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Weekly Vaccination Rates Rise Over Past Three Weeks; At Least 10 Wounded In New York City Mass Shooting; New School Year In Atlanta Sparks New Debate Over Masks; Going Back To School Amid COVID-19; American Raven Saunders First To Protest On Medal Podium; Olympian Asks For Political Asylum In Japan. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 1, 2021 - 18:00   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: I'm Phil Mattingly in Washington in for Pamela Brown tonight. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

More Americans rolling up their sleeves and buying into the most simple of truths about the pandemic, the vaccines work. The number of new shots given is still rising. The CDC now reporting that more 700,000 Americans got a dose of vaccine every day in the past five straight days. Still, just shy of half the country is now fully vaccinated. But tens of millions of people still unvaccinated are vulnerable to the more contagious delta variant and new cases are climbing.

Take a look at this map. All of those states you are seeing in dark red have new cases jumping at least 50 percent compared to the week before. Hospitalizations, deaths, they are also surging. So health officials are stressing this number. More than 99.999 percent of people fully vaccinated will survive a breakthrough infection. But without more people vaccinated, a new warning today from the nation's foremost infectious disease expert.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't think we're going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter. But things are going to get worse.


MATTINGLY: Now, nowhere are the numbers more alarming that in the state of Florida. That state accounts for nearly one in five of all cases in the entire country. CNN's Randi Kaye is in Riviera Beach. And Randi, how are public health officials dealing with yet another spike?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are trying to keep up, Phil. Really, that is the bottom line, because if you look at these numbers in the past week, more than 110,000 new cases here in the state of Florida. And a daily average 15,818 cases per day.

So I just wanted to take you back to July 12, of 2020, this is like day deja vu. My producer looked this up for us, 15,000 cases on July 12th in 2020. So here we are again talking about the same number of cases per day. And if you look at yesterday here in the state, we actually set a record for the most new cases in a single day since the pandemic began, 21,683 new cases.

And in terms of the numbers and percentages of Florida compared to the rest of the country, 19.2 percent of all the COVID cases reported in the U.S. last week were from the state of Florida, many of them here -- in fact, most of them here in South Florida. We are edging closer to the highest average of cases that we saw in January.

And also Florida now just under 50 percent vaccinated, 49 percent of the population here is vaccinated, and it is the unvaccinated who are getting sick, they are ending up at the E.R., they are ending up in the ICU, many of them ending up on ventilators.

We spoke with some unvaccinated patients on the COVID ward at a Jacksonville hospital, Baptist Medical Center recently. They were all on breathing machines, struggling to survive. And this is what they told me about not getting the vaccine. Listen to this.


KAYE: You were more concerned about the vaccine than the disease and now you say you regret it.

MARIBEL: Yes, exactly that's correct. That's right.

KAYE: You wish you had gotten the vaccine.

MARIBEL: Yes, exactly.

KAYE: You probably wouldn't be here?

MARIBEL: Exactly.


KAYE: And all of those patients who were unvaccinated that we spoke with who are sick now, they all said they all plan to get the vaccine if they do recover and get out of the hospital.


Now, looking ahead to schools reopening here in this state, the governor has said that there cannot be a mask mandate in schools here. We know that children under 12 are not eligible yet for the vaccine and their numbers are spiking as well, 10,585 new COVID cases in the last week for children under 12. The positivity rate for children under 12 is 18.1 percent. The state positivity rate is 18.2 percent. Now, I said, the governor here is not going to allow a mask mandate. He said it's freedom of choice for parents, if they want to mask their children, then they can, but it should not be mandated the issue in executive order, saying so. And if schools failed, defy that order, they risk losing funding. They could be ineligible for grants. So it's certainly a situation for the government here against many parents who might want their children masked in the classroom. Phil?

MATTINGLY: And, Randi, so many stories of those infected now wishing they had gotten the vaccine. Great reporting as always. Randi Kaye, thank you very much.

