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Cases Rise In Florida Teens; Delta Variant Now In 132 Countries; U.K. Analysis Shows New Variants Could Beat Current Vaccines; Tokyo 2020 Olympics; Japan Records Highest Daily Increase Of New COVID-19 Cases; U.S. Hospitalizations Triple Due To Delta Variant; Israel Rolls Out Vaccine Boosters; Oil Tanker Attack By Iran Was Retaliation; Massive Sculpture In Antigua. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired August 1, 2021 - 05:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Coming up, the Delta variant sweeps the world, causing uncertainty in almost every corner of the planet.

Also ahead, Israel is offering a third COVID dose to certain portions of its population.

Who gets them and why?

And a straight one, two, three: Jamaican woman's team makes a clean sweep in the 100 meter final. The latest action from Tokyo ahead this hour.


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

CURNOW: At 1.5 years into a global pandemic, suddenly the world is facing a far greater threat from the Delta variant. COVID moved relatively slowly across the planet, the highly contagious Delta variant is slamming everywhere. It's the unvaccinated who are getting sick and dying. The head of the World Health Organization is offering this.


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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: A sure sign of the deepening crisis, hospitalizations in the U.S. have tripled in the last month. The vast majority of those new patients are unvaccinated. Even vaccinated Americans now being urged to wear face masks again in public places, especially where transmission is high. You can see it there in red.

New CDC data shows the risk of fully vaccinated people becoming infected are saying it's extremely low 0.004 percent after 160 million Americans. For the latest, here's Polo Sandoval.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New cases of the coronavirus are rising in every state across the nation by at least 10 percent over the past week but there are glimmers of hope.

Weekly vaccinations rates are up 26 percent from just three weeks ago. And 49.5 percent of the population is vaccinated. Still far short of where the White House hoped to be by now.

And in the South, in places like Alabama and Arkansas, states with poor vaccination progress now seeing the average number of shots double in the last two weeks but the South still has a long way to go.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: As bad as things are right now in the South, they're about to get worse if for lots of unvaccinated individuals.

SANDOVAL: New cases in Florida have jumped by more than 50 percent in the past week. In neighboring Georgia, the new case rate has tripled in the past two weeks. And in Louisiana, where they had the most cases per capita last week, daily vaccination rates jumped 111 percent from three weeks ago.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): The Delta variant is a game changer and at this point it's not whether we vaccinate or mask. We have to do both.

SANDOVAL: An internal documents from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Delta variant, which is fueling much of the rise across the country right now, produces similar viral loads in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who are infected.

Vaccinated people may also spread the variant at the same rate as unvaccinated people but it's critical to know that breakthrough infections among vaccinated people are rare. And as the CDC now pushes for vaccinated Americans to wear masks indoors in many places across the country, President Biden says more restrictions could be coming.

QUESTION: Should Americans expect more guidelines coming out, more restrictions because of COVID?


SANDOVAL: And health experts agree, unless many more Americans get vaccinated things could get much worse. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we can say is this virus is doing exactly what we predicted it will do. If we can't get extremely high rates of vaccination and those rates now need to be higher than they were with the original strain because of the increased infectivity, we're going to see more and more variants, some of which will be worse.


SANDOVAL: Meanwhile, the state's governor has issued an executive order that is meant to prevent the implementation of any kind of mask mandate when it comes to schools -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


CURNOW: China is scrambling to contain a growing outbreak there. Hundreds of new cases are being identified. It's spread to 10 provinces since the outbreak two weeks ago. Steven Jiang joins me with more.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: Robyn, the latest figure was on Saturday, 78 new locally transmitted cases. That number pales in comparison to what we've been seeing in many parts of the world. But in China, they haven't seen this level of infection in months.

This new cluster shows no sign of abating, now impacting not just the airport staff but crews, tourists, doctors and nurses across the country. Increasingly we're seeing local authorities impose draconian measures we haven't seen in a long time.

