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U.S. Hospitalizations Triple Due To Delta Variant; CDC Data Show Rarity Of Breakthrough Cases; Tokyo 2020 Olympics; Japan Records Highest Daily Increase Of New COVID-19 Cases; Some Afghan Translators Safe On U.S. Soil; Australia's Battle With COVID-19; Doctor Says Louisiana Is "Inundated" With COVID-19; Documents Reveal Roadblocks In Haiti Assassination Probe; Olympians Support Simone Biles' Decision To Withdraw. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 1, 2021 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a frightening spike in global COVID cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. We'll take a close look at that and the threat of other emerging variants.

One chance left in Tokyo, U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles withdraws from another event.

And then later --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): If I don't go out of Afghanistan, I'm counting down my end of life.

HOLMES (voice-over): We look at the plight of Afghan translators, who worked alongside the U.S., people who gave everything for Americans during the war, who now find themselves and their families in grave danger.


HOLMES: Welcome, everyone.

The Delta variant is again sending COVID numbers soaring in the U.S. Hospitalizations across the country tripling in the past month. Most of those new patients, of course, are unvaccinated.

The total global cases are approaching 198 million people since the pandemic began with more than 4 million deaths -- 4 million. The head of the World Health Organization says the Delta variant is overwhelming clinics and hospitals worldwide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Much of this increase is being driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has now been detected in at least 132 countries. Hard- won gains are in jeopardy or being lost. And health systems in many countries are being overwhelmed.


HOLMES: Governments around the world are responding to the Delta surge with greater restrictions and lockdowns, sometimes provoking bitter backlash. CNN's Phil Black reports.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Delta variant: three words repeated in almost every language in almost every country in the world. More than 1.5 years after the novel coronavirus was first detected in China, there's an alarming new outbreak in the country, spreading rapidly.

China's returning to its strict methods of containment, mass testing and locking down infected areas to try to extinguish the latest outbreak. This restrictive approach has been successful in China.

But in other places around the world, rumblings over coronavirus measures are spilling out into the streets, like in France, which is instituting mandatory vaccinations for health workers and health passes to enter bars and restaurants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm sick of the killing freedom measures of this government. And for me, the health pass is one measure too many.

BLACK (voice-over): There have been similar protests across Europe, a bitter divide in the United States over getting vaccinated and growing resentment in parts of Australia over lockdowns.

But despite recent protests, the Australian government says restrictions will continue where required. Brisbane is the latest city, along with other areas in the state of Queensland, to undergo a snap lockdown. Some people are stocking up before staying home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very important, unfortunately, in this sort of situation but I guess, you know, we don't want to end up like New South Wales, so hit hard, fast now and hoping we don't see that happen here.

BLACK (voice-over): Emphasizing that vaccines are the best way out, the World Health Organization warns, the world is at risk of losing its hard-won gains against the virus, a backsliding that is evident in countries that were once relatively successful in curbing COVID-19.

Thailand and Malaysia are experiencing surges of disease and, on Saturday, reported record high daily infection numbers.

India was slowly recovering from being a previous epicenter of the virus. It's now imposing new lockdowns in some states, where cases are once again rising. And experts warn another wave could hit soon if vaccinations don't pick up pace.

The highly transmissible Delta variant has changed the world's understanding of the pandemic, leaving countries scrambling to adapt to this far more formidable version of the virus -- Phil Black, CNN, Essex, England.



HOLMES: Now many fully vaccinated people are wondering if they can get infected by the Delta variant. The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows how unlikely that is. Some fascinating numbers here for you.

Out of more than 116 million vaccinated Americans so far, the CDC reported about 6,200 breakthrough cases of COVID requiring hospitalization. You can see there on your screen, that is just 0.004 percent.

Even more rare for a vaccinated person to die of COVID. The CDC says most breakthrough cases were among people 65 or older. Now despite the current low probability of breakthrough COVID cases becoming deadly, experts fear that might not always be the case.

New analysis by a group of British scientists indicates that, eventually, a COVID variant could evade current vaccines. And while the analysis is not peer reviewed as of yet, its content is alarming.

Scientists write that it is unlikely that the virus will be eradicated and that it's almost certain a variant eventually will emerge that leads to current vaccine failure.


Professor Andrew Pekosz is a virologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He joins me from Baltimore.

Thanks for doing so, Professor. This is a fascinating issue. Delta is dominating the variant discussion at the moment.

What makes it so worrying and what makes a variant dangerous or more dangerous than the previous iteration?

