


SIMON (voice-over): And got tested again with the positive result. He's now recovered.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): California is open again.

SIMON (voice-over): Last month with the confetti flying, California Governor Gavin Newsom heralded a new day for the state's 39 million population. Six weeks later, the state along with much of the nation, finds itself in a different spot. Last month, California hit a low of around 1,200 hospitalizations. Today, there are nearly 4,000.

And state health officials saved more than 90 percent of California's population are living in an area with substantial or high levels of transmission.

NEWSOM: Right now, over 90 percent of the people who are currently hospitalized with COVID, over 90 percent are unvaccinated. And more than 97 percent of the people dying from COVID are unvaccinated. As I've said many times before, you'll either get the vaccine or COVID. And I'll tell you which one of those can kill you.

ANN RODARTE, LOS ANGELES COUNTY RESIDENT: There's no joy. I'm not joyous anymore.

SIMON (voice-over): The euphoria felt just weeks ago is evaporating.

RODARTE: I do think it's disappointment because it was a time for people to come together and they're not.

PAULA STEWART, LOS ANGELES COUNTY RESIDENT: Angry and just disappointed and scared, you know, this is not going away.

SIMON (voice-over): The case is causing worrying about school and office reopenings and many of the vaccinated fearing for their children who are too young to get the shot.

BURNS: I feel like there's been enough time for everyone to learn the stakes of the pandemic. And I find it frustrating to see that people aren't thinking of themselves getting vaccinated. As something that is responsible to do as a member of a community. And to approach health in the community later, thinking about it as, really selfish terms.

SIMON: Here in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California, a number of bars and other venues will require vaccine verification for entry. Of course with the Delta variant and the CDC guidance, it's unclear how effective that mitigation will be.

Health experts continue to stress that marching is key to all of this and indoor masking is once again required in Los Angeles County -- Dan Simon, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Thanks, Dan, for that.

The Biden administration takes aim at the Delta variant by ramping up calls to the unvaccinated to get the shot before it is too late. More in detail just ahead.





CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow live in Atlanta.

Many hospitals around America are beginning to strain under surging COVID cases. An average 77,000 new cases are turning up daily and trending higher. Many of the new infections are due to the Delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control says Delta is as contagious as chicken

pox and can cause severe illness. Unlike earlier variants, a single case of Delta has the potential to infect many more people.

President Joe Biden says tougher COVID restrictions are likely on the horizon to combat a surge of infections and hospitalizations. It comes as the CDC releases new information about vaccinated Americans and the highly transmissible Delta variant. Here is Jeff Zeleny with that.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, telling CNN, "I think people need to understand that we're not crying wolf here. This is serious."

Health officials now saying the Delta variant can spread far wider than initially thought. With each infected person able to infect five to nine others.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It spreads more than twice as easily for one person to another and it's spreading rapidly. It is really just across the country. And that is just the fact.

ZELENY (voice-over): While people who have gotten their COVID shots are far less likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized, the CDC also now making clear the variant can be spread through those who have already been fully vaccinated.

Walensky calling the finding concerning and a "pivotal discovery leading to CDCs updated mask recommendation."

JEAN-PIERRE: It was clear that vaccinated people have the ability to transmit and action needed to be taken quickly and that's why they did it.

ZELENY (voice-over): This month is drawing to a close is a turning point in the pandemic but not in the way the White House had hoped. During the July 4 celebration, when the President proudly held progress in the fight against coronavirus.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That's not to say the battle against COVID-19 is over. We've got a lot more work to do.

ZELENY (voice-over): And now, that sounds like a dramatic understatement, with August just around the corner in a dramatic spike in COVID cases and limited progress on vaccinations.

After refusing to say the word mandate for months, the President now acknowledging he asked the Justice Department to see if it was legal for businesses to require the vaccine. The answer he said is, yes.

BIDEN: They can. Local communities can do that, local businesses can do that. It's still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don't know that yet. ZELENY: And White House officials saying that a national vaccine requirement is not on the table at this time but, clearly, leaving a bit of wiggle room there if this pandemic worsens.

Now as President Biden left the White House Friday evening for a weekend at Camp David, he was asked if tougher guidelines and restrictions are coming.

He said, "Yes, in all probability" -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


CURNOW: Well, the CDC director encourages Americans to do their part, to mask up and get vaccinated. The U.S. could get the COVID surge under quickly, under control more quickly.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: What I think is really clear is that, if we unify together as a country, if we take the steps that are necessary to squash the amount of disease that is there now, we can do so in a matter of weeks.

If we all get vaccinated, if we wear masks until then, there is so much that can be done in such a short period of time to squash this.


CURNOW: COVID hot spots are popping up across the U.S. and, as we mentioned earlier, one outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, led the CDC to update its mask guidance. Kristen Holmes has more on this pivotal discovery.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been called the canary in the coal mine in outbreak in a popular vacation destination, 469 state residents infected, largely, by Delta. And most of those testing positive, fully vaccinated.