Here in Beijing, they have locked down more than 40,000 residents because of just two confirmed cases. We are talking about millions of Chinese people being confined to their homes, as the government has designated over 80 high to medium risk areas.

This is happening in the peak summer travel season. We are seeing tourist attractions as well as airports being shut down, advising residents not to leave town. All of this translating to billions of dollars of revenue loss.

There is little indication that essential leadership in Beijing is going to change their current approach, which is zero tolerance towards the locally transmitted cases. That policy has worked well for them politically and economically so far. So Robyn, expect to see more lockdowns.

CURNOW: Thanks for that update, appreciate it. Steven Jiang.

Despite current COVID vaccines being very effective, experts feel that might not always be the case. Some British scientists argue eventually a COVID variant could evade a current vaccine. Now let's go to Salma Abdelaziz in London.

This is not peer reviewed, it's a scenario planning exercise essentially.

What can you tell us?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is a pre-print paper, Robyn. Very theoretical. What they did in the paper is played out a few scenarios, in which the virus would evade the vaccine.

It is very likely one of these scenarios will take place and eventually this virus could mutate to a level that it can evade our current vaccines.

Of course this sounds like a nightmare. But the good news some recommendations are already being carried out. The first is providing more vaccinations, seasonal vaccinations potentially, booster shots. We're seeing something like this take place in Israel right now.

So the possibility that these vaccinations won't be just one shot or two shots but something we have on a regular basis.

The other concern is cross contamination. The scientists in this paper were extremely concerned about this. They said it was really important for the authorities to keep holding restrictions in place that don't allow other variants to come into the country to avoid that variation developing.

The other issue is among highly vaccinated populations, Robyn. The unvaccinated among the highly vaccinated populations can become breeding grounds for the variants. So to continue to push people to go out and get immunized, that was key.

The bottom line is scientists are saying, this is a virus we are going to live with for some time. They even played out the scenario that the virus becomes something like the common cold and is less deadly. They say it's not likely to happened soon. What we need to do now is prepare for this vaccine to be around.

Realistically, for right now, this virus, it's going to be living among us. Scientists advising governments to be prepared. We are talking about the vaccine privileged, the West.


ABDELAZIZ: In the developing world, there are very few vaccinated people and it is critical we get a hold on the variants if we are to prevent them from mutating.

CURNOW: Salma Abdelaziz, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Israel is taking an extra step with its vaccinations against existing COVID variants. It's offering booster shots to some people who are already fully vaccinated. The rollout has just gotten underway. We'll go live to Jerusalem to check on the progress.

Coming up, it is day nine of the Tokyo Olympics and Japan is recording more coronavirus cases than ever. We'll talk about what's behind that jump.

Also, U.S. gymnastics champion Simone Biles is weighing her options. We'll see if we will see her compete again in the Olympics.




Welcome back.


CURNOW: Women's gymnastics taking center stage. Simone Biles pulled out of today's vault and bars event and won't be doing the floor exercise, either. Coy Wire joins us.

Good to see you.

What are the chances we'll see Biles at all?

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, good to see you as well. The balance beam on Tuesday is the only event she has a chance to compete in. And it's looking slim we'll see her again.

On Friday, Biles said she couldn't tell up from down in a practice session in Tokyo. She said what was scarier is she had no idea where she was in the air. So she had no idea where she was going to land or what she was going to land on.

When she's had the twisties, as she's called them, it's taken two or three weeks to go away. A Team USA official said there is no deadline for Biles to pull out of that competition. This is likely the last time Simone Biles will ever compete in an Olympic Games.

So the world is waiting to see if the greatest of all time, Robyn, will compete in Tokyo again. It has been a bombshell of news headlines here out of Tokyo.

CURNOW: It sure has.


CURNOW: We're halfway through the Olympic Games and Japan is counting record high coronavirus infections, more than 12,000 new cases on Saturday, the highest single day jump since the start of the pandemic. Tokyo Olympic officials say it's not their fault. Blake has the story.