Now, let's get to a doctor who is on the front lines in Florida. Dr. Murtaza Akhter is an Emergency Physician at Kendall Medical Center in Miami, as well as Florida International University. And, Doctor, you are on CNN last summer, I remember watching that, as you dealt with a tremendous surge in Arizona. What are you seeing now in Miami?

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes, I don't know. It feels like Groundhogs Day but even worse, significant spike. I don't know if I ever seen it like this. I think part of Asia was last summer people were trying to avoid the E.R.s unless they were sick, may be too much so.

But now a lot of people are acting like, well, we're coming out of this pandemic, and so we've got those normal people are coming to E.R. as well as massive surge in COVID cases. And it's a kind of a double- whammy.

On top of that, during of the pandemic, a lot of nurses, et cetera, have quit. So we have got a shortage even for normal terms. Add to that is COVID surge, it's massive delays in the hospital, very, very stressful shifts. And I'm saying that as somebody who has been doing this for a number of years.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I would assume you have a very long list here. But as you see this cases climbs, what are your biggest concerns right now on the ground?

AKHTER: Well, my concern is we know that delayed care leads to poor outcomes. I hate to put it that bluntly. But when there's that massive of delay, regardless of whether you have COVID or you have a heart attack or infection, if care is delayed, outcomes are poorer. We're doing our best to not let that happen but there's only so much you can do when there's much of a backup, that much of surge in patients and a shortage of staff. My fears of the outcome will be poorer, not just with people but for everyone else as well.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And this is an important point. And I want to kind to get your sense of things. What -- can you explain the scale the difference in severity of COVID symptoms between those who are vaccinated and have breakthrough cases versus those who are unvaccinated?

AKHTER: Well, it's almost a little bit of a hard comparison because I have yet to hospitalize a vaccinated patient. As a matter of fact, I've yet to see a patient come into E.R. at all with COVID symptoms who are vaccinated. We know some will get little symptoms, some of them are mild or some of them may asymptomatic. I have yet to have a patients, either in Phoenix or Miami here throughout this whole pandemic, who has come in feeling sick with COVID and been vaccinated.

So I can tell you the difference. It's zero versus everyone else.

MATTINGLY: That's it. There you go. That will do the trick. Among the unvaccinated people you're treating, we are hearing this a lot. Are you hearing regrets that they did not listen to the science on the vaccine?

AKHTER: Yes. It's, unfortunate that people get regret only when they were personally infected or their love ones are. You would hope that people would see what's happening around them and care a little bit more, but I'm also seeing plenty of people who don't have regret. I know that's ironic.

There are a lot of people coming in sick, pleading for help, and yet you're refusing to vaccinated even we bring it up in conversation there. It's a tough nut to crack, but if you can imagine it's frustrating for us, when we have a treatment, one better than we anticipated and people still refuse to take it and yet come to the E.R. for help. It's very ironic and it's dangerous too.

MATTINGLY: Yes. One thing I would ask, now that you're in Miami, Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis, has issued an executive order that forbids schools from implementing a mask mandate. Given schools are about to restart again, and what you're seeing on the ground. What's your sense of what that will mean?

AKHTER: Listen, if everyone were vaccinated, maybe we wouldn't need masks. But we know not everyone is and nobody under 12 is. It's ironic because last summer, a lot of governors were saying, we're not going to do any mandates, every community for itself. And now the opposite is happening, where governors are saying, no, you are not allowed to mandate anything, only I can determine that.

So I find ironic to see the least, but sticking of the science of it, the only way of preventing transmission, if you're not vaccinated, is by distancing and by masking, as simple as that.

MATTINGLY: Indeed. Dr. Murtaza Akhter, thank you very much, sir. You're in Arizona now, Miami unfortunately doing the same thing all over again.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says enough people are vaccinated to prevent lockdowns, but things will get worst. Are shots and mask enough?


I'll ask President Biden former senior adviser for COVID response, Andy Slavitt.