DR. ANDREW PEKOSZ, VIROLOGIST, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: When we look at the sequence of this virus, it has some important mutations that we think are going to affect the way the virus interacts with cells.

Looks like it's going to bind more tightly to cells. It has some mutations that might allow it to escape from some immunity, that's induced by vaccination. It also looks like it is a protein that works faster than other variants, what may be again more efficient at getting into cells. So all that stuff on paper makes us think about this virus as

something important. But then on top of that, we have the epidemiological data -- the numbers of cases, the spread of the virus, the numbers of hospitalized patients, particularly in unvaccinated people -- that really is the proof that this virus is doing something different from previous variants.

HOLMES: Right, interesting. And of course, we've seen several variants -- some of concern, some not as worrying. There's a lot of talk at the moment about the Lambda variant, which the WHO saying is a variant of interest in

nearly 30 countries now.

Are you concerned about that?

And are there other emerging variants that are worrying?

PEKOSZ: There are a lot of variants that are out there. It's important to note that we expect viruses, particularly viruses like the coronavirus, to mutate. So every time a virus mutates, it essentially is a variant.

What we are looking for are those signs that the variant viruses are behaving better than the previous ones and, again, we can do that by looking at the sequences or by following the viruses. There are several that are floating around right now that could be of worry.

Lambda is one of them. The B.1.621 virus, that has not been given a Greek name yet, is yet another one that has been entering in the United States causing some cases. But really right now, Delta is the focus of almost everybody that I know of.

HOLMES: In the broader picture, what do you make of the analysis that came out today by British academics, not peer reviewed but published by the U.K. government's scientific advisory group?

It says that they believe it is, in their words, almost certain that a variant will emerge that will, quote, "lead to current vaccine failure."

Do you worry about that?

PEKOSZ: I think we, as virologists, always worry about that. It's incredibly difficult to predict when or how that will happen. I think it's very clear though that SARS-CoV-2 is really going to be a disease that we are going to be dealing with from now on.

We won't be able to eradicate this disease. It's spread too far. It's too efficient an infecting humans. So eventually we're going to have to treat this disease kind of like we treat measles, mumps, influenza. We will have vaccines. We will eventually develop strong antivirals. And we will find ways to minimize the impact of this virus on human health. But will never be able to get rid of it.

HOLMES: Hopefully it can become, and I think you said this as well, sort of like a flu shot every year. Hopefully that will be the case. And the other thing I was going to ask you, how frustrating is it for you as a virologist to know that there is a way out of this with the vaccines?


HOLMES: And yet so many people have not gotten one and may never get one.

PEKOSZ: It really is incredibly frustrating, because, in all sincerity and all honesty, based on the facts, we've got vaccines against COVID- 19 that have proven to be safe, that have proven to be efficacious.

And for some reason, for not being able to really get to the level of vaccination in this country and in many places around the globe, that would really help us knock down this virus to a level that would make it really something that we can control easily.

It is a multifaceted problem. I understand that. But at the end of the day the simple message is, these vaccines work. These vaccines are safe. And we could be in a very different place right now if we moved the vaccination rate up to 75-80 percent of the population in the U.S.

HOLMES: And real quick, the world as well, the whole lesson is that variants thrive where there is spread and widespread spread. And we are not even seeing Africa, I don't think they're at 2 percent of vaccination level.

How worried are you about the slow pace of vaccinating the world, where other variants can come?

PEKOSZ: This is an incredibly important point. Viruses mutate at a set rate, a couple of mutations every time it replicates in a person. If you allow these viruses to replicate unchecked, you're just going to increase the likelihood that a mutation is going to emerge.

And then a mutation can occur anywhere in the world. We've seen that with the Alpha variant. We've seen that with the Delta variant. These mutations occur anywhere and they can spread globally because of transport.

We have to think about this pandemic at a global level and utilize these vaccines everywhere, because the next variant could emerge anywhere in the world. And as we've seen before, it can spread relatively quickly around the globe.

HOLMES: Professor Andrew Pekosz, thank you so much. We really appreciate your insights and your expertise on this.

PEKOSZ: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.


HOLMES: Israel is promising to share all the information it learns from its rollout of COVID booster vaccines. Israeli President Isaac Herzog was the first person to receive a third vaccine dose on Friday. Doctors start giving booster shots to people over 60 today. The

boosters will only go to those who received 2 shots of the Pfizer vaccine at least 5 months ago. Israel among the first countries to offer booster shots. And its campaign could affect decisions elsewhere. Israeli studies suggest vaccine efficacy could wane over time.