CURNOW: The rising cases in Japan and the Tokyo Olympics going on. Olympic chiefs, they're saying, there's no connection.

Do you buy that?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's hard to imagine that the Olympics being held right now, Robyn, all the people out and about, trying to see these events in person, take pictures of the Olympic rings and imagine that it hasn't played a role in the increase in infection.

Time will tell but it's hard to not make the connection at this point. Here in Tokyo and across Japan, cases are increasing and spreading at a record-setting pace. As a result, Japan's prime minister has declared an extended state of emergency order, across the country, including Tokyo.

Only 259 cases involving people related to the Olympics have been reported. And earlier today Tokyo 2020 officials made it a point to come out and say the Olympics is not related to the recent surge, denying the games have created a flow of people.

But as you walk around the streets of Tokyo and attend various events, it's clear that's not completely true. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have been watching the Olympic competitions on TV from home because the events in Tokyo can't have spectators.

But I really wanted to get a feel for the Olympic spirit. So I came here. My friends were, also, posting photos on Instagram of themselves by the Olympic rings. So I wanted to take some, too.


ESSIG: While Olympic-related cases are low, it's hard to say this hasn't increased the flow of people. Hundreds of people are streaming in and out for the chance to take pictures next to the Olympic rings. On consecutive days, I've seen hundreds of thousands of people gathered together. All of this despite cases surging over Japan.

CURNOW: We've been hearing about six people who lost accreditation at the Olympics. Officials say they lost their accreditation by violating COVID rules.

What do we know about that?

What happened?

ESSIG: A total of 6 people have lost their Olympic accreditation. Four contractors had theirs pulled because of possession of drugs and two judo athletes had theirs pulled after leaving the Olympic Village to go sightseeing.

More athletes are under investigation for different reasons.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): On the night of July 30th, multiple athletes and members of the delegation were at the park within the village and they were drinking alcohol. We are aware of this fact. Currently we are investigating the situation and, based on the results, we will take appropriate action.


ESSIG: Regarding the athletes from Georgia, Olympic organizers considered this a serious violation. The playbook outlines COVID-19 measures put in place to limit the spread. The playbook states they can't walk around the city, visit tourist areas, shops, restaurants or use public transportation.

Athletes are only allowed to go between their accommodation and their competition venue. If they don't, they could face a disciplinary situation, like where people are getting their accreditations pulled.

CURNOW: Thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

A greater strain of COVID is hitting the world all at once and in 132 countries, it's the unvaccinated who are falling victim to the Delta variant.

Also Israel goes where few have gone with vaccinations and becomes a testing ground for booster shots.





CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow at 27 minutes past the hour.

The highly contagious Delta variant has reached every corner of the planet. The World Health Organization highlights the variant in more than 130 countries. More disturbing, U.K. scientists warn a COVID variant will almost certainly emerge that current vaccines won't work against. Those findings have not yet been peer reviewed.

In the U.S. the Delta variant is fueling an alarming surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations. Even states with relatively high vaccination rates are feeling the strain. In California, hospitalizations have risen 40 percent in the last week, as Paul Vercammen reports.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The COVID-19 numbers still trending up in California. More than 10,000 new cases, at last count. And more than 4,000 hospitalizations.

Now that includes mid-sized hospitals, such as this one behind me, Providence, in Tarzana. The director of the intensive care unit telling me that almost everyone in his unit has been unvaccinated.

He strongly advises everyone to get vaccinated. What he says is, when there has been a case of someone who had the vaccine and still got COVID, he does not like the term "breakthrough."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 20 years, I have taken care of patients that develop influenza after they've been vaccinated. We don't call those breakthrough cases. I would call them expected cases.

And for the past five, six months when the vaccine's been available, my conversation with my patients has always been that, yes, you could still get the infection but the vaccine protects you in terms of developing severe COVID.

