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Unvaccinated Cases, Hospitalizations Rising as Variant Spreads; Florida's Crisis, State Accounts for 20 Percent of New Infections in U.S.; Millions at Risk of Being Evicted after Federal Moratorium Expires. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 2, 2021 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

This morning, there is good news for the vaccinated. According to the latest data from the CDC, a staggering, not just 99.9 percent, but 99.999 percent of those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have not had a break thru infection resulting in hospitalization or death. We're not rounding that number. It is 99.99 percent.

These numbers even as the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant spreads across the country, a new wave in the pandemic is, to be clear, being fueled by those who remain unvaccinated. New eye-opening data from the CDC makes that clear. If you don't get your vaccine, your chances of getting severely sick, being hospitalized, or worse, they increase dramatically. That's the sad news.

And when you look at that map there, what's notable is that those red areas concentrated in states with low vaccination rates to this point.

Joining me now is CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. So, again, we always try to do this particularly when we are together on the air. You have some good indicators here for those who are vaccinated, you have some very troublesome ones for not just people who remain unvaccinated but areas with low vaccination rates. Tell us what the data shows.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I think that people we're not talking so much and we need to talk about more, the most unfortunate people here are the immunocompromised people in these high transmission states who did get vaccinated. They did what they were supposed to do. But data is showing that it is -- it is pretty likely that they aren't protected and they're surrounded by unvaccinated people who are not forming that protective herd.

However, there is a bit of good news this morning, and so let's take a look. First, let's look at the transmission map. So, the areas that you see in red here, that is the areas with highest transmission. This map looked very different even a month or so ago. You didn't see this kind of high transmission. But delta changed all of and these areas of low vaccination rates in those red areas obviously that is what made them red.

So, now let's take a look at the good news that I was referring to. You'll notice that a lot of the states in red, they were in the southeast. So, Louisiana, when you're looking at new vaccinations, so first time vaccinees, overall, they were 47th. They were really at the bottom of the heat, people were not getting vaccinated. But last week, they became first in the country for new vaccinations. That is pretty amazing. Alabama was 46th, and as of last week now, just in that last week, they were third, Mississippi 50th and then 8th. That is great.

Now, it has to continue in order for there to be substantive changes to help the kind of people that we are talking about, but it's really hope that that's the case. And if you look nationally, you can see these vaccination numbers creeping up. It is small, it's a little bit but we'll take it. They are creeping up just slightly.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You wonder if it is anecdotal, right? People see others within their circle getting severely sick and they say, hey, wait, now I have got to do this. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for staying on top of it.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, any moment now, we are expecting New York City Bill de Blasio to make an announcement about updated mask guidance there. A source tells CNN that de Blasio is expected to encourage more mask wearing but stop short of mandating masks. Statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that infections have increased four-fold over the past month.

And Jason Carroll joins us now with the latest. So, Jason, this is an interesting walking of a fine line, encouraging mask wearing but stopping short of a mandate. Why? What is the explanation for that?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, a couple of things. First, I'm going to give you a few headlines that just came out of the briefing from Governor Cuomo. And as you know, sometimes the governor and the mayor of New York City not on the same page when it comes to policy. That is what we're seeing a little bit of here as well.

But first things first, some of the headlines. Going forward, starting on Labor Day, anyone who works for the MTA, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which handles all of the public transport for New York City and state, as well as the port authority will be required to be vaccinated or at the very least submit to weekly tests.

In addition to that, the governor coming out today and really trying to encourage businesses to go with a vaccine-only admission going forward.

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He says this should apply to restaurants, it should apply to bars, it should apply to gyms and grocery stores.

And he used Radio City Music Hall as an example, Jim, which, as you know, has gone to a vaccine-only admission type of policy and he says they've been very successful so far.

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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Private businesses, I am asking them and suggesting to them, go to vaccine-only admission. Go to vaccine-only admission. We did this, Radio City Music Hall months ago, reopened, vaccine-only, sold out all of the shows. Sports arenas, they went up to about 90 percent vaccine-only. Private businesses, bars, restaurants, go to a vaccine-only admission. I believe it is in your best business interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: Now, the governor went on to say that given the uptick in cases in New York State and in New York City, going forward, it is got to be more than just about requiring or suggesting that people wear masks. It is got to be more about some sort of a vaccine type of policy.