HOLMES: Day 9 of the Tokyo Olympics. This just in, too: Simone Biles withdrawing from the floor exercise event final. USA Gymnastics says she will make a decision about the balance beam final later this week. Joining me now is Blake Essig in Tokyo and "CNN SPORT's" Andy Scholes here in Atlanta.

Andy, let's go to you first, because of this breaking news.

What's the latest on Biles?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORT CORRESPONDENT: Biles decided not to do the all-around in the vault and the bars. She's now pulled out of the floor exercise final as well due to mental health.

Biles says she's been dealing with a case of the twisties, a word used to describe a mental block they just cannot shake, which causes them to get lost in the air while doing a move they've done thousands of times.

USA Gymnastics made the announcement on Twitter, saying Simone has withdrawn from the event final for floor and will make a decision on beam later this week. Either way, we are all behind you, Simone.

Biles came into the Tokyo games as the face for Team USA with hopes of winning six gold medals. But the only event left for her now would be that beam final on Tuesday. And if the timeline continues like we have had, Michael, we should get a decision on that sometime tomorrow.

HOLMES: Yes, a lot of support out there for her, too.



HOLMES: All of this coming as Japan is seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases on Saturday, the country reporting more than 12,000 new infections, highest single day increase since the pandemic began. Let's go to Blake Essig now in Tokyo to check in on that.

What is the latest on the COVID cases with the positivity rates approaching 20 percent? That's huge.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael. Absolutely. It is hugely worrying. Here in Tokyo and across Japan, cases are increasing and spreading faster than ever before.

As a result, Japan's prime minister, declaring an extended state of emergency order for several prefectures, across the country, including Tokyo. As we walk the streets of Tokyo and attend various Olympic events, it is clear, the sense of crisis does not exist.

This is what it looked like on the streets, lining the track on mixed relay, on Saturday. Thousands of, people shoulder to shoulder, lining the route, to catch a glimpse of Olympic action. Of course, they were not supposed to be there.

This, outside of the national stadium, hundreds of people streaming in and out, for the chance to take a picture next to the Olympic rings. For many, this is as close as they get to the Olympics.

There are people, despite the fact that there is a state of emergency, that are willing to risk it for their one Olympic moment. Clearly, health and safety remains a huge concern; that will not change.

But I attended the BMX freestyle this morning, which you guys were just talking about. Inside of the venue, it was fairly empty. Outside, during the hottest part of the day, hundreds of meters away, there was hundreds of fans lining the bridge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the action.

I can't imagine they saw much, maybe a small corner of the BMX course. But I think it's sums up how far some will go, just to get a taste of the Olympics even as COVID cases surge, Michael.

HOLMES: Defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Speaking of getting a glimpse of the Olympics, we have been talking for months about the Olympics and you have been patiently reporting from the outside, abiding by the rules. Finally, you've got to go into a stadium.

A very basic question, what was it like to be there, that massive, global event, with pretty much no spectators?

What was it like?

ESSIG: Michael, it was absolutely surreal. I went to the athletics event the other night, held in the new national stadium. That stadium, seating around 68,000 people but there were only a few hundred, people scattered around the entire stadium.

We sat in the front row, dead center, walked right up and had our pick of seats. We sat, in, arguably, the most expensive seats in the stadium that money cannot buy. Obviously, no spectators allowed, foreign or local.

They played music throughout the entire event, that helped mask the silence occasionally. When the music would stop, really, it would hit you how weird of a situation this was, that these events are taking place, gold medal events are taking place.

And the energy of these athletes, they are focused. They are competing at an incredibly high levels but no one is there to cheer them on in person. Obviously, the reality that millions upon millions are watching at home.

But it was, truly, a humbling experience. It is sad to know, the fans here in Japan, around the world, aren't able to share it.

HOLMES: I have been wanting to ask you about that, because it's a fascinating insight and a unique one. Glad you got in but fascinating to hear how weird it was. I can only imagine. Blake Essig, appreciate it, good to see you in Tokyo.


HOLMES: We will take a quick break. When we come back on the program, around 200 Afghan translators, now safely on U.S. soil. But tens of thousands, are still waiting to be evacuated. We will speak with the U.S. Army veteran about the special visa process and how slow it, is when we come back.




HOLMES: Welcome back.

The Taliban make even more gains across Afghanistan, as the U.S. troop withdrawal nears completion. Let me show you here, the map.