The vaccine prevents the hospitalization and the death. It's kind of, you know, a seatbelt doesn't protect you from getting into a car accident. It protects you from dying or, you know, becoming severely disabled from a car accident.


VERCAMMEN: And the director of the ICU emphasizes, there is nothing patriotic, in his words, about not getting the vaccine or wearing a mask indoors. In fact, he said, just recently, a 49-year-old woman who was being treated for COVID-19 with oxygen just up and left the hospital, saying the virus is fake.

He says that's no way to stop the pandemic -- reporting from Tarzana, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.



CURNOW: Israel is entering a largely uncharted territory when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. It is actually kicking off a campaign to give booster shots to some people over 60, who are already fully vaccinated. Few countries have started offering booster shots and this may affect decision makers elsewhere.

Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem and she has much more on the story.

What can you tell us?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. That's right. In Israel anybody over the age of 60 and received their second dose of the vaccine more than five months ago is eligible to receive a third booster shot of the coronavirus.

The prime minister Naftali Bennett made the address last week and said they made the decision based on data that shows could be a drop of effectiveness over time. They have evidence that for people who received their second dose of vaccine by the end of January, vaccine effectiveness could possibly drop to as low as 16 percent.

However, they said those people were still very well protected against serious illness, something like 86 percent. Because of that data they have decided to launch the third coronavirus booster shot vaccination drive. They're aiming to get 1.5 million people the third booster dose within the next 10 days.

According to reports, tens of thousands have signed up to get their third dose of the shot already today. The Israeli president got his. And Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife also have received their shots as well.

And so far efforts are not completely ruling out the idea that this booster shot could be expanded to other age groups. They want to see what this booster shot does to this population, especially because Israel, similar to other countries, is seeing an increasing rise in coronavirus cases because of this Delta variant -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Let's talk about that.

What is the situation when it comes to cases and infections and the question of whether there may be another lockdown, for example?

GOLD: Right. So it's been now several days where Israel has notched more than 2,000 positive cases per day. And just in the last day or so there have been more than 200 people listed in serious condition in hospital.

This is compared to just a few weeks, maybe a month or so ago, when the daily rates were so low that barely anybody was talking about it. They were in the tens of positive cases a day. So they're seeing quite a spike in infections.

The prime minister said this new vaccination drive is part of an effort to prevent the closure of the economy and especially the closure of the education system. School is supposed to start here in just about a month. There's a lot of concern about what this new school year would look like, especially with the Delta variant.

What the experts are looking at is not so much the positive cases but the rate of the hospitalized, the very seriously ill. Their whole concern is to keep the hospitals functioning so they won't get overwhelmed, as they had in the previous days. That will be the determining factor about any sort of future lockdown.

CURNOW: OK, thanks so much. Live in Jerusalem, Hadas Gold. Appreciate it.

Why has Israel made this decision to provide boosters when most other countries are still taking a wait and see approach?

Earlier I spoke with the chair of the Israel national COVID experts advisory team. This is what he told me.


RAN BALICER, CHAIR, ISRAEL'S COVID-19 NATIONAL EXPERTS ADVISORY TEAM: First and foremost, the fact that in Israel we completed the vast majority of our vaccination back in January.

So right now we're in the position in which the vast majority of our elderly has been -- have been vaccinated five to six months ago. And this time that has elapsed is bringing to a peak the phenomenon of waning immunity to the level that it exists.

The second point that we have to take is, right now, Delta variant, alongside with this waning immunity, is causing a continuously escalating surge that occurs both in vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

The fact of the matter is that, for us at this point, breakthrough infections are not an exception but, actually, majority over daily infections actually take place among those vaccinated. Some of it is expected because, among adults, for instance, over 80 percent of the population are vaccinated and have been vaccinated for a while.

This is the fact, we have a surge and increase, continuous increase in the rate of severe cases. So we can't stand in the sidelines, we have to take action. Even if we don't have clear studies as to the exact effectiveness of the third dose, we are now embarking on this.