Plus, new recommendations this week for pregnant women to get vaccinated. There is a lot of misinformation out there about this right now. We're going to cut right through it.

And school starts as early as tomorrow, whether it's back to the classroom, or back in front of the computer. Two former teachers with tips on starting off the school year on the right foot.

Plus, it's a very rare Sunday session in the United States Senate. Lawmakers are trying to finalize that $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Will it really create jobs? U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh joins me next to break it all down.


MATTINGLY: As most of the U.S. contends with COVID surges, the entire country is facing a spike in gun violence. And last night, New York City became the latest site of a mass shooting. Police say at least ten people were hurt in a gang-related shooting in Queens.


CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now. Polo, what are we learning about what happened here?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's another example of indiscriminate gang violence that has left innocent bystanders injured. So here's what the NYPD says when down yesterday at neighborhood Queens. They say that two men walked up to a large crowd there in a Queens neighborhood brandishing firearms. And at one point, they opened fire. They ended up injuring about ten people. We should mention, Phil, all of them sustained only nonlife threatening injuries. So it's assumed they're going to pull through.

But the gunmen then also -- you can see in the surveillance video, they then flee aboard two scooters who are being driven by two men. So basically what investigators are looking are four people that they believe were involved here. Investigators say only three of them, only three of those ten who are injured were actually members of a local gang. The rest are being described by investigators as, quote, non- intentional targets.

The NYPD chief detective speaking earlier today, calling attention to several reoccurring common themes that we've noted in several incidents, one of them gang members with guns, obviously, the second scooters being used as getaways and, lastly, and really a big disturbing part here, unintended targets that are getting hurt.

So we heard from the chief of detectives and also from a local city council member who are growing increasingly frustrated at this level of violence that continues to happen not just here in New York but throughout other large major cities, infect the Gun Violence Archive noting that this shooting was just one of five, Phil, that took place yesterday throughout the country.

MATTINGLY: Yes, big cities across the country. Polo Sandoval is been all over this. Thanks so much Polo of your reporting.

Now, it could be any minute now. As the U.S. Senate maybe don't take that bet but the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure introduced -- could be introduced on the floor of the U.S. Senate after senators had spent the day trying to finalize the text of what we expect to be a 2,000-page bill. Then it gets harder, debate, amendments, floor votes, House process as well.

But the White House and several lawmakers are very confident it will pass ahead of the fast approaching August Senate recess.

Now, here to discuss this very crucial piece of the Biden agenda, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your time, sir. This will be the most sweeping infrastructure package since, I think, the Interstate Highway system.

I think one of the questions though the people are trying to figure out, we've all been talking about big numbers, or Senate procedure, or different provisions, kind of brass tacks. What's the job impact you're going to expect and given the fact it's spread over several years, how soon?

MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Yes, we're going to see probably if this bill passes -- when this bill passes, I should say, you know, potentially up to 2 million jobs per year created. Part of those jobs will be infrastructure jobs, that will be physical jobs working on the infrastructure of our country. And then off of that will be a spinoff of our economies in cities and towns all across America that has that connectivity whether it's through rail, or through roads and bridges.

MATTINGLY: One of the questions that, you know, I get a lot from folks on the House side. I'll start with this. This looks on a decent track in the Senate right now. I don't want to get into the kind of procedure and back and forth on Capitol Hill, but you're still going to need to have the votes in the U.S. House as well to be able to get this to the president's desk where a number of progressives are saying, look, this falls short on a number of things particularly on a climate side, clean energy side, some of the manufacturing piece as well. What's kind of your pitch to them?

I know you reach out to lawmakers. What are you telling them if they raise concerns here?

WALSH: I mean, I think you still look at this bill, it's still one of the largest bills that will pass the United States Senate and Congress that's ever happened in an infrastructure bill. There are lots of good pieces of this bill when it comes to the environment. There are lots of good pieces when it comes to job creation, clean drinking water, broadband.