Have a look at that huge swaths of land the insurgent group now, reportedly, controlling, there in the red color. The speed at which the Taliban have expanded is causing concerns that the capital, Kabul, could eventually fall.

The Pentagon says around 95 percent of American forces have, already, left the country. Meanwhile, the first group of Afghan interpreters that worked alongside U.S. troops, are now on American soil. Only around 200 Afghans, made up of special immigrant visa applicants and their families, arrived at Fort Lee, Virginia, Friday.

So it is part of the 700 Afghan interpreters set to arrive in the U.S., in the coming weeks. But that number is just a fraction of the roughly 20,000 Afghan nationals, who are in the special immigrant visa pipeline -- and their families. Add them in that's about 80,000. Only about half of those are in the beginning stages of the process.

CNN spoke to Afghan nationals, still waiting their turn and living in fear of Taliban retribution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): If I don't go out of Afghanistan, I am counting down my end of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Absolutely we need to get out of the country. They are looking after us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Our future will be dark. They are going to cut off our heads too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): My family hide me and told them Ramish was gone somewhere. Then, they searched our house and I was hide inside the oven in my yard.

They burned my house and anything remained to us. All of our materials, burned by them.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: They burned your house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Yes. They burned my house.



HOLMES: Matt Zeller is a Truman National Security Project fellow, also serving in the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan. He is the founder of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit, dedicated to helping these interpreters navigate the U.S. visa process and set up their new lives here in the U.S.

Matt, good to see you once again, on this issue. We have been talking about this, literally, for, years, you and I. Some translators and their families have arrived.


HOLMES: And that's great.

But how frustrating is it that it has taken this long and, more importantly, that there are literally tens of thousands of others, who have not been processed and are still under threat?

MATT ZELLER, FOUNDER, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND: Michael, I am glad that the war has ended, it probably should have ended a long time ago. But how we end it is now what matters most. Thus far, we've been ending it in shame. We left our largest airfield with our longest wartime partner ever.

And how did we leave it?

We left in the middle of the night, turning off the power without telling them. And, we also, most fundamentally, left every single one of these wartime allies behind. We just took our troops home.

We, merely, weeks ago, had all of the people and personnel and equipment in place to save them. But we didn't use it. That is what is so tragic about all of this.

Look, I am beyond thankful the president and his team have finally taken it seriously and are doing their best to save as many people as they can and that they began this pipeline. But I fear it may be too little too late.

HOLMES: I was just about to ask you that, given what we've seen in terms of the frustrating lack of urgency and, frankly, disgraceful slow walk of bureaucracy, given the increasing Taliban control of the country, do you, realistically, think that many of those 80,000 or so other translators and family members, will, actually, get out?

ZELLER: That is my biggest fear. So the Association of Wartime Allies polled the interpreter population and what they learned is about half of them live outside of Kabul. It is about 44,000 people, is what we learned.

They are in places like Helmand like, Lashkar Gah, which, as we are speaking, may be falling to the Taliban. There is an ongoing battle, as we, talk right now. They are in places like Kandahar, Herat or, again, ongoing battles at the periphery of some places inside of the cities. I don't know how those people get to Kabul.

Thus far, they can't make the travel themselves. The Taliban controls the roads. There aren't commercial air flights, and the Afghan army is a little busy, losing to the Taliban. So unless we go and get them, I don't see how they make it to the one airfield we decided is the only place with which they can get to safety.

HOLMES: It is incredible. This, has really, been a failure of planning and of government.

How much of a kick in the guts is it to Americans, who served with these people?

Who, such as yourself, literally had their lives saved by translators?

ZELLER: These guys stood shoulder, to shoulder, men and women. They stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the most arduous and difficult of circumstances. They did it over and over again.

I was fortunate. When I was over, when my tour of duty was done, I went home. They went on to the next unit, the next mission over and over again. We made a promise, we looked them in the eye, people like me looked these people in the eye and we said, we will be there for you in your moment of need.

And now we are failing to keep that. It is the most brutal of betrayals. It feels like we have forsaken an oath.

HOLMES: It is gut-wrenching, I know. And for you very personally.

Really quick, let's try to end on the positive note, some of these guys are here, let's see how many more get out.

Is there a system set up so that those who do get out have a smooth entry into American society?

We are looking at some of those arrivals.

Is there a system to welcome them in and settle them?

ZELLER: That is the one thing that there is in place. We do have what is called, a refugee resettlement program. And these guys fall into their own special category of it. So the people who are currently in Fort Lee, are going through their final paperwork checks, medical processing that they need to do and then they will be admitted in the United States and given green cards.