But as you said, we're already expecting New York City's mayor, Bill de Blasio, to make a statement very shortly about basically expecting to strongly encourage people to wear masks in New York City indoors, again, strongly encouraging but not issuing a mask mandate.

And, again, I raise this point before, Jim, but the question now becomes is that going to be enough, just recommending that you wear a mask indoors, like restaurants like this one, is that going to be enough to change the minds of people who are resistant to doing that?

SCIUTTO: Yes. We'll see. I mean, one thing I've always been impressed with when I've gone up to New York is just how complaint folks are, that you really did see most of the folks there when it was mandated doing it. We'll see what a recommendation does. Jason Carroll in New York, thanks very much.

Well, one in five new coronavirus infections in this country, one in five, is happening in the state of Florida. It is now the new epicenter of this pandemic, averaging more than 15,000 new infections per day. Despite this, the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has barred masks in schools, overruling local governments, basically saying parents can choose. And this has sparked some mixed emotions, mixed reactions from parents there.

CNN's Rosa Flores live in Fort Lauderdale with more. So, first, explain exactly what Governor DeSantis is doing here and how parents are reacting.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it is very interesting because if you actually read the executive order, it is very confusing, it is very vague, it doesn't tell you a lot. I actually asked one of our legal analysts to comb through this so that I could better understand it. Here is what we know. So, it does not outright ban mask mandates, which is one of the confusion -- one of the things leading to confusion here. What it does do is it asks the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education to issue emergency rules that give parents a choice.

Now, why am I here in Broward County, in Fort Lauderdale, well, before the governor signed this executive order, the school district here voted and passed for a mask mandate, defying Governor Ron DeSantis. Well, now, they're going back to the drawing board. They're having to look at their decision and figure out if it actually follows this executive order because the other thing, and usually it is in the fine print, Governor DeSantis is threatening here that if school districts don't follow his executive order, he could withhold state funding.

Now, this is a very, very divisive issue here in this state and across the country. And I sat down with two families, a family that is for masks in schools and a family that prefers parent choice. Now, the conversations were very interesting and they were very similar in many ways, but I asked them to react to Governor Ron DeSantis issuing this executive order, signing it on Friday and, in essence, bigfooting school boards across this state. Take a listen.

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MICHAEL AZCARATE, BROWARD COUNTY PARENT, PRO-MASK: Party of small government, right? It is really disheartening.

FLORES: So, what was your reaction to that?

CARRIE, MELACHRINO, BROWARD COUNTY PARENT, AGAINST MASK MANDATE: Relief, and simply for my children and their well being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: And, Jim, you were talking about just the growing number of cases here in the state of Florida in the past week, more than 110,000 cases, the positivity rate in this state is at 18 percent. But as we look at schools specifically, the number of -- the positivity rate for children between the ages of 12 and 19 is actually 22 percent.

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That, of course, is what parents are looking at as they make their decisions when they're getting ready for the back to school.

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores, good to have you there. Thanks very much.

Joining me now by phone to discuss this surge in Florida, Dr. Aftab Khan. He's an internal medicine specialist from Central Florida. Doctor, it is good to have you on.

As you know, politics get so wound up in this. What is your reaction as a medical professional to, in the midst of really an outbreak in Florida, more cases there than anywhere else in the country of the governor basically giving parents a choice about masking as they go back to school? What does that mean for public health?

DR. AFTAB KHAN, INTERNAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST (voice over): Thank you so much, Jim. In the last 16 months, I have seen many people dying from COVID-19. I have witnessed COVID survivors. I have seen patients with long COVID, and now I'm seeing more and more breakthrough and new cases. Why? Because we let our guards down. We got rid of masks and we became complacent and stopped getting vaccinated. Less than 50 percent of Florida's population is fully vaccinated.

And because of governor and passed by the state legislature, local leaders, I live in Orange County and other leaders, they could only beg and plead, their hands are tied. They cannot impose restrictions on mandate. And we must rise above politics for the sake of public health. I do not understand why we are preventing schools from mask mandate.

More children have died from COVID-19 than the flu. Children have -- can develop long COVID. They can have fatigue and brain fog. That can impair their learning abilities. They can bring this virus to their parents and grandparents.