And I think that when you think about this, certainly we would all love more in the bill and the bigger bill. But it's legislation and it's compromise and we are able to sit down -- the president was able to sit down with Republicans and Democrats and come up with this compromised bill. 70 percent of the American population likes this bill, they all likes what they're seeing. And I think that we need to continue to move forward as well as on the other bill as will. And the president has been very clear that he wants to see both of the bills passed. MATTINGLY: I want to talk to you about COVID and what we've been seeing across the country over the course of the last couple of weeks. This morning, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis laid out his concerns about the surge impacting the economy. Watch this.


NEEL KASHKARI, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF MINNEAPOLIS: Right now we have 7 to 9 million Americans who are still out of work that we need to get back into the job market. We believe that they're out of work because they've been nervous about COVID because of child care issues, because of these enhanced unemployment benefits.

So I was very optimistic the fall would be a very strong labor market with many of those Americans coming back to work. That's still my best case scenario. But if people are nervous about the delta variant, that could slow some of that labor market recovery.


MATTINGLY: Mr. Secretary, I talked to Jerry Bernstein, one of the president's top economies yesterday about this.


I want to get your sense from how the team feels in terms of, are you seeing that this current surge may end up slowing our recovery, that's been very robust over the course of the last several months.

WALSH: Oh, it certainly has. I mean, the president's economic plan clearly is working and is obviously concerned of the delta variant. As a former mayor, I'm concerned for the delta variant in cities and towns all across America. I'm concerned as the secretary of labor, as the president, I know, is concerned.

And you know we have 80 percent of seniors vaccinated in this country, 60 percent of adults vaccinated in this country. It really is about getting people vaccinated, because to keep us safe and to keep our economy moving.

The last two months, we have seen the largest growth in restaurants and hospitality. Those are the hardest hit areas. If this delta variant continues to grow, and we have to go back to a situation where cities and towns across America shutting down, that's only going to hurt our small businesses in a big way that it already has.

So we need to do everything we can to try and get the delta variant somewhat under control. And I'm asking people to rethink their position on getting vaccinated. If you decide not to, please rethink it. We've seen some large states now, some areas that vaccinations are very low a couple months ago, that the highest vaccination rates in the country right now in the last two weeks because of the delta variant.

MATTINGLY: I want to ask you a little bit about that because the president moved this weekend to require federal workers to attest to whether or not they have been vaccinated. And I know, it's not a mandate, and I think it's very clear but I know from behind the scenes, some in the labor side of things were a little concerned about the process, either it was moving too fast or they were concerned how their members would react. I know you were one of the point people for the administration when it comes to labor unions, labor organizations.

What's kind of (INAUDIBLE) how have you explained this to them and how you've tried to kind of get them aligned with where you guys want to be here?

WALSH: I think it's important that the president is pushing vaccines because it's keeping people alive and keeping people safe. And that's what we want to do here. You know the president gave an option here, either get vaccinated or we're going to have lots of testing.

And that, quite honestly, is where we need to be right now with the delta variant. If we saw a lots of testing a few months ago here in the United States of America because we different have the vaccines. Now that we have the vaccines we've seen less testing. And now in the federal government to get people back to work and keep them safe, we're either going to ask them to get vaccinated or we going to be tested often.

MATTINGLY: And just to jump off to that a little bit, I know the administration said, you guys want this to serve as a model for the private sector. And we've seen -- private sector kind of have seen the biggest Wall Street and Silicon Valley as well start to fall in line on this one, one particularly with specific mandates.

What's your sense of how much that's going to grow? Do you feel like that's going to become common place across the country? Does that depend by size of company? Kind of you walk us though what you are seeing here.

WALSH: I think it's going to grow. Because I think a lot of companies don't want to go back to the situation where they were in May -- April and May and June of this year where they basically weren't working. And I think that that's something that we need to continue to look at to say how do we get more people vaccinated, how do we get more people keep them healthy and safe so they're not spreading the virus.