At that point, the charity that has been assigned to their case is called Catholic Charities. and what they will do is help them figure out which of one of 20 cities they can pick in the United States, that they can go to, that have an affiliated Catholic Charities in those cities.

From there they will be assigned a place to live, that is already rented for them. Rent is paid for 90 days, for their first 3 months covered. And they will be provided with modest furnishings and some job assistance and placement.

Really, what they will need, is the American people to step up for them. That is where organizations like No One Left Behind have come in very well. The folks at the Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America, IAVA, have been fundamental in helping resettle these guys.

They're many other organizations in the country that are nonprofits and volunteer organizations that, really, step up and try to help them the way that they helped us, it's a sort of reverse role now.

HOLMES: I hope they have a smooth entry. I know you and others will be working to make that happen. I share your anger that this has started so late.


HOLMES: And that it is inevitable that thousands of these people will not get out and may well die because of the slow walk.


ZELLER: We have a podcast. It's called Wartime Allies. That's the hardest part about doing it. When we tape their interviews, when we talk to them over there live, sometimes it feels like we're last testaments. And it's just -- it's hard. It's gut wrenching.

HOLMES: And it is a disgrace. Keep up the fight, Matt. We will be there with you and keep following this. Matt Zeller. Thank you so much.

ZELLER: Thank you so much.


HOLMES: Incredible.

Australia has avoided more protests against COVID lockdowns in Sydney, at least for now. Next, a police show of force to sway demonstrators from coming out.

Also still to come:


AIMEE MATZEN, COVID-19 PATIENT: The fact that I'm here now, I am furious with myself.


MATZEN: Because I was not vaccinated.

HOLMES (voice-over): Unvaccinated and remorseful, a desperate warning; why more and more COVID-19 patients say they don't want anyone else to be in their situation. That's when we come back.





HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The global battle to end the COVID-19 pandemic is facing even more challenges. The highly contagious Delta variant continues to pick up speed across the globe. The World Health Organization highlights countries reporting the variant right now.

Perhaps what is more disturbing, the U.K. scientists now warning it is almost certain a COVID variant will emerge that will beat the current vaccine available for use. It was published by the U.K. government's official scientific advisory group.

The findings have not yet been peer reviewed. They say the best way to reduce the chances of the vaccine is to reduce transmission as much as possible now. That means, of course, vaccines.

Australia has more immediate concerns; existing COVID variants hitting pretty hard there. The most populous state in New South Wales, reporting 239 new cases. That matches the daily record set on Thursday.

A strict lockdown led to violent rallies in Sydney last week but now police have learned how to get a step ahead of the protesters.


HOLMES (voice-over): A perfect Saturday afternoon in Sydney, Australia.


HOLMES (voice-over): But no wedding at St. Mary's Cathedral, no children in the park. Instead, police and soldiers enforcing a strict lockdown, a lockdown that, after 5 weeks, is not stopping the spread of COVID-19. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It definitely is circulating in the younger

community, I want to stress that of the 210 locally acquired cases, two thirds, 138 cases, were people under the age of 40 years old.

HOLMES (voice-over): All roads into the city center, cut off on Saturday. Police avoiding a repeat of the violence that broke out at an anti lockdown protest one week ago. Frustration boiling over as Sydney's lockdown stretches on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at the modeling at the current rate of growth, the number of daily cases this time next month, it's truly frightening. It's in the many thousands a day.

HOLMES (voice-over): As the highly transmissible Delta variant threatens a dangerously undervaccinated population, the city of Brisbane began another snap lockdown on Saturday. Across the country, more breakouts and more lockdowns are inevitable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only about 40 percent of the people under 70 in Sydney are fully vaccinated. Now we've really got to change that. That's a really frightening figure.

HOLMES (voice-over): That means strict social distancing measures will remain a fact of life, at least until the end of the year, when prime minister Scott Morrison hopes 70 percent of the eligible adult population will be fully vaccinated. The government pleading with Australians to get protected.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: So if you get vaccinated, there will be special rules that apply to you.


Because if you vaccinated you present less of a public health risk. You are less likely to get the virus. You're less likely to transmit it. You're less likely to get a serious illness and be hospitalized and you are less likely to die.

HOLMES (voice-over): Less than 15 percent of Australians over 16 are fully vaccinated, forcing Morrison to apologize for not getting the job done or even underway sooner. And meaning that living with COVID is not an option.