CURNOW: Your audio is a little shaky but I'm going to keep on going. I really do want to ask you a lot of questions because, as Hadas Gold was saying, Israel is essentially a test case. You're ahead of much of the world. It is important for everybody to understand what's going on where you are.

So at the moment, it's plus-60s who are getting this booster.

Are you expecting to give this booster to the rest of the population pretty soon, too?

BALICER: This is not right now in the planning. We will have this campaign for the elderly, where the vast majority of the severe cases now occur. About two-thirds of our severe cases take place these days among vaccinated people above the age of 60. So naturally that is our focus.


BALICER: Once we collect the data and assess what was the impact of vaccinating this group, we could consider the future steps.

CURNOW: OK, that's important to note. Also, I know that Israel just signed a deal with the Moderna shot, in addition to having Pfizer. Both, of course, are mRNA jabs.

Are you going to allow folks to mix it up; if they've had Pfizer for the first two shots, are you giving them Moderna as the third shot?

How interchangeable are they and how closely are you watching this?

BALICER: For now, our policy is to provide the same vaccine in every shot that is provided, which means that the third shot for everyone who got the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be a third booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine. We do not expect to have this mixing take place anytime soon.

CURNOW: With the test case that is going on, as we've explained, what have you learned, particularly about this latest information about vaccinated people getting sick and their ability to spread the virus as well, with their viral load almost being the same as if they were unvaccinated?

Is this about vaccine efficacy waning or is it something else?

BALICER: It is very difficult to tease out the effect of the Delta strain by itself and its evasion capacity with the effect of waning immunity since the vast majority of those vaccinated in Israel have been vaccinated five to six months ago.

So teasing out which one of the two has which component is difficult. But the final common outcome is that, right now in Israel, we have many breakthrough infections in young and older population alike. And we do see severe cases among those older vaccinated individuals that have contracted COVID-19.

And so since these numbers are significant, we don't have any other option, basically, but to offer them a third booster dose for those elderly in order to bring them, perhaps, back to the level of protection they've had in February, in March, when it was enough to curb the surge altogether, when we were facing the Alpha strain.


CURNOW: That was Ran Balicer, the chair of Israel's COVID national expert advisory team.

So more than 150,000 people in Burkina Faso will soon be able to get a COVID shot there. The U.S. is sending vaccines to the West African nation as part of a pledge to give 25 million doses to African Union countries.

The union's goal is to vaccinate 60 percent of people in Africa. U.S. President Joe Biden has vowed to share 80 million doses around the world.

Still to come on CNN, a humanitarian crisis in Colombia. Why thousands of people are stranded there.

And why now?

That story is next.





CURNOW: Welcome back.

So the U.S. and Israel say Iran was behind a deadly attack on an oil tanker in Myanmar. At least one Iranian state TV channel agrees with them. They say the drone attack was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria. Thursday's attack killed two people. a Romanian and a Briton. While the ship is Japanese owned, it is managed by a company led by an Israeli.

More than 10,000 migrants stranded in a town in northern Colombia. The city's mayor says it is a humanitarian crisis and public health emergency and is pushing the town to a breaking point. Stefano Pozzebon is there with more on what is causing this bottleneck.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a coastal town in the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia. Normally this is a tourist spot. Right now, about 10,000 migrants are stuck in this town, according to local authorities, on their way toward Panama and North America.

This is happening because, to get there they need to cross a stretch of the Caribbean Sea and there is only one company in town that can take them across the sea. And this company has the capacity to bring about 800 to 900 people every day, they've been telling us.

But the flow of people in the last few weeks, the migrants coming from across South America, has been overwhelming. This company has now a backlog of more than 8,000 people waiting for their spot on the ferry.

This is why many of them, Haitians, Venezuelans, Cubans are waiting in line for hours, days, even weeks for their spot on the ferry.

This is happening because South America is slowly reopening its land borders following the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of migrants who've been waiting out the pandemic are back on the road, looking for better opportunities, mostly in North America, United States and Canada.