I mean, we're at a very critical point right now where the president -- in the last five months that, the job growth has been 600,000 jobs per month. We're seeing a faster recovery. We think we've seen the fastest recovery in 40 years from the losses we had during the pandemic.

And now, we don't want to see -- I don't think anyone wants to see us going backwards and having to potentially go back to where we were before with shutting down -- shutting everything down because of a virus that is out of control.

So, again, I think it is important that companies are talking about it. They're making their employees to take the test. The president (INAUDIBLE) the test, get the vaccine. The president was very clear last week when he said vaccine or testing, you know, preferably vaccines.

Again, it's about keeping our economy moving forward. We've gone through a lot of suffering and pain this last year and a half but, honestly, with loss of life due to COVID-19, loss of jobs, loss of everything. And we don't -- we want to continue to move forward, and not backwards.

MATTINGLY: Yes. The interconnected nature of the economy and the virus is something that you just can't look away from.

All right, Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, we know you got a lot on your plate. Thanks for taking the time. New jobs report on Friday. Thanks so much for taking the time on a Sunday, sir, I appreciate it.

WALSH: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: All right. It's the last day of summer for many school kids in Georgia. But the delta variant along with vaccine hesitancy is most certainly complicating things. When we come back, two education experts will answer your questions about how to manage yet another unusual back to school season.



MATTINGLY: This week, students start heading back to school in the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area, even as the delta variant continues to cut a swath straight through the state. Right now, far less than half of the eligible population is vaccinated against coronavirus in the state of Georgia. Of course, children younger than 12 can't get a shot unless they're in a clinical trial and heightening the new school year anxiety for parents, a patchwork approach to masking around the state.

Despite a recent declaration from Georgia's Republican governor that there won't be a mask mandate for children, masks will be required for teachers and students in some districts, while other areas are making them voluntary.

CNN's Natasha Chen is near Atlanta right now. And Natasha, this is a debate that once again is getting quite ugly in some neighborhoods.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil, parents and educators are really divided about this. The school districts that are resuming class in person this week, that includes DeKalb County where we are, Atlanta public schools later in the week, Gwinnett County public schools later in the week, these districts have decided to require masks. And that has caused some problems in certain communities.

The Gwinnett County parents, for example, on Friday, some of them gathered for a protest against the mask requirement. I was at a vaccination event on Saturday in DeKalb County talking to one parent, telling her about these parents who protested. I asked her what she thought about this given her kids don't actually go to Gwinnett. They go to a different district in the metro area. But here's what she said when she heard about that protest.


STEPHANIE WATTS, PARENT: Everybody should be used to it by now, just to be honest. We've been wearing them for almost a year, you know. So I don't see the problem, but I understand they're their kids. Everybody feels different about everything. So I just know my kids will be wearing theirs.

CHEN: And are vaccinated.

WATTS: And are vaccinated.


CHEN: That push to vaccinate is so key right now. School officials, local government officials trying to give out prepaid debit cards as incentives for people to get vaccinated. And of course, a charter school in the Atlanta area last week they already started class, within a couple of days they had more than 100 students in quarantine because of more than a dozen positive cases there.

Now Governor Brian Kemp, as you mentioned, has tweeted that there would not be any lockdown or statewide mask mandate. His emergency order back in May said that if any school districts were to have a mask requirement, that it could not be based on his emergency order.

So some of the districts that have been doing it here say that this is based on CDC guidance. And back in May, when that happens the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education chair told CNN that the mask mandate at APS is part of the dress code, which is solely under the board's purview -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Natasha Chen, this is so complicated for the parents. Thank you so much for your reporting.

And it's not just Atlanta. Parents, students, teachers across the country, they have more questions than answers starting another school year in the middle of a pandemic. But our next guests are here to help.

Brian Platzer is a teacher at Grace Church School in New York City. Also with me, Abby Freireich, they are both co-founders and directors of Teachers Who Tutor. They are also co-authors of the book, "Taking the Stress Out of Homework." Now another school year starting with a lot of question marks.