The authorities now left with little choice but to enforce harsh measures no longer necessary in some other parts of the world.


HOLMES: The Delta variant causing a dangerous rise in cases and hospitalizations all across the United States. Let's have a look at the map.

The whole country now in red or various stages of red, meaning every state is seeing more new cases in the past week compared to the week before.

President Biden said quote, "in all probability," tougher restrictions would have to be implemented.

Not saying exactly what they are. Officials expect the situation to worsen as long as large segments of the country remain unvaccinated and not wanting to be vaccinated. While there has been an uptick in vaccinations in recent days, the Centers for Disease Control said, as of Friday, only 49.5 percent of the population was fully vaccinated.

Far short of what is needed for herd immunity. That data shows a whopping 97 percent of those hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID-19 are, not surprisingly, unvaccinated. Louisiana has picked up its vaccination pace in recent days. But too late to stop its current jump in new infections.

One Baton Rouge hospital is seeing the number of patients with COVID increase rapidly. Most there had the chance to get the vaccine but did not and now they are very sick and very regretful. CNN's Miguel Marquez takes us inside.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aimee Matzen struggles to breathe.

MARQUEZ: What does it feel like to have COVID?

AIMEE MATZEN, COVID-19 PATIENT: Exhausting, extremely frustrating, tiring. And the fact that I am here now, I am furious with myself.


MATZEN: Because I was not vaccinated.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Not anti-vaccine, she says she just didn't get around to it. The 44-year old is now one of dozens of COVID-19 patients in Baton Rouge's Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Her oxygen low, her doctor says she might need a ventilator.

MATZEN: I just don't want anyone else winding up like me, especially when the vaccine is so easy to get now.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Delta variant now prevalent in the Bayou State. Not only is it enormously infectious --



O'NEAL: But that viral load doesn't just mean I'm going to spread it to more people, it also measure that when I inhale somebody else's breath, I am getting a massive amount of virus.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): It is spreading everywhere, in cities and rural areas.

O'NEAL: There's nowhere safe. If you're interacting in this community, you should be vaccinated and you should have a mask on because we are inundated with COVID.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Ronnie Smith, 47, says he thinks he got it from a friend outdoors -- outdoors at a barbecue. He was planning to get the vaccine when COVID-19 got him.

RONNIE SMITH, COVID-19 PATIENT: About two days after the event, it just, like -- I had a -- I went down on the floor and I couldn't get up.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nurses here say they've watched the number of critically ill patients grow rapidly. Some anti-vaccination patients still in denial that COVID-19 is real.

MORGAN BABIN, NURSE, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Some people insist that we're lying to them about their COVID-positive diagnosis.

MARQUEZ: Even sick people?

BABIN: Even sick people.

MARQUEZ: Who need oxygen, who might be on their way to death --



MARQUEZ: -- are still denying they have COVID?

BABIN: Yes, I have patients who deny that they have COVID all the way up to intubation.

MARQUEZ: What do they think they have?

BABIN: They think that they have a cold.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Carsyn Baker, only 21, has a kidney condition. Her doctor has advised against getting vaccinated for now. She thinks she picked up the coronavirus while in a screened-in porch across the room from someone else who had it.

MARQUEZ: What does that tell you about how easy it is to pick this variant up?

CARSYN BAKER, COVID-19 PATIENT: Yes, it just kind of sucks because people like myself with an autoimmune disease, you really can't go anywhere now because just everybody's getting sick. And it just doesn't matter what you do.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Laurie Douglass has been in nursing for 35 years. The last year, her hardest. Frustration with sickness, death and the unvaccinated at a boiling point.

LAURIE DOUGLASS, NURSE, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Sometimes praying isn't enough and yell at Jesus if I need to. It's head-shaking, teeth-grinding, knees tight, standing up, just wanting to scream from the hilltops frustrating.

MARQUEZ: So a couple of things: health officials say, while there are a lot of people who are just not ever going to get the vaccine, there is a broad swath that are persuadable and to keep working on them.

The other question is, where are they on this current surge?

It is hard to say where they are, they say, because they are so busy. But other hospitals in the region have crunched the numbers and looked at it. And they believe that it will be late September before they see the crest of this current surge.

The worry there is, it will be right in time for autumn and for winter, when a whole new surge can begin -- Back to you.


HOLMES: Miguel Marquez, our thanks.

Now an investigation into who killed Haiti's president has been met with death threats. Coming up, a CNN exclusive report looks at the roadblocks facing officials trying to solve a murder mystery. We will be right back.