I understand individuals make their own decision. I respect that. But when your right starts to impact society and all around the already stretched out health care system, then we are infringing upon everyone else's rights.

I'm talking to my E.R. physicians, they are telling me they're intubating 27-year-olds. Every floor in the local hospital that I work at, they are having COVID patients. They don't have room in ICUs. They are transferring the patients to other floors where they don't belong. I attended a 94-year-old patient with heart disease and lung disease to the E.R. and the poor lady was sitting in the hallway for the last 48 hours.

So the situation is very dire. We are in Florida, we are heading in the wrong direction. That delta variant is sweeping through the state and currently we are in the epicenter of all new cases. And every county in the state of Florida has substantial and high transmission of COVID-19.

SCIUTTO: Well, Dr. Khan, we know you're seeing this close up. Thank you for your impassioned defense, really, of these health measures. We appreciate having you on.

KHAN (voice over): Thank you for have me on. Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, the Senate is putting the finishing touches on the long-awaiting trillion dollar infrastructure deal. Will the final product be enough to satisfy progressive Democrats? We're going to ask one.

Plus, rent is due for millions of Americans after pandemic protections expired over the weekend. That is now leaving some vulnerable to eviction. Will the Biden administration take action? Does it have the votes to? And the clock is ticking for former President Trump to challenge a ruling which gives Congress access to his tax returns, which, of course, he's fought for years to keep from the public eye. We're going to have the latest ahead.

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SCIUTTO: Soon, the Senate will reconvene to finalize a massive bipartisan, note that, bipartisan infrastructure bill. The 2,000-page piece of legislation includes more than a trillion dollars, that is a thousand billion for roads, bridges and clean water, broadband internet and green energy.

CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill. Manu, the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, he wants a vote by Thursday. You've been good at handicapping these negotiations throughout. Is that a realistic timeline? And for folks at home who might shaking their heads right now saying is it really a done deal, is it really a done deal?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is uncertain and probably unlikely that they can get this done by Thursday, just the way the Senate operates here. And this is a massive bill. The number of pages, 2702 pages, that was released last night after negotiations and that extended through the weekend as they try to finalize the bill text, as you mentioned.

A sweeping proposal dealing with all aspects of this country's infrastructure, whether it is bolstering broadband, waterways, bridges, roads, paying for a lot of these things through mechanisms, such as redirecting already enacted COVID relief money and cracking down on so-called cryptocurrency. Those are measures that senators want to dig into. It is going to take time to pore through this massive proposal and a lot of senators, particularly Republican senators, are signaling that they want amendments to try to change this proposal.

But the way the Senate works is that it requires all 100 senators to agree to even schedule a vote and that has not happened yet.

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There have been discussions happening behind the scenes to set up some amendment votes to give senators a chance to potentially change the bill, but changing the bill itself will be difficult because that will be set in a 60-vote threshold, meaning there needs to be a significant bipartisan support to change core elements of the bill, and most people don't think that will happen given how difficult of a compromise it was to reach.

So, the expectation, Jim, is that this could spill into next week as well. So we'll see and also questions about whether it eventually could get to the president's desk because then it has to go through the House. Jim? SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, oh, my goodness, we'll keep on top of it. Thanks very much.

Joining me now to discuss, California Democratic Representative Ro Khanna. Good to have you on. Welcome back to the program.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Thanks, Jim. Always good to be on.

SCIUTTO: So, I believe the reason my colleague, Manu, raised that question about this getting through the House is because the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has said she won't necessarily bring that bipartisan infrastructure deal to a vote until they've got everything signed, sealed and delivered on this other spending plan, the human infrastructure, one as sometimes known, $3.5 trillion.

The president got a win here, right, on something that he has been pushing for, he wanted it to be bipartisan, it's a pretty big bill, a trillion dollars. Are you concerned that holding up the infrastructure deal for these other Democratic priorities that do not, frankly, have Republican support that it endangers the infrastructure deal?

KHANNA: Jim, I'm not. I think we'll get the president's agenda. Let's just start with the facts. I mean, agree it is a constructive bill but it is half a loaf. The president's original jobs plan was $920 billion in new spending. This is half of that, about $500 billion in actual new spending.