Brian, what age are your students at Grace Church School, and what was the last year like for them?

BRIAN PLATZER, TEACHER, GRACE CHURCH SCHOOL, NYC: I teach primarily eighth graders. So that's 13 and 14-year-olds. And the year was chaotic and hectic. I mean, they were -- some of them were at home, some of them were in school. Some of the teachers were at home, some were at school. We taught remotely, we taught in person. And honestly, that lack of routine was I think as much an obstacle to their learning and their academic, social and psychological lives as anything else.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I want to get into some questions. Both of you are commonly asked. And I know as a parent of three, most of them are the same questions that I have as the summer comes to an end.

Abby, it's been nearly two years of remote or start and stop in-person learning. How can I make sure our kids catch up to where they should be?

ABBY FREIREICH, CO-FOUNDER, TEACHERS WHO TUTOR: So that's a question that we're hearing from parents really all over the country. The whole idea of catching up to where they should be is a tricky one because all of us are trying to figure out what it means to be wherever they should be. And part of what's going to happen at the beginning of the year is that all teachers are going to need to assess where kids are and not make assumptions that they are perhaps know where they would have been pre-COVID.

They're going to have to assess and reassess. And I think one of the most important things for all parents to think about in terms of readiness is both the academic components but also the social- emotional pieces. And one of the best things that all parents can do right now is to really encourage their kids to advocate for themselves.

So whether that's asking questions in class because they're curious about something or they need clarification or perhaps they're confused or whether they are having some kind of a social difficulty in terms of reintegration into the classroom, or just the uncertainty of the day to day, just really keeping those lines of communication open with your kids and encouraging them to reach out to their teachers can be incredibly important.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No question. It's the unknown right now. We don't know how far kids have regressed if they have at all. How they -- no one knows.

Brian, how will this school year be different from past ones pre-COVID based on what you're seeing right now?


PLATZER: I think the truth is we don't know because we are in such a position of flux at the moment. What's good is that so many educators, whether administrators, teachers, heads of divisions or learning specialists, have dedicated their summer to trying to create a flexible model where, as Abby says, we'll be able to assess the students and then meet them where they are. Whereas previous years we had that structure built in.

I think that from a parental perspective, so much of what's important is creating a structure. So even if the day-to-day school life is still uncertain, even if we don't know whether schools are going to be fully in-person, fully virtual, whether schools are going to demand masks or not, as long as parents create an after-school routine, a before-school routine, and have those discussions with their children about what is going to be expected of them the next day, the next week as much as we can forecast into the future, that really sets up children to succeed best we can at the moment.

MATTINGLY: And Abby, you got into this a little bit in your first answer. And I know a lot of parents whose kids never went back to school last year, are trying to figure out the social integration aspect of things. Is there -- you know, do you have advice in terms of as kids get ready to go back to a place they haven't been, around people they haven't been around for the better of a year, you know, how -- what's the best thing parents can do to smooth that process along?

FREIREICH: So it's an excellent question. One of the things that we've really seen is that with a dependence on technology kids have felt more and more isolated from one another so kids go into their room and they're on their iPad and sometimes they're talking to friends but sometimes they're just more involved in their own games, which has been really destructive in a number of ways for kids and their relationships.

So what we recommend now is to the degree possible where it's safe to have -- set up play dates outside for your kids or perhaps small social gatherings, and ideally you want for them to be able to be in person with other kids to have some semblance of normalcy to the degree possible, or also just spend a little bit of time perhaps with kids who they don't know as well, whether it's pursuing an outside interest, if it's an art class or maybe joining a team.

So they can really practice just communication and collaboration, also potentially conflict resolution because those are really crucial skills both in the classroom and outside of the classroom in the long run.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No question about it. Guys, I appreciate this. I think we all have so many questions right now. We're all trying to navigate the landscape where I don't know that there are any great answers. But you guys are certainly providing them.

Brian Platzer, Abby Freireich, thanks so much for your time, guys.