The cluster of COVID cases in Provincetown, Massachusetts, is now driving new guidance from the CDC.

ALEX MORSE, PROVINCETOWN, M.A. TOWN MANAGER: Seventy-four percent of the overall cases are among fully vaccinated individuals.


MORSE: And I think that came as a surprise to many folks that, you know, we were told that if you're vaccinated, you're most invincible and I think we wrongly -- many people wrongly assume that.

K. HOLMES (voice-over): Local officials say there have been at least 882 cases linked to this cluster overall. The research showing infected people who have been vaccinated held a similar amount of the virus, also known as viral load, as those who were unvaccinated, shedding light on the agency's decision to issue new mask guidance, recommending most fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Unmasking indoors for fully vaccinated people is no longer a safe choice. Especially if you have people at home like kids or elderly parents who are higher risk who are unvaccinated themselves.

K. HOLMES (voice-over): This study comes after leaked internal documents showed the virus could spread faster and to more people.

DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UCSF DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE: We have to get more people vaccinated because this virus is better at its job than the original.

K. HOLMES (voice-over): The cluster, highlighting the importance of getting vaccinated. Among that Provincetown group, no deaths and only four instances of hospitalizations, two of which had previous health conditions.

MORSE: This Delta variant is yes, highly transmissible, more contagious, more likely to have a breakthrough infection. But you're not -- it's not likely you're going to be hospitalized and you're certainly not going to die.


CURNOW: That was Kristen Holmes reporting there.

But if vaccinated people can infect others, how easy is for the virus to jump from one person to another?

An expert from the University of Minnesota spoke about that to CNN's Anderson Cooper and he said one way to think of the virus transmission is to compare it to secondhand smoke. Take a listen.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: If you want to understand what an aerosol is, just think of somebody smoking. If you can smell the smoke from their cigarette, that's the very same as if you are breathing in the air that they exhale out that has the virus in it.

So, we do have examples of where we do have transmission in outdoor activities where people are close together for an extended period of time. But clearly indoor air is by far the biggest challenge as you and I both know, if I were in a room right now, if you were smoking, you would smell it and fill it very quickly.

And so that's what people have to understand. If you can smell a cigarette in the location you're at, then you're breathing someone else's air that may have the virus in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: The so-called happiest place on Earth is taking no chances with COVID-19 on its staff. Disney is requiring all salaried and nonunion hourly employees at its U.S. sites to be fully vaccinated. The company says those who aren't vaccinated and working onsite have 60 days to get the shot.

And the employees working from home will need to show proof of vaccination before returning to the workplace. Disney is also requiring new hires to be fully vaccinated and says it is discussing the changes with union representatives.

And the Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago is requiring masks in all indoor spaces starting today. Organizers say that includes merchandising stores, two small hospitality lounges, the box office and wristband health tents.

They say they're following guidance from the city's department of health. Tens of thousands people usually attend the popular four-day event, which began on Thursday and runs through Sunday. Chicago has been experiencing its own surge in COVID cases recently.

And health officials in China are implementing new restrictions after 55 new cases were reported on Friday in six provinces. Some of them are closing tourist sites and banning mass gatherings.

And some have even begun mass testing, including tests for tourists. This comes as several other Asian countries are already taking action to try to stem further outbreaks. Here's Michael Holmes.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the warehouse of a Bangkok airport, nearly 2,000 cardboard beds will soon become a field hospital for COVID patients. Thailand's capital already under lockdown as the country reports record new infections this week.

It's just one of several Asian nations seeing dramatic renewed outbreaks and imposing measures to fight a new wave in the pandemic amid a spreading Delta variant. South Korea and Vietnam seeing an all- time high of daily infections in the past week. Tight curbs on public activities and movement in both countries, wrestling to contain outbreaks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

M. HOLMES (voice-over): On Friday, the Philippine president approved a lockdown in the Manila region. It's expected to cost the economy some $4 billion as the country battles one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the region.

In India's southern state of Kerala, residents prepare for a lockdown in the country's coronavirus hot spot. Overall, India has seen new infections largely level off since a devastating surge in late May. But Friday saw the most new cases in 3 weeks.

[04:40:00] M. HOLMES (voice-over): India's new cases, however, surpassed by Indonesia, which has become Asia's COVID epicenter. On Wednesday, Indonesia saw more deaths than any other day of the pandemic.

Leaving loved ones to mourn those lost, as coronavirus sets grim records across the region -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


CURNOW: Droughts in the Western U.S. are getting worse and so are wildfires. We have the latest from our meteorologist. That's ahead.




CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Israel and the U.S. are blaming Iran for an attack on an oil tanker that killed two crew members. According to the crew, a drone exploded into its super structure Thursday off the coast of Oman. The Japanese owned ship is connected to an Israeli billionaire.

Israel's foreign minister says the attack deserves a harsh response. We want to go to Nic Robertson, senior diplomatic editor.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, is saying is that Israel (sic) is a threat not just to Israel's interest but to the world at large, that it's exporting terrorism and a message that Israel has had for a long time.