HOLMES: It has been more than 3 weeks now since the Haitian president Jovenel Moise was gunned down in his home. There are still major questions about who killed him and why and there may be reasons for that.

CNN has obtained documents showing the roadblocks and death threats facing officials as they try to unravel the case. Our Matt Rivers has more in this exclusive report.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The assassination of President Jovenel Moise rocked Haiti. And finding out who did it and why has become an all-consuming question on the island.

But for some of the people investigating who took the president's life, it has meant risking their own lives to do so.

CNN has obtained a copy of a previously unseen formal complaint filed with Haiti's national police, in which several Haitian court clerks, key figures in criminal investigations, detail the death threats they've received in the past few weeks.

"Hey, Clerk, you can wait for a bullet in your head. They gave you an order and you keep on doing (INAUDIBLE)," read one text message.

The threat comes from someone anonymous, angry that the clerk has not followed certain instructions about whom and what to investigate.

RIVERS: The threats appear to be just one startling example of what appear to be consistent patterns of intimidation and a failure to follow procedure throughout the investigation into the president's death.

CNN has spoken to multiple sources close to the investigation, who detailed what they believe are clear attempts to block investigators and, therefore, the public from finding out more about who killed the president and why.

RIVERS (voice-over): Starting just a few hours after the assassination, around 7 am outside the presidential residence, sources tell CNN multiple court clerks were kept outside a police perimeter for more than 3 hours after arriving, even while other law enforcement was inside.

Normally, experts on Haiti's legal system say, clerks enter a crime scene right away to officially document any evidence and to take statements from key witnesses per Haitian law.

RIVERS: It's unclear why, in this case, they were delayed. But when they eventually did make it into the presidential residence just down the street behind me, sources tell us that not one of the roughly 2 dozen or so guards present at the time of the assassination were still there, meaning no witness statements were immediately taken.

RIVERS (voice-over): Later on that day, there was a fierce gunfight between Haitian security forces and some of the alleged assassins at this building. Multiple suspects were killed, all of whom were Colombian.

Sources close to the investigation tell us court clerks were not immediately allowed into the shootout scene, which would have been filled with evidence, including, we are told, the bodies of the dead Colombians.

In an official document filed with Haiti's top prosecutor, clerks described examining the bodies not here at the shootout site but here, outside of an office building just down the road. That suggests the bodies had been removed from the crime scene before being processed. No official explanation of why that happened was given.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the leadership of Haiti?

RIVERS (voice-over): A few days later, authorities start to zero in on this man, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, as someone who allegedly recruited and helped organize some of these men seen here, the large group of Colombians and several Americans, Haitian officials allege carried out this crime. We have not heard from them publicly.

A source close to the investigation previously told CNN Sanon told investigators he's innocent. It was around this time that the anonymous phone calls started.

According to the official complaint filed with the police obtained by CNN, clerks received multiple threatening phone calls, telling them to stop investigating 2 suspects in the case and remove them from their reports.

According to the complaint, the calls were followed by this text message, quote, "They told you to stop going around searching people's houses in the president assassination case and you refused.

"You've been told to take out 2 names and you refused. We are watching you."

Sources close to the investigation tell us the clerks were also told to add unrelated names to their reports, people who had no clear connection to the crime. It's unclear who made any of the calls or sent the text messages.

And there is what happened with the FBI, special agents from the bureau invited in by Haiti's government went to the presidential residence about 2 weeks ago to collect evidence.

Sources tell us the agents managed to find a lot, including the megaphone used here.



RIVERS (voice-over): This is from the night of the assassination, where one of the suspects is keeping people away from the scene by claiming it was all a DEA operation, something the agency and Haitian officials repeatedly denied that it was.


RIVERS (voice-over): Sources tell CNN, FBI agents were little surprised to find so much evidence still at the crime scene and left wondering why Haitian authorities had not already collected it. Those sources added, they do expect the FBI will have continued access to evidence that they requested.


RIVERS: CNN has reached out to multiple different Haitian government agencies, seeking comment on this story. As of Monday night, we only heard back from one person.

That would be Haiti's top prosecutor, who told us that many people involved in this investigation have actually received death threats, including himself, and that he would try to provide more security to investigators moving forward -- Matt Rivers, CNN.


HOLMES: The military leader in Myanmar is again vowing to hold multiparty elections, this according to Reuters. The news coming just 6 months after the junta overthrew the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reuters reporting the country's military chief (ph) called Suu Kyi's party, quote, "terrorists."