PLATZER: Thank you, Phil. It's a pleasure.

FREIREICH: Thanks for having us.

MATTINGLY: All right, after hearing from the educators on back to school, now it's time to ask the doc. Dr. Ashish Jha is standing by to answer your questions that you've sent my way. Stay with us.

And a quick programming note, join CNN for the "We Love New York City: The Homecoming Concert." This is a once-in-a-lifetime concert event Saturday, August 21st exclusively here on CNN.


[18:42:00] MATTINGLY: The Delta variant prompting a new surge in coronavirus cases across the country. But in the face of that challenge, one thing remains crystal clear. People who are vaccinated don't get nearly as sick and most certainly do not die at the same rate as people without the vaccine.

It's a pretty impressive figure when you actually dig into the new data from the CDC. It shows that vaccines prevent death in breakthrough cases 99.999 percent of the time. Those are good odds, folks.

And joining me, Dr. Ashish Jha. He's the dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, we asked you people's question, they've sent a ton in. I know it's kind of a confusing time for everything. We want to get straight to viewer questions. I'm going to start with this, is it still safe for fully vaccinated people to be together indoors privately without masks?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Absolutely, Phil. And first of all, thanks for having me back. If you're with a group of people, you know everybody is vaccinated, assuming no one is like having fevers and coughing on you, everybody feels well, yes, it's absolutely safe for people to get together indoors without a mask.

MATTINGLY: All right, moving on. Another viewer writes, "I'm vaxxed and live in an urban area. Is it safe to go outside for a walk, exercise without a mask?

JHA: Absolutely. We have seen little to no transmission outdoors even among unvaccinated people and among vaccinated people. I would not worry about it. You can't get it and you're not going to be able to give it to anybody else. So yes, walk outside without masks.

MATTINGLY: OK. All right. Next question, what risk does COVID pose to a 12-year-old and do those risks outweigh the risks of the vaccine?

JHA: That's a really good question. The risk thankfully of both are really low. So risk for a 12-year-old who gets COVID is low, but not zero, and certainly not to be trivialized. And there is a small risk with vaccines. We've seen a few cases of that myocarditis, that inflammation of the heart.

I have a 14-year-old. She got vaccinated. I think at the end of the day the risk/benefit is clearly towards vaccines. The benefits are clearly towards vaccines, and I would recommend all 12-year-olds get vaccinated.

MATTINGLY: All right. We have another who asked, "Can breakthrough cases result in some of the terrible long-haul symptoms that we're seeing in some of those mild cases in unvaccinated people?

JHA: It's a really fabulous question. Short answer, we don't know for sure. The data so far I would say is reassuring. We have seen some people with persistent symptoms. And most immunologist think it's less likely but I would say we just don't have definitive answer on this yet.


MATTINGLY: We have another viewer who wants to know, and I think this is a question a ton of us have right now. "We know what schools should be doing but many of us live in places where they won't be doing that kind of mitigation for COVID. Should we seriously be considering removing our healthy young kids from schools without mask mandates?"

JHA: That's a really good question. I mean, I would be pushing -- if you're in a hot zone with a lot of infections happening, I'd be pushing your school district and your governor to allow you to do masking. I think if the kid is healthy and they've made other accommodations like good ventilation, windows open, I think schools can be very safe for kids even without mask mandates. I don't think I'd be pulling healthy kids out of school for that context.

MATTINGLY: OK. On our next question, do we need to worry about getting to a variant that the current vaccine won't work with?

JHA: Yes. This is the big question we all worry about. I think most of us believe that the vaccines will hold up even against future variants but we can be surprised. And the best way to avoid that horrible scenario is to get the whole world vaccinated as quickly as possible.

MATTINGLY: OK. And this is the last viewer, I've got like 300 more, but this is the last question we've got time for. "For the vaccinated, if you do catch the Delta variant, how long do you carry and are you able to spread it, and can you catch the variant over and over again?