Concretely, what does this mean? Well, broadband, yes, it's good, it has funding on there but it is not funding fiber, it is not funding municipal efforts significantly on broadband that the Jim Clyburn bill does in the House. Water infrastructure, again, doesn't do enough in removing pipes. It doesn't do enough on electric vehicles or climate goals. This is hard infrastructure where it doesn't go far enough.

So what the speaker has said is we applaud the bipartisan effort but we need to get the president's agenda through on a lot of these critical areas, especially when we have the majority in both chambers and the presidency.

SCIUTTO: I get that. I get that aspiration. But the fact is, in the Senate, you've got a sliver of a majority and you need ten Republicans to join in support for this unless you go to reconciliation path, which looks likely. I just wonder if, strategically, politically, it would be smarter to separate the two, say, hey, let's get this win and then let's move on to the next thing?

KHANNA: Well, the votes aren't there to do that. There simply aren't enough votes because the idea of what the progressive are, why not get through the president's agenda. I mean, the president ran on a strong infrastructure proposal, the president ran on childcare, on free community college. And what we can't do is say, okay, we're going to just do what Rob Portman, who I respect tremendously, wants and that is going to be the end of Joe Biden's first year in his presidency. That is not what he was elected for. That's not what the House and Senate were elected for. So what we want to make sure is that we don't have a moderate Republican agenda for the president that we actually get the president's agenda through and the only way to do that is to make sure that the reconciliation and bipartisan bill move together.

SCIUTTO: So, to be clear, are you saying you won't vote for the bipartisan infrastructure deal, you and others, and there that there won't be a Democratic majority in the House unless you have this other spending bill moving through as well?

KHANNA: Yes. But that is not just my position. That is the speaker's position, the speaker won't move, the reconciliation bill and the bipartisan bill without the reconciliation bill and there are probably 30 to 40 progressives who feel the same way. So it simply won't pass. There are not enough Republicans in the House to get it to pass if 30 to 40 progressives don't pass it.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, that is a thing. You have to get votes on -- among both parties to get this stuff through.

I want to ask about this expired moratorium now on evictions, doesn't seem that there is a clear path forward. What happens? What happens when many Americans, even as the economy is picking up, when many Americans don't have the rent to pay?

KHANNA: Well, it is just been a failure on all sides. I mean, Cori Bush, I encourage people to read her story. She was actually unhoused. She talks about having her eyes wet with two babies being without any housing. This is personal for her. She's been camping out of the Capitol for three days and saying we need to do something.

Here is what we ought to do. We at least ought to have a vote. I don't understand it. If there are Democrats who are opposed to this, force them to go on the record. If you poll a vote, I don't think a single Democrat have the guts to actually vote to evict people.

And, second, the president ought to extend the moratorium. He shouldn't be hiding behind Kavanaugh, saying Kavanaugh had wrote some opinion and we don't know how the Supreme Court would rule.

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Extend it and then take it. And if they want to sue to the Supreme Court, let them do it. But there is a lot of discontent, frankly, in the House Democratic Caucus about how this is being handled.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this though. I mean, this was put in place during the depths of an economic downturn, during the pandemic, the economy is coming back, hiring is coming bag, in many cases, there are more jobs available than folks to fill those jobs. There have been stimulus checks. There has been enhanced unemployment. I mean, given that pickup, hasn't there been enough of a moratorium. How long are you looking to extend it?

KHANNA: Until the end of the year, Jim. Here is what's happened. I mean, people have been out of work, sometimes for six months, nine months, a year and their rent has accumulated. So, the moratorium said you don't have to pay the rent, but it doesn't say we're going to forgive the rent. And so people now have ten months of back rent, they can't afford it and they're facing eviction. That is not fair.

So, what we've said is give the assistance to small landlords. There is no doubt small landlords need assistance as well. Congress should do that, but extend the moratorium to the end of the year or you're going to see millions of Americans evicted simply because they can't pay the back rent.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Ro Khanna, a story we'll be following, thanks very much for joining.

KHANNA: Thank you, Jim, for having me.

SCIUTTO: Well, after a two-year legal standoff, the Justice Department now says that former President Trump's tax returns must be turned over to Congress. Will he challenge the ruling?

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