And this does seem to be an escalation in that confrontation that Israel is receiving from Iran at the moment. An Iranian television channel today, without attribution of named sources, said this was a strike against -- essentially in response for Israel attacking an air base inside Syria.

Now the details, you know, have been a little bit sketchy. But we are beginning to get a much clearer picture, U.S. Defense officials, who have been aboard the ship, they have said there is very clear evidence of a drone attack on the ship. They're escorting it to safe harbor.


ROBERTSON: The State Department says it is working urgently to find out precisely what happened. The British foreign secretary said he is deeply concerned about the situation. The British MOD said, the minister of defense, said that they're aware of this happening off the coast of Oman.

And it does seem to be potentially the second strike against a tanker that was perceived to be operated by this Israeli billionaire through his company, Zodiac, his management company, Zodiac. So the bigger picture here is I think perhaps enshrined in the fact

that one of the people aboard the ship was a security agent, a British security agent, part of a security team, on board that ship.

So clearly, the ship was aware of a potential threat against it and that's the emerging picture here, that threat from drones, apparently operated by Iran, now causing death and super structure damage to oil tankers.

CURNOW: OK, Nic Robertson there in London, thanks for the update. Good to see you.

A dire drought in the Western U.S. is getting worse and it's fueling massive wildfires in the region. Officials say dozens of large, active wildfires have burned almost 2 million acres across several states. This comes after months of record-breaking hot and dry temperatures.

The nation's largest fire, Oregon's Bootleg Fire, is only 56 percent contained.


CURNOW: A new kind of superhero civil war. On one side, a Marvel movie star. On the other side, a media giant. And now a lawsuit involving their big summer movie, "Black Widow." That is just ahead.





CURNOW: Superhero versus media giant, Disney fires back against a lawsuit filed by one of Marvel's biggest stars. Scarlett Johansson, who plays the superhero Black Widow in the movie of the same name, saying Disney breached the contract by releasing the film on Disney+ streaming platform and in theaters.

Johansson argues her salary was to be partially based on the film's box office haul. Disney says the lawsuit has no merit whatsoever, saying, "Disney has completely, fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract and, furthermore, the release of "Black Widow" on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date."


DOMINIC PATTEN, "DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD": They waited a couple of hours. And they came back with a full, I'd say Praetorian Guard, if not more, attack on Scarlett and her lawsuit. Very, very noticeably not only coming across with her character, comment about her, some would say an attack, as her agent has said Brian Lord (ph) at CA (ph) has said, but also outing her salary of $20 million. So basically, saying you're cold-hearted and you're incredibly well

paid, what's your problem?

And that means that this is more than a civil war, this is an all-out DEFCON-1 war. She is going up against the giant, against the empire. And they are going to say simply, as their statement already laid out, which was kind of their defense, without their own filing of a rebuttal, is, we had to do this, circumstances were changing.

In so many contracts with people, you will find things like, like act of God type stuff. I'm not quite sure they are going to use the pandemic like that but it's going to be very hard for Scarlett to say, yes, you did change the goalpost.

But you did it in a way that was unfair. They're simply going to say the world's goalposts changed, we had to make a move with it.


CURNOW: The film has made about $300 million worldwide since the release on July 9th.

And NASA scientists are getting fresh insight into the makeup of Mars. That's thanks to new research into seismic activity on the Red Planet.


CURNOW: Kristin Fisher has more on the latest discoveries.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Touchdown confirmed.


KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three years after NASA's InSight lander touched down on Mars, it has delivered the information, that it was sent to collect from millions of miles away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is definitely data that we've been waiting decades for.

FISHER (voice-over): For the first time, scientists have mapped the interior of another rocky planet. They discovered a (INAUDIBLE) crust and the biggest surprise, a larger, lighter and more liquid core than earlier estimates. For comparison, Earth's core is much more dense, meaning the Martian core is at least partially made of different elements.

FISHER: Why is this important?

Why should Earthlings care about the composition of Mars?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It allows us to take our theories of the formation of rocky planets in general and the Earth in particular and understand how our planet formed out of the initial solar nebula and how it changed from just a ball of gray indistinguishable meteoritic material, to the diverse planet we have today with oceans and continents.

FISHER (voice-over): On Earth, there are earthquakes. But on Mars, they're called Marsquakes. The InSight lander's cutting-edge seismometer spent two years measuring them and tracking the seismic waves rippling through the Red Planet.

While NASA's other active robot is focused on the surface. The Perseverance rover is expected to collect its first Martian rock any day now. But for the first time in history, NASA has company.

In May, China became only the second country in the world to successfully land a rover on Mars. NASA administer Bill Nelson testified to Congress that the images beamed back from the rover should be a wakeup call.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We are suddenly realizing that we don't own all of this. And it is a very aggressive competitor.

FISHER (voice-over): Kristin Fisher, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: And I'm Robyn Curnow, thanks for joining us. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @RobynCurnowCNN. I will be back with more in just a moment.