Swimmer Yui Ohashi is making history for Japan. CNN sits down with the newest Olympic star. What she is feeling after winning double gold in Tokyo. That is when we come back.




HOLMES: Olympic swimmer Yui Ohashi is making her home country of Japan very proud indeed, the athlete has won 2 gold medals, a first for any Japanese woman in a single Olympics.

She dominated in the women's 200- and 400-meter individual medley. CNN's Selina Wang sat down with the champion for a one-on-one.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You were the first Japanese woman to win multiple gold medals at an Olympics and this is your first Olympics.

How are you feeling?

YUI OHASHI, OLYMPIC SWIMMER (through translator): It's surreal. And even now that the race is over, I don't even feel like I swam in the Olympics. But here I am today.

WANG: In the women's 200-meter individual medley, you were neck and neck with Alex Walsh (ph) until the very end.

What was going through your head in those final moments?

OHASHI (through translator): I was thinking I might lose. I may not be able to catch up, even up to 50 meters left. But I had won the gold medal in the first race, so I was able to relax a lot. And I told myself to try and do my best so that I could finish without any regret.

WANG: Before the Olympics started, did you think that you could take home gold?

OHASHI (through translator): Of course. I came this far dreaming of winning a gold medal. But I never thought for a moment that I could win a gold medal, even though I had imagined it.

WANG: What did those gold medals mean to you in a country that hosted the games? OHASHI (through translator): I'm proud of myself, winning 2 gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. And I believe my victory can encourage the Japanese swimming and sports worlds in the future.

WANG: You faced so many setbacks on your journey here. You faced anemia, anxiety, depression.

What emotions are wrapped up in those gold medals?

OHASHI (through translator): I won a medal at the world championships in 2017. But then I started to feel pressure. And there were times that I couldn't control it. But that experience helped me control my feelings. There were times when it felt so hard that I almost gave up swimming. But now I feel that everything paid off.

WANG: Both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have spoken up about their mental health challenges.

What was your reaction when you saw what they said?

OHASHI (through translator): There are probably a lot of athletes who have mental health problems.


OHASHI (through translator): But I hope that the world will become more supportive. I'm sure there are athletes who will be saved by them coming out. And I respect their courageous action.

WANG: These games have been very controversial in Japan but now the public is getting inspired by the incredible performance of athletes like yourself.

What do you think the legacy of these Olympics will be?

OHASHI (through translator): Athletes also had to deal with the voices of opposition to the Olympics and the question of whether or not the Olympics should really be held.

We athletes went to the Olympics with a great deal of confusion. But I've received a lot of comments from people, who said they were moved by athletes winning gold medals and other medals, seeing athletes try so hard. So I'm very happy about that.

It was a miracle for me to participate in the Olympic Games in my own country. So it was a big event for me and I hope I was able to inspire people. It might be strange to say this but, despite those who were against the games or people who are not so interested in sports, I hope I've encouraged them even a bit.


HOLMES: Good for her. I'm sure she has.

A 22-foot-tall spaceman has landed in of all places Antigua. But fear not, he comes in peace. As a matter of fact, he does not say a word. CNN's Chloe Melas talked to its creator.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called The Boonji Spaceman, a towering sculpture created by artist Brendan Murphy for the Hodges Bay Resort in Antigua. And it turns out Murphy has always had a thing for space.

BRENDAN MURPHY, SCULPTOR: I have very distinct memories of watching the space shuttle when I was in grade school. We would stop class. They'd bring the TVs in. I've always had this weird connection to these people, who are willing to get on a spaceship and just go into the unknown.

MELAS (voice-over): But getting the 22-foot, 3,000-pound sculpture to the island was no easy task.

MURPHY: Putting it in the Caribbean, that is the challenge. Because you know, the hurricanes are coming. We built it in pieces. And we put it together here in Miami, painted it -- I -- you know, we chromed it, sealed it. I had to buy formulas (ph), took it back apart, put it in crates and shipped it down to Antigua.

And then we had to reinstall it. And it forced it in six feet of concrete.

MELAS: Murphy, who says Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Warren Buffett are among his collectors, hopes that this sculpture is an inspiration.

MURPHY: It really reflects what is next, what are the possibilities. I tried to -- I tried to capture that in the works, a lot about dreaming, imagination. The future has not yet been written.

MELAS: Chloe Melas, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: That's pretty cool, isn't it?

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. Do stick around, the "LIVING GOLF" Olympic special is next. I will see you in an hour.