JHA: That's a good question. So a couple of parts to that. First is we do -- you can spread it. We know that vaccinated people can spread it. Usually when they have symptoms. And we think the period of time that they are contagious is shorter than if you're unvaccinated, probably a few days. But we don't know for sure.

And I think all the evidence so far is if you're vaccinated, you have a breakthrough, that becomes one more opportunity for your immune system to get even better at it. And so the idea of recurrent infections is pretty darn likely.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Dr. Ashish Jha, clear, concise, very helpful. He's also the same way on Twitter, follow him there because that's where I go often when the news breaks and I'm not totally sure how to read things.

Dr. Jha, thanks as always for your time, sir.

JHA: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: All right, an Olympic sprinter is reportedly told to pack her things and get back to her home country against her will. Now she's asking for political asylum. We'll have the latest from Tokyo, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


MATTINGLY: As day 10 of Olympic action gets underway, a milestone moment at the Tokyo Olympics earlier. An American shot putter, Raven Saunders, becoming the first athlete to protest on the podium after winning a silver medal.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo, and Will, tell us about what just transpired.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was striking. And I believe we have the imagery that shows Raven Saunders making an X at the podium for more than 20 seconds as a protest. According to Saunders, this symbol represented the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.

And, you know, this is obviously a major moment because there's been this real struggle between the IOC which had initially said that protests would be banned but then you had all these teams taking the knee, and now you have at the actual podium which shows that the athletes are really standing up for their beliefs and they're going to demonstrate if they think that they need to do it.

Of course, the fear is that on the other -- you know, what if somebody is demonstrating like a Nazi type of thing or like some sort of -- something that would be deeply offensive to the vast majority of people, unlike what Raven Saunders did. I think that's where the IOC is coming from but obviously we haven't seen anything like that. We've seen protests for equality and protests against oppression.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I mean, it's a great point. The back and forth. I don't know that a lot of people are paying attention to it. But between the athletes and IOC and Olympic committees, look into it, it was complicated over the course of the last couple of months.


MATTINGLY: A lot of questions going into the Olympics.

Will, this story is really chilling. We talked about it last hour. A sprinter from Belarus is in limbo at a Tokyo airport right now. And she says she's being forced to return home to Belarus against her will. What's the latest on this?

RIPLEY: It's a really interesting story because the reason why Belarus says they told her to pack her bags and go home and yanked her from the event that she was supposed to compete in is because they say she threw an absolute tantrum when she was reassigned from the 200 meter to the 4x400 meter relay that she hadn't been practicing for. I mean, Olympians are training for months and years to get up to the fitness for their specific event.

She was angry because she says the Belarus Olympic Committee was so disorganized that they didn't have enough like COVID tests for some of the members of the relay team, so they didn't make it on the trip and they tried to throw her on that event, and she got really pissed. And, you know, now she says that she's being sent back home. Listen to what she said.


KRISTINA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN SPRINTER (through translator): I asked the International Olympic Committee for help. I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent. I asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene.


RIPLEY: She's arguing that because of the dictatorship in Belarus that has crushed dissent and even arrested a dissident journalist who was flying over the country, bringing down the airliner, she's afraid that because she has spoken out and criticized the government-controlled Olympic committee that somehow she could also be in danger if she goes back.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, if you paid attention the last couple of months and beyond, it seems like a pretty valid concern.

Will Ripley, stay on this for us. It's very interesting. Thanks so much for your time.

All right. Surviving against the odds. An Indiana man spent months in a hospital on a ventilator but he's alive and he has a message for anyone still hesitant to get the vaccine. His story ahead.



MATTINGLY: New COVID cases are surging around the country and with it more people going to the hospital. More people dying. While vaccination rates are going up in recent weeks, less than half of the country is now fully vaccinated. One Indiana man is urging people to get the shot after COVID kept him in the hospital for months. He says it's a miracle he survived.


DENNY THOMPSON, COVID SURVIVOR: I just thought it was one of those things that might have been blown out of proportion and healthy people don't get sick.