It's a prelude of what could happen in the rest of the world, once the pandemic is over and the migrant flows will resume -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon.


CURNOW: So humanitarian aid has begun arriving in Cuba after the U.S. announced it would impose fresh sanctions on the regime.

This Mexican naval ship arrived in Havana on Friday, one of two ships the Cuban neighbor is sending with food and medical supplies. Aid is also coming from Russia and Bolivia.

Cuba's government has faced international condemnation after its harsh crackdown on protesters complaining of shortages. But Mexico's president has criticized U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba.

Coming up, CNN sits down with one of the newest Olympic stars. We'll talk to the swimmer making history for Japan and what she's feeling after winning double gold in Tokyo.





CURNOW: Welcome back.

Olympic swimmer Yui Ohashi is making her home country Japan proud. She's won two gold medals, the first for any Japanese woman in a single Olympics. She dominated in the women's 200- and 400-meter Olympic medley. Selina Wang sat down with her. Take a listen.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are 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.


WANG: 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. 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.


CURNOW: Well, the pandemic has forced these historic changes at the Summer Games. It hasn't stopped athletes from making their own mark on history. Earlier, I spoke with "The Washington Post" sports columnist, Barry Svrluga. I asked him which performances had stood out for him so far. This is what he told me.


BARRY SVRLUGA, SPORTS COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": One that sticks out to me as an American was Lydia Jacobi, a 17-year old, out of nowhere in the pool in the 100-meter breaststroke. She's from a tiny town in Alaska, 2,700 people. That's kind of the story that you wait for at the Olympics.

The unexpected happens from a performer that you hadn't heard of five minutes before. Then you're really kind of enthralled in the overjoyed emotions that pour out at that time. But there's also been tons of moments for the home country. The host

always gets some sort of boost, even if there isn't a crowd here. So if you think of the men's all-around gymnastics, Yui Ohashi in swimming, Japanese champion Daiki Hashimoto in the men's all-around in gymnastics.

You wonder what those moments would have been like, had a home crowd been able to be behind them and have that anthem play in a full arena.

CURNOW: Simone Biles: in many ways, at least on CNN and I think overall, has been the lead story for the Olympics the whole week so far. All this focus on someone who has not actually performed yet. Her message about mental health is obviously important and groundbreaking.

But what does it also say about these games that so much focus has gone on an athlete who's not yet performed?

CURNOW: And how has that impacted her teammates and perhaps other at heats who are out there, no matter how much they support her?

SVRLUGA: I think in the very narrow focus, her teammates, the night she could not compete in the women's all-around -- in the team gymnastics competition, they lifted themselves. They got together and they won a silver medal in a moment where the greatest gymnast on the planet all of a sudden says, I can't do this.

So that was, in a very micro level, very impressive that those three women, many of whom didn't think they were going to be competing that night on certain apparatuses, came through and won silver.

I think what can be simultaneously true is, you can admire Simone Biles for recognizing her weakness in the moment, the pressure she felt in the moment, the danger she was putting herself in, in the moment and stepping aside, having the courage to step aside and also admire some of the traits we see from the athletes, that are a little more traditional.

They have pushed through adversity. They have doubted themselves in the middle of the week, then come through with a medal-winning performance. I think of Katie Ledecky, the great American swimmer, who, for the first time in her Olympic career, lost the race, did not medal in the 200 freestyle.

She bounced back and won two more golds and a silver in a relay because she was able to gather herself and persevere. So I think you can admire both qualities.


CURNOW: Thanks to Barry Svrluga from "The Washington Post" for joining me from Tokyo.


CURNOW: So a 22 foot tall space man has landed in Antigua. But fear not, he comes in peace. As a matter of fact, he doesn't even say a word. Chloe Melas talked to his 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.


CURNOW: And that wraps this hour of CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. For our viewers in North America, "NEW DAY" is just ahead. For the rest of the world, it is "GOING GREEN."